Over the last several months, the POWER Steering Committee had the pleasure of interviewing Drs. Patricia Edwards, Shelley Gray, and Kate Cain. Please see our website for more information about their backgrounds and commitment to mentoring.
As an inspiring start to the New Year, we will be sending out ambassador interviews over the next few weeks. With Dr. Patricia Edwards, we had a thoughtful conversation about what to consider when advocating for yourself and for others. Stay tuned for our next installments!
What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
The best advice that I’ve received is that you need to have a focus. What do you want to be best known for? You can’t know everything about everything, but you can know a lot about something. Can you attract people to come and work with you? If so, you will need a focus to build up your CV in a way that attracts a talented team. When you finish your dissertation, let this launch your career instead of jumping around to this and that.
What are the most important characteristics of a good mentor?
The key to a good mentor is to know what will make an individual successful in the academy and in their given academic institution. A good mentor advocates for their mentees in many ways, such as increasing their visibility through nominating them for awards and getting them on national committees. Sometimes you will have to use your mentoring skills to negotiate for your mentees.
I want to make sure women are given equal opportunities. I want to make sure they get a seat at the table. At one of my past institutions in the 70’s, I saw that there were no women with tenure and moving through the ranks. Therefore, I tried to make sure that women who were right for this job were given opportunities and the experience they need to move through the ranks.
In academia, it is all about your reputation. No one gets to where they have gotten without help. Who do you want to help move through the ranks? How do you want to leave a legacy? This is good not only for them but for you and your institution. Women need to know the rules and then we can play it just as well or better than the boys.
What are the most important characteristics of a good mentee?
As a mentee, you need to listen to the good news AND the bad news. We need to see bad news as a learning opportunity and be humble. For example, my advisor marked my writing up so much with a red pen that it looked like it had been given a blood transfusion. I was so upset at first. But then I realized that the feedback was coming from a place of caring and I needed to learn from it. And I did. And on my later papers, my advisor didn’t need to mark them up.
Remember that you own the responsibility for your own success. Your mentor is there to support you, but you need to do the work.
What advice do you have to help people manage their time effectively and stay engaged?
I think that many junior faculty don’t know how or when to say no. As one of my colleagues says, “No is a complete sentence.” When someone asks you to do something, you want to consider “Who’s to benefit?” For instance, as a person of color, I am asked to be on many committees and serve in other roles. I have to be careful that I don’t get sliced up to the point of incompetency. Think of yourself like The Giving Tree. You only have so many resources to offer.
As a minority researcher, I get asked to do things all the time. I told someone I am not a minority anymore because you can get so sliced up and diced up. My advice is work 8 hours, sleep 8 hours, and do something else for 8 hours. And if you overcommit, you won’t be able to hold up your end of the bargain. Then your reputation suffers and you don’t want people to think of you as someone who says “Yes” but does not do what they promised.
However, saying no can be tricky because you also need to be a good citizen of your institution. Sometimes, especially as you become more senior, you need to say yes to requests because if you don’t do it, then someone else will have to do it. You want to protect your junior colleagues. You also need to be careful about who you say no to. There are two people that you have to work well with - your Dean and your Chair. Sometimes there are situations where they ask you to do something that you didn’t plan on - like a search committee. You need to be flexible.
It’s also important to remember to take a long view of your career. There are some years that you will be at the top of your game and producing a lot, and some years you will not be because of personal issues. But if you take the long view, you will always retain a focus on quality and ways to move the field forward, even if you are not publishing the same amount as in other years.
What are some of the things necessary for success that you think women researchers might not think about or need support in developing?
One thing is that the ability to teach is not going to get you tenure. But the inability to teach will get you in trouble. You have to be able to teach but also do research, write grants, and national service.
I keep copies of winning grant applications and share these as examples with my mentees so they can see what this looks like.
It’s also really important to learn how to negotiate for academic positions. We hold a negotiation workshop for our doctoral students to learn critical negotiation skills. I tell people that institutions have a salary range that they can offer, and I explain that women are earning less than men. But women did not pay less for their PhD training than men did, so why should be paid a lesser salary? That doesn’t make sense.
