Being Positive Takes Practice: Happiness in Higher Education

by Laura
One of my favorite activities is scrolling through Facebook. I do this several times a day and believe it or not, for the most part, the process gives me joy. I realize that this may be delusion, given the number of stories like “The Anti-Social Network” from Slate in 2011. In the article, Libby Copeland writes:
If you're already inclined to compare your own decisions to those of other women and to find yours wanting, believing that others are happier with their choices than they actually are is likely to increase your own sense of inadequacy. And women may be particularly susceptible to the Facebook illusion.
I’ve been guilty of this – especially when it comes to one of my newer Facebook friends, a professor-scholar who has a similar position to mine and relocated to a university in my state. I marvel at her vita: co-editor of one of the top journals in our field, endowed chair, finalist for state teacher of the year, and author of more than two dozen peer-reviewed journal articles. All this and she defended her dissertation a year after I defended mine.
But I’ll stop there, since this blog is about me – and how our Facebook friendship could have made me feel inadequate, but didn’t. In all honesty, I did begin feeling professionally jealous when I compared her vita to mine. Then I stopped.
Why? This may seem silly to some of you, but I was inspired by a Ted Talk.

The Problem with Gratitude

by Maura
When tasked with writing a gratitude-themed post for this month of proFmagazine, I was stumped. I joked to the rest of the staff that I’m far better at complaining than being thankful. But nevertheless, I set out to write something about gratitude and giving thanks in the workplace, an increasingly popular topic in recent years. Over my years of working as a staff member in academia, I learned about gratitude from a number of large-hearted colleagues, who made an effort to write thank-you-notes, organize gift exchanges, to throw special events to recognize achievements, and to foster a kind and compassionate office. This environment helped me develop better, stronger relationships with my colleagues and employer.
And yet…something bothers me about the term “gratitude.” The kinds of genuine efforts listed above are, of course, the good stuff. But “gratitude,” especially as it relates to work, has become something of an empty buzzword, one easily manipulated by a capitalist society to suppress the working class. “Gratitude” can become twisted into an expectation: be grateful for your employer, simply because they employ you. Not happy at work? Your thinking is wrong – learn to count your blessings. And to those in power, “gratitude” is a convenient token, a pat on the head in place of fair compensation and benefits.
My skepticism about the concept of workplace gratitude only increased this past week as I read about the new Republican tax bill, which promises to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent. Paul Ryan and other conservative supporters of the bill claim this tax savings will prompt corporations to invest in more jobs and higher salaries for workers. This despite the fact that corporate profits have been at an all-time high for the past decade, which has seen stagnant wages and little investment. But sure, give them more money with no strings attached and they’ll probably decide to help the little guy this time. Right?

Another is Waiting: Coping with Academic and Professional Rejection

by Christine
We remember our firsts – at least most of them. Our first day of school is memorialized in a snapshot taped to our parents’ refrigerator or in a dusty album at the top of the closet. Our first love is seared into our hearts. And the memory of our first professional or academic rejection lives in the pit of our stomach that haunts our thoughts as we try to sleep.
After that first, however, most of us (the lucky ones) will continue to experience professional rejection throughout our careers – so we need to learn how to deal with it. Struggling with rejection has particular gendered effects that likely affect women more than men. Countless studies show that women are less likely to ask for promotions or more responsibility in the workplace than their male counterparts, and new research suggests that even when women do ask for these promotions, they are denied more often than men. Should we fall into the trap of allowing rejection to discourage our ambition, this problem can only compound.
My first rejection came in the form of an internship I was passed over for in my first year of law school. I applied for the “big firm” jobs that came to campus to interview the school’s top students. These interview offers are typically based on grades and personal connections alone. Though I was one of the lucky few included in this round of interviews, I was not selected. I was entirely confused. I did the work, had the grades, and curated the resume. Why was there not a place for me?

Attitude of Gratitude

Thankful for the Families We Make Along the Way

by Rebecca
A few weeks ago, I attended the funeral of a friend’s stepfather. As I sat there, I looked across the church pew and smiled, realizing that those sitting beside me had been sitting by my side for a long time now. It has been almost 15 years since we all met in graduate school. In our younger days, we supported each other through all night study sessions, committee issues and more than a few shenanigans that I can’t put in writing (in case my mom reads this). As time went by, together we celebrated completed degrees, new jobs, new relationships and the birth of children. And we have also supported each other through work problems, divorces and the loss of parents and loved ones. For well over a decade now, this group of friends has been more than friends to me: they are the family that I chose. I am so incredibly thankful for my graduate school family, and for the other “friend families” that I have been fortunate to belong to throughout my life.
This inclination to find people around me and to create family where I am is likely born out of my experiences growing up. My mom grew up in Colorado and my dad in California. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, they both adventured north to Southeast Alaska, met each other and settled down. We saw my grandparents most summers and I have fond memories of them. Yet, the people we spent holidays and marked many of my young life’s big occasions with were a created family of old friends and neighbors. It was these people that my brother and I would stay with on the few occasions my folks went out of town at the same time. It was the children of these friends who babysat my brother and I, and in turn we were the babysitters of younger kids in the friend family. And it is these people I visit when I go home.