Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

~~ “You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader

The_Professor_Is_In.inddLove the blog? Now get it in handy book form!

Buy it at all these places!

indiebound-button-graphicamazon-button-graphicbn-button-graphic target_retailer googlebooks-button-graphic New iBooks Badge - 11 12

It also makes a great gift for all those struggling grad students in your life!

For bulk orders for use in classes, seminars, and workshops, please call Crown Publishing  (Random House) Customer Service at 1-800-733-3000.



The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

Now, for the first time ever, Karen has poured all her best advice into a single handy guide that addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right

The Professor Is In addresses all of these issues, and many more.

If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate.



I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.

I also put up posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday or Tuesday.

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at:

You can  always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right.———>

Please note that as of January 2013  the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen.  If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together.  I strive to make services affordable to all.

Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:

  • TT– tenure track
  • VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)
  • ABD–all but dissertation (status)
  • SLAC–small liberal arts college
  • R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.
  • R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments

#MakeupMonday: Clean Your Brushes

If you do makeup at all, you know that you’re supposed to clean your brushes on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. It’s like flossing. You KNOW you’re supposed to do it…. and yet…. days, weeks, months go by, and it is not done.

After the 5 week trip to Europe (and frankly, about a year of other traveling) my travel brushes were in a sickly state. Even I was grossed out by them.

And of course like magic, Instagram kept showing me a “Super -Fast Makeup Brush Cleaner” gadget each time I logged on. I resisted as long as I could, but of course I was going to buy it, it was just a matter of time. I mean, come on! It promises to instantly spin your brushes CLEAN AND DRY in under a minute!

Reader, I bought it.

Amazon actually has about 10 variations of this product, all from China. I picked one almost at random–it has good reviews. Is it the best, I have no idea.

But, here’s the thing: I cleaned my brushes.

Setup below. I had previously scored some super discounted BareMinerals Well-Cared-For Brush Cleaner at TJ Maxx a while back, so that’s what i used. I also had a brush cleaning mat from another TJ Maxx purchase, and brought that out just in case.

Setting to work, one by one, I took up a brush, found the rubber collar that matched its handle, inserted the brush, attached the collar to the battery-operated mechanism, stuck the brush head upside down in the little pot of sudsy water, and pressed the button. I spun the brush CLEAN up and down IN the water, and then I spun the brush DRY up above the water. (Watch the video at the Amazon link to see a demonstration). About 30 seconds or a minute of spinning per brush…. theoretically.

There was a definite learning curve involved. A surprising amount of things can go wrong with this apparently simple technology.

A: the brush handle forming a vacuum inside the rubber collar, and being almost impossible to get back out.

B: I quickly noticed that my beloved double-sided space-saving travel brushes (see below) would not fit in the rubber handle-collars. I had to do those by hand.

C: A learning moment: discovering that my foundation brushes are beyond the cleaning ability of my new little battery operated system. The thick black brush above on the right, with the white tips? That needed about three deep-cleanings, by hand, in hot water, before I’d removed all the embedded foundation.

D: Weird mishaps: about three brushes came apart during cleaning! The warm water melted the glue holding the handle and brush head together! Wut?! So, out came the handy superglue to fix that.

E: Another mishap: the rubberized handle of one Real Techniques brush turned permanently gunky/sticky from the hot water! But, it’s my absolute favorite contour brush and I’m not prepared to give it up! What to do? I grab a bottle of nail polish, and paint over the gunk! (see it drying on the left above). Two coats, and the brush handle was restored to a hard finish!

So brush-cleaning with this supposedly time-saving gadget took more fortitude and time than you’d expect. And no, the brushes were not spun “dry” after 10 seconds. They still needed to sit and dry for at least one hour.

But: feast your eyes on the clean fluffy glory of my brushes above. Do you see them? They’re transformed back to original state!

Below, my home brush set on the left side towel, and my travel brush kit on the right (minus a few sitting out to dry in the sun). All clean, fresh, fluffy, and soft.

And when I used them again the first time after washing? Whoa. Seriously, whoa. It was night and day. I had NOT been getting optimal performance out of those dirty brushes, most particularly any brush that dealt with foundation, either applying or blending.

So, I’m sold. I’ll be cleaning my brushes regularly from now on, and my new spinny gadget makes it fun. Was it quick? No, it was not. It took more than an hour to get through the entire ordeal. But assuming I don’t wait 1.5 years again, I expect the next time to go faster.

#MakeupMonday: Travel Achievement Unlocked

I worked harder than I ever have in my life to assemble a functional, packable, non-wrinkling, professionally appropriate, and above all cute, travel wardrobe for our just-finished 5-week speaking tour in Europe.

And, I did it! I loved almost every single outfit, and wore every element multiple times, and even had some not-yet-worn hot-weather options left over to wear in sweltering Washington DC, where I spent a few jet-lagged, bronchitis-y days getting my daughter set up for her internship on Capital Hill (with our wonderful Congressman Peter DeFazio).

