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Which is your Priority: Research or Teaching?
August 10, 2010 - 10:00pm

For academics of a certain age, having many fine balancing acts to prioritize is our prerogative.

UVenus writers have blogged about the dilemmas of matching parenthood and work, working with both international and local students, and finding time for vacation and work. I am now facing yet another point of equilibrium: how do I make room for both research and teaching within the frame of my allotted working hours?

At the moment it feels as if I need an extra job (and perhaps an extra life) to be able to respond to the demands of research and publishing on one hand and prepare for teaching several courses on the other. During my summer vacation I should have been working on my book, due, as my editor kindly reminded me just the other day, on September 15. I have a conference paper in the works, and this has to be ready by the end of August. A book chapter should be on its way some time before the end of fall. And then of course there are the “smaller” articles, contributions and commentaries.

At the same time, I am coordinating two new programs that will be launched precisely one month from today, and thus am responsible for both the academic and the administrative structures associated with these new European Studies Bachelor and Master programs. I must respond to urgent student questions, must be in touch with other units at the university, want to participate in the welcoming of international students, need to prepare and schedule the Introduction Day, as well as oversee the entire schedule of classes and extracurricular activities and make sure that everything is done in accordance with the rules of the university bodies. Moreover, I have submitted literature lists and designed the best structure of lectures and seminars, planned guest speakers, and set up the exam calendar for these programs as well as for other courses that I will be teaching this autumn.

This sounds like a description of the best possible work plan in the world, doesn’t it?

I really love to work with international students, to create new and interesting courses, to introduce new techniques in my teaching, to give students a chance to listen to the great voices in our field by inviting international scholars of repute to give talks. I am also truly passionate about my research and I “see” the topics that interest me everywhere I go. I carry them with me not only as a part of my job but as a part of who I am. My mind is full of new research ideas all the time – the complexities of world politics, of European dynamics, or of collective identities offer constant opportunities to be puzzled over and academically stimulated by.

The problem is that I cannot seem to find room for these amounts of both teaching and research in my calendar. Something has to give. Last year I tried to keep it all under control and I ended up not seeing my family for more than 20 minutes a day, time when I was barely there, mentally speaking. It did not seem right. So I tried to cut away some pieces. But which ones? Is the firefighting strategy best: deal with the most burning issues first and leave others that do not “blaze” to wait? Or should I decide a priori that some issues are most important, some others are quite important and yet another category is important enough, and keep to these priorities regardless of the calls of “fire”?

I leave you to ponder these choices while I go to answer the email of another international student.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten writes from Lund, Sweden and is one of the founding members of the editorial collective at University of Venus.



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