By Liz Goodnick
I’d like to thank Helen De Cruz for inviting me to participate in this series. I will continue to (roughly) follow the pattern of previous posts in the series.
I earned my PhD from the University of Michigan in 2010, after starting the program in 2000 (between taking a year off, changing topics from Spinoza to Hume, and various personal issues and shortcomings--it took a long time). My dissertation focused on Hume’s neglected masterpiece, The Natural History of Religion.
For the last several years of graduate school I did not have funding, so I adjuncted at Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College, and for the final year and a half, at Illinois Wesleyan University (where my husband had a renewing 1 year VAP position). I went on the philosophy job market 5 years in a row (2008-12), and, during that time, had 4 different temporary jobs. I completed multi-state moves 5 times during this period.
I am now in my 3rd year of a tenure-track (TT) position at the Metropolitan State University of Denver. MSU Denver is a large urban University with 24,000 students (The 2nd largest in Colorado). We are a commuter campus and many of our students have families, jobs, have been in the military, etc. The philosophy department has 13 Tenured/TT professors, 1 full-time lecturer, and many adjuncts. We have about 40 Philosophy majors and 80 minors. I am expected to spend roughly 50% of my time/energy on teaching, 25% on service, and 25% on research. I don’t carefully track how much time I spend on each of these things, so I’m not sure what my actual ratios are.
I have a 4/4 load (and have taught 4/4 every year, with some additional summer teaching). Typically, I teach 3 lower-division sections of the same class (either Introduction to Philosophy or Introduction to Ethics) and 1 upper-division class (so far: Philosophy of Religion, History of Modern Philosophy, a “special topics” class on the Problem of Evil, and a “senior seminar” class on Modern Women Philosophers; next fall I’ll teach Social and Political Philosophy). This keeps preparations to a minimum, while still allowing me to teach classes connected to my areas of interest and research. I have a lot of flexibility on which upper division courses I teach.
Lower division classes are capped at 28, though I have taught in our special “First Year Success” program (1 course every term) which are capped at 24. Upper division classes are smaller: between 12 and 24. By the end of the term, we lose about 5 students per class. I’ve also been involved in some interdisciplinary faculty learning communities relating to effective and inclusive teaching, including one on cultural diversity this semester. I love the teaching aspect of my job. For the most part, I have great students who are motivated and grateful to be in school. I spend a lot of time working on pedagogy, effective teaching techniques (especially ones related to engagement), fun assignments, etc. While this is a lot of work, it pays off in the classroom and makes my job rewarding.
There’s a lot of flexibility with respect to service, but I’m expected to serve my department, college (Liberal Arts and Sciences), University, community (Denver area/Colorado), and profession. For my department, I am on the colloquia committee that recruits, invites, organizes, and finds funding for speakers for our colloquia series (about 3 per year). I have served on 2 hiring committees (each for administrative staff). For my college, I serve on the International Education Committee, which approves new study abroad courses. For my University, I am a member of the Faculty Senate and serve on the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee. I am also a representative on the Center for Faculty Excellence Advisory Board and a member of the IACUC committee (overseeing animal research on campus). For my community, I serve on the board of the Denver Project for Humanistic Inquiry. For the profession, I comment on papers at conferences and occasionally review books and articles. This year, a colleague and I, along with some students, organized an Undergraduate (Research) Conference for Women in Philosophy. While service does take a lot of time, I try to do things that I find important and interesting, and so far, I have succeeded at doing so.
I’m lucky that my department is very supportive of research endeavors. So far, I have published 3 papers (1 on Hume, 1 on cognitive science of religion, and 1 on the ethics of food). and have 2 more “in the pipeline” (both on Hume). I have attended 3 prestigious international conferences as well as several conferences in the US. I not only have funding from the college, I have also received extra funding for conference travel from my department and the Office of International Studies. I participate in the departmental working group (practicing conference presentations, talking through papers, etc.) and have also traded papers over email with department members. I have participated in several reading groups: some with students, some with faculty, and some with faculty and graduate students from other institutions (via Skype). I am currently in the process of working on early modern women and plan to write a paper on Anne Conway this summer. The people I’ve met through this new research area (both living and dead) are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever worked with, so I’m very excited to start this new area of investigation.
