FACULTY JOBS

A professor explains why he asks not to be called a teacher (essay)

Teaching Today

The term carries a set of connotations that most college-level instructors would just as soon not have attributed to them, argues Alexander H. Bolyanatz.

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Advice for graduate students on presentation skills (essay)

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Being able to give an effective presentation is essential to your career success, writes Christine Kelly, who provides six pointers on how to do so.

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Dealing with discrimination as a black faculty member (essay)

KC Williams speaks to any black faculty member who has ever felt imposed upon or discriminated against for reasons having nothing to do with their abilities.

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The graduate student as admissions recruiter (essay)

Lauren Michele Jackson explores what role graduate students -- especially minority women students -- play in their program’s recruitment efforts.

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We need systematic research about the humanities not just in them (essay)

Consider two seemingly disparate sets of circumstances. On the one side, society faces an array of grand challenges: climate change and food security, clean and efficient energy, social justice and immigration, and the guarding of democratic norms in a time of social transformation. On the other side, in the most marginal corner of academe, are the disciplines that make up the humanities. They confront their own daunting set of problems: declining prestige and funding, marketization and casualization of the work force, disruptive technological innovations (e.g., MOOCs), and growing political hostility. But what if addressing the first set of issues turns in part on the reformation of the second?

Social problems today are typically defined in technical -- that is, scientific and economic -- terms. But as the recent election has shown, human affairs turn as much (or more!) on humanistic questions of social responsibility and cultural norms. The situation is rich with irony: humanistic issues may be omnipresent, but the academics who have studied these issues are marginal players in the debates. Humanistic disciplines live a cloistered existence, and humanists are ill positioned to participate in societal debates in practical ways. They have spent decades living within the disciplinary warrens of the academy, even while they could have performed a wide range of roles in practical contexts. But this contradiction also represents an opportunity: working out how to better inhabit social roles should constitute a new research program in the humanities.

Granted, criticisms of the humanities have spawned a large collection of books and articles. And we’ve read an equally large set of replies. But what’s remarkable is that while such works have offered pointed critique and spirited rejoinder, they have not spurred the creation of an organized response. One searches in vain -- in America, at least; Europe has made more headway in this regard -- for systematic, institutional efforts on the part of researchers to imagine a viable future for the humanities.

Yes, dozens of centers for humanities research are scattered across the academic landscape. These centers do important work on a wide range of topics -- interdisciplinary research on memory and identity, societal norms and cultural transformation, power structures and postcolonial urbanism. And the insights generated do eventually trickle out into our public life. But programmatically, this work consists of research in the humanities -- or perhaps topical research at the intersection of the humanities and the sciences -- rather than research on or about the humanities. What’s missing is the recursive move, where humanists think about and test an expanded range of responses to the pressures posed by our techno-scientific and neoliberal age.

Now, this could be the job of professional societies. Some of them, like the Modern Language Association, have done a better job than others in addressing issues of job placement and nonacademic employment. But none have committed significant financial or intellectual resources toward the question of whether such troubles call for the examination of a larger set of issues -- in particular, whether we need to develop alternatives to the current disciplinary model of knowledge in the humanities.

Under the disciplinary model, humanists have primarily written for their academic peers: philosophers write for philosophers, and poets for other poets -- and they all write for their graduate students, of course. That is all well and good, but isn’t something more possible? Scientists and engineers work not only in academe but also in the public and private sectors. Why shouldn’t epistemologists, historians and narrativists?

Neither humanities centers nor professional societies have launched a coordinated effort at reimagining the social possibilities of the humanities in the 21st century. Nor, for that matter, is it easy to find any humanities departments that have chosen to structure their programs around training humanists for positions in the public or private sectors. Instead, the 20th-century status quo has continued into the 21st century, whereby academics in the humanities have only two recognized functions: 1) the cultivation of disciplinary expertise through research and 2) the passing down of a cultural legacy through teaching.

