• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Time to Write

A writing opportunity.


January 7, 2016

In Math and in Economics, the idea of “lower bound” and “upper bound” appear at important places. For example, lower and upper bounds are used in developing concepts in theoretical Mathematics, while in Economics, a person’s “reservation wage” can be thought of as the lower bound on what they are willing to be paid, should they decide to work for pay.

I found myself thinking of lower bounds recently when I realized that the start of a new year, a “lower bound”, of sorts, was upon me. This, however, is not just any new beginning to a semester, as I will be on sabbatical leave this semester, writing and doing research that teaching a full schedule does not always allow me the time to do. A few weeks ago, my daughter asked me what my New Year’s resolutions were, and the best I could tell her is that I will be writing and revising.

Eight years ago, soon after the publication of the book “Mama, Ph.D.”, I was approached by the editors of that book who asked me if I would be willing to write a blog column in Inside Higher Ed on a regular basis. At the time, I was beginning my first sabbatical at Ursuline, and declined the opportunity, saying that I needed to focus on the research agenda I had set out for myself. And so, for that semester, I worked on a collection of articles, until I had written all that I had promised the selection committee, and then some. With the publication of those articles, I was able to earn promotion to Full Professor, something that I could not imagine for myself only ten years earlier, as I had struggled with the tenure process at my first academic job.

Being awarded the promotion to Full Professor left me with an odd sense of being afloat in an ocean with no light houses to guide me. I had successfully made the transition from school to professional, and now faced the end of that clear path that was set out for those taking that route. What was I to do now?

Even as I pondered what direction my life would take next, the people from “Mama, Ph.D.” contacted me again, asking me if, since my sabbatical was over, I would now be interested in writing a blog column for Inside Higher Ed. It seems that another blogger needed to move on, and an opening was therefore available. Did I want it? With only a few second thoughts (how much time would it take?), I said “yes.” My students helped me come up with the name of “Math Geek Mom” and so, here I am.

I find myself remembering that decision as I begin another sabbatical this semester. By now, I have developed a “rhythm” in writing my blogs, so I am no longer afraid that writing them will take away from my other endeavors. However, it is not the interaction of my blogging and my research that worries me now, because this time, I have an entirely different project to work on. While I do plan on writing one Economics paper, this sabbatical I will primarily be working with my co-author to produce a second edition to a text book (with the original authors) that we have both used in our graduate classes in Nonprofit Economics. What worries me this time is that this is an entirely new area of work for me.

While it is assumed that those in the humanities will turn their dissertation into a book, this is not the case for Economics. We are, instead, expected to write journal articles. Indeed, I have never written a book, other than for fun, and I am not sure how to approach this revision. My initial plan is for us to take one chapter each week and work on it, but I know that plans do not always work out as expected. And so, I want to ask my readers for any suggestions you might have for me. Have you ever written or revised a text book, and, if so, what advice might you be able to give me as I set off into unfamiliar terrain?



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