On Being a Grad School Quitter, Part II – Guest Post by Adrienne Posner

Adrienne Posner quit grad school cold turkey in 2015 mid-dissertation and now works at Google as a Program Manager for various educational initiatives.  She received her BA in Art History from UCSC and an MA in Art History from UCLA, and then an MA and a CPhil in Comparative Literature from UCLA. She lives in Oakland.


This post is a continuation of my last post, where I started to talk about what lead me to quit grad school mid-way through my dissertation. You’ll want to read the first post for context before continuing on with how I transitioned from Comp Lit PhD candidate to the tech industry.

I think it’s important to say this very directly: I quit grad school. I didn’t hedge my bets and take a leave of absence, I didn’t move away and try something new while I pretended to make progress on my dissertation, I didn’t transition to a new field. Those are fine choices, of course. But hopefully it will be a breath of fresh air to some readers to hear that I happily admit that I am grad school quitter. Quitting is the word for it, and no other.

I also think it is important to say that I struggled with some shame around quitting for a time. I did go through a difficult period that I can only describe as melancholy, where I wrestled with feeling like I had lost an essential part of my own identity – that 5 year old self who wanted to really understand and know things, and wanted to be really listened to in turn – and then another period that felt more like mourning, where I was just really, really sad. It wasn’t at all easy. I had to do the unflattering work of changing my conception of myself, of acknowledging that the very idea of “following one’s passion” was privileged and problematic, that my dream of being a professor was couched more in a fantasy – a common, shared fantasy, but one that I had also deeply internalized – than in any experiential knowledge of the culture of academia or familiarity with what it really means these days to actually be a professor. I had to confront the fact that academia, the real version of it and not the one I had imagined, was not for me. I had to accept and eventually learn to be happy with being a quitter.

Now, when I talk to grad students or meet an old colleague for drinks, I’ll occasionally get nostalgic about what my wonderful undergraduate advisor liked to call “the life of the mind.” But then I remind myself: that was always already a myth. And then, even more importantly, I remember the long list of things I don’t miss, which was always so top heavy with the largest questions of all: will this degree that I’m putting all my intellectual and emotional energy into getting actually result in a job that feeds me and pays my rent? Is “being a professor,” whatever that means these days, worth all of that? To be free of that fundamental anxiety, to have quit, is one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It was a decision that filled a deep need for better self care and, paradoxically, felt less selfish than staying. It was a decision that allowed me to critically examine my own participation in academia and to understand that I felt that participation to be problematic. It was a decision that provided a deep sense of relief, one that has helped me to better trust myself.

It was also a decision that opened up real options. An investment in education and a love of teaching are fundamental to who I am, but quitting helped me to see that being a professor wasn’t the only or even the best way to engage in work that I care about.

This is part one in a series of blog posts. In my next post, I am going to talk very honestly about transferable skills, the cultural norms, communication styles and ways of thinking that easily translate from academia to the tech industry, as well as those that don’t seem to translate at all. For those that are interested, I will follow that up with posts about what tech jobs are available to grad students, both with and without PhDs, and how to find and apply for them.


Productivity Tuesday: Not What I Had Planned (What my less than successful backpacking trip can teach you about writing)

by Kellee Weinhold, Unstuck Productivity Coach


I went backpacking with friends this Memorial Day weekend. The plan was to do a 5x5x5 mile triangle. One night at the first lake. Two at the second and then back to the car.

It didn’t quite work out that way we planned it. Which is pretty much just like writing.

How Writing is Like Backpacking, Lesson One: Planning matters.

I was more than a little anxious about this trip. I have not been hiking much this year and I had done absolutely no pack hiking as prep. Last year, I was planning a two-week Pacific Crest Trail hike and was extremely careful to prepare, hiking increasing distances near where I live with a pack. I have autoimmune issues that make carrying 35 pounds on my back challenging even on a good day so I needed to understand the potential outcomes. But that was last year. This year, I told myself I was just too busy to do the preparation required. I packed my pack and hoped for the best.

We set out on Friday afternoon, found the trail head with no problem, and we were off! From the looks of it, we were golden.

This tale of backpacking as metaphor for writing will make one thing perfectly clear: Setting off into unknown wilderness without an overabundance of preparation for what’s in store is not a good idea.

Setting out on on a big writing project without the proper preparation — ie: an outline; an argument; a clearly defined stopping point and ultimate destination — is guaranteed to deliver misery at some point. For us, that point was 10 miles in. More on that later.

How Writing is Like Backpacking, Lesson Two: Worrying Will Not Change the Outcome.

Worrying about what might happen gets you nothing but a stress cloud enveloping what would otherwise be a perfectly pleasant experience. For me the self-inflicted stress included: How would my body hold up? What if forgot something important? What if I wake up tomorrow and I’m too stiff and sore to do Day Two?

You are no doubt aware of the writing equivalents: What if it doesn’t get accepted? What if I made an error? What if I missed a key piece of literature? What if I am not smart enough to do this?

If I had left my hiking “what ifs” unchallenged, I would have trudged along in a miserable state for the entire five miles. Instead, when I caught myself in an anxiety “trance” of what ifs, I paused the thought, took a deep breath, put my head on a swivel to enjoy the scenery and started an internal chant to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know it…”

“I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends. I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends. This is such beautiful country. I am here to enjoy it. I am backpacking in Oregon with my friends!”

The song was my way of reminding myself that right in that moment, I was fine; and if I stayed present, I could enjoy it. And I did. I saw wildflowers and pine trees and chipmunks and clouds giving way to blue sky, and I left human noise pollution behind. I was able to rest in the silence.

When we can separate ourselves even briefly from the nagging self doubts and questions, we can be present in the experience of writing and relax into the exploration.

You may instantly think, “But writing is not relaxing! I hate writing!”

Here’s the thing. I can pretty much guarantee you that you don’t hate writing. You hate all of the stories you have created around it. So when you get freaked out about what may come of your writing, come back to the present. Stick with the actual words on the page. The intellectual challenges of your project NOT the imagined negative outcomes.