Today I share the lewks.

Oh and btw, every single place we went, at least one person came up to whisper, conspiratorially, “I JUST LOVE #MAKEUPMONDAY!!!”


A one-piece Pact dress with belt, linen jacket (the only item i brought that needed an occasional touchup with the iron, but only rarely), tights and my new go-to work footwear, black suede booties by La Canadienne. This is a current version but I didn’t pay anything close to this price; I got a previous year version for about $200. You can get the identical style but without the winterproofing by Margaux, and other brands I’m sure.

The Pact dress again, with a different soft, deconstructed, non-wrinkling jersey jacket.

My favorite outfit: black stretch-knit Premise zip-back pencil skirt, with sleeveless polyester non-wrinkling shell and soft jacket. I can’t say enough about this jacket – a deconstructed asymetrical zip knit moto jacket. This one is BNCI, but an identical style is available from Loft, and there are TONS of the BNCI right now on Poshmark secondhand for about $20 a pop. Also, shoutout to the necklace: an ultra-lightweight magnetic front-clasp wire geometrical glory that I wore virtually every day (purchased at a small popup shop at the SeaTac airport – can’t remember name or artist, dammit. OK, I went and searched and found the necklace. Maker is Origin, but the Origin website doesn’t seem to show it anymore (although it has LOADS of cute lightweight, geometric, magnetic jewelry like this and this). Next time: I take this necklace and my Kristina Collection (each about half an ounce) and skip all my heavy chains.

Boldly mixing prints! Polka dot Max Studio self-tie shell under the deconstructed tweed-y jacket. (Bold lipcolors like below were a total FAIL in Europe. Women my age just don’t wear them and they just somehow looked garish and tacky. I ended up relying on my CoverGirl Outlast in #621 (a nice neutral) for the entire 5 weeks.

I had to look cute for travel days too! Linen jacket again with an H by Bourdeaux low-pro short sleeved knit mock turtle. And the Michael Kors Stretch Twill Leggings (or ponte). You can find these cheap at TJ Maxx etc.; I didn’t pay full price for my first pair, but did for my second in black. They were PERFECT for packing and long train and plane rides. Deep back pockets for phone, stretch waist for comfort, kept their shape, neither tight not loose, never-wrinkling. Plus my new Suavs – one of those new packable sneakers. Unfortunately they didn’t work for me. Totally cute and totally collapsible to about an inch wide for the pair, but not quite enough support for actual walking.

MY PERSONAL VICTORY: Last day of a grueling 5-week trip and I am STILL LOOKING CUTE! New scarf picked up for 10 Euro at a street market in Amsterdam. Labeled “pashmina” lol…. not. But still cute.

Kel and I doing us.

In Amsterdam I stumble upon a pop-up sidewalk discount shoe sale!! I get four pairs of super-cute European shoes at a steal! Bernie Mev, Arche and Cabot.

Of course we stop at the Museum of Purses and Bags in Amsterdam!

And just a fond tribute to my (previously introduced) travel makeup kit. It was a smashing success.

Truly, after 4 years of working on travel gear, this is the year I can say Travel Achievement Unlocked.

Share your travel fashion and makeup hacks as comments the FB page and I’ll do another random drawing for unused/barely used makeup and skincare samples! I have a ton of new ones to share!

Where You Show Out Is Where I Show Out: On Micro Macro Aggressions – WOC Guest Post

~I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by EbonyJanice Moore. EbonyJanice Moore is a (HipHop) womanist scholar and activist doing community-organizing work, most specifically around black women’s body ownership as a justice issue, and equal access to education and pay for women of color in the U.S. and in several African countries. 


My graduate school in liberal/progressive Berkeley, California has the words “dismantling white supremacy” in it’s mission statement and a “Black Lives Matter” banner on the front of the building. I will testify with my hand on all the sacred and most holy texts that it was the most white-centering space I have ever experienced in my 36 years on this planet… and this is coming from someone born and raised in Sandusky, Ohio – which was disproportionately white and oppressive during my formative years.

White supremacy is a centering that has a violent way of making other people invisible, particularly women of color – most specifically black women; until there is a need for black women’s labor. That labor can be domestic, manual, emotional, and intellectual. This pulling at black women’s energy and then discarding them back into the oblivion of invisibility is an aggression.  

Let me take a very brief moment to explain why I do not believe in “micro-aggressions.” Harvard professor of education and psychiatry Chester M. Pierce created the term in 1970 to describe the countless slights, denigrations, and dismissive behaviors inflicted upon black Americans by others every day (Pierce, 1978, p. 66). The issue with calling them “micro,” however, is that that word insinuates that they mean less than macro-aggressions. There is a diminishing of their impact when really an aggression is an aggression. I am not less likely to respond in horror to someone slicing me with a small knife than I am if someone slices me with a large knife. Either way, a slice is a slice. It is violent.

