Women In Academia

Women in Academia: Small Stuff Pep Talk

I fully admit to being a silly person, but well, sometimes silly things are the only things that work. I have several big deadlines coming up and when unleashing the list on a colleague over coffee, they suggested that I remind myself of why I love doing this. That’s excellent advice and I’ve put it to use before; however, this time I decided to mix it up and focus on some relatively frivolous great aspects of working on a university campus. Here’s my list, and I’d love to see yours.

  1. I can walk everywhere and not worry about getting run over by a car. Sometimes, I have to worry about getting run over by hoards of determined bicyclists. But it’s great! Walking everywhere when surrounded by greenery and native plant landscaping promotes general good feelings. Sure, there’s a much different hustle and bustle than one would expect in an urban environment (and goodness knows I do like me some city) but there is something very relaxing and secluded about the walks afforded by a university campus.
  2. There are coffee places every 400 feet. Again, the same might be said for some urban areas, but that doesn’t take away the magic of knowing that coffee is always just minutes away. Ubiquitous, strong coffee is the best coffee. Not to sound too doom and gloom, but sometimes when the going gets tough, the tough maximize efficiency by finding the closest coffee.
  3. Those little campus trucks that get driven by students and maintenance workers and they are super cute and sometimes loaded up with a truly intriguing assortment of odds and ends, like nets and bottles and gigantic hedge clippers. They’re just such cute vehicles! Aesthetically pleasing objects are great for promoting a positive work environment. And I bet they’re even greater for promoting a positive work environment when they scoot around at 10 miles per hour.
  4. All those posters and cartoons pasted to the walls and office doors. They’re fun to read, for starters, but even without reading them, those papers add a lot of character. There are pictures galore and many times the paper is starting to yellow and fade, making it much easier to convince yourself you’re in some sort of movie. Maybe you are living your indie hipster flick dream, or maybe you’re uncovering a secret conspiracy to get the world to switch from Celsius/Fahrenheit to Kelvin. It’s your fantasy – live it your way.

Over and over, people who work in academia remind themselves of the joy of the job by talking in sweeping terms about the freedom of research, the life of the mind, the pursuit of one’s own curiosity. Those are great things and valuing them is important in pursuing a career in academia. But sometimes, those large sweeping ideas aren’t enough to really get that next paragraph written, that next round of tedious grading done. In those cases, sometimes it’s best to just remind oneself of the nice ridiculousness that surrounds the job, too.

3 replies on “Women in Academia: Small Stuff Pep Talk”

Today is the perfect day to remember why I’m glad to be an academic. Although it might be harder to remember. From the perspective of going the the University of Costa Rica for the last year:

1.  Living in a city is new and challenging for me, but it has great opportunities, especially here in Costa Rica, like organic fairs, inexpensive fancy events (opera, theater, orchestra, etc.).

2. Public transportation to and from home/university/downtown is affordable and relatively reliable. (In comparison to my hometown that has never had pub. transport) Also, mostly affordable public transportation to most tourism destinations.(Beach for the day anyone?)

3. Almost constant language practice. I am getting better.

4. I was lucky enough to receive funding to travel to awesome places. I should dread the research less and enjoy the experiences more!

All in all though, I’m tired, over worked and dreaming of upstate NY. 46 days till home!


1) Both at my (USGS) research lab and my university, I usually bike in and after changing into non-sweaty clothes I usually end up walking around barefoot most of the day. No one seems to care.
2) Free envelopes from the secretary/administrative official at the lab.
3) I can justify wearing almost anything by saying “I was in the field” for even a small portion of the day.
4) My research lab is at the far end of an island in the canal- I have almost a mile of hiking trails to wander during lunch.
5) One of the other sections in the lab brings in donuts and bagels for their lab meetings. They never finish them all and put the leftovers in the kitchen.
6) Dancing around my genetics lab to loud music on Fridays when nearly everyone else is at the university instead…

My office is a two minute walk from one of my university’s two arboretums (arboreti?).  It’s the one that hardly anyone goes to anymore and it is empty 95% of the time.  There is nothing better than having your lunch in what appears to be a secluded secret garden just seconds from your office.

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