But I’m back, to talk about the reasons that I, that we, decided to make this move.
I also wanted to mention that I’ve received many communications from people about my last post. Clearly my experiences struck a chord for many who are going through or have gone through similar experiences. Some also explicitly mentioned that they couldn’t find much online to discuss the topic of moving institutions and the challenges of the decision. These responses have compelled me to continue discussing it, despite both the busy-ness of my life, and the sometimes intimate nature of the decision making process.
I was recently at a retirement celebration for my colleague Mark Greenberg. I would never try to compare myself to Mark, because he is phenomenal in all domains and is a one-of-a-kind superstar. That said, I was struck during others’ speeches about his amazing accomplishments during his 19 years at Penn State. The speeches and presentations were making me feel remorse that I was leaving this amazing department and institution. And then Mark got up to speak, and he said something that almost completely turned around my sentiment in that moment – he mentioned that he spent the first 20 years of his career at University of Washington. It immediately struck me that Mark has had this amazing second half of his career at a new institution, and had spent the first two decades of his career elsewhere. It reminded me that people do not have to stay in one place forever to establish professional connections and have an important influence on their institution. It’s relatively common in our field to do so at multiple universities over time.
In fact, I think that within an institution, people sometimes have more cred if they come from outside post-tenure. Faculty may have an easier time being seen as a peer to senior colleagues if they move to another university after tenure. I have been at Penn State long enough that I believe I’m already through that in between time. But I did have this experience in my early post-tenure years. In my first year post-tenure, I was a speaker at a conference on campus, and in the program I was listed as Assistant Professor. About four years post-tenure, a senior colleague introduced me to a visiting speaker as an assistant professor. I started at Penn State at 29, and I think it was hard for many years for senior colleagues to see me as a peer. In contrast, new hires a similar number of years post-tenure were often treated more as peers. At this point it isn’t really an issue for me, because the majority of my colleagues joined Penn State after I was tenured, but it’s something that others might consider in deciding about a mid-career transition.
Something notable in the timing of leaving is that in January, I realized I had accomplished everything on my list of things to do as Graduate PIC. In my first couple of months as Grad PIC I spent a lot of time meeting with graduate students and colleagues, and thinking about improvements to the program, and those items have all been addressed. It doesn’t mean that I couldn’t do more in the coming months/years (or, in hindsight, that I couldn’t have tackled the list a bit more slowly), but it does mean that it feels that I’ve done the things I set out to do in the beginning. I could keep doing this position for four more years, and that would likely be quite easy, but I no longer have a particular agenda.
This post has become longer than I anticipated, and so far I’ve only written about why the timing was right to leave Penn State, and haven’t addressed why I/we decided to go to UCONN. I think I will have to make that my next post. Stay tuned.
“The post, Moving Institutions, Part 3A: The Why Leave first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on June 6, 2016.”