Ah, if worrying were the only barrier to stress free experiences. How easy it would be to stay happily on course, But no. When anxiety takes a seat, comparison is always willing to jump up in its place.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Three: Comparison is the Thief of Joy.

“They are faster than I am.” “They are fitter than I am.” “They are enjoying this more than I am.” “They have more time on the trail than I have.” Blah. blah. Blah. blah.

Sounds a lot like when we latch on to comparison with our colleagues, doesn’t it? They are more productive than I am. They are more successful than I am. They write faster than I do. They understand the theory better than I do.

What is the value of comparison? Seriously, what good does it do us? (Spoiler alert: none.) Certainly, it didn’t help my back hurt any less. It just as certainly won’t help your project move forward. But it damned well might stop it.

As we clicked off miles and comparison tried to take control, I had to once again coach that negative attachment brain back to the moment: We were on the same path, covering the same distance, carrying the same loads and in the end, we would— all four of us — set up in the same camp next to the same lake to see the same moonlit sky and the same jaw-dropping sunrise. (I mean if everyone else had gotten out of bed in time.)

So, I added to my internal “I am backpacking… melody:  “Thank you feet, you’re doing a good job! Thank you knees, you’re doing good job! Thank you glutes, you’re doing a good job!”

I can tell you that my body was a lot more responsive and happy with that message than it was with “You’re miserable and slow and stupid for doing this.” (All gross lies and exaggerations by the way.) We were all walking our own paces and stayed well within each other’s line of sight.

In other words, no matter how “slow” your writing feels, you’ll eventually travel the exact path as every other author who finishes and delivers work, with the same exact endpoint: submitted. It’s not how fast you write; it is arriving at your chosen destination intact that counts. So, be kind to that brain that is working so hard. Congratulate and celebrate everything that is getting you there!

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Four:  Shit Happens and Real Life Consequences Exist.

We set out on our second day with sunny skies, a clear path, and nine hours until sunset with only 5 miles to cover. Piece of cake.

Within 3 miles, we were in more than the “patchy snow” the ranger station had promised, without a clear path to return (long story.) Carry on, we must. The patchy snow became patchy bare ground and at mile 4.5 we lost the trail entirely.

We knew could not stay at our intended second campground, and we had already made the decision to hike back out to the car, but we had to FIND the intersection with the return trail.

We couldn’t go back. We couldn’t find forward. And we could only imagine where the way out might be hiding.

What did our little band of wanderers do? We followed protocol: STOP: Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. We stopped. We ate and drank water. We visually mapped where we would walk (in pairs) to look for the trail. We used a compass and our navigation skills. In a relatively short time, we found the trail intersection.

See what I am saying about it being like writing? Sometimes you get straight up lost. You can’t see where you took off from. Can’t see the end. You are stranded in the murky middle. And just like backpacking, the answer to being lost is stop, refuel, assess the situation and remember the resources that, in your increasing confusion, are easy to forget that you possess.

One more thing. That 30 minutes of losing our way (only 5 of which was continuing to walk) could be the entire focus of the trip: OH MY GOD, WE GOT LOST! But the other story to tell is that we were never actually lost, we were a little off course. And we had plenty of resources to survive until we figured it out. Use your resources, your colleagues, your advisor, your internal compass to keep heading in the general direction until you can spot the path again.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Five:  Overdoing It Kills Momentum.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, our five-mile sunny Saturday stroll became 11 miles, and a few hours became six hours and 50 minutes.  A three-night backpacking trip with three 5 mile legs had turned into a one night backpacking trip with one five mile leg and one 11 mile dog leg in the snow. Not at all what we planned, but what we had. And we did it.

Here’s the thing though. That extra 5+ miles in snow on incredibly uneven ground, meant something different to me in my body than my fellow hikers.

It meant that they decided to snag a room in a weird mountain hotel to look for adventure the next day. It meant I went home to an epsom salt bath, cbd oil and my own bed. Three days later, my body is still exhausted. I waffled and second guessed myself for a full day about whether to show up for our regular four-mile hike the following Tuesday. I sat in bed that morning completely unclear about what was exhaustion and what was an unwillingness to be uncomfortable again.

And we are back back to writing, again. We all have different levels of tolerance, everything from how long we can sit in the chair to how many hours a day we actually can devote to writing, but no matter who we are, we have a limit. When we go over that limit —and trust me when I say that binging is always over the limit— we will pay a price. When we write ourselves to exhaustion, our brains and bodies will reject the idea of returning to the work.

Yes, the goal is not see how much you can write in a single day, but how steadily you can write day by day. But, even with the best of intentions, we can also get ourselves in binds that require over doing it to get out. Once we are there, the goal becomes to slog through to the end while accepting without shame that it will take time to recover, i.e. We are allowed to coast for a bit until we get our mojo back.

But not too long.

How Writing is Like Backpacking Lesson Six: Sometimes You Just Have to Suck It Up.

Eventually, I put on my shoes and I went for my morning walk/hike with my friends. It was less than pleasant. My knee was twingy. My legs were TIRED. Still, getting back to exercise was the right choice. I had to once again face my limitations, but I wasn’t going to do myself any harm. Time to pick myself up and start moving again.

It’s easy when you have a challenging experience to focus on how hard it was instead of what you accomplished. It is far too easy to spend hours asking, how did this go so horribly awry? Easy and a waste of time and energy. Go ahead and ask the question to discern what you would do differently the next time. And, then remember, that is what matters: The next time.

This time was hard. It took you awhile to recover. Ok. That’s good. Now, when are you going to get back on track? What will you do in advance or accept letting go of to be ready and willing to make the journey again.

Writing is going to be harder than you expected sometimes. If you keep trudging along, you will eventually make it through it. And, you will be tired. And, you can still pick your slightly the worse for wear self up and start walking/writing again.

Because the only way to experience the journey is to be on it.

(And, for the record, it is a helluva lot less miserable with good company.)

