Diary of a Visiting Assistant Professor, weeks 22 and 23: in which I continue a new project

Most of my posts have been about teaching, so I want to devote this post to writing and research. A VAP is hired to teach, and there’s no immediate pressure to keep up with one’s research. But of course that’s a short-term outlook, and it’s the scholarly work I do that’s more likely to determine my future career.

I’ve always been pretty self-motivated, and to be honest I’ve not found it too difficult to find research time. I set aside at least one day a week (Thursdays, last semester; Thursdays and Fridays, this semester) when I try not to work on day-to-day teaching activities, like reading or class prep. (When papers are due I find I need that time to grade, but not all of it, and that’s only a few weeks). If you find yourself struggling with time management, there are lots of resources designed to help faculty make the right choices. Natalie Houston’s blog is especially good, or you can participate in a productivity chat on Twitter.

My dissertation book project is still a focus — I’ve been making some revisions and considering publishers, and will submit it early next fall — but much of my research time this year has been devoted to something new. I came up with idea for this project over a year ago, and the challenge has been more about direction than about time. I began the dissertation amidst a community of graduate students, with the support of a committee who helped guide me through the early stages. Starting a new project without that same guidance is tricky, and I’ve jumped at chances to get immediate feedback without having to travel to a conference.

Last week I posted an excerpt from a talk, which I delivered yesterday. The occasion was an interdisciplinary scholarship series, designed to let faculty members share their current research with each other. It was nice to have an audience of law professors, librarians, and political scientists. Of course I haven’t completely severed ties with my friends and mentors from graduate school, and I continue to seek out (and value) their input. But part of leaving graduate school behind is determining one’s own trajectory, and I’m glad to have opportunities to present my work on campus, even as a visiting professor

How did you get started on your first post-dissertation scholarly project? How did you find support and feedback?

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