Friday, September 23, 2016

How to be a prolific academic writer

I often hear academics worry they are not putting enough time into writing. But, how much is enough? For me, two hours of writing every weekday is more than enough time to be extremely productive.

For the past ten years, I have written for two hours a day, five days a week, and taken at least four weeks of vacation every year. With that schedule, I have written more than many scholars will write in their entire careers.

Writers writing #ccretreat14
Writers writing for two hours a day at the Creative Connections Retreat

I am telling you this not to brag, but to make the case that two hours of writing can be more than enough. Of course, this does not mean that I write for two hours and then sit around and eat cherries for the rest of the day. In contrast, I write for two hours, and then spend the remainder of the workday responding to the 50+ emails I get on a daily basis, attending meetings, reading, preparing class, teaching, and doing many of the other tasks required of academics. Each day, I carve at least two hours out of my day to write. (In case you are wondering what I mean by "write," here is a list of ten ways to write every day.)

These two hours a day have been more than enough for me. I began daily writing nearly ten years ago, in January of 2007. Ever since I began, I have endeavored to write for about two hours each day. I rarely write for less than one hour and almost never write for more than three hours, even during summer or when I am on research leave. With this consistency, I have written a lot over the past ten years.

What have I done in 10 years?

I have written, revised, and published 12 peer-reviewed journal articles.
I have four articles that were published between 2005 and 2008. I would not count those as part of this tally, as two of them were accepted prior to I began daily writing. The other two had been written, but required some revising. We can definitely count the other 12 articles I have published since 2009 as I began writing those from scratch after 2007.

I have written, revised, and published 15 book chapters and invited articles.
As for my book chapters, I will not count the four book chapters I published in 2008 or earlier, as those had already been at least partially drafted by the time I began daily writing. I have written and published 15 book chapters and invited articles since 2007.

I have written, revised, and published 4 books.
I have published five books. My first book, Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru, is based on my dissertation, which I defended in 2005. I had already begun the revisions by 2007 but certainly spent a lot of time between 2007 and 2010 revising and re-revising it until I finally sent off the final version in February 2010. I wrote my other four books from scratch since 2007.

I have written and published lots and lots of blog posts and online essays.
I have also published 74 OpEds and online essays in addition to about 150 blog posts.

So, what can you accomplish by writing for two hours a day, five days a week? In my case, it looks like in ten years, you can write four books, 15 book chapters and essays, and 12 articles. A normal tenure review is about half that time – five years. And, half of what I have accomplished in these past ten years would exceed the bar for tenure in most places. Finally, this is a conservative estimate as I am not counting the three articles and two book chapters I have under review nor the edited volume that is nearing completion.

A lot has happened in these ten years. I moved to Chicago for a one-year post-doctoral fellowship. I spent a year traveling to four countries to do research for my book, Deported. I moved to Merced to start a position at UC-Merced. Each of these moves derailed my writing patterns temporarily. But, the important thing is that I have always eventually been able to get back on track and find my writing mojo.

In sum, carving 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours out of your schedule every day for writing is a great way to achieve tremendous productivity. Instead of feeling as if you have to write all day every day, I encourage you to write a little bit every day and see what you can accomplish.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How to Write an Effective Diversity Statement for a Faculty Job Application

Faculty job postings are increasingly asking for diversity statements, in addition to research and teaching statements. According to the University of California at San Diego website, “[t]he purpose of the [diversity] statement is to identify candidates who have professional skills, experience, and/or willingness to engage in activities that would enhance campus diversity and equity efforts [emphasis added].” In general, the purpose of a diversity statement is to assess applicants’ commitment to enhancing diversity and equity on a campus. These statements are an opportunity for applicants to explain to a search committee the distinct experiences and commitment they bring to the table.

[2009.05.16] UC Merced 2009 Commencement With Michelle Obama

So, how do you write an effective diversity statement? If you are a job candidate who actually cares about diversity and equity, how do you convey that commitment to a search committee? (Note that if you do not care about diversity and equity and do not want to be in a department that does, don’t waste your time crafting a strong diversity statement -- and you need not read any further in this essay.)