#MakeupMonday: I’m So Cool

On last Thursday’s Facebook Live I premiered an entirely new vista of lipcolor: a bright vivid cranberry! Several people on the Live asked for a #MakeupMonday devoted to the look, and of course your wish is my command, so here it is:

The standout item is the lip, of course. It’s Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Cranberry Stiletto.


I’ve actually been seeking a bold red for about a year now! I’ve gone through SO MANY and not one was acceptable to me.

Lo and behold, it was my beloved Beauty Bakerie that held the key the whole time. And added bonus: like all Lip Whips, this will never ever ever fade or smear in any way shape or form, even through three meals and a shower (I’m serious!*), until it’s removed with a lipcolor remover (reminder: you can get the adorable Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip Remover to support this lovely black-woman-owned company, but full disclosure, you can also get ELF Kiss It Goodbye for $3, which works amazingly).

This bright red lipcolor challenge for me actually encapsulates a larger makeup challenge: finding correct colors for one’s face depending on not just skin coloring, but also skin tone and undertone, which I’d like to take today’s post to discuss further.  Ahem…

Turns out, I’m cool-toned. Very, very cool-toned.  One way they say to determine this is to ask yourself: do you always lean toward silver jewelry rather than gold?  Indeed, I wear silver exclusively, and have for decades, and have always been mystified at how gold looks so terrific on Miyako and so blah on me.  This is why.

It’s a real struggle to find makeup that is sufficiently cool-toned for my skin.  For some reason, the vast majority of products are in warm or neutral. Does anyone know why? I’d love to know.

But anyway, for those of you working on finding your best products, be aware that different brands often tend more toward warm or cool (although increasingly most do try to offer a range and are more and more careful about noting the tones in product descriptions).  So, Laura Mercier tends to warm/yellow, as does Fenty.  Becca tends toward cool, and so does Laura Geller and Kat Von D.  There is no substitute, however, to a dedicated hour or two at Sephora or Ulta swatching everything. It can feel like a pain, but it’s the only way you can figure this out for yourself.

Well, actually a consult with a staffperson might help too, but personality-wise, I will not trust some random 24-year-old to advise me on my foundation – Academic Skepticism in action – lol! (see below). Although again perhaps this is why I have SO MANY barely used makeup items (which I now share with you all – see below): for a long time I was buying stuff in the wrong tone. Excellent products that worked well… but weren’t quite right. But now I’m on track!

Red lipcolors are a particular challenge on this front.  Many, many reds are warm.  Few reds are cool.  Those that are cool can easily look cheap and purple-ish.  But now my search is finally over.  Expect to see Cranberry Stiletto in a lot of selfies from now on! I wore it to a wedding this weekend, and in Eugene, OR, land of Birkenstocks, you can bet I stood out. It may well have been the only lipstick of any color in the entire place.  I had to channel some of my makeup sheros (Ijeoma Oluo, author of the new book So You Want To Talk About Race, being the main one [going to hear her in Eugene this Thursday!]) to remember that standing out is ok.

Moving on, today’s look also features a new ultra-cool-toned eye shadow palette:  Laura Geller The Delectables in “Delicious Shades of Cool.” I got it at Nordstrom Rack for $22.99 (normally $45).  I bought this initially more as a fun play-item to share with Miyako, because the colors seemed a bit extreme. But when I started using it, I discovered that it’s actually ideal for daily wear, and better than all the other palettes I have been using–because it’s SO. EXTREMELY. COOL-TONED.

And also has amazing staying power, and very very slight sheen (perfectly poised between matte and shimmer which are both harsh).

I’m wearing Candy all over the lid, Slate in the crease, Plum as the outer-eye accent, and Carbon as liner.

Last of all in the cool-tone-challenge:  Contour.  After months of searching, I finally found some sufficiently cool-toned contour products:  MAC Sculpting Powder in “Sculpt” ($17) and Kevin Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in Medium ($44). As Sir John, Beyonce’s makeup artist, explained in a previous post, contour products should always be cool-toned and NOT bronzers, because the point is to look like shadows, not tan!  I think this point is too little understood! But it’s also extremely difficult to execute when the whole world is awash in warm-toned, bronzy so-called “contour” products. I had a weird experience at a MAC counter once, with a staffperson patiently explaining to me that contour products should be blue-ish, while standing there with a face covered top to bottom in orangey bronzer. #WhyIDontTrustCounterStaff

Kevin Aucoin: So cool

MAC in Sculpt

Anyway, MAC in Sculpt is an excellent grey-brown shade. The product comes in a few other shades–I think “Shadowy” is probably a good cool darker tone, which I might need if I get tan over summer. The Kevin Aucoin is even cooler–a true gray taupe.  While most people would probably be fine with the MAC, for my level of cool-tone, the Kevin Aucoin (sadly, given the price) is better.

Rounding out today’s look:  Beauty Bakerie BROWNies Eyebrow Gel in Dark Brown.  That’s right–I’ve left behind the pencil. My Anastasia pencil was wonderful, but wow– eyebrow gel pigment is a Millenial innovation that is worth getting behind!  It is so much more natural looking, with way more color payoff, and staying power, and a multi-dimensional layered feel.


*Wait–turns out a Thai coconut milk-based curry will defeat it.  It’s the only thing so far I’ve found that does.


The Giveaway Continues!  Thanks to all who commented on FB last week! The winner is #2 out of 11 comments – Aysenur Sagdc (shared with permission), Georgetown Ph.D. student in Linguistics!  I think I’ll ask Aysenur about undertone so I can select the best items!

Let’s keep it going.  This week, comment on the FB thread with a substantive comment. This time, let me try another experiment. The “post a photo” one didnn’t work, but how about this:  tag somebody in your comment. I really love #MakeupMonday and love hearing from you all what you use, why you use it, and how you thinnk about makeup and skincare. So, let’s bring more people into the convo.  Comment and tag someone and I’ll enter you in the random drawing for a package of my de-stashed items. Brands include, as always: Urban Decay, Becca, Smashbox, Hempz, Hourglass…

The Path and Timeline of Your Tenure Application

Part 2 of my series on Tenure

Every institution has its own conventions, expectations and practices for tenure, and the single most important thing you must do, if you are on the tenure track, is bring your research A-game to the task of figuring out what those are for YOUR field, in YOUR department, in YOUR college, on YOUR campus.  No general advice of the kind I can provide here can anticipate every variation on tenure timelines and policies.

