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.