Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And...We're Back!

A new year, a fresh start, some resolutions I know I'll break by, say, Saturday.

The vacation was revelatory. Mostly I realized just how sleep-deprived I am almost every single day. Just a few days of getting up gloriously, decadently late, and I could feel my personality snap back to its original shape. By this weekend, I felt absolutely human. A few days at the office should take the bloom off the rose, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

I reconnected with some old friends, which is good for the soul. They're both in new relationships, with all the giddiness that brings. It's heartening to see. Another old friend recently had a baby with her new family, and has been sending unspeakably cute photos of the little guy (whom we've nicknamed “Baseball Head,” since his head is absolutely, perfectly round).

The Boy and The Girl were mostly in their glory over the holidays, except for The Girl's nasty cough. The Wife and I got to spend some actual time together, which was wonderful and much needed. And we substituted salmon for lutefisk, a policy I wholeheartedly recommend.

I sent off a job application, wishing I could list the blog on it. (“Must be conversant in issues facing contemporary higher education.” Uh, yeah...) This Spring will probably bring a few more (applications, not blogs). I've decided that the trick is to look when you don't have to. I'm being relatively picky about it, applying only to jobs I think I'd actually take if offered; that's one of the luxuries of looking when you don't have to. The tragedy of it is that the family is really starting to put down roots in our current community. There aren't many colleges within commuting distance, so, barring an unforeseen opening, a new job would require moving.

It's a tough decision, but the frustrations of working with one hand tied behind my back are getting to me.

Last time out was very different. When I was at Proprietary U, I was sufficiently desperate to get out that I looked at dean jobs just about anywhere. I wasn't picky. Honestly, given the “damn the torpedoes” strategy I adopted, the job I have now was an incredible stroke of luck. It's hard to think about walking away from an incredible stroke of luck without feeling like some sort of cosmic ingrate. But it's time.

This time, I'm not desperate. I don't foresee getting fired (although people often don't), and my family is happy here. I can be a little picky. Certain regions, types of school, and institutional quirks are out of bounds for me. I've learned to read ads differently. If a school is advertising multiple vice presidential positions (academics, business & finance, student services) at the same time, it's probably the aftermath of a brutal purge. Not a big fan of brutal purges. If its institutional identity is confused, or intensely religious, I'm not interested. And super-high cost-of-living locations (New York City, Boston, San Francisco) are simply out of the question.

(For whatever reason, I feel pulled towards the Midwest. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan. We shall see.)

The question of references is a nasty one at this level. Not listing my colleagues would be a huge red flag. Listing my colleagues would, if all goes well, eventually tip them off that I'm looking, and I just don't know how that would be received. The grapevine is pretty quick in these parts.

In a perfect world, I'd put the blog on my c.v. Sadly, no. Even my current employer doesn't know about it, which is as it must be.

Then there's the question of institutional level. Does the 'cc' label immediately rule me out of bounds at a four-year college? Would I have to do a 'lateral' to switch institutional levels (i.e. go for deanships at four-year schools)? I really don't give two hoots about institutional prestige, in the sense of wanting to bask in the glory of a Name, so the prospect of staying with cc's doesn't bother me that way, but it does limit the options somewhat.

Then there are quirks. I've noticed that many Midwestern colleges have “assistant vice president” positions, which I haven't seen in the Northeast. Some colleges – usually small ones, but not always – combine academics and student services in one position. To my mind, anybody with that job should be titled either 'provost' or 'martyr.' And any small or medium sized college with more than three or four vice presidents has a serious organizational problem. Finally, there's the political climate. CC's are public, so they're buffeted by the political winds in a given state and/or county. I'd hate to walk into a position only to have the voters pass something like a TABOR initiative and reduce me to a hatchet man. I didn't go into higher ed to dismantle it. Honestly, part of my frustration is that I've had six years of uninterrupted economic decline between my two colleges; for once, I'd actually like to manage growth, rather than retrenchment. (Maybe the Midwest isn't such a good idea. Hello, Georgia?)

A new year, a new challenge. Stay tuned...