A Typical Week
I teach Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday--2 classes a day. Weekdays, I typically wake up around 7:30, check email/Facebook, eat breakfast, shower, etc. Occasionally, I’ll do some reading (for teaching or research) during the morning at home. I take my dog on a 45 minute walk or 30 minute run 2 or 3 of those days (my husband does it the other 2 or 3). I usually arrive at my office at 10am. I bike about 80% of the time (sometimes weather or illness means that I walk or drive). I usually leave campus at 7pm. MTWR are filled with teaching, teaching prep, grading, email (which takes a great deal of time per day, as many people in this series have already noted), and some meetings or other service-related activities. I do basically no research-related work M-T unless I'm under deadline. Some Fridays I have meetings, service-related work, or grading to do, but I spend many Fridays doing research-related activities. I always eat lunch at my desk. Sometimes I take a 30 minute break to watch a show on Netflix at my computer, but sometimes I work while I eat--it really depends on the day. I try very hard not to work after I get home in the evening (and am usually successful, unless I have a major deadline or piles of grading).
I work almost every weekend, for between 4-6 hours each day. Weekends and breaks are my main times to do research (or go to conferences), though I spend about 5 weekends per semester grading. During the academic year, I will probably take a total of 15-25 days off (which means that I’m working most weekends and many days during Winter and Spring Breaks). Summer is my most flexible time. I usually work Monday through Thursday, but the time is more varied (starting anywhere from 9-12 and stopping anywhere from 4-8). I focus on research and major course planning (for new preps) during the summer when I am not teaching. When I am teaching, summer looks more like the academic year, but with more weekends off.
Life Outside of Work
After work during the week, I eat dinner with my husband and then watch TV and hang out with our dog. I try to be in bed by 10:00/10:30pm so I can read (mostly for pleasure) for a bit before bed. Because my husband is an underemployed philosopher and a feminist, he does a lot of the “life maintenance tasks” and housework. I do the grocery shopping and cook a couple of times a week, but only because I enjoy it. I’ll occasionally help him clean on weekends, but only if I’m feeling really guilty because I haven’t chipped in in awhile or have extra time. He almost always does laundry, pays bills, deals with broken things, takes care of car maintenance, does non-food shopping, etc. We are closer to 60/40 on dog care (which amounts to 3 walks per day--1 long; 2 short), but again, only because I enjoy it and love hanging out with my dog.
We go out for food usually 2 or 3 times per week (unless he is busy and can’t cook)--once to breakfast on the weekend and once or twice to dinner (sometimes with friends, sometimes not). About once or twice a week, in addition, we do happy hour, a show, or other activities with friends. We often go to local breweries because we both love beer and Colorado has an amazing craft beer culture. On weekends when I’m not working, we usually do some kind of outdoor activity in the mountains (snowshoeing, hiking, hot springs, etc.; though I don’t ski). We spend a lot of time during the summer in the mountains hiking and camping (on average every other week for 2-4 days). I am obsessed with camping, and would camp every summer weekend if I could. We also see both of our families (who live out of state, in different states) during the summer. I usually see my family (or some portion of my family) between 3-6 times per year (including weekend visits and longer visits (sometimes I go there; sometimes they come to CO; sometimes we go on family vacations).
During the academic year, I work about 55 hours per week (more during heavy grading periods and under deadlines), take very few days off, and spend most of my time thinking about work. During the summer, I work less (only about 30-40 hours a week, and with more days off), and my off time is spent not thinking about work, enjoying my family and nature, and re-charging.
While some people may be wary of a 4/4 workload, I manage it in several ways: 1. I love teaching, and so don’t find it a huge burden even when it is a lot of work (it’s a labor of love, as the saying goes); 2. I have only 2 preps per semester and at least 1 class per year that is somehow related to my research; 3. I care about the service work I do and so don’t find it tedious; 4. I enjoy my research and have a department and larger philosophical community that is supportive of my work; 5. I have a supportive husband and no children; 6. I build exercise into my commute and dog care; 7. I give myself down time and sleep during the semester and recharge/family time when I need it (and especially during the summer); 8. I am lucky enough to be healthy physically and emotionally; 9. I live in a great city in a beautiful state that allows me to be culturally engaged and “nature-bathe” on a regular basis.