Speak first and most often to your department head, but don’t stop there – also talk to other senior members of your department. The fact is, your head may not be experienced or savvy, and may have only the dimmest ideas of what constitutes a normative tenure case. So, seek information widely.  And, utilize ALL resources at your disposal, including any and all tenure workshops given by your department, college, or campus. And go to these regularly each year, so that you can track evolving tenure expectations. Because these are always in flux, especially at “aspirational” mid-tier campuses, which are getting increasingly greedy for research outputs. More on that later.

Anyway, all of that to say that the path and timeline of tenure on your campus may deviate from what I write here. In particular, be aware that small teaching colleges and regional public institutions may not include any external reviewers in their tenure process. They may rely only on selected internal reviewers.  And likewise, some campuses may have a 5, 7 or a 9 year tenure timeline (instead of the more typical 6), while for some individuals your timeline may be shorter because you have arranged to come up early.

But in all four of my departments on two public R1 campuses, this is what it looked like:

Late Spring of candidate’s year 5, the Head calls you into the office to tell you your tenure process is starting.  She tells you who is on your committee and the timeline, with a deadline for your submission of all publications to be sent to external reviewers in about May.

Late Spring of candidate’s year 5, the chair of the tenure and promotion committee schedules a meeting, goes over the timeline, asks for your list of approximately 5 names of external reviewers. Your list will be added to the department-generated list of approximately 5 names, and the committee chair and/or the department head will cull that list to one master list of approximately 6 names, with 3 or 4 from department list, and 3 or 2 from your list.  The departmental names will “count” for more in the ultimate tenure evaluation, as they are perceived to be more “objective.” [I will discuss the criteria by which names are chosen in another blog post].

Possible:  the committee chair will quietly, behind closed doors, ask you for some names that you’d like to see on the department’s list, so that he/she can be sure and propose those, and work with you to ensure that the final master list has all “good” names on it. The purpose of this exercise is to make sure that the departmental list has no dangerous names on it, and also that the “best” and highest status people come from the department rather than you, the candidate. Note: not all departments will do this informal step for all candidates, so it may not occur and should not be expected as a matter of course.

The Head may have to move through many names to get to a list of 6 or so who will agree, due to potential evaluators’ illness, overcommitment, research leave, etc.

End of Spring, Candidate’s year 5, department Head sends out your packet of all major publications and the CV, and sometimes a draft/provisional tenure research statement, to all of the reviewers to read over the summer.

Early Fall of Candidate’s year 6, tenure reviewers send back their external review letters, evaluating the strength of your research and publication record and answering the question: “would this candidate get tenure at my institution?”

Early Fall of Candidate’s year 6, you submit ALL elements of your record to the department:  all publications, syllabi and supporting teaching materials, evaluations, records of service, awards, and so on.  You also submit all required tenure statements, covering research, teaching, service, and any other major element of your position (such as outreach and/or administration). All of these elements are held in a tenure “box” (or digital file), to be reviewed first by the tenure and promotion committee.

Mid-Fall, year 6, the tenure and promotion committee evaluates all of your submitted materials and the external review letters, and writes up a report making a recommendation to the department for or against your tenure.

Mid-Fall, year 6, this committee report is shared with all tenured faculty members in the department, and your complete file of materials is made available for review by them.

Mid-Fall, year 6, a departmental tenure vote is held at a special meeting that leaves time for extensive discussion of your file. This vote is supposed to be confidential but somebody may leak the outcome to you, especially if it’s positive.

Mid-Fall, year 6, the department Head takes the results of the committee report, the departmental vote, the departmental discussion (including aspects of the case that may have been shared verbally but not reflected in the vote), and the recommendations of the external reviewers, and synthesizes them in a lengthy “Head’s Report and Recommendation.” This lays out the case for or against your tenure for the upper-level committees who will be evaluating you next. This document is the most important element of your tenure case. This document will draw heavily from the tenure and promotion committee’s report and recommendation, but will elaborate further based on the department-wide discussion, and the Head’s wider perspective on you in comparison to other tenure candidates past and present.

Late Fall, year 6, the entire file, plus the Head’s Report, is given to the College level tenure and promotion committee for review and vote.

Early Spring, year 6, the entire file, Head’s Report, and completed vote/report of the College committee is sent to the Campus level tenure and promotion committee for review and vote.

Mid-Spring, year 6, all elements of the file are sent to the Chancellor’s office for a final review and approval.

Mid-Late-Spring, year 6, the final campus decision on tenure is communicated to the department Head and to you, the candidate.

While in the majority of cases a successful departmental vote bodes well for all other votes moving up the food chain, it does NOT guarantee it.  Deans have been known to overturn departmental votes, as have Campus-level committees.  There are politics at play at every level.  Some campuses have a culture of trust in departmental judgment, and some do not. In addition, there are departments that due to histories of dysfunction have little or no credibility on campus, and so their tenure decisions are held in doubt and closely scrutinized.

Finally, in a close case, much hinges on the skill of the department head – is she savvy enough and a skilled enough writer to successfully contextualize any weaknesses and play up all possible strengths?  I once had a department head who truly could only be called an academic Eyeore.  He could take anything, no matter how exuberantly positive, and render it dismal. His praise was so faint as to be invisible: “she usually completed all service tasks in a timely manner and mostly performed adequately in the classroom.”

The best way to get around these issues is not to have a close case. What you want is a “slam dunk” case that cannot be undermined no matter how ham-fisted your Head, how racist or sexist your colleagues. I realize the latter issues constitute a potential penalty in themselves, but there it is: white women and people of color must do twice as much for half the credit. I will elaborate on this point many times in the tenure posts to come. The most important thing you can do is to accurately determine what actually counts for tenure in your department and campus and put laser focus on producing exactly that. Do not spend your time and energy on what you think “should” count, spend it on what DOES count.



