Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Annual reviews

No, I'm not going to nostalgically go through the last year of the blog, feel free to do that yourself if you like. Instead, I'm going to take a second to breathe and realize that despite my growing sense of urgency regarding funding and publications, I haven't exactly crashed and burned in this job... yet.

I got my annual reviews back from my department covering the July 08-09 period, and it doesn't seem that anyone in my department wants me kicked out just yet. Granted, it's hard to take issue with someone's progress in the first year, but there were some genuinely nice things said. Like most places we are judged in three categories - Teaching, Research and Service. Each member under review has to put together a summary of what they did in the previous year and all of the faculty weigh in on it. The Chair then gathers up what was written and summarizes it for the Dean. We have the opportunity to see the summary before it gets sent to the Dean and can decide whether to write a response of any kind or add clarification.

In the area of teaching, despite only teaching one grad class to seven students, I still scored highly in the department's eyes, with 60% of the faculty saying I met their expectations and the other 40% claiming I somehow exceeded expectations. As the first faculty member to basically be given their first three semester off from undergraduate teaching, I wasn't sure whether some sour grapes might shine through, but no one held me accountable for an ability to negotiate.

For research, it seems I have fooled people into thinking everything is going swimmingly. In reality, things are going well but it can be easy to feel like we're running in molasses. 70% of the department responded that I am exceeding expectations for research, which is good. Looking back, we have done a lot. We also had to set up a brand new lab - twice. Once we moved to the new building there was a decent amount of time spent just getting everything right again. Anyway, I'll plan to be able to put federal funding into my next review.

My scores for service were the same as research, and maybe that's a bad thing. Looking at it all on paper, I did end up doing a lot of shit for others last year that may have been better spent focused on my lab. At the same time, it is part of the job and I tried to pick things that helped me too. I think what put me over the top was working on the big institutional grant and I have to say that I would do it again. The probably that it will get funded in this round is very high (from the history of the program it was submitted to), which puts me in a good position. We should hear in a couple of months and it it does get funded I may find myself in the driver's seat for a lot of resources I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. I think you have to take the high percentage bets when they come your way.

The whole thing concludes with some nice quotes from what people wrote, suggesting that I am on the right track and people are happy with my progress. Overall, I can't say that there was anything I was concerned about or felt I should be wary of this year and based on the reviews, neither do my colleagues. I suppose that's all I can really hope for in the first year of a TT job.

15 comments:

  1. Congratulations - seems like it was a successful year (at least based on those positive reviews)! Here is to an even more successful (with lots of $$$ and funding) 2010!

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  2. Nice job ! As a new faculty member, I found it hard to "perform" in all three categories, even if I know that as the new guy, colleagues are not necessarily expecting a lot in regards to the Service category. However,I had to teach one undergraduate class during my first semester and I will also teach to that same group of students during the winter semester...consequently, my research suffered during that first semester: remaining postdoc manuscripts, first grant proposal, manuscript reviews, development of new collaboration(s), etc. I hope to be more successful in 2010 !

    Keep up the good work !

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  3. Congrats mate. Sounds like you have a decent set of colleagues too. At my place a couple of the Chairs are renowned for busting junior faculty balls' no matter how they come out in evaluation. No one thinks it'll happen to them and then they get "The Chat" about what a disapointment they are, how they've let everyone down etc. Very demoralizing and terrible management skills...

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  4. Congrats! Of course the bar for next year has been moved up a notch or two now... :-)

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  5. We know you can do the research, we know you can do the service, now show us you can teach and tell us funny stories of the experience.

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  6. Congratulations! Maybe you can enlighten us about how you wrote the review.

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  7. Good for you! May I ask how many grants you submitted in your first year?

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  8. Gnuma, it's a little depressing, but the breakdown looks like this:

    NSF - 5
    Other Fed - 1
    Foundation - 1
    University - 1

    Eight grants on three (totally) different projects. I will be submitting 4 more federal grants in the spring semester (starting tomorrow) and an internal grant went in just before the break.

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  9. It would be more impressive if some got funded. As it is I can stare at that list and just see a giant vacuum of time suckitude.

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  10. Congrats! And giant vacuums of time suckitude are also present throughout my list. I think it comes with the territory.

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  11. Congrats! It's great that people looking in from outside (and therefore possibly seeing more of the big picture than is apparent from the inside) are convinced you're on the right track.

    Also, when one of our grants gets rejected, my boss always says "well at least now it's in better shape for the next time". Although I can appreciate that this is easier to say when you already have a number of other grants.

    Just curious - are the comments you get anonymous?

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  12. Yes, they are filtered by the Chair, who gives the overall picture of the comments and adds her own.

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