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!

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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

Recovering My Creativity Through Unstuck – Guest Post by Dr. Verena Hutter

Verena and Kellee in Eugene

TPII Editor Extraordinaire Dr. Verena Hutter shares her wonderful experience recovering a part of herself she thought was lost, through our Unstuck Productivity Program. In honor of Verena and her pens, we are extending the sign up for the new Unstuck by two days!  Find the info here on the Unstuck page. Remember – registration extended for two days only, until midnight July 22.


I received my first fountain pen at the tender age of seven, in second grade. It was a Lamy ABC, red cap, wooden grip, and a sticker with my name on it. In German schools, kids are taught early on to write with a fountain pen, and German fountain pen companies like Pelikan and Lamy cater to the crowd. The reasoning behind making little kids write with a fountain pen, filled with ink? Some say it makes for a better handwriting, some say it teaches kids to be careful with their belongings (to avoid ink explosions), and some say it is tradition. It may be all of it. To seven year old me, it said “What you’re doing here is important!” Throughout my entire time in school and undergraduate, I wrote with a fountain pen. I experimented with different color inks, different nib sizes, different brands, and found a way to write with my left hand that wouldn’t smudge everything.

In 2006, I moved to California for graduate school. In my carry-on was a Parker Frontier, which I thought was very symbolic at the time. I learned the hard way that pens leak on planes (unless the converter/cartridge is completely full). So I entered the United States with black ink all over my hands, sweater and parts of my face. A bad omen?

In graduate school, I realized what I needed more than nice penmanship, was being able to write down my notes quickly, so cheap Bic cap pens became my writing utensil of choice. Or rather, I took what was there, they were free and I was not in a position to ask for anything.  I ended up giving my Parker Frontier away, and didn’t use a fountain pen in many years. My handwriting? Let’s just say, my students complained…

Fast forward to Unstuck in 2017. In between my graduation in 2012, and 2017, many life events had happened, and I desperately wanted to finish my manuscript. The task Kellee gave us was to buy a notebook and write something called “Morning Pages”, based on Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”. Every morning, before you do anything else, you write down three pages, as a way to tap into your creative side. The online discussion that ensued in our group was reminiscent of an SNL skit. “Can I have a coffee first?”- “What if my kids wake up?”- “Can I write it in the evening?”- “wouldn’t it be easier to type it?”- “Which language should I write it in?”- “How long should this take me?”- “the topic is really open?” As academics, we’re trained to excel, we’re trained to do something in the best way possible, and we’re eager to do it “the right way” because, let’s face it, the re-percussions for doing something “wrong” (such as a mean review of an article, an adviser telling you how disappointed he/she is in you, a rejected manuscript) can be painful and devastating. So Kellee’s instruction, clear and simple seemed like a trick to us- what do you mean, this is just for me?

I was actually looking forward to the exercise- I had always kept a journal, with the exception of graduate school and the years after (you see a theme emerging here). I will be honest with you, so far none of my daily writings so far have given me a sort of eureka moment, or deep insight. I rather see it as a way to clear my head.  I enjoy the time that it takes to write the pages, the cup of coffee on one side, my sleeping dog on the other, and that there is time in my day that I am not looking at some sort of screen or being overloaded with information. But my musings are fairly trivial- have I paid that electricity bill? Do I need to do laundry? Should I call my grandma today? Buy that cute, but overpriced shirt? Will I survive the Trumpocalyspe?

Still, I write.

Then two things happened.

One, I started developing wrist pain as a side effect from my medication for Crohn’s Disease, and two, I realized I could barely decipher my own handwriting. I mentioned this to my mother, who suggested that I get a lightweight fountain pen or a gel-ink roller. I used the gel-ink roller for a while (Pilot Precise VR 5 for the win, baby!), but I wanted to give fountain pens another shot. I have the luxury to live in a place that has a paper store (I love you Oblation Paper Press!), and so I went. Inside, I immediately was reminded of my childhood, that feeling that what I did, my learning, was important. I walked out with a Waterman Hemisphere, a favorite of my teenager years and bought a cool color ink.

And as I started using the fountain pen, something began to change. A feeling that had vanished during grad school and my years in academia. The feeling that my morning pages are part of something important: my writing. I then started writing my reading notes with my fountain pen too- yes, it slows me down, but my notes make sense, I remember them easier and better and they are material proof of the thoughts and the work I do. I actually enjoy writing down my notes, and don’t see it as an annoying, unimportant task (the important one being writing the manuscript) but rather as part of the whole process. My handwriting is more precise, readable and not the crammed scribbling of a maniac anymore. It takes up space and reflects my re-gained confidence about my project, and the fun I have with it. (Ok, I totally queereyed this sentence, my handwriting is a minor point of what I want to say).

