Introducing TPII Staff: Dr. Kristy Lewis

[Over Summer 2016 I’ll be introducing the wonderful members of the Professor Is In staff (Dr. Verena Hutter is here, Dr. Maggie Levantovskaya is here, Dr. Petra Shenk is here) who assist me in editing client academic job and grant documents and welcoming and directing old and new clients to the best range of services available for them suited to their particular needs.  We work side by side (in a virtual sense–since we’re scattered across the country), corresponding by email and text throughout the day, every day, on client documents, evaluating not just the writing, but also the fit of the documents for the particular job or grant, and beyond that, tracking new and emergent trends in the job market to constantly adapt and update the editing and advising help we provide.  We pool our years of experience with different disciplines, campuses, departments, jobs, and grants, and departmental politics in a kind of continual, ongoing daily training in all elements of the academic (and postacademic) experience.  I constantly learn from my staff, and the expertise they bring from their respective fields (as a social scientist I’m particularly grateful for their expertise coming from the humanities and sciences).  The Professor Is In is what it is because of them!  Feel free to say hello in the comments, or ask them any questions you might have for them!]

Dr. Kristy Lewis

Dr. Kristy Lewis

Dr. Kristy Lewis

Kristy completed her Ph.D. in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences from Louisiana State University in 2014.  Outside of her research as a quantitative and applied fisheries ecologist, she focuses on helping graduate students prepare for the next phase in their careers. She is also interested in closing the gender gap in the STEM fields and currently leads a Women in Science Lunch Series at her university. Kristy handles most of TPII’s hard science clients. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at George Mason University. This fall, she will be transitioning to a one-year position as Visiting Assistant Professor in Biology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

What do you do for TPII?

I edit the basic job documents for TPII with an emphasis on the “hard science” clients. Dr. Karen acknowledges that outside of the humanities and social sciences  there are a number of areas of flexibility for our natural and medical science clients when developing the job documents. I work hard to help these clients present their research in a way that removes the jargon and allows for a succinct presentation of their work that is easily digestible for search committees.

What did you do before TPII?  Tell us about your background and career path to this point.

I received my PhD in Oceanography and Coastal Sciences in 2014 from Louisiana State University. Before receiving my PhD, I already began work on my next project, which transitioned into a full postdoctoral fellowship at George Mason University. So, I have been working at George Mason and TPII for about the same length of time. I have spent these last two years as a postdoc honing my job documents and applying for many positions. I’m excited to say that my hard work and guidance from the TPII brain trust paid off, and I’ll be starting a new appointment (albeit for only one year) at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.I have seen first hand how the TPII model works and am excited to pass these skills onto our clients.

What was the biggest surprise for you about working for TPII?

I’m a very active mentor in my current appointment and this involves everything from providing career advice and editing student theses and dissertations.  I gain so much fulfillment from helping people find “their voice,” much like Dr. Karen did for me. And so, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that working with TPII would provide a similar sense of fulfillment, but it did.  I remember telling Karen, “I think I enjoy editing more than I enjoy doing my own research!”  While, of course I’m passionate about my research, I have found that seeing a document go  “train wreck” to a sleek and well packaged message is one of the most exciting parts of this job.

How do you like being an academic job market editor?

I love it. Like I mentioned above, the sense of fulfillment gives me the drive to keep forging ahead, even when days and hours can be long. I’m thankful every day for the TPII team and how caring and attentive we are to each other. Although we are indeed scattered across the country, I tend to talk to the TPII editors more than I talk to my family. So, the editing is fulfilling, the family-like support is uplifting, and being able to learn from each other’s varied areas of expertise make every moment of this job worth it. I’m honestly a better scholar because of TPII.

Kristy enjoying work-life balance!

What do you wish clients knew about applying for jobs or grants?

I think the big take-home message for grant applications is making sure to follow the outline Dr. Karen provides–with huge emphasis on ensuring that the hero-narrative comes out loud and clear. Clients have to nail those first few paragraphs if they want to have a chance to be successful. I have sat on many panels reviewing grant applications, and those that didn’t clearly communicate their message within the first 2 paragraphs were thrown in the “not funding” pile. In terms of applying for jobs, I would suggest NOT just relying on the normal job posting websites to look for positions, but also think about where you want to be in the world (if that matters) and make a list of the cities, states, countries you want to end up. Create a list of schools in those areas and systematically frequent those HR pages. In my own experience, I have found jobs that were not posted on the normal Vitae and Chronicle pages, so that is just a little personal approach I use to ensure I’m finding ALL the potential jobs that may be out there.

What’s your big picture plan for yourself, now and moving forward?

While I’m starting a new position this fall, I’ll immediately be going back on the tenure track job market as soon as I start at St. Mary’s. My ultimate goal is to land a tenure-track position, either at a SLAC or an R1 or R2 university. I’m not picky about the type of college or university, as long as I fill a niche and need for the department. I’ll be focusing this year on publishing more papers, because in my field, I won’t even be considered for many positions if I don’t have upwards of 7-10 pubs. My plan is to continue working with TPII as an editor and eventually helping to create “Dr. Karen’s Science Corner,” which I envision to be a place that our hard science and medical science clients can go to find information and tips specific to these unique fields.

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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