Reflecting on my 2017 in academia

All in an all it was a busy year for me professionally, many highlights and a few lowlights. First the good.

In 2017 I was able to finish and publish my first book entitled The Consequences of Governance Fragmentation. It was a very fun project to work on, and I learned a heck of a lot that will help me with the next one. I was also happy to get a nice write-up in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; there really is nothing better than getting ideas that mean something dear to you into the public debate. I was also happy to keep up a nice academic publication pace in 2017, writing about education policy, nonprofit governance, group dynamics, and local government. All of these projects fall into my broader governance research agenda, and I am feeling good about its progression. I am also feeling good about my engagement in the community and the broader world of PA this past year. From serving on boards and commissions to writing for the PATimes, I feel like I am doing more than talking when it comes to bridging the academic-practitioner divide. I am also most pleased to have good colleagues and a growing body of diverse students that both challenge and enlighten me in the classroom. A lot of good stuff in 2017.

I of course also had my share of not-so-good stuff. The usual journal and grant rejections that come in this line of work, as well as job-market frustrations. Part of being in academia is keeping an open mind to opportunities, and I am genuinely humbled when friends and scholars I respect think I would be a good fit for something. That said, I think it is safe to say I am done testing the waters, my goal this year is to appreciate being where I am wanted and happy as opposed to seeking out an R1. I had a particularly frustrating experience at a conference where a well-known and accomplished governance scholar told me my work really did not matter; it was weird for someone to try to delegitimize me like that and brought on some soul-searching this past fall.

Did I really want to stay in academia? If my work was really seen as widely irrelevant because of who or where I was, or where I came from in the academic hierarchy, how could I ever make the positive impact I strive to make? I had a nice practitioner career prior to joining the academy and I really did consider returning to it in 2017. I would be lying if I said that was not still on my mind at times. That said, I love what I do. I love teaching, I love writing, and I love finding new ways to get my work out there. But the frustrations are real, and I cringe at what others must face given my position of relative privilege.

So now the professional goals for 2018:

  • Get all my tenure documents in successfully;
  • Further and fully embrace where I am;
  • Finish book number two, (two and three are in progress!);
  • Keep the publication train moving at a steady clip;
  • Work with my PhD bound students to get their publication trains moving;
  • Keep up the public engagement;
  • Bring a planned research center into reality; and
  • Keep making new academic friends and connections.

Will I accomplish all of these? Probably not, but a little bit of reflection and planning is unavoidable this time of year. With that, I have four courses I need to plan! Cheers.

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