The AAR for PPL 2016

rockymtnnpOr, After Action Review for Parks as Portals to Learning–just a little taste of the ways in which military culture informs the history and present operations of the National Park Service.

My week up in Rocky, or ROMO (=ROcky MOuntain), another acronym used by Parkies, was a rich learning experience.  As a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Eastern historian my expertise was fairly irrelevant, but I took the opportunity to learn about how the NPS works.  Besides keeping up with all of the military- and government-style acronyms (EIS, NEPA, EA , ETC) for the laws and procedures that structure the park’s conservation work, faculty from Colorado State and UC Santa Barbara helped CSU students think through the ways that environmental history informs and can assist natural resource preservation as well as the interpretation and visitor experience of the park. Continue reading

The greatest cowgirl of them all

cowgirlbackinthesaddleI’ve saddled up old Seminar and we’re ready to ride this afternoon up to Rocky Mountain National Park for a week of camp as a participant in this year’s Parks as Portals to Learning, which is run by my colleagues who are faculty affiliates of the Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University:

This interdisciplinary field workshop was developed by Dr. Ben Bobowski and Dr. Ben Baldwin of the National Park Service and Rocky Mountain National Park. This workshop is a major curricular and institutional innovation that addresses a real-world, practical problem: the disconnection between academic teaching and research on the one hand, and professional natural resource management in the public land agencies on the other. Parks as Portals to Learning will use environmental history as a foundation for students, professors, and agency professionals to analyze contemporary resource issues such as climate change, air quality, and elk-vegetation dynamics. The pilot launched in 2013, with field workshops held each summer since. For one week each August, a group of students and faculty from a range of disciplines stay on the ground in Rocky Mountain National Park. They engage with park natural and cultural resource managers, learn about management issues within the park, and propose ways to use environmental history to address these issues and propose creative strategies for learning about and preserving park resources.

rockymtnnpIt’s a real honor to be participating this year, as the NPS celebrates its centennial this month.  La Famille Historiann buys a parks pass every year as we tend to visit and vacation in national parks very often–but then, we live an hour’s drive from Rocky, and there are dozens of spectacular national parks and monuments within a day’s drive of Colorado’s Front Range. Continue reading

Three lessons on women’s leadership from inside an Ursuline convent

Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas)

Esther Wheelwright, c.1763 (oil on canvas), at the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston.

Modern and mostly secular folks probably wouldn’t think that religious people might teach us something about politics and leadership.  But there are important lessons about leadership found in my study of a seventeenth- and eighteenth-century religious order over the course of 150 years or so.  After all, Catholic women religious have been electing their leadership democratically for centuries before secular men thought elections might be a good idea for civil society.

These women ran triennial elections for their superior, her assistant, dépositaire (treasurer), scrutaine (overseer of elections), novice mistress, and other lesser offices.  Some Ursulines in my book even engaged in early ratf^(king operations.  It’s true!

I reveal all of the details in my soon-to-be released new book, The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, but just with you, dear readers, I’ll share some of the interesting parallels I found to the challenges facing North American women politicians even today.  Mother Esther (1696-1780) served in most of the elected offices in the Ursuline convent before being elected superior three times in the 1760s, a time of political, religious, and economic crisis in the wake of the British conquest of Quebec in 1759.  Her leadership and entrepreneurial financial management of the order through the 1760s permitted the order’s school and novitiate not only to survive in this uncertain decade, but to expand and thrive before Catholics were guaranteed the right to practice their religion by the Quebec Act of 1774.

How did she do it?  Continue reading

Hannah’s tenure year, part II: “the anger and fear [are] strong enough to wake me from a deep sleep.”

For part I in our two-part series, click here.

After being told by the dean she had forfeited her right to apply for tenure, our intrepid junior scholar Hannah (a pseudonym) sought the advice of her union rep and her colleagues, and found that the dean was in error when he told her that 1) she had forfeited her right to apply for tenure, and 2) that he was going to recommend her dismissal at the end of the academic year.  They supported her appeal to the Provost to secure a seventh year of employment, and her tenure application as well.  Here’s what happened next:

The first weeks of the semester were spent waiting for my department to assess my tenure portfolio. They unanimously voted to support my application and noted my strengths in scholarship, teaching and service. While I had waived my right to see my external review letters, the letter written by my department’s personnel committee noted that all seven letters were positive and many came from senior scholars in my field. My book was published before the meeting of the college rank and tenure committee, and they also unanimously voted to support my tenure application in December.

