Being at a Regional Comprehensive University in PA

The other day I tweeted that I needed to be more assertive about getting on an editorial board this year.  Someone asked me, quite reasonably, why I want to be on the board?  When I thought about it, my desire is really a function to show that being at a regional comprehensive university does not preclude you from making a research impact.  I find the longer I work at a non-big-name institution the more I am motivated to demonstrate that it is not some kind of career death sentence.

I am admittedly a bit fixated on this issue.  Early in my academic career I would often have well-meaning colleagues tell me I have to move if I want to be successful.  I had not so well-meaning colleagues very obviously dismiss me because of my affiliation.  I had strange conversations where people asked me why I did not teach at a R1.  Honestly I get it.  Perhaps I am a bit of an outlier, and really it is flattering when I have well-meaning colleagues suggest job opportunities to me.

But, it is important to me to not only have a successful academic career, but to have a successful academic career where I am.  No, I did not go to one of the top ranked Ph.D. programs, but I use what I learned in that program every day.  Whatever the rankings say, I was prepared to succeed.  I do not have Ph.D. students, but I have MPA students that are smart, committed, and making a difference in their communities.  Yes, I have to teach a 4-3, but you know, it has helped me hone my skills in the classroom and establish great relationships with students.  No, I do not much travel and research support, but when I look at outcomes, i.e. conferences attended and research produced, I am doing fine.

I am one of the lucky ones, despite ups and downs along the way, the job market worked out well for me.  I share all of this because I think it is important for students and early career students to know there are many paths to success.  It is so easy to get caught up in the rankings game and perhaps miss a great opportunity.  It is also important that we keep our field diverse, there is so much talent in so many places; we suffer as a field if we ignore or dismiss that talent.

So we shall see if I ever get on an editorial board (and if I do if I regret it!).  But I will keep doing my part to contribute to the field in any way I can.  And I will of course spread the word about all the great things happening in our field…at universities of all types.


2 thoughts on “Being at a Regional Comprehensive University in PA”

  1. Seriously, why does joining an editorial board is THE way to show that someone at a regional university is doing great research wise? No hate! If you want to show that, invest time to do research that gets published in top outlets. Editorial boards are mainly collections of reviewers who do the heavy lifting in terms of reviews for a particular journal.

    With all due respect, the desire of scholars to sit on editorial boards is mainly prestige and an affirmation that you are a heavy-hitter; no problem with that! But if you want to show that younger scholars that teaching 4-3 and having a successful career, there are better ways. I would invest review time in doing research. You have a really great record; I am sure if you would spend more time on a single study instead of 2-3 you would produce even better work that would get accepted at top journals. But again, if you want others to know that you are on a board – I wish you the best of luck, and I’m sure it’ll work out!


    1. Thanks for commenting. I agree it is not “the way” to show anything specific. But those boards do play a gatekeeping function, for me it is another way to chip away at something that I think is unhealthy for the academy. Obviously not all will agree with me, and obviously I’m not always right, but that is my thinking. Your point is well taken on producing research. Honestly I think we all have our biases, I know I have hear that before, i.e. you are producing a lot of research so you must be trading off on quality. I personally don’t think that is the case, but I get that everyone thinks their research is good so I will give that critique some serious thought. I will say I have been particularly influenced by my experience with particular journals. Two top PA journals really showed themselves to me early in my career and really turned me off from wanting to contribute there when there are so many great outlets. Now, both those journals have different teams and my early critiques are not relevant anymore, but I am cognizant of the impact my experience had on my personal career development. And I also listen and hear others’ horror stories…that impacts me.

      I am guilty of oversharing, but I enjoy writing, and I enjoy hearing about people’s experiences. Perhaps I didn’t fully articulate myself in this blog post. It really isn’t about being on an editorial board specifically, I know that really does not matter. For me it is about questioning existing systems and being deliberate about change.

      Again, I appreciate the comments, it is always humbling to have other engage seriously with my thoughts.


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