#MakeupMonday: I Got Carded Yesterday

I got carded yesterday.  So, that happened.  Thank you, Sabbatical Beauty!  You get ALL the credit.

I’ve posted before about the SB products I use in this post: Skin Care as Coping Mechanism and Catalyst.

Here is the list again:

Sabbatical Beauty products that I use daily, as part of the multi-step Korean-beauty-inspired regimen (which I learned about from years in Japan as well):

  • Goat Milk and Rice Cleanser (day and night)
  • Dorian Gray Anti-Aging Serum (day)
  • Asian Powerhouse Serum (day)
  • Marine Serum (day)
  • Camel Milk Moisturizing Cream (day) [This summer I’m trying out Donkey Milk Cream]
  • Sleeping Beauty Oil (night)
  • Sake and Rice Sleeping Mask (night)
  • Sake Kasu Mask (bi-weekly)

(and full disclosure: I’ve recently upgraded my eye products [to deal with extreme eye area crepiness] from my previous TJ Maxx products to the v. expensive  Perricone Cold Plasma + Eye product series because some wrinkles need SCIENCE, lol. And I also use pretty regular wonderful and cheap under-eye masks by SpaLife and Grace & Stella).

I still have tons of wrinkles —  and think the guy carding me was undoubtedly high, because, come on — but skin care plus really great makeup products sure have made a difference. Look:




Even my neck seems to be aging backwards!  But it’s my eyes where you can really see a difference. (I never use filters btw).

I think one important thing about anti-aging makeup is not to overdo it, because sadly heavy-handed makeup is really aging to middle-aged faces – instead of covering up the wrinkles, it just settles into them.  A dewy, light foundation seems, after much trial and error, to be key. That’s why I love Becca so much. But this BareMinerals leftover holiday combo pack I found really cheap at TJ Maxx (that I mentioned a few weeks because it contained a blush I’d wanted to try) also happened to include a sample of the Complexion Rescue Tinted Moisturizer.  I was so impressed with that product that I’m actually switching to it for summer, because in addition to being incredibly light and dewy and minimalistic, it also contains a physical (non-chemical; ie, titanium dioxide) sunscreen.  I’m allergic to chemical sunscreens so this is a real win for me.  I was wearing it yesterday, so….  I still love my Becca, but this really appeals for summer.

Anyway, that’s the report for this week!  Next week I’m going to tell you about my contouring experiments.  It’s been good. Expensive, but good.  There are WAY too many bad contouring products out there…. I’m spending a lot of time running back and forth returning disappointing products….


Nobody posted a photo or video on FB last week, as requested, so there is no winner of the de-stashing box o’ samples this week — 🙁  I guess asking for pictures is asking a bit too much for the Professor Is In readership!

So let’s go back to just commenting!   Share your thoughts, comments, links, etc. on anti-aging skin care and makeup on Facebook, and I’ll randomly select one commenter for a box of unused or almost unused samples from my stash — brands including Hourglass, Smashbox, Urban Decay, Tarte, etc. etc.

Why Your Tenure Statement Sucks

The Professor Is In has been going for 7+ years now (!!) and lots of our job market clients from years back are now coming up on tenure!  I’m thrilled that so many are getting back in touch for help writing their tenure statements. But I’m horrified — simply horrified — at the tenure statement drafts I’m seeing.

They are so bad.

They are bad the way teaching statements are bad:  weepy, desperate and oscillating painfully between obsequious and grandiose.

I have to confess that I fondly believed that once folks got their jobs and worked as professionals for a number of years, they would leave behind the anxious, pandering, self-sabotaging habits of the new Ph.D.

Sadly, that is clearly not the case.  And actually, I should have known that.  Because when I work with tenured job market clients seeking Associate and Full Prof (and Dean) positions, their job docs are just as weepy, over-emotionalized, and insecure as any new Ph.D.

So clearly, Imposter Syndrome and the “never good enough” ethos of the academy is more stubborn than I realized.

So from today I’m going to do a series of posts on tenure documents.  And please remember two things: First, all tenure processes are local. No general advice as I offer in this serious can replace the specifics of YOUR department, field, and institution. You MUST bring your research A-game to deciphering the spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten practices, policies, and norms of tenure that will impact your own case. I offer these blog posts as a starting point for your inquiries; you SHOULD expect that your own context will differ in significant ways. My hope is that in reading these accounts based on my experiences in four different departments, you will be alerted to places of tension or variability of which you were previous unaware, and moved to inform yourself. But always, confer with trustworthy, experienced senior faculty members in your own fields and institutions.

Second, I do edit tenure documents.   The work I do on tenure documents is intensive and highly targeted to the type and rank of institution and conventions of your field.   At present this work is done entirely by me (ie, not the TPII editing team) as I am the one with experience as a) tenure and promotion committee chair, b) department head in charge of tenure cases, and c) external tenure reviewer. If you wish to learn more about working with me on your tenure file, please email at gettenure@gmail.com.


If you are writing your statements for your tenure case, you are probably doing it wrong. I say this based on the 25+ client tenure statements I’ve worked on in the last few years.  This is a growing part of the business, as more and more former clients get to the tenure review stage and come back seeking help. I’m very glad they do, because I believe I’ve helped prevent some potentially calamitous missteps in their tenure processes. I’ve read statements invoking childhood dreams, grandmothers’ admonitions, family histories, and philosophical musings … statements filled with sloppy errors of spelling, grammar, and capitalization… statements that are nothing but an endless series of cherry-picked student praise from narrative evaluations… statements that are stream of consciousness word-salad of current pedagogical jargon…

Indeed, the tenure statements I’ve reviewed have actually shocked me in their badness. And I did not think I could still be shocked by anything in the academic world.

Of course I cannot know what the clients’ outcome would have been without my help.  But what I can say is that many of the tenure statement drafts I’ve seen would have been entirely unacceptable at my former institutions. They made the same mistakes that I rail against in job documents: they substitute sentimentality for evidence.  They pander.  And they show no awareness whatsoever of the actual agendas of their readers.

