My First Year on the Tenure Track

January 2017 - about 4 months in

January 2017 - about 4 months in

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a recap of my first and second years on the tenure track, along with some reflections about what I learned each year. Once summer is done (for me, that’s in September), I’ll share insights from my third year (still got a few more months to work on those goals!).

If you’ve checked out my process for yearly goal setting, you know that I set goals at the beginning of each academic year, checking in with myself along the way about whether or not I met them and why. In this post I’ll share my goals and progress for the first year and in my next post I’ll share my thoughts on what was helpful during year 1. 

Before I share my goals, I thought it would be helpful to give you a general picture of what life looked like during my first year (both professionally and personally)… always nice to have some context! During year 1, I had 2 course buyouts. This meant that I did not teach during fall term, taught 1 class during winter term, and 2 sections of the same class during spring term. I also advised 18 masters level students, which meant I provided basic academic advising, did a minimum of 2 site visits to their internships (1 in fall and 1 in spring), and problem solved any challenges they were having. For the first year, my service obligations consisted of serving on 1 committee (usually it’s 2, but there weren’t enough spots for me and another incoming colleague). I was still fresh from my PhD program (having graduated the month before!) and remained connected to a few projects/people from graduate school that helped a lot in terms of keeping momentum going on my research. I didn’t bring any funding with me or have connections to local collaborators before starting. I participated in NCFDD’s faculty success program during winter (and part of spring) term using money from my startup funds and I appreciated having a chance to connect with other faculty outside of my university.

In terms of personal life, I was 4 months postpartum at the start of the year. I experienced a lot of anxiety that began during our cross country move and seemed to drastically dissipate around 10 months postpartum. This anxiety greatly impacted my teaching, especially during winter term. It was a bit of a disaster (which I will share with you in a post at some point!). Thinking back on it, the mentality I’m taking now is that if I can get through that, I can get through pretty much anything. A lot of students were understanding, particularly those with kids. Others, not so much, and they certainly didn’t hold back in their evaluations (but were generally pleasant to my face). My third year review noted the massive changes in my teaching evaluations between my first, second, and third years and I chalk a lot of it up to improvements in my mental health… so you know, mental health matters, and faculty aren’t immune to health/mental health challenges! For me, a combination of therapy, social support (from Mike and from a new mom’s group), and time helped me cope.

We were new to our new city, living a short walk from campus in a 1 bedroom apartment for most of the academic year. We started off sharing a room with Ellie, but around 6 months, she started waking up and wanting to be held if we were in the room with her. So… we slept in the living room for about 3 months, with me on the couch and Mike on the floor while Ellie took the bedroom. We spent a lot of time driving around to different neighborhoods and going to grocery stores all around the city, to get a feel for where we wanted to actually live. While we loved the proximity to my work, the 1 bedroom wasn’t cutting it and we couldn’t afford the 2 bedrooms in our building. We used the money from the sale of our first house to buy another one, and we closed right before the spring term ended, moving during early summer (and followed that up with a long trip back to the east coast to visit family).

We made the decision for Mike to stay at home with Ellie during winter term, so Mike was taking care of Ellie and handling all of our food stuff, which greatly eased my mental load. During this time I was pumping and nursing. Pretty sure I stopped pumping around the end of the school year (I can’t remember!), but continued to nurse in the mornings and before bed. We were actively trying to build a support system through meetup groups, new mom groups, library events, and alumni events so a lot of our free time was focused on being social. One final thing to mention is that during winter term I got super sick with walking pneumonia, which I 100% chalk up to stress and doing too much.

Those were the main things that were going on during year 1. Below, you’ll find my goals for the year and whether or not I met them.

research (goals met: 6 out of 8)

Generally speaking, I wanted to publish a few things, get connected with local collaborators, think about what projects might get funded and do some professional development

  • Goal: submit 1 funding application

    • Goal met? Yup. The application wasn’t funded, but I submitted something. I met another faculty member from another department who had similar interests and we ended up submitting two letters of intent (LOI) to submit full proposals. While we weren’t asked to submit a full proposal, I’m counting our 2 LOI submissions as a funding application since they were essentially just shortened versions of the full thing.