We can all point to the exceptions: Peter Singer and Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West and Louis Menand are both researchers and public intellectuals. But such scholars form a set of one-offs, rooted in individual effort, rather than being the outcome of an institutional effort to expand the models for humanistic research. We can also point to a wide range of commerce, from Hollywood to advertising to the gaming industry, where humanities graduates make use of their education. But in the main, humanists have relied upon a trickle-down model of humanistic scholarship. We do our work for disciplinary peers, hoping that, in time, it will eventually disseminate throughout culture. How this happens we do not know, for we have not made a study of the question of how broader societal impact occurs.

This status quo approach is sustainable at Harvard University, where a $36 billion endowment shields it from external pressures and hard choices. (The 2013 Harvard report on the humanities "The Heart of the Matter" avoids questions about the viability of the institutional status quo, where humanities research is overwhelmingly directed toward the interests of disciplinary experts.) But outside a small circle of elite institutions, the humanities are threatened by the loss of public support and funding. Humanities programs at nonflagship state institutions are particularly vulnerable, but as we’ve seen recently in Wisconsin, even Big Ten schools are under threat.

And so humanists have a choice. They can accept the institutional status quo, teaching their classes and conducting research in their specialties while hoping that reorganization and consolidation do not overtake their lives. Or they can try to take at least limited control of their future by rethinking the basic societal assumptions underlying the humanities. The latter implies the development of a theoretically robust and rhetorically sensitive philosophy of the humanities, where the nature, roles and institutional homes of the humanities are reconceived -- both within the 21st-century research university and across society. It is this task that should lead to the establishment of institutes on the future of the humanities.

Deeply rooted biases stand in the way of any such effort. In the first instance, any true reformation of the humanities calls for a transdisciplinary approach, where one acknowledges the needs and perspectives of stakeholders and policy makers. Humanists, however, rebel at the implied loss of autonomy where they might be subject to the demands of others. Second, there’s the question of timeline: making nonacademics part of ongoing deliberations will challenge the academic’s schedule of work. Humanists move at their own stately pace, in 7,000-word essays and 200-page books, while the wider world expects products in briefer formats and on spec.

In contrast to both the natural and social sciences, humanists have traditionally had only two roles: teaching and research. Having grown up and been successful within this environment, it’s a lot to expect of humanists to upset their own theoretical and institutional apple cart. And finally, add to these challenges the dreaded specter of “selling out.” Any diminution of disciplinary purity raises concerns that humanists have simply given in to market pressures.

But if we can overcome -- or better yet, theorize -- such hurdles, a number of new social roles are possible for humanists. In fact, in an era when knowledge production has become ubiquitous, the humanities could once again become a core university function, the place of intersection between the academy and society, functioning as translators and integrators within the political economy of knowledge.

To get a sense of the larger possibilities here, consider the current focus on innovation. Innovation is usually defined in terms of economic and technological advance, but surely many of the most important changes in our lives over the last 40 years have occurred in the cultural sphere -- in areas such as women’s and LGBT rights, which have profoundly changed both our political and economic lives. Society has already de facto defined innovation in humanist categories as well as techno-scientific ones; humanists could make the process more self-conscious, helping public agencies identify new types of liberatory practice.

A few of us have come to call such an approach “field philosophy.” Field philosophy departs from applied philosophy through its engaged manner of excavating, articulating, discussing and assessing the philosophical dimensions of real-world policy problems. But the point here, rather than advocating for a particular approach, is to prompt general efforts toward identifying the varied roles that the humanities can play in 21st-century society.

For instance, an institute on the future of the humanities could:

  • Identify instances of success and failure in efforts to bring humanistic insights to non-academic audiences, such as STEM researchers and policy makers in the public realm, and in corporations in the private realm;
  • Develop techniques, approaches and perspectives -- that is, best practices -- for facilitating the transfer of useful insights to outside audiences; and
  • Promote interdisciplinary projects with the STEM disciplines, as well as with schools of business, education and the like across the academy, as well as transdisciplinary projects with policy makers, NGOs, businesses and community groups within wider society.

Yes, some of this work is already being done at humanities centers and institutes, but not in a sufficiently focused and explicit way. A dedicated institute would function as a think tank for conducting research on the humanities themselves, their present condition and future possibilities. This also implies the development of a team approach to humanities research, something similar to the increasingly prevalent process of team science across the STEM disciplines.