I use to work at my grad school at the same time that I was completing my Masters degree in Social Change with an emphasis on Spiritual and Religious Leadership. As a result of working and attending seminary in the same space, I was positioned to be on both the serving and receiving end of energy exchanges with my classmates; it all just depended on whether I was sitting behind the front desk as an employee or at the desks next to them in those classrooms as a student.

My white classmates wore me out pretty much 24/7. When I say wore me out I mean that literally and figuratively. They wore me out in the literal sense in class. They would consume my knowledge. They asked additional questions of me like I was getting paid to teach them. They were reaching, demanding and wanting children from day to day. They put me on when they needed the extra thought production they could consume from me, wore me around when it was beneficial to have a smart black home-girl, and then took me off whenever they were done getting whatever they could get.

My white classmates wore me out figuratively in the fact that they never refilled once they exhausted me of my thoughts and my intellectual resources. They knew I was a work-study student when I was at that front desk but they would still ask me all manner of questions that had, literally, nothing to do with my job. For example, one week I had three different white women ask me to assist them with domestic labor. Me. EbonyJanice: The only cis-gendered black woman in full time high residency at their super white institution supposedly doing work to “dismantle white supremacy.” They wanted me to open jars for them. They wanted me to turn on stoves for them. They wanted me to change the settings on the dishwasher for them. They wanted me to wash their dishes for them.

And then they were done with me.

They would walk past me in the entrance and not speak.

They would see me at a restaurant around the corner and half smile like they were doing me a favor to speak to me.

They would greet each other in their white people yelps, shrieks and “Yays” with exclamation marks and then toss a dry, “How are you?” whenever it suited them.

They wore me out.

It is something very exhausting and triggering about being asked to take up so much space and be invisible at the same time:

“Show up EbonyJanice.”
“Don’t just sit there.”
“Your silence makes you seem like an ungrateful bitch.”
“Black girls can’t be introverts.”
“Invest in this space.”
“Give us something.”
“Dance for us if we ask.”
“Prove you are smart enough.”
“Prove you belong here.”
“Now be quiet.”

This is what a (micro) aggression looks like. This is white supremacy. This is white centering. This is violence. It may not be calling a black person the N-word or burning a cross on someone’s front lawn but it is equally as intimidating because it tells POC, particularly black women that they are not safe in this space in their own bodies so they must contort their spirits and souls within, in order to make everyone comfortable – but themselves.

“Where you show out is where I show out” is my actual anti-black racism activist and liberative sojourning life philosophy. I mean this. Usually what happens when someone aggresses against a black person, whether in some “subtle” (micro) way or in an obviously, overtly violent way, is that black people have to go out of their way to either make themselves safe by exiting the experience in silence, or being wholly uncomfortable on their own by not saying anything so as to not feel like the “aggressive” or “angry black person” – especially black women; because no one wants to be the angry black woman.

I could not care any less about being called an angry black woman (1) because 99% of people that I have ever encountered have never seen me angry so that trope is lazy and played out and (2) because if someone aggresses against me I have every right to be angry and trying to play that down and make it small will harm no one but myself; which leads to a double burden of grief that I am unwilling to shoulder on my own. Period. Because if you aggress against me, whether it is “micro” or “macro.” I’m going to call you out on it, whether that makes you micro mad or macro mad. It just is what it is.


Pierce, C., Carew, J., Pierce-Gonzalez, D., & Willis, D. (1978). An experiment in racism: TV commercials. In C. Pierce (Ed.), Television and education (pp. 62–88). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

“You Don’t Belong” and Other Myths WOC Ph.Ds Believe – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Dr. Christina McWhorter. Christine McWhorter is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism at Norfolk State University. Her research interests include media literacy with an emphasis on news literacy and critical literacy. Her scholarship also addresses the social influence of media and media representation. She teaches broadcast journalism and television production with the goal of emphasizing the importance of storytelling through diverse perspectives.  


Academics are intimately familiar with impostor syndrome. We know the feelings of inadequacy. We struggle to convince ourselves that we belong, and we suppress the perpetual suspicion that we aren’t enough.  

For women of color, imposter syndrome can be multidimensional. Our self-doubt is especially pernicious because it is linked to our racial/gender identity. Most WOC Ph.Ds have experienced years of gendered racism. Now insecurity can proliferate in our minds. As a result, we feel constant pressure to defend our worthiness to others and to ourselves.

Race/gender-based imposter syndrome can show up at any time but it often creeps up in group settings. Consider the following scenarios:

You’re about to present at your field’s national conference. You sit next to the other members of the panel, a row of white bodies. You smile, introduce yourself, and then look out at the audience. A sea of white faces.


You’re at a talk featuring Dr. Very Big Deal in Your Discipline. After quickly scanning the room (you always scan the room), you notice very few POCs. During the Q and A, in the confident, vocal crowd, hands shoot up all around you.


You walk into a classroom where you instantly realize you’re the only woman. As you walk toward the back of the room to find an empty seat, rows of eyes linger on your face.