It’s important to know how to talk to policy makers. As researchers, we are trained to be careful about what we say about our research. At least within my own discipline, when we talk about the implications of our work, we typically limit it to suggestions of areas for future research. Trying to use our research findings to influence policies can seem like a daunting concept. However, in recent years, institutions are devoting considerable resources into helping academics build their skills, so they can communicate complex science or technical social science into ‘user friendly’ and digestible soundbites. If your research overlaps with nationally recognized policy, then this provides the opportunity for you to talk with multiple audiences. Since coming to MSU in the fall of 1989, I have continued to be an articulate spokesperson and my service has taken three forms. I have served the university, professional organizations, and parents and children. For example, I have responded to more than 50,000 teachers, administrators, daycare providers, adult educators, legislators, and governors around the country regarding the two family literacy programs I developed. I served as an advisor to the U. S. Department of Education, specifically the Department's Office of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Office of Planning, Budget and Evaluation. My work with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education led to the document Preparing Young Children for Success. It provides guideposts that may be helpful in taking actions to achieve the first national goal, Readiness for School. Without careful counsel, such reforms are likely to create more problems than they solve. My contributions to these policy statements and to the research and development that they support for the next five years is crucial, for I reminded the Department that teachers need to be educated in how to accommodate the needs of the changing family. My work with the Department brought me in contact with many key state and national leaders which has served as an important avenue for the dissemination of my scholarship from MSU. I was also a consulting reader of "The Mechanics of Success for Families: An Illinois Family Literacy Report." This experience also brought me in contact with several state and national leaders. Also, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to testify in Washington on March 9, 1989 to the Congressional Subcommittee on Select Education about my work with families and children. Additionally, because of my work with families and children, I was invited to the 52nd Presidential Inaugural "Bells for Hope" Historic Event and Reception in Washington, DC, January 1993.
By Hope Gerde, Jill Pentimonti, & Sonia Cabell
You may think that close only counts in a game of horseshoes or for slow dancing. However, engaging in the process of award nomination can benefit your career even if you do not win the prize. Are you perseverating over whether applying for an award is worth the time investment? The answer is YES, even if you do not receive the award!
First of all, you are guaranteed to lose 100% of the opportunities you do not take. Said differently, if you do not apply, you absolutely, positively will not win. Thus, the first step to winning an award is applying for the award. Moreover, persistence is paramount and these carefully prepared award nomination documents including research narratives and letters of recommendation can be used as drafts to work from for future, revised submissions of the same or another award. In many cases, a second or third submission of a revised award nomination results in a win. Not only do revised submissions include your more recent work, your research statement will improve each time you revise.
The preparation of award materials will help you and your nominators to carefully scrutinize your work which can and will move it forward in interesting ways.
So if you were debating on whether to apply for an award, debate no longer! It is well worth the effort. There is more to gain than to lose, so go ahead—award yourself!
By: Dr. Lori Skibbe
It is 4:45 pm and I realize that I haven’t written anything yet today. I am feeling tired, after a day filled with meetings. I prioritized the needs of my students and the pressing deadlines associated with my grants over my scholarly writing time. I still have some time left in my work day, but I know that it will be a tough slog to complete my writing goals. Sound familiar? In my experience, it’s not just about the amount of time that you spend on a task, but also when you choose to do each task and the breaks that you take along the way that will dictate how well you do your job. I thought that you might benefit from some lessons I’ve learned about time management during my career. Even after all these years, I still need occasional reminders about how to use my time most effectively.
It is important to create a daily schedule that fits your individual biological rhythms. When I tracked the times of day when I am most and least productive, I found that I am a morning person, who likes to tackle the tough intellectual tasks first thing in the day. As a result, I schedule my writing first thing in the day most days. Although times of greatest productivity can vary by person, a study of nearly 2 million students in high school found that state test scores were higher in math when students took their math class in the morning rather than the afternoon (Pope, 2016). Grade point averages were also higher for morning classes. Thus, it is not just the amount of time that we need to consider when planning our work day, but also placing our highest priority tasks during times when we are most productive.