The dean voted to deny my tenure application in January. His letter began by noting my strengths in teaching and service and then repeated his earlier  statements about the insignificance of my scholarship. The letter also suggested that I showed no evidence of future productivity and that my department had deliberately misled my external reviewers about my teaching load so they would lower their expectations of my scholarship. Our contract allows professors to write response letters at every stage of the tenure review process. Mine placed my scholarship in context with the standards of my field by quoting from both the letter in my tenure portfolio written by a professor in my field and from essays on scholarship and the tenure review process published in a recent trade journal. I also highlighted the sections of my tenure portfolio discussing progress on my second book project and documented that my department had made no such efforts regarding my teaching load. The following month, the university rank and tenure committee voted 7 to 1 in favor of supporting my tenure application. Continue reading

Hannah’s tenure year, part I

Today’s post is the first in a two-part series written by a junior scholar I’ll call Hannah who endured a rocky tenure review.  Hannah was lucky in that she works on a unionized campus, and she had supportive departmental colleagues.  She wrote to me late last summer when things started to go bad, seeking my advice as Historiann.  I encouraged her to reach out to as many people as she could on her campus and in her discipline, and to tell other people what was happening to her because abusive colleagues and administrators thrive on the silence and shame they hope to instill in junior faculty facing the threat of failure.

Hannah prefers to publish this post pseudonymously, because as she put it in an email to me recently, “I’d like to go up for full professor some day.”  But in the spirit of telling her story and refusing to be slienced or shamed, she has agreed to share her story here.

Tenure review is one of the final rites of passage in the academic world. Professors fortunate enough to have tenure track jobs dread its arrival, and tenured professors (or so I am told) try not to think about it. At its best, the tenure process provides both assessment and affirmation for the years of work leading to the review itself, at worst, it can become the stuff of nightmares. My experiences fell into the second category, and it is both Historiann’s and my hope that they may prove helpful to anyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation.

I am a professor in the humanities at a regional state university. Both my department and my dean’s office had positively evaluated my scholarship, teaching and service during the five years before my tenure review. I’m also in a book-intensive discipline.  My book was not yet in print but was under contract to be published in the fall of my tenure review, and the last two professors in my department both received tenure with books published during the tenure review process. I also had published articles in peer reviewed journals and begun work on a second book, including an article under review and two planned conference presentations. Continue reading

Women and leadership: more fresh entries in “Run Like a Girl” series at Nursing Clio

Margaret Chase Smith

Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-ME) during her presidential run, 1964

I’ve fallen behind! Remember a few weeks back when I directed your attention to Nursing Clio’s important new series on women who have run for president of the United States, Run Like a Girl? There are two more entries I haven’t posted about!

If you recall, the first in the series featured (naturally!) the first woman ever to run for president, Victoria Woodhull (1838-1927), who ran in 1872.  Last week, Sarah Handley-Cousins wrote about Belva Lockwood (1830-1917), a badass single mother and attorney who was one of the first women to argue before the Supreme Court.  She became the National Equal Rights Party’s nominee in 1884 and again in 1888.

This week, Run like a Girl moves into the twentieth century with Laura M. Ansley’s discussion of the political career of Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995.)  A working-class girl from Skowhegan, Maine, Smith was the daughter of the town barber and a waitress from a French-Canadian family.  Only a high school graduate, she is exemplary of most American women in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century who came to hold prominent public offices:  she ran for her late husband’s office and won in 1940, and then went on to run for the senate in 1948 (and win), and for president in 1964 (but lost!)   Continue reading

Public service announcement: ask for mentoring assistance. Don’t pay for advice.

Friends, beware of former academics peddling CV, job application, and career advice if what you’re looking for is a career in academia. They charge you money to do what your peers and colleagues are happy to do for free. I’m not going to name any names or provide any links–you know who I’m talking about.

I don’t get their business model.  Maybe it’s unfair of me, but I always wonder about the value of advice from people who have left academia.  If they’re so savvy, why did they leave?  The people who know what’s going on in academic hiring are the people working in academia now. Because most of us believe we have an obligation to help our colleagues succeed too, we’re happy to help out. Trust us, not the people who are likely to have been trained outside of your discipline who will charge you for advice or editing that may work against your interests. Continue reading