A lot can happen in these moments. For some, the sense that you don’t belong can be overwhelming. The anxiety is palpable.

We can overcome our insecurities, but first, we need to realize they’re based on false messages that we’ve internalized. At some point in our lives-maybe as children, perhaps during our grad school years, or maybe even in our current environment- we learned things about ourselves that just aren’t true.

There are several strategies for addressing racialized/gender-based imposter syndrome. I find that I’m able to quell feelings of inadequacy by identifying these false messages- I like to call them mental myths- and debunking them.

Although I am writing from my experience as a WOC, I believe anyone can take the principles of “mental myth debunking” and use them to combat imposter syndrome. Here are some of the mental myths I’ve encountered.

Myth 1:
As a WOC, I need to prove my worth to my non-POC peers.

There are lots of reasons we feel we must prove ourselves. For one thing, representation is important. In the minds of many, you not only represent yourself but the sum total of WOC Ph.Ds. We want to represent ourselves well.  In addition, you may feel that as a WOC, your image is already deficient (see Myth 3, below). While these feelings are valid, they don’t mean you need to prove yourself to anyone. You don’t need anyone’s approval to “fit” in academia. WOC, collectively, don’t need anyone’s approval either. When you bring your unique perspective to the table, you will find people there waiting to hear it. Approval from others isn’t necessary.

Myth 2:
My contributions are less valuable than those of my non- POC peers.

This is a cousin to Myth 1. Your race, gender, upbringing and background do not diminish your value. Your success has not occurred despite your race/gender identity. If anything, your unique identity as a WOC Ph.D. adds to your worth and strengthens your contributions to your department, your students and your field.  

Myth 3:
Other people don’t think I’m smart enough, good enough, or that I have what it takes to succeed in academia.

You can’t know what others think unless they say it, so resist the temptation to invent others’ thoughts by speculating. You could be completely wrong about the opinion they have of you.

I want to add an important note here: since we don’t live in a post-racial society, there is a very real possibility that some people are thinking negative thoughts about you. Nevertheless, remember this. Their thoughts of you, whether real or imagined, need not affect your view of yourself. If people think negatively of you based on your race/gender identity, they are wrong. Give yourself permission to disregard their faulty opinion.

Myth 4:
If I don’t know everything, I don’t know anything.

It’s easy to feel insignificant in a field like ours, where a core function of the job is being an expert in your discipline.

You hear others’ presentations, read their work, and you’re impressed with their ideas. You think, “My goodness! This writer is brilliant!” You assume they know much more than you.

They probably don’t, though. Most likely, they know a whole lot about one teeny, tiny area –just like you do.  They have brilliant ideas pertaining to their area- just like you do.

If you’re an expert in your field (and if you’re reading this, you are), you won’t always know the same things as everyone else. That’s okay. Don’t be intimidated because someone knows their stuff. Be confident that you know yours.

Myth 5:
I don’t belong.

You do belong.

Academics like to exclude other academics through institutionalized elitism. It’s a way to deal with the crippling imposter syndrome they face (see the beginning of this post).

Scholars and professors affirm this elitist system by upholding near impossible, arbitrary markers of success. Then they snub those who don’t reach the markers.

Their entrenchment in this system has nothing to do with you. As we have previously established, you are brilliant and your contribution is significant. Be validated by your own markers of success. Be proud of your accomplishments, your growth, and the positive impact you have on others.

A Final Thought:

As a WOC Ph.D., you may be overwhelmed with the fear that who you are and what you know are not enough. Resist this feeling. Treat mental myths the same way you treat other claims- analyze them for their veracity using actual evidence.

Not feelings. Not emotions. Evidence.

If any myth doesn’t hold up (and it won’t), disregard it and replace it with truth- that you are smarter, stronger, and better than you think you are.

What Happens After You’ve Gotten All the A’s – Guest Post

Dr. Tyia Grange Isaacson, LCSW, PhD is a clinician in private practice working in Berkeley, CA and globally via telehealth. She has a specialty of working with PhD students.  Tyia is sharing a series of guest blog posts highlighting some common challenges graduate students face, how these challenges can exacerbate mental health concerns and what to do about it.

By Dr. Tyia Grange Isaacson.

    Almost immediately in elementary school you are noticed.  The teacher sees how school comes easily for you and how you understand what is being taught more quickly than the others.  Your parents notice too and tell you they are proud of you. You learn that being good at school is valued and by extension you are valued.

    In my work with graduate students at the top programs of their chosen fields, I find that there are some common afflictions student face.  Growing up, students who are the best in the class are without peers and can feel isolated. The emotional pain of being alone registers in our brains the exact same way as physical pain.  As they say, it can be lonely at the top.

Yet, you continue to work hard at school.  You follow the prescribed course completing everything your teacher tells you to do.  You preform well. You know you preform well because you receive feedback—good grades and affirming comments.  Without you noticing your sense of self has solidified around achieving validation from your academic performance.  