As a representative sample, humanist research teams could:

  • explore the historical development of the humanities;
  • question whether the humanities should be viewed as “disciplines” at all;
  • re-evaluate the role of rhetoric in humanistic education;
  • theorize the problem of “dirty hands,” so that we can distinguish between judicious compromise and “selling out”;
  • pursue challenges and opportunities tied to the continuing development of digital culture;
  • rethink criteria for -- and alternatives to -- tenure and promotion;
  • develop new indicators of success and impact for humanities scholarship;
  • explore the seconding of humanities professors to other departments;
  • create lab courses and internships for humanities students (undergraduate and graduate); and
  • identify new institutional locations for the humanities -- e.g., storefronts at local shopping malls.

To say it once again: such work is being done already in a variety of venues -- but not in a self-conscious and organized fashion.

Creating the kind of institute described here would require a risk-taking university provost or president -- or, as is increasingly the case in poorly funded times, an outside angel who believes in the relevance of the humanities. But the times call for nothing less. The future of the humanities is too crucial to our common future not to be given the same type of scholarly care that we now devote to our disciplinary specialties.

Robert Frodeman teaches in the department of philosophy and religion at the University of North Texas. He is an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Oxford University Press, 2017) and co-author with Adam Briggle of Socrates Tenured: The Institutions of 21st-Century Philosophy (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2016).

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A liberal education includes learning from people with whom one disagrees (essay)

I was horrified reading the latest diktat on immigration from an administration blown into power by the winds of intolerance and resentment. President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States is an exercise in cynical obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.

The obfuscation begins early on with the linking of this crackdown to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 when, as has been pointed out by many commentators, those responsible for those attacks had no connections to the countries targeted by this order. The bigotry of the decree closing our borders to refugees from these seven countries is most evident in the exception it makes for religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.

The hard-heartedness of the executive order is unmistakable. Desperate families who have been thoroughly vetted for months have had their dreams of a safe haven in America shattered. Students, scientists, artists and businesspeople who have played by the immigration rules to ensure that they have secure passage to and from the United States now find themselves in limbo. Colleges and universities that attract and depend on international talent will be weakened. So much for the so-called respect for law of an administration that has made a point of promising to crack down on undocumented children brought over the Mexican border by their parents.

Eighteen months ago I solicited ideas from Wesleyan alumni, faculty members, students and staff members as to what a small liberal arts institution like ours could do in the face of the momentous human tragedy unfolding around the world. We discussed the many ideas we received on our campus and with leaders of other institutions. The steps we took were small ones, appropriate to the scale of our institution. Working with the Scholars at Risk program, we welcomed a refugee scholar from Syria to participate in one of our interdisciplinary centers. We created internships for students who wanted to work at refugee sites in the Middle East or assist local effort at resettlement. We began working with the Institute of International Education to bring a Syrian student to Wesleyan. And, perhaps most important, we redoubled our efforts to educate the campus about the genesis and development of the crisis.

In the last few months, I have traveled to China and India to talk about the benefits of pragmatic liberal education, and in both countries I saw extraordinary enthusiasm for coming to America to pursue a broad, contextual education that will develop the student’s capacity to learn from diverse sets of sources. Since returning, I’ve already received questions from anxious international students and their parents about whether we will continue to welcome people from abroad who seek a first-rate education. Students outside the United States are often fleeing educational systems with constraints on inquiry and communication; they are rejecting censorship and premature specialization, and they are looking to us. Will they continue to do so?

Here at home we must resist orchestrated parochialism of all kinds. A liberal education includes deepening one’s ability to learn from people with whom one doesn’t agree, but the politics of resentment sweeping across our country is substituting demonization for curiosity. Without tolerance and open-mindedness, inquiry is just a path to self-congratulation at best, violent scapegoating at worst.

