Mama PhD

Mama PhD

Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

April 18, 2013 - 7:49pm
There is a concept in math in which we describe a “supporting line.” Such a line is a line that lies entirely on one side of a set. This idea is most often found in geometry, but also has uses in theoretical economics, especially as it relates to game theory. When I think of such a line, I often remember Boston College, where I went to graduate school. Its main campus may be found entirely on one side of a main road, Commonwealth Avenue.
April 17, 2013 - 9:32pm
The other day I was reading to my children the book Ish by Peter Reynolds. It is the story of a boy who becomes frustrated with his artistic ability until he learns that his work does not need to be perfect, just good enough. My children love this book as well as another one like it called The OK Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, which is about a stick figure OK who informs its readers that it is fine to not be great at everything they do.
April 15, 2013 - 8:29pm
Almost five years ago I wrote my first blog post for Inside Higher Ed. At the time I had a daughter about to graduate from high school, and a son just finishing elementary school. While my child care needs were vastly different from those of my colleagues with children in pre-school, still in many ways I planned my days and my semesters around my children’s schedules. In that first post, I noted the many things I no longer needed as an academic parent—“a lactation room, on-site daycare, or reduced work hours to be with an infant . . .. a referral to a good nanny, or a preschool that's open in the summer, or help installing a carseat.”
April 14, 2013 - 2:35pm
For obvious reasons, it is not possible to rehearse an improv show. However, my class had the equivalent of the dress rehearsal for our 4-show musical improv run last night, racing through three back-to-back 25-minute improvised musical comedies.
April 11, 2013 - 7:16pm
One man leaves New York going West at 100 mph. Another leaves Chicago going East at 120 mph. Where do they meet? The answer is, of course, jail, since they are both driving much too fast. This joke occasionally shows up as a “free” problem on my math exams, and typically draws groans when the students learn the answer. However, it also reminds me of some very fond memories of times spent with my mother working either algebra or geometry problems during the years I was in school.
April 10, 2013 - 8:54pm
The film world was busy this week mourning the loss of two “mountains”—documentary filmmaker Les Blank and film critic Roger Ebert.  They will both be remembered for highlighting work about women, blacks, Cajuns, “crackers,” Mexicans, Yugoslavs—subjects and filmmakers who are too often ignored and forgotten by mainstream media.   Both men have inspired me in my own filmmaking and teaching.
April 7, 2013 - 2:35pm
As recorded here last week, my extended family recently traveled to Ireland. The trip, especially the Belfast portion, was deeply moving, disturbing and important to us all, given our family's history of disowning and abandoning members because of religious differences. And being in Ireland over Easter weekend — a pivotal time in the history of Irish Republicanism — reinforced our feeling that our family's history was a valid part of a much larger story.
April 4, 2013 - 8:52pm
One would think that an economist who teaches math, including one math class that teaches the statistical program SPSS, would be very knowledgeable about how computers work. Alas, that is not actually the case. While I use computer programs to do my research, and write SAS and Fortran programs to do so, the actual workings of the computers that I depend on are still quite a mystery to me. My father was an electrical engineer, and therefore had more of a sense of how these mysterious boxes turned what are basically “on” and “off” switches into the tools that make my life possible. I, however, went to college in the final years before the personal computer became a fixture in our homes, and had very little education as to how they work. Much of my early research was done on mainframes (either locally or remotely), and I still find myself with a sense of ignorance about personal computers.
April 3, 2013 - 8:52pm
As I was cleaning out the refrigerator the other day, I was reminded of Arlie Hochschild’s The Second Shift, which describes the extra burden of work that falls to women once they are at home. Then, it occurred to me that, because I was cleaning out the office refrigerator (who leaves vanilla frosting and a stick of margarine in a communal refrigerator anyway?), this work was a part of my first shift, even though it appears nowhere in my job description. This made me wonder whether women face not only extra work at home but also hidden tasks throughout their workday.
April 2, 2013 - 8:00pm
Every once in a while I have the chance to put together a new lecture on a topic I find so compelling, it’s difficult to know what information to leave out.  These days I’m putting together a series of biodiversity lectures and hands-on activities for a course I’m teaching next month, and planning these is like eating candy, they’re such a treat.  I’m especially giddy about the chance to talk about bird diversity, as much for my own interest as for the chance to look at lectures from years back with fresh eyes.




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