We must also recognize that we all need time to recharge. An academic job will take as much of your time as you will give it. Sometimes this tempts me to work long hours without taking time off or to work every day in a week. Research suggests that this is a mistake. The time we spend at work requires effort and energy, which needs to be periodically replenished, as our stores contain a finite supply (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). My energy begins to fade after two or three hours and, without some thoughtful preplanning, I can find myself looking for carbohydrates and caffeine, preferably while aimlessly searching the internet. However, when I rely on quick fixes, I actually get less done than when I manage my time in a way that allows me to take a real break from my work. My experiences resonate with work from Hunter and Wu (2016) who interviewed workers to figure out when, where, and how breaks should be taken during the work day. Most importantly, they found that breaks were critical to enhancing workplace productivity. Other things also stood out as being important: breaks should start early in the work day, be preferred activities, and occur frequently. For me, the best breaks involve physical and/or social activities, as these help me to reset my energy levels.
I encourage you to think about your own biological rhythms and what they mean for your work productivity. Do you produce better output in the morning, afternoon, or evening? What is the optimal amount of time that you can work before you find your attention wandering? What kind of break reinvigorates you most?
Hunter, E. M. & Wu, C. (2016). Give me a better break: Choosing workday break activities to maximize resource recovery. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101, 302-311.
Meijman, L. K. & Mulder, G. (1998). Psychological aspects of workload. In P. J. Drenth & H. Thierry (Eds.). Handbook of work and organizational psychology. Volume 2: Work psychology (pp. 5-33). Hove, England: Psychology Press.
Pope, N. G. (2016). How the time of day affects productivity: Evidence from school studies. Review of Economics and Statistics, 98, 1-11.
By Dr. Hope Gerde
National awards are an important component of a strong research portfolio. Receiving a national award provides prestigious recognition for your program of research and contributes to evaluation metrics such as the Web of Science, which may be valuable for reappointment, tenure, and promotion at your university. University-level awards contribute meaningfully to your CV as well; winning a university-level award may strengthen your nomination for a national award. Of course, no one is just going to give you an award, so take action to award yourself.
Some researchers may think, “If I do great work, someone will notice and award that work.” While a few researchers may be spontaneously bestowed an award, the best course of action is to take ownership over award nominations. Much like the intentionality and ingenuity you invest into your award-deserving program of research, what is likely to result in an award is taking the initiative to self-nominate, that is, 1) identify awards for which you are eligible and align with your research, and 2) actively identify and invite nomination/support letter writers.
Do not undervalue the self-nomination! No one knows your research better than you do, so why would you not make an excellent nominator of your work? You know why your work is valuable. You know who your work impacts. This is your career, so self-nominate away!
Now that you have decided to apply for an award, you must identify awards for which you and your work are eligible. Universities, professional organizations (e.g., SRCD, AERA), community agencies and foundations often provide a range of awards for researchers and educators. Their websites will provide detailed application Awards applications can be intensive with multiple components to complete, so it is important to ensure you meet the eligibility. The term “early career” varies widely and may include doctoral students, junior faculty, or those who have had a PhD for certain number of years. At times, it can include individuals who have worked at a particular institution for fewer than a given number of years no matter their rank. Check eligibility criteria carefully. Find awards that fits your content, methodology, approaches to working with communities or participants, etc. Your research is impressive; do not change it to align with an award! In the nomination letter, nominees must clarify how the work is in excellent alignment with the award. Just as you would in a grant proposal, don’t make them guess.
Now that you have selected the award for which you will apply, you will need a nomination letter.
Criteria for nominators may exist. For example, nominations may need to be from a board member of a particular professional organization or a previous winner of the award. Again, it is important to confirm this eligibility. Senior, recognized, researchers in your field, or researchers with a history of serving a specific professional organization or publishing in the awarding journal are excellent choices, particularly if they know your work well. Select letter writers who know you and your work. Provide letter writers with your CV and a brief synopsis of the specific parts of your work you would like them to include in their letter. Be sure to thank them to recognize the time they invested in your letter. A handwritten thank you card is often unexpected but a nice touch!
Use the resources available at your university or institution to support your award nomination packages. As awards become a more visible metric of superior scholarship, some departments or universities have invested resources in establishing awards committees or offices. Connecting with these folks can provide access to awards, eligibility criteria, letter writers, strategies for inviting letter writers, and more.