With this latest executive order, the White House has provided colleges and universities the occasion to teach our students more thoroughly about the vagaries of refugee aid from wealthy, developed countries that are themselves in political turmoil. The new administration has also unwittingly provided lessons in the tactics of scapegoating and distraction traditionally used by strongmen eager to cement their own power. There are plenty of historical examples of how in times of crisis leaders make sweeping edicts without regard to human rights or even their own legal traditions.

Our current security crisis has been manufactured by a leadership team eager to increase a state of fear and discrimination in order to bolster its own legitimacy. The fantasy of the need for “extreme vetting” is a noxious mystification created by a weak administration seeking to distract citizens from attending to important economic, political and social issues. Such issues require close examination with a patient independence of mind and a respect for inquiry that demands rejection of falsification and obfuscation.

As the press is attacked with increasing vehemence for confronting the administration with facts, universities have a vital role to play in helping students understand the importance of actual knowledge about the world -- including the operations of politics. To play that role well, universities must be open to concerns and points of view from across the ideological spectrum -- not just from those who share conventional professorial political perspectives. At Wesleyan, we have raised funds to bring more conservative faculty to campus so that our students benefit from a greater diversity of perspectives on matters such as international relations, economic development, the public sphere and personal freedom. Refusing bigotry should be the opposite of creating a bubble of ideological homogeneity.

As I write this op-ed, demonstrators across the country are standing up for the rights of immigrants and refugees. They recognize that being horrified is not enough, and they are standing up for the rule of law and for traditions of decency and hospitality that can be perfectly compatible with national security.

America’s new administration is clearly eager to set a new direction. As teachers and students, we must reject intimidation and cynicism and learn from these early proclamations and the frightening direction in which they point. Let us take what we learn and use it to resist becoming another historical example of a republic undermined by the corrosive forces of obfuscation, bigotry and hard-heartedness.

Michael S. Roth is president of Wesleyan University and author, most recently, of Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters.

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Exploring faculty experiences with incivility to help deal with it (essay)

To deal with incivility in higher education, faculty members must move beyond seeking solutions to every case they encounter and consider the larger forces driving it, writes Courtney N. Wright.

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How faculty members and administrators can help immigrant students (essay)

Several days ago, President Trump issued an executive order barring immigrants and nonimmigrant visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States -- significantly impacting many students and scholars. This follows on the heels of two other executive orders focused on immigration enforcement and border security that he signed last week, which froze refugee admissions and called for the immediate construction of a wall along the southwestern border of the country.

In addition, the president has ordered federal immigration enforcement agencies to increase efforts to deport undocumented immigrants with criminal records, called for the construction of additional detention facilities and restored the controversial “secure communities” program that compelled state and local law enforcement officials to collaborate with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to enforce federal immigration law.

None of the recent executive orders concerned the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, initiated by President Obama in 2012, which provides a two-year protection from deportation and employment authorization to select undocumented youth and young adults, many of whom are enrolled in our colleges and universities. However, Trump’s aggressive approach to immigration enforcement and his characterization of unauthorized immigrants as “a significant threat to national security and public safety” has already begun to cause upheaval and hardship within immigrant communities -- and this will inevitably have a negative impact on undocumented students, as well as on U.S. citizen and permanent resident students from mixed-status families. Moreover, despite White House statements promising a more nuanced approach to DACA recipients, fears that the new administration may still rescind DACA are not without basis.

In anticipation of the Trump administration’s promises to target the U.S.’s approximately 11 million undocumented residents, over the past few months, campuses nationwide have developed sanctuary statements or issued declarations in support of educational access for all students, regardless of their immigration status. In the past few days, campuses are also now scrambling to provide emergency legal advice and services to faculty members and students from “barred” Muslim nations who, although visa holders, are confronting difficulties returning to America following authorized travel abroad. In many cases, campuses are advising those faculty and student members -- even those who are U.S. permanent residents, and all of whom have already been through extensive vetting during the visa application process -- to avoid leaving the country until the precise parameters of the new immigration enforcement directives are determined.

