reflections and an invitation

How did I get here? Where am I going?
As the spring term winds down, I'm re-entering a period of reflective thinking about my relationship to academe, about the current and future paths of my career, and about what my own goals (as opposed to those externally imposed) might be. I'm never too far away from such existential considerations, but I had set them aside over the past six weeks because I simply had too much else to be doing. The short version of where things stand is this:

good stuff
  • I have tenure in a job offers me a lot of flexibility in what I teach.
  • I love teaching the student population we have at Large Urban U.
  • I am well respected in my department and could probably have a pretty comfortable career here.
  • This city has been a good place for me to live and there are many things I like about it.
  • did I say I had TENURE?
not so good
  • Our salaries are far, far below the national average for my field and don't have much chance of improving.
  • I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life here in this city.
  • It is not an intellectually engaged department and I feel isolated from current developments in my field
  • As tenured faculty at a 4th-rank state university I've lost the professional prestige that my (1st-tier) PhD institution conferred on me (as far as getting accepted to conferences in my field, etc).
  • I'm not at the kind of place I was trained by, and trained to work in. I'm not sure I would want to be at a 1st or 2nd tier school, even if I were competitive for such positions at this point, but the internalized academic hierarchy still sometimes pinches me (the feeling that I could or should be more successful)
big picture questions
  • are my larger values really reflected in my current job? in my research? (they are in my teaching)
  • what hierarachies of value do I really believe in, deep down? does academic status really matter to me and why?
  • research? teaching? administration? other??

a long-term goal (3-5 years)
My partner wants to return to another city in which she used to live -- partly for career reasons, and partly for general lifestyle reasons. Our trip to this other city in March convinced me that I too would like to move to this other city.

Which puts me in the very difficult position of trying to find another job when I'm not miserable in my current one, and when I feel damn grateful to have a tenured position at all. Finding a geographically limited position means considering a wider range of kinds of jobs than I might have considered on my first time on the market. And it is raising all sorts of questions related to the existential lists above.

An invitation for YOU
I started reading Donald E. Hall's The Academic Self: An Owner's Manual (Ohio State UP, 2002) during the spring of 2003, when I was in heavy-duty tenure preparation mode (my dossier was submitted in August 2003). I don't think I actually finished the book, and I don't have strong recall of what I did read, except that much of it seemed thoughtful and thought-provoking. It's a short book (100 pages) that takes up some of the kinds of questions I've been scribbling here. At the time I started looking at it I can remember wanting to discuss it with others -- I recommended it to two friends but neither of them wanted to really dig into these kinds of questions.

Would any of you be interested in reading and discussing this book over the summer? Counting the Introduction, there are 5 chapters (Introduction; Self; Profession; Process; Collegiality, Community, and Change) and a brief postscript. So maybe a reading schedule over 5 weeks, taking a chapter at a time and discussing it? We could set up a separate blog just for this purpose. Maybe beginning in early June?

Let me know what you think.