So all in all, the first step of Unstuck re-connected me to a part of me that I had neglected for a long time, a knowledge that my seven year old me had but one that I needed to be reminded of 30 years later. I, my thoughts and feelings, and my creative side matter just as much as my scholarly side, if not more. I am part of something important, and I am important.


#MakeupMonday: A True Self-Made Billionaire

Still on July vacation but popped back to share this:

This week Twitter got crabby about a Forbes cover story claiming Kylie Jenner is about to become the world’s youngest “self-made” billionaire based on the valuation of her cosmetics line, Kylie Cosmetics.

Self-made? asked Twitter. Give us a break, said Twitter.

Today, Affinity Magazine had the BEST response:

As one person responded:






Yes.  She is.  And her makeup ROCKS.   It is deeply pigmented, gorgeous on black skin, always cutting edge, and stays on! I have her LUST: MatteTrance Lipstick in Omi (her cult color — super wearable, long-lasting, perfect for conferences and professional wear).  The packaging is also to-die-for.  But in general, go for PM when you want BIG effects. One product, LiquiLUST, lets you combine color and gloss and pure opalesque pigment powder to create your own innovative looks! Watch this video to have your mind blown:

Obviously what you need for your next conference, amirite.

Find her stuff at Pat McGrath Labs.  And support a true self-made artist and businesswoman.

Academics As Entrepreneurs – Guest Post

Sophia’s alter-ego

By Sophia Donaldson, Ph.D.

Sophia Donaldson is a careers consultant for University College London (UCL) PhD students and research staff. After completing a PhD in molecular genetics, she worked as a post-doctoral researcher and then as a science communicator for several research charities and think tanks. Before joining UCL, she provided careers support for postgraduate students and researchers at King’s College London and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Sophia writes regularly for the UCL Researcher Careers blog.


The term “academic entrepreneurs” often refers to researchers taking their work out of the literature and into the market. But this isn’t an article about taking your work to industry. This is an article for all academics, especially those determined to remain firmly within the ivory tower. Because making it up that tower takes more than just intelligence. It takes several traits more commonly associated with an entrepreneur than a pure academic.

But what are entrepreneurial traits and how can you channel your inner Steve Jobs? A quick google search returns millions of lists of entrepreneurial qualities. But I’ve narrowed it down to the 6 traits I think are most beneficial in academia:

  • Risk tolerance

Much like starting your own business, in the current employment landscape pursuing an academic career is risky. In the US between 2005 and 2009, 100,000 new PhDs, but only 16,000 new professorships, were issued. Similarly, an analysis of UK data from 2014-15 estimated 22,780 PhDs were awarded, but only 7,355 permanent research and/or teaching roles were advertised.

Unfortunately, risk tolerance isn’t a typical part of personalities drawn to academic research. Many of the academics I work with who wish to leave academia are doing so for precisely this reason. There is no guaranteed job for them in higher education, and they don’t fancy the gamble. One way naturally cautious academics deal with this insecurity is by exploring other options while still pursuing research. Perhaps counterintuitively, having a plan B, C, and D, can make it easier for some to give their all to plan A.

  • Confidence

Confidence makes taking a punt on an academic career easier. Data from the UK’s Medical Research Council shows only 20% of funding applications submitted to them in 2016-17 were successful. Anyone who’s drafted a funding application will know the amount of blood, sweat, and tears it requires. They are essentially your business proposal, but often longer and more thorough! Knowing the odds, those without confidence in themselves and their work (whether that confidence is justifiable or not), will find it extremely difficult to continually put themselves through this gruelling application process, and to have the resilience to pick themselves up after rejections.

Unfortunately we’re not all born confident. But there are ways to bring your confidence levels up. Start by identifying situations, achievements and successes that have built your confidence. Force yourself to remember those successes, dwelling on them more than on times that brought you down. And intentionally put yourself in similar situations in future.

  • Opportunity detection

Creativity and big picture thinking are qualities we often associate with great entrepreneurs – people with the vision to create products we don’t yet know we need. Researchers, however, more often display focused, methodical, logical thinking – an extreme dedication to the task at hand. But to beat the odds and gain funding, researchers need to look up from the detailed work they’re engrossed with, and survey the world around them. Moving from PhD/post-doc level to permanent staff requires a vision for the future far more than it requires specific technical skills, especially as in many fields successful academics will have their own PhDs and post-docs to take care of the detailed research work. A lead investigator’s job is to set the direction; to spot what’s hot in their field at the moment, or better yet, to dictate what will be hot in the future. Flexibility is key here, as the new big ideas may require a change of direction.

