ask the grumpies: Post-tenure motivation

CG asks:

What did you do differently after tenure to make your job better/more fun and renew yourself for the next several years, in terms of research, teaching, and/or service? Asking for a friend. :)

#1:  Here’s some links we collected back in 2011 back when we were … asking for a friend.  Here’s some of the stuff we thought we wanted and should revisit to see if they happened.  Here’s a post on what motivates us after tenure.

Really though, I have just been too busy doing stuff to think about better/fun/renewing.

Hm, now I’m curious about that list (answering for both of us)…

  • an entirely new kitchen  NOT YET
  • a raise EVENTUALLY
  • developing an online course  PARTNER MOVED INSTEAD
  • a vacation that doesn’t correspond with a conference WE TRIED THIS YEAR, IT KIND OF SUCKED
  • a top tier journal publication NOT YET :(
  • lower tier journal publications that are just fun even if not actually important from a theoretical or practical standpoint YEAH, BUT NOT ACTUALLY AS FUN AS HOPED–HOWEVER TOP FIELD STUFF CAN BE FUN!
  • a raise SORT OF
  • a sabbatical  YES!  OR LEAVE ANYWAY.
  • another cat  YEP
  • a house NOPE, MOVED INSTEAD
  • boots YES AND THEY WERE AWESOME
  • freedom to tell students to step off  NOPE
  • fair grading  HAHAHA  TOO MUCH EFFORT THEN I QUIT
  • more time with partner  YES!
  • publishing fiction?  at least writing more of it  NOT YET
  • hair dyed a cool color  THIS HAPPENED IMMEDIATELY
  • a different research culture  AFTER QUITTING….
  • a wider driveway  NO, SEEMS LIKE THERE’S PIPES OR SOMETHING
  • a raise  MEH STILL UNDERPAID
  • the ability to wear something other than suits to teach in  YES, THOUGH I HAD TO GET OLD FIRST
  • figure out whether to do laser or electrolysis and do it I STARTED LASER AND DIDN’T FINISH

#2:  I quit!

Our academic readers should stop by and give better answers.  I’ll try to signal boost at other places to see if more folks can stop by.

11 Responses to “ask the grumpies: Post-tenure motivation”

  1. gasstationwithoutpumps Says:

    Write a textbook (not until about 25 years after tenure). Have a child (we wanted one earlier, but didn’t have any luck until I had tenure). Switch fields (right after tenure, and again 16 years later).

  2. Historiann Says:

    Great question! This is a challenge, because the “reward” for winning tenure and promotion isn’t a new job with new challenges, as it is for people in other fields when they get promotions. It’s just that we’re NOT FIRED, and it’s up to us to find new challenges.

    I started a blog, decided to write a book that required extensive research in another language, and have therefore morphed from a pretty traditonally-trained colonial Anglo-American historian to a colonial North Americanist with new specializations in the history of sexuality, environmental history, and material culture. I decided to co-teach a history of sexuality class with a colleague, and that’s been fun.

    I’ve come to embrace my role as the person who gets lectured about why I can’t possibly write the book I want to write because it’s overdetermined/undertheorized/”daft” (an actual quote about my forthcoming Yale Press book)/wrong/yet also what everyone already knows. And now I’ve written two of these impossible books, and plan to write a third! (I’ve also embraced the role of wise godmother to junior scholars who will NEVER tell them they can’t write the books they want to write, because that’s f’ed up.)

    I’ve also heard about the positive rewards of co-authoring a book or article, but I haven’t done that (yet?) Who knows? Our lives after tenure are much longer than our lives before it (with any luck, anyway). It would be a shame to squander this gift by not being courageous, outrageous, and passionate about our work.

    • J Liedl Says:

      Co-authoring is AWESOME! You have someone who gets what you’re trying to do on a deep and interesting level but from a distinct perspective. It is TEN TIMES BETTER than the best editor because they’re in on the process from early on. I may have been spoiled with my talented co-author, but I am all for doing this again should I ever have the opportunity.

    • CG Says:

      Yes, exactly on finding the new challenges! And I love co-authoring when it’s a good co-author (and mine mostly have been).

  3. seattlegirluw Says:

    That’s a pretty comprehensive and diverse list. I like that there are a range of options from simple (boots) to a whole kitchen makeover and/or an actual house.

  4. J Liedl Says:

    After tenure? Um, well, first I grappled with pursuing a diagnosis and early treatment for Autistic Youngest. Then I clawed myself out of a depression, threw off the heavy burden of administering our grad program (for no recompense), started work in a new-to-me subfield and began to teach courses related to my research, having a boatload of fun with the two combined.

    Next up? Writing fiction and getting back to the needlework hobby I set aside twenty-one years ago!

  5. Debbie M Says:

    I don’t have a direct answer, but as a typist for faculty, I was fascinated to learn that many faculty stayed on after they became emeritus. They generally picked the one area they liked best (research, teaching, or service) and blew off everything else because, hey, emeritus! Most people picked research, but a couple picked teaching and one picked mostly service (he liked being an expert witness).

  6. CG Says:

    Thanks for posting this question! I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s responses.
    My current plans (some more immediate and/or realistic than others):
    Work a little less in the summer
    Volunteer at youngest’s preschool
    Become a journal editor
    Write the two mystery novels I have thought out the plots for
    Get a grant that pays for some grad students to help me do some interesting work
    Develop a new course
    Seek out awesome junior women to collaborate with to “pay forward” the mentorship I received
    Become more involved with practitioners in my field


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