On Academic Service

Here is an excerpt from a brilliant post by GMP about how to handle service requirements during your journey towards tenure:

Sometimes junior faculty feel that they owe it to someone to put in excessive amounts of service. The reasons for this are different: for instance, women are sometimes pushed into extra committee roles because committees need gender diversity or it is perceived that all women like service because they are stereotypically nurturing and caring. If you are a female, and even if you love service and happen to be nurturing, I recommend you fight tooth and nail to not perform any more service than your male counterparts. This will not only free up your time, but will also establish that you are not a pushover, which is important for your future standing in the department. . . In general, while on tenure track at a university, it is a good idea to be a little selfish. Your goal it to get tenure, and that means the primary focus is on developing your research program and the secondary one on honing your teaching skills. Regarding service on tenure track, find out the minimal requirements for an assistant professor in your department. Stay close to that minimum for the duration of tenure track, even if you burn with desire to serve more. Instead, devote more time to professional service that brings visibility to your work, and enhances your research program and funding prospects.

I agree with this post completely. I know from personal experience that it’s very hard to keep silent when the Chair asks during a departmental meeting, “Are there any volunteers for this committee?” You are new, you want to be liked, that’s normal. However, being momentarily liked for volunteering for yet another service obligation will not help you when you come up for tenure and there are no publications under your belt.

During my last review, I was told that I should seek out a committee at the university level. For me, it only makes sense to serve on a committee if it is going to benefit me in some way and if it doesn’t require a big time commitment on a regular basis. I applied to a committee that analyzes research grant proposals and distributes money. I had applied for this very grant in the past and was rejected because my proposal was crappy. Serving on this committee will allow me to see what the requirements are for writing a good grant and, hopefully, apply for it successfully in the future.  It was hard to get elected to it because, understandably, the committee is very popular. But I did get on it, which makes me very happy.

Of course, the fact that I hate service and am not even remotely nurturing or caring helps me to be smart about choosing what kind of service suits me.

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