While perhaps the facts of the record may have overcome these dreadful statements (because generally the facts of the record have been solid), in my experience in tenure cases — especially now in a drastically contracting academy where institutions are trying to jettison full-time faculty members —  any red flag at all can have dire consequences. Poorly conceived and executed statements can cast a pall on the candidate that in a close case may prove decisive. And rest assured that tenure committees are always hoping the case will be a “slam dunk” because NOBODY wants the hassle and expense of a failed tenure case and its frequent associated litigation.

Tenure committees require the same thing as search committees:  they need concrete evidence of your achievements in research, teaching, and service (and outreach and/or administration, if those are formal parts of your job).  The fact that you are “passionate” and “enthusiastic” and “caring” are not pertinent to these achievements. Yes, at small teaching colleges–especially those with a religious identity – your claims of emotional investment will matter more than at an R1, where they matter not at all.  But, even at small religious colleges, incessant, tedious, repetitive invocations of passion and care do not a tenure statement make. Even there, they need to know the facts: what you teach, how you teach, and the outcomes of your teaching.  That you are passionate about the teaching comes through far more in the substance that you SHOW, than in the feelings you CLAIM.

The reasons that you need to emphasize evidence over feelings is that the statements will be read by a range of people who know and care about you less and less, the higher they are in the college or university hierarchy.  So, your immediate departmental colleagues may overlook a substance-lite, sentimentality-filled tenure statement because they know you, know your work ethic, know your grant and publication record, and know your successful students. So they are filling in for evidence that may be lacking.  But when your packet moves up to the college level, and from there to the campus level, those reviewers who are in fields ranging from Physics to French, from Chemistry to Classics, from Engineering to English… will not be swayed by your earnest bleatings about care and commitment. They will need to know the outcomes of your work: the number of rank of publications, the amount of grant money raised, the number of students and credit hours, the specific named courses you taught and how you taught them, your quantitative evaluations, and the number of committees on which you served.

While the framing of this evidence will vary based on the rank and type of institution in ways I’ll be explaining in future posts (tl;dr: a little bit touchy-feely at small religious teaching colleges, dry and factual at R1s) the core content a tenure statement demands does not vary, because people who do not know you or care about you at the highest campus levels of review must evaluate you, and they have no particular investment in your staying if they don’t believe you yield concrete benefit to the institution.

In future posts I will be digging into all of this in more detail. Topics I’ll be blogging on include (order may vary):

  • The path and timeline of your tenure application
  • External tenure reviewers: what do they do and how are they chosen?
  • The role of your tenure committee and department head
  • Tenure documents at R1s vs. teaching colleges
  • What goes in a tenure research statement
  • What goes in a tenure teaching statement/portfolio
  • What goes in a tenure service statement
  • What goes in a tenure administrative and/or outreach statement
  • Tenure pitfalls for women
  • Tenure pitfalls for faculty of color
  • Why people get turned down for tenure
  • Appealing a negative tenure case

Stay tuned.   And I’ll gladly post on any other topics related to tenure in this series.  So, please feel free to put your questions below.

And remember: Nobody wants to hear about your grandmother.



#MakeupMonday: Tightlining is the Bomb

First, two funny makeup things.


And: “I Don’t Wear Makeup For Men, I Wear It Because I Love Supporting Corporations” from Reductress:

Thanks to the free market, there is an ever-growing number of corporations that produce and sell makeup products, and I feel a personal drive to support them in any way I can. For example: When Revlon first announced their new line of lipliner, I was less interested in feeling a sense of feminine power, and more interested in the opportunity to directly support Revlon, which is a subsidiary of MacAndrews & Forbes. Yes, the MacAndrews & Forbes!!! If you’re not a corporo-ho like me, this might not ring a bell, but MacAndrews & Forbes is owned wholly by corporate billionaire bae Ronald Perelman. I’m a huge fan!

Thus capturing the various ambivalences of being a feminist makeup user in 2018.

Anyway, as promised two weeks ago: the upper waterline lining technique I’m now addicted to, called tighlining.  This is where you dot or line beneath and between your upper lashes, for an amazing effect! 

This might sound esoteric, but it’s actually really easy and kind of obvious once you try it the first time.  It’s a “why didn’t we think of this before?” kind of technique.  Read about it here and just google “Tightlining” for many other useful tutorials.

The piece I linked to above uses a brush and pigment pot, which I’m sure is great, but I actually used a product I had sitting around my stash, which I got in one of my many sample hauls:  Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner.

Now, I am actually not a huge Stila fan.  I know people swear by this brand, but I never find that it’s “stay all day” products actually stay even part of the day, or like even an hour or two.  I just don’t get it.  But this particular eyeliner, used for tightlining, has been extraordinary.  Effortless, quick, and exactly the look I’m seeking.  And very lasting!  Also because it’s EXTREMELY dark and very “wet” it applies like a dream.  This is in contrast to two other liquid eyeliners I had around, a Steve Laurant from some old Ipsy bag, and a MAC, that I got at Nordstrom Rack super cheap a year or so ago. Neither of these worked for tightlining, because the product is more dry, and so doesn’t adhere to the waterline without a lot of strife and struggle.

Also, the Stila Eyeliner also comes in a variety of colors – ie a lighter brown for those with ligher lashes, or blues and greens and purples for those who are daring, AND it comes in a micro-tip option, which might be even better for tightlining.  I use basic black, and I’m very pleased with it for this technique.

Unlike lining the lower waterline, which can shrink the eye and be harsh on older faces, tightlining has a lifting and opening effect. Particularly for anyone with sparse lashes, it would be transformative!  And it’s subtle–so very doable for campus wear.  It just basically makes you look like you have 2x the lashes.

I’m really bad at precise makeup-selfies (I need a millenial to teach me!) but here are some efforts to demonstrate how it looks.

Notice I’m also now doing a nude(r) lip for summer!  And… can you see the contouring?  I’m enjoying experimenting with that these days and promise a post soon. Miyako is home for the summer so we’re doing lots of research on products and, particularly, brushes.