No one knows with certainty what policies the Trump administration will implement, or what impact they will have in the long term on faculty members and students who have immigrated legally to the United States from barred Muslim nations. What is certain is that undocumented students and students from mixed-status families will also face increased challenges under this new presidential administration. It has long been difficult for such student to earn money, drive legally, travel and afford college tuition. Without clear pathways to legalization, many also experience anxiety about their futures. These are not new problems, but in light of the White House’s recent orders, our undocumented students will face even greater obstacles to their academic success and well-being.

While most university faculty, staff and administrators may not be in a position to directly influence federal immigration law or enforcement priorities, we do have the ability -- indeed, we would argue, the responsibility -- to mediate the impact of immigration policies on undocumented students. As immigration scholars and engaged teachers who work closely with undocumented students, we offer the following suggestions for faculty and administrators to consider.

Be aware of the wide range of people affected by proposed changes to immigration policy. About a fifth of the undocumented residents in the United States are youth and young adults who arrived in America as children, and an additional 16.6 million people live in mixed-status families where at least one member is undocumented. It is important to recognize that anticipated changes to immigration policies will impact not only undocumented students but also permanent resident students concerned about their undocumented parents, relatives, friends and community members. These issues affect individuals from a wide range of ethnic, racial and national origins.

Educate yourself about the laws and policies that impact undocumented students’ educational access. Learn the details of your own state laws here. For example, in California, certain undocumented students can pay in-state tuition at public universities, and the California Dream Act makes state financial aid available to those students. We often find that students do not distinguish those laws from their DACA status, which leads to unnecessary anxiety. Review the recommendations provided by national organizations such as United We Dream and the National Immigration Law Center. Even after educating yourself, recognize your limitations and the high stakes involved for the student who is seeking your advice. It is better to say, “I don’t know,” than to give out misinformation.

Signal to students that you are supportive. Undocumented students often rely on stereotypes to identify faculty and staff members with whom they feel they can safely share their immigration status or ask for help. They may, for example, perceive that “coming out” to faculty members who identify as Latina/o, or as immigrants, presents less of a risk than disclosing their status to white or native-born citizen faculty members. In reality, of course, allies are found among people from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, but some of us may need to do a little more to provide students with verbal and/or visible cues that demonstrate that we are supportive of the undocumented student community. Many colleges and universities offer ally training and provide those that complete it with a sticker to exhibit in their office; do this if the opportunity is available to you. If not, you can signal that you are supportive by displaying flyers about immigration-related events or hanging immigration-related artwork. In your course syllabi, explain how you will accommodate immigration-related emergencies in terms of attendance, late work, extensions and incompletes. Although you may feel that is already described in your institution’s existing policies for medical or familial emergencies, making it explicit sends a powerful signal of both symbolic and concrete support for students confronting immigration crises.

(Re)consider how you discuss immigration-related issues and the current political climate in your classroom. Advise students in advance before initiating classroom discussions of immigration issues, especially if that is not on the agenda from the syllabus. Remind your students that you will be bring up topics that personally impact many people living in the United States and ask those students to frame their participation in ways that are respectful of different experiences and opinions. Avoid spotlighting individual students according to their citizenship status or immigrant background during class discussion. (For example: “Kim, as an immigrant, can you share how you feel about Trump’s proposal to deport three million criminal aliens?”)

Maintain student confidentiality and privacy. Do not refer to students’ citizenship or immigration status in public conversations or written communication. Only do so when necessary and with the students’ permission, such as when helping them identify resources or explaining their personal background in letters of recommendation.

Use appropriate terminology when discussing immigration issues. Many people find the terms “illegal immigration” and “illegal immigrant” offensive; they often prefer “undocumented” and “unauthorized.” Some students may also use the term “DREAMer,” originally a reference to the proposed federal DREAM Act, which would have provided undocumented students with a path to legalization but that now alludes to various state laws that provide educational access. But other students may reject that nomenclature because it suggests that undocumented students are more deserving of support than other undocumented people.

