New beginnings

Almost 9 years ago,  I arrived in Iowa City as a fresh-faced new assistant professor, just off my post-doc and simultaneously amazingly excited and horrifically terrified at what I’d gotten myself into. After several false starts and a rough few years both personally and professionally, I found my footing and my niche, and the last 5 years have been intellectually fulfilling. I went through the tenure/promotion process largely unscathed and have amazing students and colleagues. There really isn’t much more I could ask for…

…except. As many of you know all too well, the academic life tends to be a nomadic one, and all too often this leaves us in new places without family close by. This is tough on many levels. Child care concerns are exacerbated without a grandparent or other relative to assist (especially when conference travel is involved and the traveler is a single parent); elder care is a difficult thing to do long-distance, and guilt can be massive when family members are ailing and you’re hundreds of miles away. Given the hours most academics work, juggling the conflicting factors–family and professional work–are often enormously difficult. Adding in a partner who’s also an academic adds yet another dimension of messiness, particularly in an area where there are limited options for college/university employment. Though we’ve been together for 7 years, the past two have been spent working at different universities in adjoining states and only seeing each other on the weekends–not exactly optimal.

As such, a bit over a year ago my partner and I started looking for employment options beyond Iowa. We were both offered positions at Kent State University in Ohio, which is my native state. Over the past year, I’ve worked to get my lab ready for a move, graduate as many students as I can, help my paid employees transition to new positions, and wrap up my teaching duties. As of this week, I am officially an Associate Professor in the College of Public Health, Department of Biostatistics, Environmental Health Sciences & Epidemiology, while my partner is now in the Biology department. Those who follow me on Twitter also know that I am expecting my third child this winter, so things are going to be a bit crazy for awhile. Change is good, right? If only Kent State had a better team name than the Flashes…

Comments

  1. #1 Pat Gardiner
    United Kingdom
    August 22, 2013

    New beginnings are always really reinvigorating. Good Luck and enjoy the change.

    No Kent can be that bad!

    Mine, the original, is still a spring fantasia of apple and cherry blossom, edged by downland and high white cliffs.

    I look back with enormous nostalgia, and yet if I had not left life would have been dull and fulfilling. On revisit, I also see a landscape of changes that would have been hard to accept.

    You can only move on, and that is how it should be.

    Your new Kent was doubtless named by someone that left all behind them feeling half-guilty and uncertain, excited and worried. Life moves on.

    As I say, from a regular reader of your work – good luck

  2. #2 Pat Gardiner
    Once Kent
    August 22, 2013

    “Unfulfilling” of course!

  3. #3 Rebecca
    New Orleans
    August 23, 2013

    Congrats Tara! What wonderful news! My mentor and favorite professor at Tulane, Dr. Mark James, works at the College of Public Health there and I’m sure you’ll get a chance to meet with him shortly if you haven’t already. Best of luck in your new professional adventure and with your pregnancy!

  4. #4 Tara C. Smith
    August 23, 2013

    Rebecca, Mark is my boss! He’s chair of my department. Great guy from what I’ve seen so far.

  5. #5 RBH
    pandasthumb.org
    August 23, 2013

    Welcome back to Ahia, Tara. :)

  6. #6 mordicai
    Brooklyn.
    August 24, 2013

    Hey, my alma mater! It was many years ago, but I wormed my way into getting access to the botany greenhouse & the telescope, & if you can make friends that can get you in there, those are some nice spots. For drinking & dancing, Thursday’s Lounge in Akron was my favorite spot. I know a lot has changed; there used to be a neat little pump control station on an artificial island in the Cuyahoga but that is gone now. Hm. Memories drift in & outta my head…

  7. #7 Mark O. Martin
    United States
    August 26, 2013

    Tara, I am SO glad that things worked out. And of course, I wish you every good thing, especially about the new F1.

    When I needed to move, I was so lucky (much more than I deserve, I am well aware). My wife was willing to quit a tenured academic job, and told me that “things would work out.” I obsessed about what I was “costing her.” I am kind of negative by nature, and my wife is all optimistic (odd pairing, I know).

    Anyway, she suggested we turn down several possibilities that could have worked out for both of us because she thought my current job was the best fit for me. When we moved here she was Executive Director of the Association for Women in Mathematics, for which she traveled and telecommuted. And then, after two years, she was offered a tenured full professorship at the University of Washington-Tacoma.

    She said to me “I told you it would work out.” Sigh. Maybe for her. I have heard FAR too many darker tales of the “Two Body Problem.”

    Believe me, I *know* how hard this kind of thing really is (with all due respect to my Practically Perfect spouse). My situation and its resolution was rare. I am *SO* pleased things worked out for you!

    Best wishes, MM

  8. #8 Atif Kukaswadia
    www.MrEpidemiology.com
    October 23, 2013

    Congratulations Tara! All the best to you in your new position!

  9. #9 M Davis
    November 6, 2013

    Congratulations Tara!

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