  • Cash-focused

A business needs to make money, so good entrepreneurs, even altruistic social entrepreneurs, always have an eye on the bottom line. Academics don’t tend to be as money-motivated. But successful academics have to be. Your research may have the potential to change the world, but if no one funds it, it ain’t going to happen. And when universities take on permanent staff, they need to know they’re making a good investment. You must show you have a plan for bringing money to the department; that you’re aware of the funding opportunities available, and you’ll make the most of them, ideally by presenting examples of the money you have secured in the past. And consider the money students can bring in. How will you help attract and retain students, and their money?

  • Sell, sell, selling skills

You know those episodes of Dragon’s Den (or Shark Tank, as I believe it’s called in the US) where the entrepreneur may have a great product, but they don’t sell it well? Where they’re simply not speaking the same language as the investors? That’s how it can feel working with academics sometimes. A part of me admires those clients who are such puritans, and have such belief in academic traditions, that they feel the quality of their work should simply speak for itself. But that part of me is not the one that’s good at getting a job!

No matter if you’re pitching for business funding or research funding, whether you’re marketing your product to customers, or yourself to academic recruiters, all are exercises in sales. And any good salesperson knows the customer is crucial in the sales process. Get to know their needs and motivations, and you’ll know your sales strategy.

You may find your work intrinsically interesting. But your ‘customer’ isn’t going to pay you to do something simply because you think it’s a good idea. Funders want to be convinced of the importance and the impact of the work they fund. And search committees are often very clear about what they’re looking for in exchange for a salary. So don’t just present your work, show them you can meet the needs of their department.

  • Networking prowess

Networking is a necessary skill for EVERYONE. Entrepreneurs must network to share their ideas, and to court funders, collaborators, employees, advisors and customers. And academics must do the same. Networking can spark ideas and collaborations, presenting more opportunities to publish and obtain grants. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen researchers applying for roles for which the recruitment committee already had a candidate in mind. Networking increases your chances of being that intended candidate. So get yourself out there. And start as early as possible, while you’re still just swapping ideas, rather than waiting until you’re desperate for a job.

#MakeupMonday: My Protest Lipcolors

I’m on blogging vacation in the month of July, but inspired by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and her Stila Stay All Day in Beso, here are two of my political protest lipcolors this week:

#FamiliesBelongTogether, Medford Oregon (BeautyBakerie Lip Whip in Take Me For Pomegranate








#ResistTrumpTuesday, Eugene, Oregon (Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Mon Cherie)








This week: Share a pic of YOUR political protest #MakeupMonday look on FB and I’ll put you in a drawing for a free LipWhip in one of several colors I’ve bought that don’t work on me (Fortune Cookie, Honey, etc.)

Motherhood in Academe (A Provost Leaves Academia, Part III) – A #Postac Guest Post Series

This is number three in the #Postac series, A Provost Leaves Academia,” by Dr. Terri Givens.

Dr. Terri Givens is a consultant in higher ed, and soon to be former provost at Menlo College. She has been a professor at the University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin, and is the proud mother of two teenage boys.


KK:  I encountered Dr. Givens’ story of imminent #postac departure on social media and immediately asked her if she’d be willing to share thoughts of her transition with us. She generously agreed, and this is her first of several posts. I encourage you to click through all of her links, especially on the theme of mental illness and higher ed.


It was never a question of “if” my husband and I would have kids, it was a matter of when. I knew that being an academic and having kids could be a challenge, but I was determined to make it work, and I knew I had a partner who would play an active role in the life of his children. It took us several years to have a successful pregnancy, and we were thrilled when our son Andrew entered our lives in September of my second year as a professor at the University of Washington. We were fortunate to have lots of family in the area, and my sister offered to help take care of Andrew part-time when I went back to teaching, so we didn’t have to put him into daycare right away. We were also able to travel to Europe the first summer after he was born, so I could conduct research on my book project. Andrew celebrated his first birthday in Cologne, Germany, right before 9/11/2001.

When we returned to Seattle, we were able to find a good daycare for him near campus. So far, so good; I was making progress on my writing, my husband and I had found a good balance in our parenting, and he was doing well in his job as an engineer.

Then in the spring of 2002, the dot-com bust hit. Mike lost his job, and there weren’t many options for a hardware engineer in a software town. I knew that our days in Seattle were numbered. I was fortunate to get a Ford post-doctoral fellowship, so we moved temporarily to Silicon Valley where he had a job offer and I went on the job market. I interviewed at UT Austin in the winter of 2003, and promptly got pregnant a week later. Surprise! We knew we wanted a second child, but we weren’t expecting him in the middle of a major life change.