Provide resources that will help mediate the financial instability that many students will also be facing. A recent systemwide survey at the University of California conducted by one of us, Laura E. Enriquez, found that 63 percent of the undocumented students at the UC have experienced food insecurity during the past academic year. Thus, even a small measure can be helpful, such as offering healthy snacks like granola bars during office hours or meetings with students. You can also try to put course readings on library reserve so that students can devote their financial resources toward living expenses. It’s also good to find out and counsel students on whether they can access waivers for course materials fees or tutoring services. It is possible that undocumented students, many of whom are first-generation college students, do not know about these resources or that they may be inadvertently denied access to them.

You can also lobby for additional resources as needed. Encourage your institution to establish alternative legal forms of employment, internships or research opportunities to undocumented students lacking work authorization by providing payment via stipends or as independent contractors. Consider donating to scholarship and/or emergency funds for impacted students. If your campus doesn’t have one, help start one.

Offer career and graduate preparation opportunities. Undocumented students struggle to develop career-relevant work experience or access research opportunities to prepare for graduate school -- in some cases, because they are DACA ineligible and therefore lack the work authorization that allows them to accept paid internships or research assistantships; in other cases, it is because they are ineligible, as noncitizens, to apply for certain programs; and finally, it may be because, like other first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, they lack the understanding or social capital that facilitates securing these kinds of positions. To that end, Enriquez’s survey of undocumented students in the UC system found that only 31 percent feel prepared to achieve their career goals, and only 49 percent have had a career-relevant experience like an internship or research opportunity. As faculty members and administrators, consider offering independent study courses, sponsoring research opportunities and identifying internships that are open regardless of immigration status. Work with your institution to figure out a method for paying immigrant students for their labor in these areas.

Identify, improve and refer students to campus and community resources. Immigrant students will probably need special guidance and encouragement to access academic resources, financial aid, legal services and mental-health counseling. Familiarize yourself with the resources available at your college or university and in your surrounding community. Identify knowledgeable staff members in relevant campus offices to whom you can refer students directly. Lobby your institution to identify, train and raise awareness of point people in various offices so that students can easily find them and access correct information. Enriquez’s survey also found that 56 percent of the undocumented students at the University of California report being given inaccurate or incorrect information from a staff member about how to complete a university procedure. If your institution does not have a staff member dedicated to supporting undocumented students, advocate for one.

Identify and raise awareness about your campus’s policies regarding undocumented students. Currently, U.S. immigration officials consider educational institutions, including colleges and universities, to be “sensitive locations” where enforcement actions “generally should be avoided.” You should try to identify under what circumstances you and others are your institution are legally required to share student information and provide access to immigration enforcement officers. Your institution should work with legal counsel to clearly lay out under what circumstances cooperation is required and designate a senior administrator to promptly respond to any staff or faculty members who receive information requests or visits from immigration enforcement officials. It should ensure that faculty members know whom to contact if they receive such requests or visits and publicize procedures for reporting and documenting hate speech and threatening incidents on the campus. It is important for campuses to assess their own situations in order to respond appropriately.

The actions that we’ve outlined are just a few ways that faculty members and administrators can provide support for students facing immigration-related crises. Although they are small steps, our research and work with students suggest that they can and do make a difference. We firmly believe that collaboration among students, faculty members and administrators is essential to supporting undocumented students and students from mixed-status families as we move forward.

Finally, despite the multiple -- often invisible -- ways undocumented people contribute to the U.S. economy and society, we think it is important to recognize that only a tiny percentage of undocumented people in the United States ever benefit from the opportunity to pursue a higher education. With this in mind, we encourage educators to also consider how they can support the broader undocumented immigrant population in their communities and nationwide.

Anita Casavantes Bradford is associate professor of Chicano/Latino studies and history at the University of California, Irvine. Laura E. Enriquez is assistant professor of Chicano/Latino studies at the University of California, Irvine. Susan Bibler Coutin is professor of criminology, law, and society and anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

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Getting students to actually read the class syllabus by teaching them netiquette (essay)

Teaching Today

Charlotte Kent has solved the problem of getting students to actually read the class syllabus by tackling a totally different challenge.

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Academics can and should stop equating their identity with work (essay)

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How can you shift way from mind-sets that equate identity with academic work? And in doing so, can you relieve anxiety about exploring unfamiliar career pathways? Sarah Peterson provides some answers.

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