After high school there is no question you will stay in school and go to college.  You are good at school. School is all you know. Naturally then, after college you go on to graduate school.  You started school when you were three. You are now turning twenty-eight and the last quarter of a century has been spent chasing after what it means to be a good student.  This is your identity. But what happens after you finish everything on your very last syllabus? What happens after you have gotten all the A’s? Now you are suddenly and rudely pushed out of the nest with no flight plan to study and ace. On your own you must fly or fall.    How do you maintain your sense of worth when the metric by which you have always been able to measure and confirm your self value has suddenly and irrevocably been taken away?

You are often unsure of what to think or feel.  You have trouble making decisions. You have spent your life being so terribly busy and tired from completing all of your assignments that   you never had time to look up from your school book long enough to truly figure out what you want. You wonder how you can be so utterly lost when you have been told you are doing so well.  You conclude something must be terribly wrong with you.

The patients in my practice experience distress getting in touch with their own thoughts and feelings especially in the face authority figures with strong opinions.  This occurs in part because a student relies upon her professors and advisors for her survival. She can only advance in her program with their approval and support. The relationship mimics a parent child relationship where a young child is wholly dependent upon her parent.  In certain family systems, especially those with high achievers, children are subconsciously or overtly encouraged to please their parents. Often, the separation between a child’s achievements and a parent’s ego is blurry. In other words, a parent’ co-opts the child’s success and the parent’s identity and self-worth is supported by their child’s achievements.  For such children, displeasing a parent feels threatening to a child’s sense of security and a pattern develops.

You don’t feel good when someone you need expresses an idea that is contrary to yours.  At all costs, you want to avoid disappointing this person. Even though you know it doesn’t make sense to disappoint yourself before disappointing this person you can’t stop yourself.  You know that it is ok to disagree with your advisor. You know that it is your life and you deserve to be happy and do what you want to do.  Your nervous system does not know this.  At your meeting with your advisor she tells you her opinion.  Her opinion is not your opinion and you feel a sinking in your stomach.  Quickly, your heart races. You should tell her what you think. Yet maybe your answer is the wrong answer.  Maybe you will not “get an A” if you risk your answer which is different than your advisor. Your advisor is the authority and she must know the right answer.  You can’t risk failing. You loose your voice and blink back your tears. You nod and smile. She sees you smiling and smiles back at you.

PhD students in therapy with me work to identify the early threads of their distress often starting in their families of origin.  They begin to notice when these early patterned responses impact them in their current life. Instead of relying (as they always have) on their minds, patients link their feelings to responses in their nervous systems.  Identifying thoughts and nervous system responses become a compass to help patients indicate when they need to slow down and try to do something different. Change and growth occurs when a patient can break up an intrenched patterned and respond in a different way instead of automatically responding as they have in the past.  

There is often a lot of internal backlash and noise in patient’s heads about the danger of breaking old patterns of responding.   Sometimes there is an entrenched fear that doing something different will be catastrophic. Despite a strong desire to change students frequently feel stuck.  Paradox can be useful when patients feel stuck For example, patients may work towards the goal of trying and get an “A” in working less or pleasing others less.

When one of my patients has trouble believing in herself and her right to her own thoughts and feelings I encourage her to imagine that she is someone else.  Someone she cares about and perhaps feels protective towards. My patient can easily imagine her best friend’s right to think and feel and respond as she wishes.   The work becomes believing that even without someone telling her so, without the external validation, she too has worth. It is the work of forming a self-identity that is reinforced internally.   Patients in graduate school are used to working hard. It is a different kind of hard work then getting all A’s and it is infinitely more rewarding.

#MakeupMonday: A Makeup Brush Brings History to Life

Our Airbnb in Durham, UK includes a rather extraordinary historical element that the renovators were required to preserve in this historic Georgian building. Can you spot it?

The building dates from 1708. It was a private home, and then a gentleman’s club for over a century. It’s a listed Grade II building, so historical features are required to be preserved. The range is one of only six Durham-made ranges of the era known to exist in situ. I suppose this means it can’t be dusted?

So why am I telling you all this on MakeupMonday?

Because…. I OF COURSE dug through the ashes in all the range’s many ovens! What else could I do?

And lo, I found some paper!

And of course I had to investigate!

So I pulled it out, and set to the task of cleaning.

But it was delicate. Oh so delicate.

So what to do? Naturally, get out one of my extra travel makeup brushes, and set to work!

blowing off some soot

Et voila! A 1948 official communication! From the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries!

But to whom? There seemed to be one printed address on the top layer of paper (which included the words Elvet St. – our address), but this quickly brushed off to reveal some handwritten words beneath.

But what does it say? It’s hard to make it out!

It seems to read:

….side (or …sicle?)

Rise slowly


Bp A….

To the internet I go. And quickly discover: there is indeed a Rise Slowly Farm in… Cockfield Village, on Raby Moor, just outside of Durham, near the market town of…. Bishop Aukland!

So there we go! Without being able to read the name, I don’t know what else to glean, but how fun to get this far.