The move to Austin that summer was not the smoothest…lots of stress with buying a house and the move, the mover left a bunch of our stuff in Seattle, my car got hit by a drunk driver when I was 8 months pregnant, etc. Brandon was born a month early, luckily very healthy. I had asked for my first semester off, which was helpful, given that UT didn’t have a maternity leave policy at the time. Once again, I was blessed with a sister who agreed to come and be a live-in nanny until Brandon was a year old and could transition to daycare. Brandon got to spend his first summer in Paris, although we were back home by the time he turned 1.

So now we had two boys. We had daycare near campus, and eventually on campus. We transitioned into a routine that allowed me to get my book done, and tenure! But within a year, everything would change. I had started a Center for European Studies on campus and gotten on the radar screen of the administration. A new president had started in January of 2006 and the provost had resigned that summer. One day in early September, the interim provost called me into his office. I had no idea I was about to be offered the job of vice provost of undergraduate curriculum. How would a new in rank associate professor with two kids manage that kind of job?

Never one to turn down a challenge, I agreed to take on the job. However, I made it clear that I had to leave every day in time to pick my kids up from daycare. I also didn’t work weekends, and evenings would have to be negotiated. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was probably the easiest time for me to take on this kind of job. My kids were in school and then aftercare until 5:30 most days, so I didn’t have to worry about leaving work early. They had soccer a couple of times per week, but that didn’t impinge much on my work time, either.

Now jump to the teen-age years. I call myself the mom-shuttle. I have indeed been a soccer mom, with a Honda Odyssey mini-van and all the trappings. However, I didn’t run into much trouble with the job and the shuttling until my boys got into middle and high school. I had left the provost’s office at UT in 2009, when Andrew was 9 and Brandon was 6, so as a faculty member my time was pretty flexible, and I could handle their activities. When I became provost at Menlo College, Andrew was 14 and Brandon was 11.  Andrew immediately joined a soccer team, and Brandon started taekwondo that fall. The mom-shuttle life began in earnest, which made any meetings after 5 difficult. For some reason, the faculty at Menlo College like to have meetings in the evenings. Faculty Senate meetings were at 5, some committee meetings were at 5, etc. I would stay as long as I could and then head out to take my kids to their events. Mike was able to pick them up when they were done, but he generally couldn’t drop them off, work for him (and engineers in general) tends to start around 10am, so leaving at 5 wasn’t possible.

I know it raised eyebrows that I couldn’t stay for meetings, but frankly I didn’t care. I wasn’t the only person who had childcare duties in the evenings, and the faculty didn’t seem interested in moving the meetings to make it more convenient for those of us who had to leave before 6. I could have made a fuss, but I disliked the meetings, anyway.

In the end, I would always put my family first. Meetings can be important, and when necessary, I would try to make other arrangements, but I also wasn’t going to miss out on my kids’ activities for something as silly as a meeting. I think that it’s against common sense (and potentially discriminatory) to have meetings that run past 5pm. But I’m done with all of that now. Up next – the big transition!

#MakeupMonday: Trying New Colors

Today marks the start of my summer vacation season (don’t worry–editing and negotiating help continues!) so I’ll be brief.

I tried out a plum lipcolor for the first time ever, and I’m in love. I haven’t taken it off since I bought it. As always with new directions, I go cheap before I commit to expensive, so this is Maybelline Super-Stay 24 Liquid Lipstick in Unlimited Raisin.  (They also make a shade they actually call “plum” but that’s a true purple which is not something I want).  Naturally it’s ultra-long-wear. By no means the 24 hour wear they claim, but a solid 5-6 hour for sure.  I am not a huge fan of the product range overall–the majority have shimmer/glitter that seems out of date to me in this matte-centric world, and like many drugstore brands, many of the shades look cheap to me. But Unlimited Raisin is a winner! And look how it lasted through dance!

In a way it’s kind of surprising I haven’t tried plums before, because with my love of cool-blue toned makeup of all kinds, this would seem like an obvious choice. But, it’s taken me a long time to work up to really deep lipstick shades. I’ve been so self-conscious! I keep defaulting to rose and neutrals.

But, I’m there now!  I am now all about the bold lipcolors!  Can’t wait to share my experiments with you.

more plum than this looks

And that reminds me – one of the two current holy grail items I mentioned last week is ALSO a plum shade. It’s my new blush, the blush of my dreams, the blush that is truly worth the two years it took to find it – Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush in Mood Exposure.

how subtle is this blush?!

What’s nice about the Hourglass is you can get it in a travel size for $22 before you commit (and of course Sephora takes returns as does Hourglass itself). I can’t say enough about how subtle it is, how superbly natural, how delicately illuminating without any obvious shimmer or glitter, and of course–how great this sheer plum tone is for someone with cool-toned skin. —>


In other news, my daughter and I got summer mani-pedis this past weekend. And after years of resisting the siren-song of sparkly gel polish, I finally gave in. I got a gold sparkle manicure!  It glitters in the sun!

You might be surprised I got gold, but it’s actually a silvery gold – they tried to convince me on a range of yellow-golds, but I said no.

Like a magpie I cannot resist a shiny object and now I’m entranced by my own fingernails! Miyako got a beautiful salmon, just right for her work as a summer intern in our beloved Senator Ron Wyden’s office. (He and Jeff Merkeley are doing God’s work in our current migrant detention crisis. I’m proud of Miyako for supporting it. She told me never in her months of work there [she interned last summer as well] has she found that every single caller without exception speaking with a single voice: stop the family separation.)


Congrats to Vicki Hoskins, Ph.D. student in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, winner of the random weekly sample giveaway! She and I share a Pittsburgh-UIUC trajectory! (name shared with permission)

Remember to comment substantively on Facebook to this post about any topic at all related to makeup  – with thoughts, selfies, links, comments, opinions, etc. etc and I’ll put you in a random drawing for next week’s giveaway.



An Example Public R1 Departmental Tenure Timeline

Number 5 in my series on tenure.

After my previous posts The Path and Timeline of Your Tenure File, and The Role of Your Tenure Committee and Department Head, a reader sent in a timeline document of the Department Head’s duties in the tenure process that circulates at her Public R1 social sciences department.  I share it here (slightly anonymized) as more data for you to consider. Note that it stops at the departmental level and doesn’t include processes at the college and campus level. Note also that unlike the process I described, this one includes places for the candidate to respond in writing to the reports. I’d appreciate knowing from readers how common that practice is.

And remember, all tenure processes are local, and general advice such as that I provide in my blog post series on tenure cannot substitute for careful research of written and unwritten practices in your own field, department, and institution.


Timeline for Promotion Packages for Assistant Professors



  1. Meet with Assistant Professor, discuss general expectations for process

(a) personal statement, provide examples by previous Asst Profs

(b) timeline

(c) potential internal review committee members

  1. Name review committee.



  1. Meet with Assistant Professor, begin formal process

(a) Ask for first draft of personal statement from candidate by February 10

(b) Ask to think about potential external reviewers



  1. Assistant Professor, Department Chair, and Review Committee Chair discuss potential external reviewers



  1. Assistant Professor finalizes personal statement by March 25



  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of all research materials (articles, chapters, books) on April 1
  • Dept staff keeps master copy, makes one copy for dept review committee
  • Dept staff make copies for external reviewers.
  • Dept buys any needed book copies for external reviews
  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of all teaching materials (classes taught, peer and student evaluations, syllabi).
  • Dept staff keeps master copy, makes one copy for dept review committee
  • Dept staff make copies for external reviewers.
  1. Candidate supplies 1 photocopy of additional materials: personal statement, CV, YARS [KK: I assume this means yearly annual research statements].
  2. All materials go to the internal review committee, with deadline of initial response to chair May 10
  3. Contact possible external reviewers by email (contact 5; need 3)
  • Packets to them by May 15 and would need to hear back by September 1
  • This is query letter, not formal letter dictated by the College
  • If all 5 don’t say yes, then take next names from lists



  1. On May 15, send out official letters of review request, research materials, candidate’s personal statement, and candidate’s CV to external reviewers. Request letters by September 1.



  1. On August 10, send email checking in, remind external reviewers of letter return by September 1.
  2. When letters arrive, keep original in dept materials, give copies to the review committee chair.



  1. On September 15, final report received from review committee (with references to external reviews)
  2. Provide review report to candidate (with references to external reviewers redacted).
  3. Candidate has one week to respond. Some response is required — anything from got it, read it, thank you, to offering corrections, responses, clarifications.
  • Candidate’s response included in package for full faculty and College Council



  1. Faculty have 10 days to review full package.
  1. Faculty meet, discuss, vote.
  2. Synopsis of this discussion provided to candidate.
  3. Candidate has one week to respond. Some response is required — same as earlier
  • Candidate’s response included in package for College Council
  1. Chair writes letter: includes faculty discussion and vote, and own assessment



  1. All materials assembled, copies made, delivered to the College (usually by October 15).
  • Master copy retained in dept.

A TPII Alum Gives a Commencement Address!

I am so pleased to share this Commencement Address given this year at the Ellis School, by one of the earliest TPII clients: Dr. Jessica Hammer. To see someone I worked with go from applying for her first job to delivering a commencement address… well, it makes me feel all… verklempt!