Persistence is the key to nearly all success in the academic career, including awards, so keep revising and resubmitting until you win or are no longer eligible. Apply to as many awards as possible but balance the time commitment; awards packages can be intensive and extensive to prepare. Invite a colleague to review your awards package prior to submission to enhance the quality.
We wish everyone well as they apply for awards and nominate their peers or mentees.
It's grant season! Are you writing a grant proposal for a federal agency?
If so, GRANTS.GOV has a terrific resource called the Community Blog. You will find a broad range of topics including grant writing basics, funding opportunities, tips for writing grant applications, and grant policy. There are also plenty of embedded links to a variety of resources.
Member Jessica Logan has provided a brief powerpoint presentation that goes through an overview of the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC), and an introduction to the standards handbook for evidence in experimental and quasi-experimental designs. The WWC standards handbook is now used to review all ingoing efficacy or effectiveness grants to the Institute of Education Sciences (ies.ed.gov), and proposed projects must meet strict criteria to be eligible for funding. This presentation reviews why the WWC exists, why it reviews studies, and what design elements constitute the three different tiers of evidence standards: Meets standards without reservation, meets standards with reservation, or does not meet standards.
This presentation includes excerpts from a (then pending, now successful!) grant application to IES. This should give readers an idea of how to include the necessary information related to the WWC in their grant applications.
Find the presentation on figshare HERE.
Part of the POWER mission is to connect our members such that we can support and advocate for one another. Your desire to connect and share was a primary outcome from our recent membership survey!
There are multiple ways that you can currently connect and share as POWER members (and we are working on more!). You can reach out to members to ask questions, solicit advice, and share resources through the listserv, via Twitter, and at our networking events.
● To send a message to our listserv of POWER members, email email@example.com. You can celebrate an accomplishment, share a link to a promising resource, start a conversation on a particular topic, see who is attending an upcoming conference, highlight a service opportunity, etc. Also, make sure that this listserv email address is added to your contacts/address book so messages do not end up in spam!
● We have a POWER Twitter account – follow us at @PoWOMENer. We encourage you to use our hashtag #WomenEdResearch to engage with our POWER Twitter community. Let everyone know what you’re doing to support the POWER mission! And keep an eye out for our Women’s Wednesday Twitter chats (2pm EST on the first Wednesdays of the month).
● We will continue to organize networking events throughout the year. Our SRCD event in March was a great success! Look for opportunities to meet other POWER members at the SSSR conference this summer and additional conferences this fall and winter; information will be shared via the listserv.
As always, feel free to connect directly with a Steering Committee member if you have other ideas about engaging our growing community.
Thanks to everyone who responded to our member survey!
The results of our survey provide us information about members’ perceptions of the resources/opportunities provided by POWER. We had 54 members respond to our survey, and a report of our findings is posted online HERE. We are using the information to guide our plans for the upcoming year.
Some key points:
The POWER Steering Committee is grateful for the opportunity to get to know many of you better and welcome your ongoing feedback about how best to serve you as we continue to move forward.
In February 2019, members of the POWER Steering Committee met with Sharon Vaugh, Ph.D. We had a thoughtful conversation about research, writing, and how to say “no” sometimes.
What is your advice for developing as a writer?
What are your tips for successful grant writing?
How do you envision a focused program of research?
How do you recommend young researchers find a more senior mentor?
Can you talk about work-life balance and how you’ve thought about that across your career?
How do you assess what opportunities to “yes” versus “no” to?
Many thanks to Sharon for sharing her advice and time with us; we are especially grateful for her honesty about managing anxieties and decision-making.
In February 2019, members of the POWER Steering Committee spoke with Stephanie Al Otaiba
Ph.D. We had an insightful conversation about making an impact as education researcher and
advice for women.
POWER: What is the best advice you have received during your career?
POWER: How do you make decisions about how to spend your time?
POWER: What do you think is particularly important for early- and mid-career women to know?
POWER: What advice do you have for faculty who are developing mentoring relationships as either the mentor or the mentee?
POWER: Is there anything that you wish you had done differently in your career? What would you do differently?
We are grateful that Stephanie spent her time and energy helping us think strategically about how to make an impact that fits our values.