First Term in Review

It is 3° F outside, and it is the end of my first term here at Macalester College.

In September, I wrote about a somewhat typical day in my current professional role (“A Day in the Life“). Four months later, I am still working on structuring my life, both professionally and personally, and extending the same generosity to myself that I generally extend to others. In this regard, I have benefitted greatly from Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s reflections on generosity and the ethics of care as well as the work of The Maintainers.

A sticker I happily acquired at The Maintainers III: Practice, Policy and Care conference held at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC and that is now attached to my office wall.

This post is partly self-serving, in that I am using it to demonstrate (to myself) my achievements, as I tend to be quite self-critical. I also want to pull back the curtain to reveal more about my unusual role, in part because the Digital Liberal Arts can be difficult to define, and the work that I do may seem equally as mysterious.

I hope the following information will also be useful for others who are seeking ways to measure their own progress. In a space where the value of work can seem intangible unless and until it manifests in the form of publication or promotion, self-reflection is essential.

Additionally, I think academia, especially, invites and even requires comparison among and between colleagues, and this can be both wonderful and difficult. As a new member of this community, I am still figuring out how to navigate a competitive atmosphere without losing the hard-won balance between work and play that I (amazingly) began to establish in graduate school.

The Data

As many of us know by now, numbers often speak louder than words. However, numbers are misleading, and data is subjective (For a substantial explication, please read “Raw Data” Is an Oxymoron, edited by Lisa Gitelman, MIT Press, 2013). Therefore, the following snapshot is skewed, and because I created both the categories and the data, there is ample room for ambiguity.

How did I create this snapshot of my work? I examined my Google Calendar and a couple of Google Docs that I’ve created over the course of the term, as well as my physical planner. My documentation process is fairly intentional because a) I am an information scientist who thinks a lot about where, why, and how data is stored and b) I am hoping to create a sustainable workflow and useful record for future inhabitants of my role (more on that in another forthcoming post). Of course, I had to estimate how my hours were distributed, and the following chart does not account for every single hour of work.

An estimation of how I spent my time this term

The Categories

The following categories may require further explanation while I believe the others are fairly self-explanatory. I should clarify that the course I’m teaching next term is brand new, cross-listed, and requires me to re-learn or learn many tools and to find and prepare data sets.

  • DLA research and admin (~225+ hours):
    • meetings with the Director of DLA
    • preparing for DLA committee meetings, faculty consultations, events, working group meetings, site visits, and other opportunities
    • researching and experimenting with tools, emailing, conducting environmental scans of other institutions, and reading various journals and blogs
    • preparing and editing the new DLA website
    • reading and writing for conference presentations and other collaborative research projects
  • Community engagement/service (~25+ hours)
    • attending the Institute for Global Citizenship Colloquium
    • volunteering at Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon (American Craft Council)
    • getting certified in Mental Health First Aid through the National Council for Behavioral Health
  • Health (~16 hours)
    • I think it is important to convey to colleagues and students that I value my mental and physical health, and that I dedicate one hour a week to doing yoga through the Macalester Wellness & Health initiative
    • For the first time in 6 years, I can afford dental insurance and therefore had cavities filled for the first time since the 1990s!
    • Researching and visiting a new general practitioner to establish a foundation for my healthcare in a new city/state
  • Fieldtrips (~6 hours)
    • Exploring and meeting with individuals at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Minnesota Historical Society (with other faculty and students)

Other things: I traveled to Washington, DC for a conference, took two weekend trips to New York City (to see family), and three weekend trips to Tennessee (where my spouse and animals live).


This is an imperfect representation of my work, but it has helped me to predict how I may distribute my time next term. Since I will be teaching a new course in the Spring, my schedule will change quite drastically. My office hours will also increase, and I will be conducting site visits to other campuses. I am prepared for a more hectic schedule, generally, but am glad I devoted significant time to planting the seeds for my class and DLA activities this term.

Over the past few months I’ve also learned that – although I am a Quigley, and have therefore traveled A LOT since I was a baby – it is still hard to move to a new place, deal with airports and planes, and be away from family.

Room for growth/the things that keep me up at night

  • Focusing in on my research goals: some people have told me that I have every right to take a bit of time off as I recover from completing my dissertation, but I do feel like I need to be more proactive in setting my research agenda. Right now I have too many things in the works…In general, however, I want to write more.
  • Office hours: very few faculty came to my office hours. I can imagine that students will come to these more frequently next term, but I would like to figure out a way for this opportunity to seem more attractive to colleagues.
  • Faculty consultations: we started these a little late this term because of the application process, but I would like to work more on figuring out how to set up a useful and sustainable workflow for digital projects (and I’ve gathered a working group for this). It is REALLY HARD to make substantial progress on larger-scale projects in the space of one term.

Thank you for reading!