  • Goal: Create a list of colleagues with similar or related interests and meet with them

    • Goal met? Yes. I didn’t set specific numbers, just that I would reach out and get to know people on a regular basis. Some of these meetings have turned into actual partnerships (all progressing at their own pace) that have resulted in multiple conference presentations, manuscripts, and funding applications.

  • Goal: Submit 4 papers

    • Not quite, 3 out of 4 submitted. This goal was a bit ambitious... my thought was that I’d send out two papers from my dissertation but I only ended up getting one of these out. The two other papers were from 1 project I worked on during my doctoral program and 1 paper with a new collaborator.

  • Goal: Get 1 R&R published

    • Goal met? Yes! This was from my PhD program and I had some strong feelings about this paper which made me drag my feet a lot. I was initially pulled in to help with a small piece, which turned into a much bigger piece, and just seemed to turn into this never ending ordeal! It did, finally, get published though.

  • Goal: Submit 1 first authored presentation

    • Goal met? Nope. I ended up being a co-author on a number of other presentations and felt like I didn’t need to do any more with this goal.

  • Goal: Submit 1 co-authored presentation

    • Goal met? Yes. I ended up submitting three co-authored presentations.

  • Goal: Write for 30 minutes on any writing project during each week day

    • Goal met? I started this goal at the beginning of winter term as a way to keep momentum going on my writing. According to my notes, I did in fact write for 30 minutes a day, each day that I worked... so yes, I apparently met this goal!

  • Goal: Participate in 1 professional development related activity

    • Goal met? I did 3! NCFDD’s faculty success program and 2 stats workshops, one through my university and the other through Statistical Horizons (all paid for with startup funds).

teaching (goals met: 8 out of 8)

My teaching goals are all pretty self explanatory, there’s nothing super exciting here! I break each class down into prep and teaching. And then set really broad goals for advising

  • Goal: Prep for a research methods class

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Teach 1 section of research methods

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Prep for a stats/data analysis class

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Teach 2 sections of stats/data analysis class

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Advise 18 students

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Conduct 18 field visits during fall term

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Conduct 18 visits during spring term

    • Goal met? Yes

  • Goal: Feel comfortable in the classroom

    • Goal met? Yes! Coming into my position I had taught one course independently and TA’d 2 courses. Overall, not much teaching experience. Granted, I’ve got lots of experience being a student, so I drew from those experiences to help inform my teaching practices. I spent a lot of time reflecting on what felt good and what didn’t after each class. As I mentioned earlier, I struggled with anxiety during a lot of the first year and I can vividly remember walking to my first class, feeling an overwhelming sense of dread… it was rough. I’m happy to report that by the end of the first year I no longer felt like that on teaching days!


I didn’t set any service goals for my first year, other than serving on my one required committee. I did explore some of the options at the broader university and ended up joining a steering group that was related to my research interests. I also wasn’t thinking about manuscript reviews or community service; however, a few opportunities found me. I believe that I did 1 manuscript review. And then I also reviewed scholarship applications for a community organization that I got connected with during my first year.

tenure (goals met: 1 out of 1)

My tenure section usually just has one thing in it that’s related to the review that’s due that year (or the following year).

  • Goal: Organize my materials for the 1st year review

    • Goal met? Yes! I met with other junior faculty and they all stressed how important it was to get/stay organized when it comes to the tenure process. So I spent some time during the summer of my first year organizing everything to turn in, in the fall.

personal (goals met: 8 out of 15)

I didn’t break my personal goals into sub-categories like I’ve done more recently. Here’s what I had going on… Keep in mind that I didn’t start personal goal setting until winter term, so the timeline for these was from ~end of December through mid-September. I was definitely ambitious in this area of life.