My first piece of advice is: Do not write a “throwaway” diversity statement. Some job applicants think that writing a diversity statement that shows they actually care about diversity and equity may be too political. Thus, they write a blasé statement about, for example, how they encourage students to come to class in pajamas if they feel comfortable. That is not an effective strategy because it does not show a genuine commitment to diversity and equity.

Of course, it is true that many faculty members overtly reject campus efforts to enhance diversity and equity. However, it is also true that search committee members who do not care about diversity do not read diversity statements. Just like search committee members who do not care about teaching gloss over teaching statements, those who do not care about diversity gloss over diversity statements. So, don’t bother writing a statement directed at faculty members who do not care about diversity. Write one for those faculty members who will take the time to read your statement carefully.

I can assure you that many faculty members truly care about diversity and equity and will read your statement closely. I have been in the room when the diversity statement of every single finalist for a job search was scrutinized. The candidates who submitted strong statements wrote about their experiences teaching first-generation college students, their involvement with LGBTQ student groups, their experiences teaching in inner-city high school, and their awareness of how systemic inequalities affect students’ ability to excel. Applicants mentioned their teaching and activism and highlighted their commitment to diversity and equity in higher education.

Here are seven additional suggestions to consider as you write your diversity statement.

  1. Tell your story. If you have overcome obstacles to get to where you are, point those out. If, in contrast, you are privileged, then acknowledge that. If you grew up walking uphill to school carrying two 20-pound sacks of rice on your back, by all means, tell that story. If you were raised with a silver spoon in your mouth, acknowledge your privilege. Either way, use your story to explain how you can empathize with students who confront challenges on their way to achieving their educational goals.
  2. Focus on commonly-accepted understandings of diversity and equity. Concentrate on issues such as race, gender, social class and sexual orientation. Don’t try to tone down your statement by writing about how it is hard to be a Kansan in Missouri, for example. Instead, write about racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or some other commonly-recognized form of oppression.
  3. Avoid false parallels. By that I mean, do not equate the exclusion you faced due to being a Kansan in Missouri with the exclusion an African American faces at a primarily white institution. You do not have to be an African American to have insight into the challenges they face, but if you do not have experiential knowledge of racism, then do not claim it. Instead, focus on writing about what you do know about. If you feel comfortable getting personal, you can write about your own experiences of privilege or oppression. But you don’t have to get personal; you can cite statistics or studies to make your points.
  4. Write about specific things you have done to help students from underrepresented backgrounds to succeed. If you have never done anything to help anyone, then go out and do something. Sign up to be a tutor at an under-performing school, build a house with Habitat for Humanity, or incorporate anti-racist pedagogy into your teaching. In addition to having a rewarding experience, you can write about it in your diversity statement.
  5. Highlight any programs for underrepresented students you’ve participated in. If you have had any involvement with such programs (e.g., McNair Scholars Program), describe that involvement in your statement. This involvement can either be as a former participant or as a mentor or adviser to someone who has participated. These kinds of specific examples show that you understand what effective programs look like and how they work.
  6. Write about your commitment to working towards achieving equity and enhancing diversity. Describe specific ways you are willing to contribute. You can mention your willingness to contribute to pre-existing programs on the campus or you can express interest in creating new programs based on models at other campuses.
  7. Modify your statement based on where you are sending it. Your statement for a land-grant institution in the rural south should not be the exact same one you send to an elite institution in urban California. Look up the demographics of the institution to which you are applying and mention those demographics in your statement. For example, if the university you are applying for is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), you should be aware of that. Or, if it has a well-known scholarship program for underrepresented minorities, you should mention that program.

Diversity statements are a relatively new addition to the job application packet. Thus, search committees are still developing assessment tools for such statements, and many campuses lack clear guidelines. Nevertheless, you can use this novelty to your advantage by writing a stellar statement that emphasizes your record of contributions to diversity and equity as well as your commitment to future efforts.

Reposted from Inside Higher Ed