Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Woman Professor Day!

As promised, here is my contribution to HWPD, aka Why, Despite All the Crap, I am Insanely Happy With My Job. In no particular order.

1. I get paid to play around with technology. How cool is that?! I get paid to break things, take them apart (sometimes figuratively, sometimes physically), figure out how they work, put them back together, figure out how to improve them, ... How many people can say they get paid to *play*?

2. If I want an excuse to learn about a new technology or a new-to-me subfield, I can always do something like offer to teach a class in it. This allows me to make the time to play around with something (see #1), dabble in different subfields, and, best of all, drag students along with me. And, once again, I'm not only paid to do this, but highly encouraged to do this!

3. My students. Sure, there are the ones you want to strangle, but the vast majority of my students are truly a joy to me. I think sometimes that my students teach me more than I teach them. I love getting to know a new crop of students every term/semester, figure out what makes them tick, figure out how to reach them....and just get to know them. They are fascinating people doing remarkable things. They never cease to amaze me.

4. My research undergraduates. I want to put them in a separate category, because these are the students I get to know the best. I love working closely with such students, getting to know them, etc. Most of all, I love wrenching them out of their comfort zones (sometimes kicking and screaming) and getting them to accomplish things they never dreamed possible. Plus, working with undergrads has tremendously helped my own research, bringing a clarity, focus, and organization that was not there before.

5. Teaching. Teaching is hard work, and something I struggle with (but really, who doesn't?), but I love love love the challenge of teaching. Boiling down tons of information to the essential points. Figuring out ways to get students to grasp these essential points. Designing activities and assignments to get students to learn and practice the important concepts, activities that are relevant and that speak to the students' experiences. It's the hardest work I've ever done, but definitely the most rewarding---and, frankly, the reason why I'm working in academia and not in a straight research lab somewhere (or industry).

6. Finally, I love that this job gives me the visibility and opportunity to be a mentor, particularly to young women. I didn't have a single woman professor or role model in college (in my technical courses, that is). I appreciate that I can be that role model to our majors (and the non-majors who end up in our courses), even if I am the only one. I am so grateful that I can be the voice for our women majors, that I am in a position where I can encourage them to do things they would never consider doing, like applying for REUs or going to graduate school or applying for a prestigious fellowship. Our women majors are truly amazing people, and I am so blessed that I get to know them as part of my job.

So that, in a nutshell, is why I am a Happy Woman Professor.


dhawhee said...

awesome! Thanks, Jane. (Weirdly I've ended up recommending some of these entries to grad students trying to choose between jobs.)

anne said...

it's your thoughtfulness, smarts, and commitment that keep me coming back to your blog, Jane, and why I recommend it to the undergrads thinking of comp sci or other technical areas, and why I am glad you write.

thank you.

caraf said...

I love the comment about "wrenching" students out of their "comfort zones." I love doing this too, and over the years I have become increasingly amazed at how much they have to trust us in order for us to be able to do this. And that's quite humbling.

Jane said...

Awww, thanks Anne!

dhawhee, I'm glad you find these posts useful for your grad students---I think it helps for grad students to know exactly what they're getting into in academia (the good, the bad, and the ugly!). And thanks again for putting the call together!

caraf, you are so right about the trust thing! I never thought about it that way before, but the trust definitely has to be there for this to work.