  • Goal: Work no more than 8 hours per day

    • Goal met? Yes. I spent a lot of time tracking my work and I did an excellent job of maintaining boundaries during my first year, mainly because I felt like I had to with a young kid. I initially had this as, work 9-5, but quickly realized that it was hard to always stay within those time constraints. Some days I’d take a break in the middle of the day, other days I taught until 8:30pm, so I adjusted the goal to be a bit more flexible.

  • Goal: No weekend work

    • Goal met? Nope. While I did curb hours worked during the day, I often had to do work on the weekends (like course prep). Usually I’d set aside time on Sunday.

  • Goal: Find day care that we love

    • Goal met? Nope. We found daycare, didn’t love it. Didn’t find anywhere else that we liked and had openings, so we dug into our finances and figured out how to make it work with Mike staying home.

  • Goal: Create a list of places to go in the area and do one thing each term

    • Goal met? Yes. I was on a mission to do as many things as possible. In hindsight, I was acting as if we were tourists, when I should have taken a step back and reminded myself that we did in fact live in this city, so there’d be plenty of time to see all the sights.

  • Goal: Exercise 3 times per week

    • Goal met? Nope. I’d go through spurts where I was good about this and other times where I didn’t (which is what I still do).

  • Goal: Create a yearly photobook each month

    • Goal met? No. We have lots of pictures (as you might be able to tell from the blog) and before moving to Oregon we started creating yearly photobooks, starting with the year we got married. I got through 1 and then organized another one but didn’t buy it. While I really would love to do this, there are other things I wanted to do more (plus it costs money and we’d rather spend money on other things)… so I set this goal aside.

  • Goal: Organize my clothes

    • Goal met? Yes. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that a lot of my pre-Ellie clothes wouldn’t fit quite right. I waited it out a little bit until finally realizing I needed to get rid of a bunch of stuff and get things that fit. I spent time going through what I had and figuring out what to donate and what to keep.

  • Goal: Meditate for 5 minutes per day

    • Goal met? Nope! Similar to exercise, I’d have times where this was going really well and others where it wasn’t (which still happens).

  • Goal: Keep a daily one sentence journal

    • Goal met? Nope. Another thing I want to do in theory, but that I didn’t have the energy or interest to sustain in reality.

  • Goal: Plan and go on one short getaway

    • Goal met? Yes, we took 3 quick trips! Travel is one of those things that we will spend money on when we’re able. We took a trip to Corvallis with friends who visited, Mt. Hood with family who visited, and Manzanita with just the 3 of us.

  • Goal: Join a book group

    • Goal met? Kind of. I had full intentions of going and even put in my calendar but it never happened. Just like the journal and the photobooks, this was something that in theory, sounded good, but in reality I don’t think I actually wanted to do. Plus reading was a huge struggle after Ellie was born.

  • Goal: Decide on where we want to live

    • Goal met? Yes! This was a big priority for us. We explored the area in the car and on foot, ran errands in different parts of town to get a feel for them, and settled on a suburb (because we can’t afford Portland on just my salary).

  • Goal: Buy a house

    • Goal met? Yes! We went into it super casually because the housing market here was/is intense. We honestly weren’t expecting to find something we liked, and were also looking at cheaper apartments at the same time. We put an offer in (that was not the highest), wrote our little “please, pick us!” letter, and it worked.

  • Goal: Create a master list of house projects

    • Goal met? Yup. I added this one after we bought the house, which still has that 60s vibe, complete with carpeting in the kitchen! We tackled a few minor things on the list during the summer of my first year.

  • Goal: Take a trip back east to see family

    • Goal met? Yup! I managed to find a stat workshop on the east coast during the summer (so I could get my flight covered through startup funds… and learn something of course!). We paired my workshop (which was 5 days) with a 3 week trip to see our families

Congrats! You made it to the end! Next week I’ll post a few reflections on the things that were helpful during the first year.

goals of a first year tenure track professor