Stay tuned!


Professor Katy Pearce won this week’s random drawing for a package of unused or barely used samples and full size items from my stash!  Remember: just comment on FB and I’ll use random.org to pick one commenter at random for a box of makeup/skincare samples and items.  This week’s package includes Blinc Lash Primer (a cult item that unfortunately I am allergic to), Smashbox UnderEye Primer  – I use Becca so this is almost full – and things by Laura Mercier and Peter Thomas Roth.

Let’s keep this up – it’s fun hearing your thoughts about makeup and I still have more stuff to give away!  But this time, please comment on Facebook with a photo or video related in some direct or indirect way to makeup.  Don’t let me be the only one posting makeup selfies!









On Being a Grad School Quitter, Part 1 – Guest Post

Adrienne Posner quit grad school cold turkey in 2015 mid-dissertation and now works at Google as a Program Manager for various educational initiatives.  She received her BA in Art History from UCSC and an MA in Art History from UCLA, and then an MA and a CPhil in Comparative Literature from UCLA. She lives in Oakland.


When I was 5, I told my mom that I wanted to be an English professor. I imagined that being a professor meant that I would read and write constantly, that I would wear brightly colored, perhaps asymmetrical glasses (it was the 80s), and that people would really listen when I spoke. Since I was an extremely shy kid who already read and wrote constantly, I thought the latter two fantasy elements would transform me into someone glamorous and authoritative. When my mom told me matter of factly that being a professor meant that, after high school, I would spend more than a decade in yet more school, I was thrilled: I could do something that I was good at doing and that I enjoyed doing, and at the end of that would be a job where I could simply continue doing more of that. Perfect.

I went straight to a good four year college, and I graduated with highest honors in Art History, right on schedule. Immediately after graduating, I became a research assistant for my undergrad advisor, TAed in my department, even published some things. At 22, I moved to New York for a fellowship in Critical Theory at the Whitney Museum, co-founded a non-profit, and continued to write and publish. In short, I did all the things you are supposed to do to make yourself a great candidate for grad school; I never really considered any other path, even when there were red flags all around me.

When it came time to apply, I applied to all the “best” schools. At the time, I would not have put the word “best” in quotes because I was a true believer: I listened only half heartedly when people talked about the importance of “fit, and though I absolutely should have known better, I thought a big name school and a big name advisor was the most important thing. When I got an offer to get a PhD in Modern and Contemporary Art from UCLA with no funding guarantee, I didn’t hesitate. I moved straight to LA believing that this was the exact thing for which I had been preparing.

More or less as soon as I got there though, all hell broke loose: though I was academically and intellectually prepared, I was not culturally or emotionally prepared. I was intimidated by the other students, my advisor terrified me, and the general environment felt competitive and unwelcoming. It didn’t help that I was absolutely flat broke, taking out loan after loan while I frantically cobbled together part time jobs to pay the rent and feed myself. About one month in, I started experiencing symptoms from what I would only much later find out was an autoimmune disease. I was sick and beyond stressed, panicking my way from research paper to research paper.

I will say now what I’ve never said publicly before: though I ended up making some wonderful friends there, I hated my program top to bottom, and, though my primary advisor proved in the end to be a decent enough human being, the other one was such a nightmare to me that, when I think of it now, it is both hard to believe and almost funny. But not quite.

Despite everything, I made progress toward my degree and finished my MA on schedule. In my third year, once the fog started to clear a little from my illness and I started to get my financial feet under me a bit, I began to explore and eventually to accept the feeling that had been nagging at me since day one: this program just wasn’t going to work, for so many reasons. I still thought I wanted to be a professor, but I knew that Art History – the department, the discipline, the very framework it purports to provide for thinking about “culture” – was not actually for me.

I considered, very briefly, quitting altogether. I even applied for a couple of jobs. But in the end I just really couldn’t fathom a decision that would involve walking away from everything that structured my daily life: the reading, the papers, the classes, the people, the whole system that largely defined, I believed, who I was. After talking to some trusted mentors, I decided to formally apply to the Comparative Literature department at UCLA and to start over – another MA, another PhD program, but this time with a little more support and with full funding.

It was a great decision. My new advisor was a gem. Most people are being tongue-in-cheek when they say “he’s a scholar and a gentleman,” but in the case of my advisor, it was really true. As a mentor, his feedback was always warm and constructive, and he actively looked for ways to support me and give me more opportunities. The other faculty were on the whole also generally supportive, taking in someone with an unconventional background and even letting me incorporate my interest in visual art into my literary work. It was wonderful, a grad school experience diametrically opposed to the first one. I loved teaching, I loved writing, I loved my committee, and I advanced to candidacy in record time. I felt back on track and I was settled, if not happy, in my work for several years.

But during my first 6 months of dissertation writing, something strange started to happen. Despite having the best possible grad school situation – adequate funding, a great advisor, opportunities to publish and present – I was losing focus and motivation. Mostly, I couldn’t stop thinking about the job market. I had a list of unanswerable questions running constantly through my head: What kind of jobs could I even apply to? As someone with an unconventional background for Comp Lit, was I competitive? Was I willing to move anywhere? What about 1 year post docs? Would I do that? Wasn’t that risky? For every word I wrote, I felt like I was performing a double labor, first having to lift the weight of my own anxiety, and then having to lift each word itself to put it down on the page. It was exhausting.

One day, tired and frustrated by the whole thing, by my own looping, anxious inner monologue, I closed the massive document that was my halfway finished dissertation. I never opened it again. Seriously.

The same day that I closed my dissertation file for good, I started applying for jobs in the tech industry. Despite not at all having an abiding interest in tech at the time, I had a vague sense that “they” might welcome someone with an unconventional resume. I could lie and say that it was very difficult and I had to apply to a million jobs, but instead I’ll risk sounding immodest and tell a truth which I hope will be encouraging: I got traction pretty much right away. Though in the end I did apply to a a couple dozen jobs and it did take a couple months start to finish, it was nothing compared to the academic job search for which I had been steeling myself for years. I’ve now been at Google for 3.5 years. I’m a Program Manager and I work in internal education, and I love my job.