Curiosity sent me back to the ashes and soot, and i spotted another crumbled and tightly wadded scrap of paper. I unfolded it gently. Here it is:

Isn’t it wonderful? Do you place it in the mid-1940s, with those amazing shoulders?

Without my handy makeup brush, none of this would have happened!

How To Get Your Department to Pay for Productivity Support

This is part of a previous post on how to get your department to fund your participation in Unstuck: The Art of Productivity and The Art of the Academic Article, but you can use it to ask for any kind of professional development or program improvement support.


Your department might pay for your enrollment in this course, and the only you will find out is to ask. Don’t be afraid. Department heads get requests for funding all of the time. There is nothing shameful about it. In fact, learning how to ask is great practice for the rest of your career.

The best way to loosen the departmental purse strings is to show the money is going to solve a problem the department head considers worth solving.

So what problem does the course solve?

  • Maybe your department is worried about your pace of publication.
  • Maybe your department is focused on raising its profile.
  • Maybe your department has a stated desire to support underrepresented faculty.

You also have to show the stakes of not solving the problem.

  • You may not progress to tenure
  • The department’s output might lag.
  • You and the department might miss out on involvement in high profile projects and collaborations.
  • You may miss out on funding opportunities.

Stating the problem and stakes is not enough. You also have to show why this particular thing you are asking to be funded will solve the problem.

  • Why this course?
  • Why these people?


Here is an example email that you can use to approach your dean, department head or PI to make the request that the course be funded.


Dear <administrator>

I have an opportunity to enroll in a program designed for academics to produce a full draft of journal article in 10 weeks and I am requesting departmental support. The course is being offered by The Professor is In and Up In Consulting, two career services organizations with well-documented success in assisting academics in all phases of their careers.

The benefit of The Art of the Academic Article, over other programs, is not only the extensive experience of the two coaches offering guidance but also the ongoing access to the online material. I will be able to use the course material for not just this article, but all future ones as well.

As we have discussed, I have XX articles in progress that are necessary/would improve my third year review/tenure review/post doc production/chances of success on the job market. This course would assure that I produce xx articles in the next year. It also increases my chances of publication in the mostly highly ranked journals because it includes instruction on positioning both in terms of discipline and journal rank.


As we have discussed, one of the critical components of raising the profile of our department is to increase faculty publications and the quality of those publications. This course would assure that I produce xx articles in the next year. It also increases my chances of publication in the mostly highly ranked journals because it includes instruction on positioning both in terms of discipline and journal rank.

It is no secret that balancing research, service and teaching is a challenge for all junior faculty here at xx. With this course, I will have the resources to achieve the balance required for success. With your support, I will be able to avoid common problems like false starts, writer’s block, and perfectionism, while assuring I choose the best journals to target, and submit a draft to a strong journal in an efficient time frame.

The next session of the course starts June 3rd. Please let me know if you are willing to support this effort and I will purchase and submit the receipt for reimbursement/contact accounting to complete the registration/ xxx

Navigating Grad School with BPD – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, about your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, MAKEUP and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by a writer who wishes to remain anonymous for now. She is a doctoral student in a Ph.D. program in the Southwest.

Being a PhD student is difficult for everyone: the long hours of coursework/research, the chronic worry about money, the isolation, constant rejection,  high debt load and the horrible academic job market. Being a woman and queer afro-latinx PhD student in a predominately white institution adds another layer of difficulty: dealing with microagressions or outright racist language, having one’s qualifications constantly questioned (the implication being I am only in a PhD program because the program needed some non-white faces), and having to navigate the tension between advocating for a just and more equaitable institution and being accused of “incivility” and making white students/professors/peers uncomfortable. Having a severe and persistent mental health issue makes graduate school feel impossible.  

While many colleges are at least starting to have serious discussions regarding suicide and mental health many of the conversations center around depression and anxiety. Which makes sense, depression and anxiety are common issues impacting college and graduate students. However, there are other serious mental health challenges that can make graduate school even tougher than it already is, and the silence reinforces a sense of isolation. As a result, I have decided to speak out about my own struggles, albeit in a limited and anonymous way: I have Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

A person looking at the camera

Description automatically generated

Image from:

The National Institute of Mental Health describes BPD as, “a mental illness marked by an ongoing pattern of varying moods, self-image, and behavior.” Some of the symptoms that I struggle with are

  • An intense fear of abandonment (though in my case, this is actually one of the least severe symptoms although for many others it is one of the most pronounced).
  • Chronic suicidal thoughts (though this has been improving)
  • Pattern of intense and unstable relationships
  • Intense anger
  • Intense, rapid mood swings with episodes lasting a few hours to a few day

Obviously, like any mental illness the severity exists on a spectrum. On one end, there are those who are constantly in and out of hospitals, who are unable to hold down a job, and have few if no stable friendships or relationships. On the other end you have those who, because of treatment, rarely have a significant episode and are able to hold down a job and have friends. While I’m towards the higher functioning end of the spectrum, having BPD still poses significant challenges.


