In my last post, I discussed why the timing worked out to leave Penn State. Now I want to discuss reasons why it made sense for me, and us, to accept positions and move our family to UCONN.
I have been approached before about applying for other department head positions, but they have always been places that either did not seem like a great department fit for me, or not a great geographic fit for our family. When UCONN approached me, it was the first time that I thought it was a region of the country I would want to move to. I actually grew up in CT; almost all of my extended family lives in the CT/NY/NJ/MA area; and my husband and I are both fond of New England.
However, I would not move simply based on geography. What struck me from my first conversation with the search committee chair is how much UCONN HDFS reminded me of Penn State HDFS. I repeatedly heard from people about the support and sense of community within the department. I was impressed when I looked at the faculty and students in the department. When I visited, I enjoyed all of my meetings and it became clear that I would be quite disappointed if I did not receive an offer.
There has been excellent growth in UCONN HDFS and UCONN more generally as well in recent years. UCONN has been in a strong hiring phase at a time when most universities are constricting. The HDFS department has hired several people in addition to a new head over the past few years, resulting in, as of this Fall, eight assistant professors.
It is an exciting time for research in adolescent development in UCONN HDFS. There are at least seven faculty within HDFS whose research focuses on adolescent development, including work on peers , youth mentoring, cultural influences on families , self-regulation and risk taking , and as of Fall, LBGTQ youth, and sexuality development . There are also other researchers interested in sexual health and risk, and romantic relationships, as well as the Institute for Collaboration on Health, Intervention, and Policy (InCHIP).
A question I’m frequently asked is, Why do you want to be a department head? I received this question multiple times throughout the interview process, and continue to receive it when people learn of my move. Sometimes it’s phrased more as, “I thought no one ever wanted to be department head.” In terms of why I developed interest in becoming department head, it’s important to note that I was not on the market for a position as department head. I saw a particular fit between the opportunity at UCONN and my experiences and interest. It felt like a logical next step in the administrative aspects of my career. I have enjoyed my role as undergraduate program director, and even more so, as graduate program director. I’ve had increasing experiences mentoring faculty, and I look forward to the opportunity to expand that role. One aspect of being Graduate director I’ve most enjoyed is working with graduate students and faculty to shape change within the department. Thus, I look forward to working with faculty, staff, and students at UCONN to develop a vision for the next few years, and collaborate on enacting that vision. I couldn’t imagine agreeing to be a department head in a department that needed serious “fixing”. Instead, I see myself joining a department that is already strong, has strong faculty, staff, and students. A department with an existing emphasis (among other things) on health and on culture, two areas that I particularly value. I was raised in a very supportive department, and thus, joining an equally supportive department, with the opportunity to give back to junior colleagues in particular, is appealing. I believe that I have been relatively good at administration, and (for the most part) I’ve enjoyed it.
From a family perspective, my husband was also offered a tenure-line position, and it was hard to imagine when we would next both be offered good positions at a great university in a part of the country we would want to live. Our children are toward the end of elementary school, and moving them now seems much easier than moving them in 3 or 5 years. For all of these reasons, it felt that either we move now, or probably wait another decade to move. We would have been quite comfortable not to move. But the move has a fair bit of excitement to it, and at some point, it felt that the potential loss of an opportunity would be worse than the comfort of the status quo.
“The post, Moving Institutions, Part 3B: Why Go first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on June 12, 2016.”