Continues next week….

#MakeupMonday: Makeup As Motivator

I’m late with Makeup Monday this week, and didn’t post my usual academic career related post last Friday at all, because Kellee and I were travelling, first to a conference we spoke at in Victoria BC, and then to see our son Seiji, 17, who is confronting some mental health challenges and not currently living at home. The latter part was a challenging visit, and we came home anxious and drained.

We got into town at about noon (having  been up since 3:30 AM), and I proceeded to crash on the sofa, eating chips and chocolate and binge watching weird television (ie, a badly made Smithsonian Channel “documentary” about the lifestyle of 1960s flight attendants). In short, my usual mode of dealing with emotional stress.

I determined there was NO WAY I was going to my dance class (hip hop) this evening.

The day passed, and I felt mostly worse and worse. Not only from emotional upset and eating terrible food, but also from knowing I’d missed all my dance for the previous week while also gorging on large quantities of junk food (inc repeated visits to the spectacularly over-the-top Chocolats Favoris in Victoria —>), and was about to miss it again.

But then, I remembered the two samples of NARS PowerMatte Lip Pigment that had arrived while I was gone.

How exciting! I needed to test those out!  And testing while lying on the couch watching TV and eating chips is meaningless. The only worthwhile testing is at dance.

Ergo, I needed to get off the sofa and go to dance.

Not because I wanted to dance. Not because I wanted to see my fellow dancers.  Not because I wanted to see my marvelous teacher.  No.  Because I wanted to test my new lipcolor.

And, off I went.  Wearing NARS PowerMatte Lip Pigment in Le Freak.







We danced to this 🙂 :

So, how did my NARS do?

Amazingly well.

Here’s after class.


Le Freak clearly lasts WAAAY longer than American Woman, which is the other shade that came, and which I far prefer.  But as I discovered in last week’s post, it doesn’t have anywhere near this staying power. Too bad.

If you’re wondering why I am interested in other long-wear liquid lipcolors besides my beloved Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip…. well, that’s because Lip Whip can be a little bit heavy and cakey for regular wear. I do love it, and wear it for talks and webinars all the time. But for running around town in a place like Eugene, it can be a bit much.  So when I learned about the flexible, lightweight “stain” effect of the NARS, I wanted to try it out.  It’s a good product–i just have to figure out the shades that work.

But, the larger outcome?  I went to dance!  I danced!  I saw friends, and I felt substantially better.  Better enough to write this post, in fact, and tell this story.

And that, reader, is how makeup ends up a motivator for me. It’s a strange thing, and I imagine it won’t work for everybody. But right now, it’s working for me. And in the strain and struggle of this season of life, I’ll take it.

In other news, last week I invited all you readers to comment substantively on the Facebook thread to this post, and you did!  You really did! I enjoyed it immensely. 17 of you commented.  And as promised, I chose one reader randomly (#14) to receive a box of barely used samples/full sized items that I am prepared to part with!  Here is the box!


As you can see, it includes items from Smashbox, It Cosmetics, UrbanDecay, Peter Thomas Roth, and MAC.  It’s headed out tomorrow to lucky reader #14!

This week, let’s do it again!  Comment substantively on this post on FB, and I’ll send out another box of samples or full-size items that I bought and only used slightly.  It’s a win-win—I get to de-stash, and you get some items you might never have tried, and we all get to converse about makeup on FB!




#MakeupMonday: Janelle Monae!

Who’s going to see Janelle Monae on her Dirty Computer Tour in Portland in June, you ask?  At an open air concert?  With a group of 20 fierce and feminist dance friends? Who dance to Janelle Monae weekly?*

Oh, just me. And Kellee!

It’s not like I’m excited or anything. I mean, just because I spent an hour on Saturday playing around with a makeup look for the concert ….

(Silver and iridescent Peacock-colored Lorac shadows, black Mac Penultimate liquid liner, my new Bare Minerals blush in Golden Gate, a nude Stila lip in Perla, Bliss contour palette)

I’m sure this is just the first of many such experimentations leading up to the concert, thanks to the ridiculous yet beautiful Lorac Pirates of the Caribbean eyeshadow palette I ended up with, after trading it with Miyako for a Smashbox palette last year, that has 20 vivid pirate-y shades in blues, greens, reds, silver, black, and more (there’s an old Makeup Monday post about that!)

Anyway, as always happens on a cyclical basis, I’ve gotten bored with the wonderful products I’ve been happily using for months, and I’m back deep in experiment phase.

For one thing, I’ve jumped on the CONTOUR bandwagon finally, and I’ll have a post on that soon, once my new products arrive from Sephora!

And, I learned a new upper-waterline eyeliner technique which is totally cool!

And, I’ve started on some new skincare products that I’ll report back about soon.

All this to say, makeup continues to be my delight and my solace in times that seem ever more despairing.  I mean, when did the smoky eye become a political issue, fer cryin’ out loud, when the wearer of that smoky eye spends her days lying, deceiving, and defending those who would destroy the Constitution? Looks like our political correspondents care more about making the powerful comfortable than holding them accountable.  George Orwell said it: “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”

Before I go:  a little secret promotion for everyone who read this far:  comment substantively ON FACEBOOK on this post or on MakeupMonday – related themes in general, and I’ll enter your name in a drawing for a set of unused/barely tried products from my makeup and skin care drawer!  These are the products I’ve gotten in sets or Ipsy bags and never used, or used once and set aside. Brands include: Tarte, Urban Decay, It Cosmetics, Sabbatical Beauty, and more!   Fine print: it must be a substantial comment (ie, not just a “nice!” or “I love it!”) related to makeup  – mine, yours, somebody else’s – on Facebook. In a week I’ll collect the names, and do a random draw, and send a little box of goodies to the winner!

*Here we are in all our glory!


*My regular intro:

Welcome to #MakeupMonday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.

Here is my weekly reminder:  I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), I suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.

For previous posts, see the following: