Monday, October 31, 2016

Who Are the Adults in Your Rooms?

“What do you want, Burr
What do you want, Burr
What do you want, Burr
What do you want….

…I wanna be in the room where it happens…”

from Hamilton, “The Room Where it Happens”

I’ve been noticing my rooms for decades now.
How many women? What is the age/stage distribution?
Are there any people of color (sadly in my area of academia there are rarely many)
Who is the senior woman? (increasingly it’s me)

In a departmental seminar:
How many faculty vs. grad students? How many undergrads?
Who is paying attention, who is not?

If we’re there to make decisions:
Who speaks; who listens? Who is not paying attention?
Who can be community minded? Who is often self-centered?
Who brings in evidence to make arguments? who makes emotional arguments?

Lately the question is:
Who are the adults in the room?

I have learned a lot from watching the adults in my rooms. The adult pays attention and is reasonable and wise. The adult elevates the conversation and helps prevent the group from making bad decisions. If there is bad behavior, the adult will say “that behavior is not acceptable here”. 

I find myself thinking lately about how even a small faculty meeting is a microcosm of our larger political environment, and how my segregated rooms mirror the segregation of the world.

My jobs are to work to widen the doors to the rooms and to be the adult when I am inside.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Transition Year Questions

This year marks a transition between major life stages.

 Our son is a high school senior this year, and likely off to college next year at this time. I have no idea how my husband and I did it, but somehow we have been the launchpad engineers for almost 20 years of daily adventures and misadventures.

Has time gone by quickly and slowly and every rate in between?
Has it been fun? exhausting? hilarious? frustrating? happy? miserable? educational?
Are we satisfied? unsatisfied?
Yes to it all.
We are also now middle-aged.

This year I want to tie up hundreds of my dangling threads and also think about what's next:

More adventures?
Still adventures?
Scientific accomplishment?

Making the world a better place?

Political engagement?

When I left engineering for geoscience, I remember knowing I wanted to be a “scientist, writer, teacher, mother” and that is pretty much exactly what I have been doing for ~25 years.

Now I have more questions than declarations.

I need a mantra (or do I?) for the next 25. Compassion, connection, tikkun olam.  Something like that. But also do I want to develop my leadership skills? Leadership is just creatively helping people be the best they can be. In other words, bringing out the best in people. Yes—I would like to learn how to do that better.

I also want to write more. And in writing more, write better.  And share more of my writing, including some of my personal writing.