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Success in Academia: Fact or Fiction? Prof. Chimay J. Anumba Head, Dept. of Architectural Engineering Pennsylvania State University

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Presentation on theme: "Success in Academia: Fact or Fiction? Prof. Chimay J. Anumba Head, Dept. of Architectural Engineering Pennsylvania State University"— Presentation transcript:

1 Success in Academia: Fact or Fiction? Prof. Chimay J. Anumba Head, Dept. of Architectural Engineering Pennsylvania State University

2 Preamble Penn State: Over 82,000 students on 24 ‘Commonwealth’ campuses across PA Main campus is University Park with about 45,000 students University Park is located in Central PA (3-4hrs from Philadelphia, Washington DC, New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, etc.) Architectural Engineering: One of 12 Depts/Programmes in College of Engineering About 500 students (450 UG and 50 PG) About 25 faculty (7 of whom are adjunct) Department was 100 years in 2010 !!! Degree Programmes: 5 year B.A.E Integrated B.A.E./M.A.E + Integrated B.A.E./M.S. M.S., M.Eng., Ph.D. in Architectural Engineering

3 Dept.’s Latest Claim to Fame: $129m Energy Efficient Buildings Research Grant

4 OUTLINE Definitions Other perspectives … What constitutes success? Case studies of ‘successful academics’ Metrics of success Additional considerations… Strategies for ‘young’ academics Strategies for ‘older’ academics Conclusions

5 Definitions - 1 Success: – The achievement of something desired, planned or attempted – The gaining of fame, prosperity, or status (Dictionary) Academic: – Pertaining to a university or institution of learning – Scholarly to the point of being impractical or unaware of the outside world – Merely theoretical, speculative… (Dictionary)

6 Definitions - 2 Success in Academia: Excelling at being irrelevant to the outside world? Does it exist? What is the benchmark for success? What are the criteria for success? From whose perspective? Is it worth aspiring to?

7 Other Perspectives - 1 Limited Set of Publications: ‘Psychology 101 1/2: The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia’ – book by Robert J. Sternberg ‘How to Succeed in Academia’ – article in Times Higher by Lincoln Allison (Warwick University) Several discipline-specific papers…

8 Other Perspectives - 2 Allison’s 10 Point Guide (Very Funny!): – Choose your subject with care – Create a network with other universities – Internationalise your network – Monopolise output in the field – Produce a lot of words – Minimise contact with students – Develop personal gravitas – Cultivate an air of authority – Bargain to boost your reputation – Resist the voices of self-doubt

9 What constitutes academic success? Completion of PhD? Tenure (US)? Full Professorship? Nobel Prize? Peer Esteem? Money? Etc.

10 Case studies of ‘successful’ academics Who do you consider a successful academic? Examples please! Here are some case studies… (DISCLAIMER: any resemblance to academics dead or alive is entirely a figment of your imagination!!!)

11 Case A Case A - Professor Flintstone (58): Worldwide reputation Over 200 papers and books Numerous international awards Wife left him as he preferred his work to her Exploits his research students, who don’t keep in touch once they graduate…

12 Case B Case B - Professor Bloggs (38): Became full Professor at 35 Hundreds of papers No clear track record of research grants or PhD supervisions Understands and exploits ‘the system’ Unable to discuss ‘his papers’ with peers Dean’s ‘blue-eyed boy’, destined for senior management

13 Case C Case C - Dr Johnson (50); Highly respected worldwide: Patents, visiting professorships, awards, etc. Excellent set of publications Loved by her students for her personal touch Failed twice to be promoted to full Professor (... due to internal politics/gender issues…) Happy family life

14 Who was most successful? Which academic was the most successful? Prof. Flintstone Prof. Bloggs Dr Johnson It depends on: the perspective the metrics…

15 Metrics of Success Formal Metrics: – Publications – Research Income – PhD Supervision – Peer Esteem – Citations (?) – Impact (?) – Tenure (US) – Teaching Evaluations – Service/Professional Activities Others: fame, money, media exposure, power, etc. Personal metrics (self-defined)

16 Other Considerations… Academia has better defined metrics than most industry sectors... Important to exceed the threshold requirements No substitute for quality work/excellence Women/minorities lag behind in some areas: – Full Professors – Management (Dept Heads, Deans, VPs/PVCs, Provosts, Presidents/VCs) – Etc.

17 Strategies for ‘young’ academics Define your own criteria for success Find a mentor!!! Work hard – generate the outputs!!! Ensure your work is both rigorous and of high quality Enjoy your work/Be happy Maintain a work-life balance (i.e. play hard) Shun inappropriate practices Collaborate !!! Follow the money Treat others fairly (but develop a thick skin) Don’t take yourself too seriously… Be patient (success does not happen overnight!) Build a supporting infrastructure... Etc.

18 Strategies for ‘older’ academics Continue in our ‘old’ ways? – It’s too late - do nothing? – It’s never too late – set new goals! Mentor younger academics: – They don’t need to suffer because you did! – If you didn’t succeed (however defined), be a success in helping others succeed – If you succeeded, share your secrets (if any) Be successful…

19 Conclusions Success in Academia is: ‘FACTION’ : (FACT + FICTION) dependent on the metrics used relative (individuals, disciplines, institutions, countries, etc.) achievable worth aspiring to not worth dying for (i.e. you don’t need to succeed ‘at all cost’).

20 Questions


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