Last fall, I participated in the unbelievably fantastic Faculty Success Program, organized by the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. FSP was developed by Dr. Kerry-Ann Rockquemore, a brilliant sociologist who quit her tenured job to commit herself full-time to the NCFDD and, in so doing, provide life-changing tools to harried professors seeking to improve their productivity and work/life balance. While the center works to support academics of all stripes, its resources and programs are particularly useful to first generation academics, women and people of color — all of whom are often excluded from informal networks and know-how that are crucial for thriving in academia.
A friend of mine participated last year and told me that FSP changed her life. She felt more productive, linked into to professional networks and focused on her research and writing goals. On the basis of her testimonial – as well as the experiences of other colleagues I know and respect – I wrote a grant to fund my participation in their semester-long “bootcamp” for academics. I knew I would not be teaching in the fall and was hopeful that the program’s structure, systems of accountability and professional development tools would help me make the most of my “time off”.
What I love about the NCFDD is that Kerry-Ann and her team of coaches are not only interested in your academic productivity, they are also committed to helping you develop a holistic approach to the way you organize your time and energy. When program participants develop our semester plans, we not only outline – in great detail – our writing and research goals, we also learn to outline and integrate our personal goals into our semester and weekly planning. We are challenged to think about what kind of life we want to live — not just what we are willing to do to get tenure.
To give you a sense of how FSP rocked my world, let me explain to what transpired during (and as a result of) the fall semester bootcamp. On the professional side, I was able to:
- Develop the skill of daily writing
- Write and submit a new article (something I had not done in an embarrassingly long time)
- Complete data analysis for a second article
- Complete several drafts of my book proposal
- Nurture and grow my network of professional mentors
- Write and submit more conference proposals, grants and fellowship apps in a few months than I had in the last several years
- Develop and revise a semester plan
- Develop the skill of weekly planning
- Identify and overcome internal resistance and emotional blocks to pursuing my career objectives
- Clarify how I could align my research interests and my spirituality
On the personal side:
- I met my goal of spending more time in New York, which was no doubt facilitated by the fact that
- I committed myself to connecting with more queer women in NYC .. consequentially,
- I met my awesome girlfriend and learned how to integrate a healthy romantic relationship with an intensely busy professional life
- I joined a gym and started working out again
- I recorded/produced a new song (although it still needs a lot more work)
And so on and so forth.
The transformations I experienced last semester have carried over into the new term:
- I currently have a paper under review that integrates my interests in stigma, race and spirituality. Such a thing would never have even occurred to me before as Something I Can Do.
- I’ve won more grants and fellowships in recent months than I have in the last 3 years combined, including a fellowship that will fund the completion of my book and the first phase of a project devoted to unpacking the experiences of people of color in New Age, Buddhist and Nondual/Advaita communities.
- I’m presenting my work this spring at four conferences/workshops across the country.
- I’ve been invited to participate in two scholarly communities dedicated to mindfulness! One is an amazing conference on contemplative practices taking place at SUNY New Paltz and the other is a fabulous writer’s retreat for academics in Yosemite National Park. Both are organized by friends and mentors who inspire me with their holistic approach to work/life balance. I would not have met either one of them were it not for my decision to be open and “out” about my spirituality.
- After almost a year of not working out consistently, I’m now training for a half marathon and have run over 30 miles since the start of the year.
So that’s a peek into what I’ve been up to. It’s been a busy, exciting, challenging and glorious time.
I’m teaching again, this spring, and the transition has really been great. FSP helped set up a template for me in how to organize and structure my time — a template that I rely on now, every week, to make sure I at least try to stay on top of things. I’m currently working on two papers in addition to my book project, and a few other things (including a chapter in an edited volume). It feels like a lot, but it also feels do-able.
There are some stressful things that have popped up, but overall, things are flowing. I’m still cooking delicious, dairy & meat free meals, though I’ve been terribly delinquent in posting vegan food porn. (It’s forthcoming.. I promise..). I’m still mostly enjoying living on Long Island, though sometimes I long for the warmth of other suns – specifically, Californian and Caribbean suns. I’m not making as much music as I used to, but I have a few tracks brewing in my spirit. I presume when and if they are meant to find their way into the world, they will.
Zora is still acting a fool. She is also still ridiculously cute. I’ve been really dismayed that the deep love I thought she had for me and only me — her human mother, the person who raised her since she was a small, awkward creature — was so easily displaced as soon as my partner Kei entered the picture. All the little tricks and mannerisms and flourishes of affection I thought Zora would only do for me, she also does for Kei! Fuck!
I’m lying. I love that my partner and my pet get along so well. It really wouldn’t work otherwise..
Oh yeah, which reminds me. That silly commercial holiday dedicated to Hollywood-fueled projections about romance is tomorrow. Yay?
Thoughts on mindful love and vulnerability as a spiritual practice coming in my next post. Whenever that may be.