My favorite line? “My lab has rules like, ‘we cheer for rejected papers, because it means you were ambitious.’”

Jessica Hammer is an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, jointly appointed in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Entertainment Technology Center. She combines game design with qualitative and quantitative research techniques to understand how games impact human behavior. In 2018, she won Carnegie Mellon University’s Teaching Innovation award for her work improving game design education. She also is an award-winning game designer.


The Ellis School Commencement Address 2018

Good evening everyone, and thank you so much for inviting me to speak to you tonight. Congratulations to the Class of 2018! Congratulations as well to your family and friends. I’m sure they are all very proud of you tonight.

As Ellis students, I know that you have worked hard over the past four years, and that you have many accomplishments under your belts. From robotics to journalism, from social justice to visual arts, your passions and interests are wide-ranging. I hope you also had some fun. I say that speaking as a game designer. If you’re not having fun, I’m out of a job.

Let me tell you a little bit about what I do. I’m a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and my research area is games and play. That means I make games, I study games, and I teach game design. In particular, I work on games that transform the way players think, feel, and behave. In just the last year, I’ve worked on games that help kids be more curious about science, games that help families talk more honestly about mental health, and games that teach players about women’s history.

Games aren’t a panacea for every problem, but in the right context, they can be transformational. For example, in our daily lives we usually want to eliminate obstacles, so that we can complete tasks more easily. In games, we do the reverse. We create rules that make it harder for us to accomplish the goals of the game, and then we celebrate playing by them. Imagine basketball with the hoop lying on the ground, hopscotch where walking is permitted, or a permanently invulnerable Mario. Even if it would be easier to achieve the goals of these games, they’d be a lot less fun. Games change our attitude toward rules, and mastering rules is a key skill for a game designer.

So, as you prepare to go out into the world, let me give you a game designer’s blessing.

First, may you know the rules.

Knowing the rules lets you play by them, and succeed. As a child, you are often told these rules explicitly. Do your homework. Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. As you get older, though, the rules will be more and more often left unspoken. What major should you choose? How can you meet new friends? When should you ask for promotion? Many people can give you advice about these questions, but few can articulate the hidden structures that shape what they tell you. To know the rules, you will need an analytic mind and a keen eye for observation, so that you can discover unspoken rules and puzzle out their effects.
Knowing how rules might affect you, though, is only half the battle. The novelist Anatole France wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.” A rule that has no practical effect on your life may have a profound and powerful effect on the lives of others. For example, in most of this country, it is legal to put someone in jail if they don’t pay municipal fines, like speeding tickets. For people with even a few hundred dollars in the bank, this might sound like a reasonable deterrent, since they always have the option of paying. But those who can’t pay end up in jail. This rule amounts to what the Civil Rights Corps calls wealth-based detention. Same rule, very different effects depending on who you are.

To truly know the rules, you will need the ability to listen closely and generously to the experiences of others, so that you can understand how rules play out for people who aren’t you. And you will need to know who you aren’t hearing, whose experiences with rules you don’t yet understand. Then, go and understand.

Second, may you break the rules.

Breaking the rules is a tough one. I’m sure you can all think of people who break rules because they’re selfish, or reckless, or because they think the rules don’t apply to them.

But breaking the rules can also be heroic. As educated young women, you are here today because of generations of rule-breakers. Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to graduate from medical school at a time when medical education was reserved for men. Grace Hopper, whose pioneering work on computer compilers still shapes our technology. Marsha P. Johnson, who fought for trans and gender-non-conforming women at Stonewall and beyond.

These women, and countless more like them, decided that society’s rules were unfair. They often faced harsh consequences for their rule-breaking. But, they opened the doors of male-only institutions and insisted that women be safe and free. They changed laws and standards of behavior. They insisted that all women be included in the gains some women made. They have made it possible for us to be here today, honoring your success and anticipating your bright future.

To break the rules, you will need wisdom and judgment, so that you can know when breaking the rules is necessary and when it is merely self-serving. And you will also need the courage to face the consequences. So, look around at your friends and family who are here today. These are the people who will help you cultivate wisdom, judgment, and courage, and who will stick with you when rule-breaking becomes necessary.

Third, may you make new rules.

Someday, each of you will hold power. That power might come with familiar external trappings: titles, money, status, prestige. It might come more quietly, with the realization that people look to you as a role model, or that you get to set the norms for behavior in your community of friends. No human being is all-powerful, but each of us has areas of power. It’s important to know what they are – because when you have power, you get to set the rules.

Every game designer knows that making rules is hard. Rules can be so complicated that no one can possibly follow them, or have unintended consequences, or that can be easily exploited. For example, in the game Ultima Online, it was illegal to steal someone else’s items. If you did, the town guards would attack you. But, it wasn’t illegal to pick up items from the ground – even if those items had been stolen a moment before. When players realized this, some people started pairing up for a life of crime. One player would use a throwaway character to steal items and drop them on the ground, and the other would pick them up. Eventually, the throwaway character would be attacked by the guards, while the partner walked away clean with the loot. So, getting the rules right can be pretty important.

Because people react to rules in unexpected ways, it’s often hard to tell whether new rules work until you try them out. Testing rules in a game is relatively easy. Write a rulebook or some code, and invite people to play. But testing rules outside of games is a lot harder – especially when you’re thinking inclusively about how rules affect people differently based on their life experience. You will need to be alert to unexpected consequences, and you will need the humility to live with being wrong on a regular basis.

Even though it means being wrong a lot, I think that the game design approach to rules is worthwhile, and I’d like to share a story from my life about what it can look like in practice.

When I went to college, I followed the rules. My father told me to take a computer science class, so I signed up for one. When it finished, I figured I’d take the next course, but I wasn’t sure I had enough experience. I decided to meet with the professor and get some advice about what to do. “No,” he told me. “You’re not ready for this class.” At that moment, I had a choice. I could follow the rules, and forget about computer science. Or, I could ignore the professor and take the class anyways.

You can probably guess what I decided to do.

Because of that decision, I ended up switching my major to computer science. But, I also paid attention to the experiences of women around me who couldn’t afford to risk breaking the rules, or who broke them less successfully. I promised myself that someday, I’d see that they didn’t have to break the rules to succeed.

Today I run an interdisciplinary lab at Carnegie Mellon University, where we blend computer science, social science, and game design. In my lab, I’m in charge, and the rules I make are designed to help everyone succeed. For example, academia is a high-pressure environment where rates of anxiety and depression far exceed the norm. These issues are systemic. Individuals who struggle with mental health can do things to look after themselves, like find a therapist or practice self-care. But those individual choices don’t affect things like the culture of overwork, or the pressure to always perform at your best.

It takes a system to beat a system. So, my lab has rules like “We cheer for rejected papers, because it means you were ambitious,” and “If you are working hard to hit a deadline, schedule extra time off afterward.” The day I found one of my graduate students advising an undergraduate about taking enough time off, I knew the rules were working.

These kinds of decisions may sound impossibly small in a world full of systems that need fixing. But I believe that by building equitable, accessible micro-cultures where we are able, we can inspire others to do the same, even if they haven’t yet mastered the work of rules. I believe that by practicing every chance we get, we can train ourselves to be responsible with power. And I believe that every life we change along the way matters.

So, may you know the rules, may you break the rules, and may you make new rules. And most of all, may you have fun doing it.



A Provost Leaves Academia, Part II – #Postac Guest Post Series

Dr. Terri Givens is a consultant in higher ed, and soon to be former provost at Menlo College. She has been a professor at the University of Washington and University of Texas at Austin, and is the proud mother of two teenage boys.


KK:  I encountered Dr. Givens’ story of imminent #postac departure on social media and immediately asked her if she’d be willing to share thoughts of her transition with us. She generously agreed, and this is her first of several posts. I encourage you to click through all of her links, especially on the theme of mental illness and higher ed.


As I discussed in my previous post, my journey to leaving academia began many years ago, when I realized that I would never be valued the way that I should be. I could give everything I had, and it wouldn’t matter. In fact, I had given everything I had, started new programs and majors, been a successful research and teacher, involved in the community, everything a university should want in a faculty member and leader. But it became very clear to me, that as a black woman, I would never be rewarded the way that my white male colleagues were for just doing the minimum. I went for 6 years without a pay raise and had minimal support for my research. Academia is not designed to reward those who don’t fit into a particular profile.

However, I did make it to provost once I left my previous institution and my next logical step should have been to become a college president. Having seen the life of several college presidents up close, it was clear to me that the job can be even harder than being a provost. You have to take responsibility for everything that happens under you, whether you knew about it or not, you have to raise tons of money, and you have to work with a board of trustees that in my case, would likely only tolerate me, because I’m a black female.

I also know that my desire to be politically active is inconsistent with the constraints that both a provost and a president must deal with. I have been a news junkie from the time I was old enough to sit in front of a TV. I grew up obsessed with network news and looked forward to the Democratic convention every four years – one of my favorite childhood memories is of watching Barbara Jordan speak at the Watergate hearings and at the Democratic National Convention. I also have fond memories of knocking on doors with my sisters to campaign for George McGovern. So, it is not surprising that I chose political science when it came time to choose a major.

One of the unfortunate truths about being an academic, particularly in my field of political science, is that it is hard to be politically active or to address current events in one’s writing. My research had to be empirical and objective. That didn’t keep me from studying topics that others considered on the fringes of the field, i.e., immigration, populism, antidiscrimination policy, which are all of a sudden considered important. I did manage to find ways to incorporate some forms of activism into my research. I worked with organizations like the German Marshall Fund that were working to develop young leaders from minority groups on both sides of the Atlantic. I also work very hard to provide clear facts about immigration policy both in the U.S. and Europe.

It is true that the opportunities for public scholarship have improved greatly, but I will feel much more comfortable about being outspoken regarding current issues when I’m no longer in an institution that frowns on such actions. I have felt even more constrained when I have been in administrative positions where the things that I say may be construed as official positions of the college. It will take me a while to develop the muscles that will allow me to be more vocal, and to figure out how I want to use the platform that I have in a positive way.

I have been on twitter for several years and have slowly developed a following. I am clearly on the side of the #Resistance and have promoted movements related to the murder of Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter, Gun Sense and the Women’s March. I have used my personal blog to discuss relevant political issues, and I hope to expand on that going forward. Current events with the rise of populism, anti-immigrant sentiment and racism are pushing me to move toward the front lines to fight for the future of my boys. We are in a critical historical moment, and I want to believe in the words of Martin Luther King that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” but it can’t do that without some help from those of us who believe in equal justice for all. I know that I can do a better job of this outside of academia.

Photo credit, Dwayne Hills, Sr.,



#MakeupMonday: A Complete Look From Start to Finish

1) Illuminating primer (LW; Becca)

The biggest thing I’ve learned in makeup as a middle-aged person is that skillful application and satisfying outcomes require a lot of small, incremental steps, rather than a few dramatic splashes. I’ve learned this both from watching Youtube videos, and from my own trial and error (mostly the latter). The fact is, to get a really excellent outcome, you have to build up through almost imperceptible stages; only when you compare the before and after is the true transformation visible.

2) Undereye primer (LW; Becca) and foundation (Becca AquaLuminous)

I thought I’d share that today, by sharing one complete process. This is a more “made up” look for an event or appearance, although even then I use very sheer coverage foundation and no concealers, because I dislike anything cakey or overly “covered”-looking. My freckles stay visible! Start to finish, about 30 minutes. My more daily looks skip a few steps like undereye primer, highlighter and finishing powder, and take about 15 minutes. As always, no filters! I’m happy to answer questions about the products–please put them on FB (see below).

One thing about my process is that several products are totally invisible, and exist only to boost functionality–in my case, extreme long-wear, which is my number one makeup criterion. I will mark those products with “(LW).” Because of primers and finishers (and the LW products I exclusively use), my makeup doesn’t budge even in a 12 hour day.

And remember: Comment substantively on the FB thread to be included in a drawing for a packet of samples! Because of my savvy online shopping skillz, all of my orders come with at least 3 and usually 5 or more samples. I generally pass these right along to you, my faithful reader-commenters! Just leave a comment on FB and I’ll pick someone at random next Monday.  (And, sorry I forgot my Makeup Monday post last week!  We were visiting my son at his residential program in Utah and I was completely occupied. It was a wonderful visit! 🙂  )

3) Foundation blended, eyelid primer (LW; Tarte ShapeTape) applied

4) Contouring applied (nose, cheeks, jawline; Kevin Aucoin)

5) Contouring blended

6) Eyeshadow (3 shades; Smashbox PhotoOp Palette) [weird face from checking shadow symmetry!]

7) Eyeliner (Smashbox PhotoOp), lash primer (LW; Clinique), mascara (Eyeko Sport)

8) Blush (while “making cheeks”; Hourglass Ambient Blush in Mood Exposure – also a new holy grail item)

9) Brows (Beauty Bakerie)

11) Finishing Powder (LW; Becca HydraMist-I’m a new convert!*)

12) Lipcolor (Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Syruptitious)

13) Blush top-off, highlighter (YSL Touche Eclat under eyes and around mouth) [ignore shift in color tone]

14) Final blend, setting spray (LW; NYX in Dewy) and…earrings!

15) Hair fixed (Keune Blend Volume Powder and American Crew Fiber) [overhead light turned off on way out]

16) Pleased with results 🙂

Remember “Before”!

Out in my usual living room selfie location (for comparison)

*Becca Hydra-Mist Set and Refresh Powder. This is a new holy grail product for me. It’s getting a whole post. So is my to-die-for blush, the outcome of a full two years of searching (not kidding): Hourglass Ambient in Mood Exposure.

**Happy to share hair product info if you’re interested. LMK.  OK–added.