One of the main reasons I chose to attend the Following Christ conference and the ESN Day Ahead was to help me discern my place on campus. I do feel called to academia, at least for this season, yet I was not sure exactly how I was to carry out this calling.
The ESN Day Ahead turned out to be extremely valuable for junior faculty on the tenure track. I was reminded by the panelists’ (Ken Elzinga, Christy Moran, Alec Hill, and Terry Morrison) exhortations to stay physically healthy, keep the Sabbath, find a strong mentor, and maintain healthy relationships with family and friends, in addition to, of course, hitting the ground running and eliminating any distractions along the path to tenure. I had heard all of these suggestions before, but sadly had found myself failing at them. For instance, when I first started my academic position, I vowed never to work on Sundays, in order to set an example to my colleagues. Over the past year, I have found myself working on Sundays in order to finish grant proposals, prepare lecture notes, or try to catch up on the literature. The temptation to work 24/7 is strong, especially when I find myself comparing my hours in the office to those of other junior faculty, at Washington University and other campuses. So, the reversal of this trend, along with the institution of the extremely efficient 60 hour (maximum) work week, will likely be one of my New Year’s resolutions.
One comment I did not anticipate was the suggestion that I, as a junior faculty member, should not be involved in extensive mentoring activities that would not show up on my annual performance reviews. I need to be a wise steward of my time and set appropriate boundaries. Yet, I do feel that I should try to find opportunities to share my faith with students in the classroom and during my office hours.
I leave you with Ken Elzinga’s Reformed view of calling – that being a professor is the highest calling, and that all my work should be done unto the Lord.