Seven Weeks on the Tenure Track

Just writing that subject line made my head spin a bit. After five years on the job market, fall without letters to request, job lists to study and applications to send out feels odd. Wonderful of course, but odd. I hadn’t realized it, but being on the job market had become part of my identity.

What else is strange? Not telling people I’m an adjunct lecturer, something I thought about today as I revised an article where I identified as an “adjunct instructor.” Likewise, it’s only been a few weeks since I took my Loyola Marymount faculty ID out of my wallet. My car still has a parking permit for West LA Community College on its windshield.

I think this strange feeling of not entirely believing I’m an assistant professor now is partly due to how long I adjuncted and partly due to my having been hired at a place where my status was “part time temporary” for two years. For years I’ve told myself and my family that being hired into a tenure track job would mean relocating, that my partner and I would be moving. But here we are, in the same Santa Monica apartment we lived in when I was a graduate student, thanking the gods for rent control. In addition, I worked in my program coordinator job at CSUDH until the Tuesday of my first week in the new gig. That crashing sound, I think, is me changing gears.

I’m almost moved into my office now. Just need to hang some pictures and for the bookcase to get fastened to the wall (earthquakes) so I can load my books into it.  To some degree I’ve “decorated,” that is, brought stuff from home, to every workspace I’ve ever occupied, however short the time I was going to work in it. But as I moved stuff into the new office I thought — this space is as close to permanent as any workspace can be. I definitely made sure the carpet got cleaned before my desk (a huge mid-century wooden one that I think has been on the campus since it opened) got moved in.

People ask me if I feel differently about the campus. I think  l look at them a bit baffled. I do feel different, but am not sure how. My students are the same and treat me the same (I doubt they know the difference) except they know I’m full time now. I had no understanding of what “tenured,” “tenure track” or any other faculty category meant when I was an undergraduate. I think the most I knew was that TAs were graduate students. If I feel differently about the students now, it’s because I know I have to learn everything I can about the department and the campus so I can advise them. This semester I’m not advising students on course selection and what they need to take to graduate, but I will next semester when the two tenured people in my department will be away, one on a Fulbright and the other on sabbatical.

My first RTP (Retention, Tenure and Promotion) submission is due in January. It’s basically a five page plan on how I intend to spend the next five years, what my research plans are and so on. This is the first time since I started graduate school where I could look more than a year into the future and imagine I could see what I would be doing the following year and where I would be doing it.

I don’t have any category on this blog where this post fits.

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