A picture containing text, book

Description automatically generated

Image from:

PhD programs tend be isolating.  At least, mine is. My peers in general are kind and supportive and I am still in the course work stage, so I do get to interact with others on a regular basis throughout the week. But hanging out outside of classes is extremely difficult. Most students have families of their own to take care of, others live quite a bit of distance from the university, so they arrive for classes and to TA and leave, and for others its simply just too logistically challenging to find a schedule that works for multiple people. Especially in April, which is hell month: classes are still going on, but major projects are rapidly becoming due.

BPD adds an extra layer of complication: intense emotions and behavior. I’ve spent years working on managing my emotions. Unless I tell you I have it or we are close friends, it is not always obvious I struggle with BPD. I pride myself on that since managing my behavior is must, not just in academia but in any potential career. It doesn’t matter if you have a mental illness or not, you are expected to control how you act.

But while I have, for the most part, successfully managed to eliminate the more negative and extreme behaviors that result from my difficulties in regulating my intense emotions, this has come at a cost. I get so fearful that I will lose control emotionally, that I go the opposite direction and try to hide any display of emotion. As a result, I don’t let others know when I am lonely, when I am depressed, when I am overcome with anxiety about my future. The closest I get to talking about my difficulties is when I commiserate with other students about how stressed we are. But even if I were to be honest about my struggles with my closest peers, then what? Just reading about the possible symptoms is enough to freak anyone out and a quick google search often brings up forum after forum where suffers of BPD are portrayed as abusive and manipulative. Which, no doubt some are. But the google results rarely demonstrate the range of experiences and severity of BPD.

A person wearing a suit and tie

Description automatically generated

Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, no I won’t act on them.

Image from:

One of the more frightening symptoms of BPD is the chronic suicidal thoughts and behavior but again these exist on a spectrum. For some this means constant suicide attempts, for others, like me, I struggle with constant suicidal thoughts, but I do not act on them. Instead I suffer in silence. In silence because when I have mentioned my struggles in the past people understandably tend to over-react. Should they call the cops? (Please, NO. Not unless I am a direct threat to others. As a black woman calling the cops can be dangerous). Do I need to be hospitalized? (No, and unless I am directly harming myself, I will most likely not be admitted). Plus, those with BPD have been accused of using suicide as a method of manipulation. As a result, it is better I keep my thoughts and struggles to myself unless I am a danger. In most cases, I’m not. I’m just miserable. But who can I talk to without being a burden? Therapists, of course. But therapists are not friends.

Angry Black Woman

Intense, incontrollable anger is another symptom. Sometimes it is pretty clear when my anger is a result of my BPD. Getting angry because someone looked at me “wrong” or getting angry at something small and stupid, is a clear sign that I am overreacting and I am stressed and I need a time out. But as a black woman, I am constantly angry at the injustice I see all around me. What else am I supposed to feel when society makes it clear that the lives of black and brown people are worth very little?  When cops can shoot at us dozen of times and get away with murder because they “feared for their lives” simply by being in our presence? When I am surrounded by conversations on “civility” which ignore the fact that black and brown people have in fact been acting “civil” for centuries as if our lives depend on it, because it does.

Yet when we push back and demand that institutions take seriously their role in perpetrating racism and when we demand that we be treated as humans of equal worth, we are labeled as “uncivil.” Yet, BPD makes me ask: am I overreacting? Is that person really being racist towards me or am I just trying to paint myself as a victim? Moreover, am I simply just reinforcing the angry black woman stereotype? Am I making things worse?

Colleges and Universities have started to recognize that mental health cannot be neglected. More and more of their students are starting their studies already struggling with severe issues or they develop severe issues. Depression and anxiety need to be talked about. So do the myriad other illness that impact students. For me, I suffer from BPD. I am not some crazy, manipulative monster but someone trying her best everyday to finish my program and to make a positive difference.

#MakeupMonday: Travel, Cont’d

We are still “on tour,” now in Edinburgh. We speak tomorrow at University of Edinburgh School of Engineering, and the next day I speak at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen. Then a few days seeing the sights of Northumberland, as we head down for a date at Durham.

So just a quick update today. Last week’s post failed to mention one other refinement of my travel kit: a paper-thin plastic mirror I got for about $1 at the Daiso in Berkeley. It slips into my makeup case, weighs almost nothing, but can be set up against the back of my laptop to make a nice sizeable mirror wherever i need it, which in dark, cramped Airbnbs or hotel rooms, is usually out at the kitchen table or at the work desk, or some ad hoc setup in front of a window. It’s about 6″ x 3″, not magnified, so serves well in tandem with my smaller lighted magnifying travel mirror.

Airbnb kitchen table makeup hack
Look how skinny!

So, Daiso $1 plastic mirror: highly recommend.

The Power of Writing Groups for Women of Color – WOC Guest Post

~I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Andrea Hernandez Holm, PhD. Dr. Hernandez Holm is the Program Coordinator for the Writing Skills Improvement Program at the University of Arizona. She is a writing specialist and provides tutoring, teaching, and editing to writers both inside and outside of the university. Andrea facilitates the People of Color Writing Groups, a project that has been supported by the UA Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the UA Commission on the Status of Women. The most rewarding part of her job is the time she spends working directly with students and clients, supporting their development as writers and helping them to claim their voices. Andrea has over 20 years of experience as a teacher, tutor, editor, and writing consultant. She is also a published researcher, essayist, and poet. Her research focuses on the ways that identities intersect with writing, particularly among women in the Borderlands.~


Writing is dangerous because we are afraid of what the writing reveals: the fears, the anger, the strengths of a woman under triple or quadruple oppression. Yet in that very act lies our survival because a woman who writes has power. A woman with power is feared.

What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? It is a question with an answer cruel enough to stop the blood.—Alice Walker. I have never seen so much power in the ability to move and transform others as from that of the writing of women on color. (Gloria Anzaldúa)

One morning, a student in a writing group I facilitate asked if she could close the meeting by reading a selection from Gloria Anzaldúa’s essay “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers.” Anzaldua is a foundational theorist in Chicanx and Mexican American Studies, widely recognized for her contributions surrounding identity, including her discussions about the power of language and writing for women. I am familiar with her work, but guessed it would be new to the other members of the group, who study in areas within Education, Natural Resources, and Latin American Studies. But as the student read the excerpt above, I noticed gentle smiles forming and heads bobbing in agreement. It was clear that Anzaldúa’s words resonated with them.

Among the women of color graduate students I have worked with in my role as a writing specialist at my university, many have been searching for a space to process issues that are subsequently affecting their writing. Through course papers, theses, and dissertation projects, they are developing their voices as scholars while making space in the academy for the important issues they research. Yet, most do not experience writing as empowering. They struggle with concerns that their writing isn’t “good enough” and that their voices don’t matter.

These concerns are grounded in experiences that include being told their writing is not university material, their use of language is non-academic, their topics are not rigorous, and on. While many students struggle under similar circumstances, it is important that we recognize that these issues are often compounded for people of color by micro- and macro-aggressions related to race. Under this type of pressure, persistence toward degree completion is often a daily struggle.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, people of color are the fastest growing student populations in higher education, but have a low percentage completion. In the 2013-14 academic year, among the doctoral degrees earned, 6% were by Hispanic students; 7% were by African American students; and 11% by Asian American students, compared to 62% by White students. And in Beyond the Asterisk: Understanding Native Students in Higher Education (2013), scholars point out that statistical information about Native American students in higher education is often absent from research altogether.

As a first-generation college graduate and one of an estimated 3% of Hispanic-identified women to earn a doctorate, I share many of these experiences and understand how they can weigh a person down, slow their progress, and sometimes even stop it all together. Folks in academia have asked when I learned English. I have been asked if I have connections in the South (i.e. Mexico) to get quality marijuana. I have been called a hot and/or hot-tempered Latina innumerable time. In addition to being generally humiliating, these types of encounters have pushed me to consider leaving academia. It has been through the support of community, most often women of color, that I have persisted.

In “Writing as Mentoring and Empowerment,” Flint, Manas, and Serra argue that writing groups can serve as a strategy to respond to institutional challenges by creating a space where women of color can develop writing fluency, process experiences, and grow cross-discipline and cross-cultural relationships with other women in the academy. I wondered if our writing support program could facilitate such a group. In our existing individual and small group tutoring sessions, our goal was to improve facility in academic English (i.e. grammar, style, organization, and content development). I proposed to add the level of community building specifically for women of color.

When I advertised the organization of one group for master’s students in 2016, I was shocked at the outpouring of interest. Over twenty master’s and doctoral students responded within the first week for a group with four seats. Since then, we have developed 12 multidisciplinary, multi-cultural groups, and the requests to join a group for people of color is consistent. Our groups offer facilitated non-evaluative peer tutoring, but we also intentionally make space for students to build relationships, share their experiences, and lend their support to one another.

I ask students to complete evaluations at the end of each academic semester and from their feedback, garner that the groups have been effective in helping to increase writing skills and confidence. Several students have successfully completed their academic programs, and no students have left the academy. However, for me, the greatest successes show themselves during our group meetings, where I witness students offering one another feedback, concrete advice, and resources for both their writing and their general experiences on campus. It’s beyond commiserating about obstacles– they are forming a network of support and resources that help them to process what is happening and to move forward.

Not long ago, I found one of those “You should be writing” memes on the internet. In it, Gloria Anzaldúa stands confidently, seeming to look out of the frame and directly at me. I hear her say, “A woman who writes has power.” I printed it and taped it to my office door, under my nameplate and next to my placard declaring that I am a First Generation university graduate. I see it every time I enter my office and I smile. It is a reminder for me and my students that our words are important and our voices matter.