Last week was Homecoming at Georgia College, in the spirit of celebration, there is an office decorating contest. Typically dominated by Financial Aid, this year the Center for Student Success decided to give it a go. Well, it turns out it paid off, as we won the contest.
The theme for this year was “When in Rome, do as you have done in Milledgeville” by alumna Flannery O’Connor.
Well, I just realized that Thank a Mentor Day was last week on January 17th. Since I can’t exactly go back and write a post on that date, I will just post it today.
My mentor was known for striking terror into the hearts of both undergraduate and graduate students. His primary area was research methods, which is a challenge for most students anyway. Throw in the fact that you HAD to pass his class in order to graduate, and most people didn’t take the class until their last semester, a lot of students had to stay longer than they anticipated.
Not wanting that fate to befall me, I took the class the first semester of my senior year. For what ever reason, it clicked for me. I became one of six my entire time as an undergraduate who made an “A” in the course. This led to me receiving a graduate assistantship in the department to help tutor his students. And thus, I became the minion for the man feared by all political science, criminal justice, sociology, and public administration students and grad students at Georgia College.
Professor Jan Mabie, PhD, well below the sarcastic exterior, was as big of a cutup and as great of a mentor as could ever be found. He taught me the way of The Force, er, research methodology using not the modern advances of Stata, SPSS, any other software package. Instead, we used an old DOS based program he wrote.
Most students felt tortured to take him once. I had him twice in undergrad, then at least once a semester in grad school covering everything from basic and advanced methods to personnel management. Most people, him included, questioned my sanity when I asked him to be my thesis chair. In retrospect, I don’t think he even read anything from my thesis except the methods section.
He retired last year, but without a doubt, I can see his influence today in my teaching and research today. I have been to a conference and have to constantly remind myself that not everyone was taught methods, and to not let the “poor idiot” have it for leaving something off the slide.
Every fall, when the “minions of morons” descend upon campus, I will be reminded of him. Every time I watch a science show, I mentally start reciting the “Assumptions of the Western Analytic Tradition.” Whenever I look at a cross-tab, I will still call it a contingency table in my head. And whenever I start nerding out over data and a scatter plot, I will be grateful I was trained by one of the best, and quite possibly the most old-school, in the business.
Dr. Mabie has a group on Facebook dedicated to him, titled “Mabie You Can Make It.” Barron Webster (MPA 2008) wrote “The Legend of Jan Mabie” for the page. It may not mean as much to the people who had not been through the program and classes, but here it is.
The kind words of Dr. Jan Mabie reverberate in students’ minds for years after their Quantitative final is done and the last OurStat disc has been removed from those ancient laptops. He began his illustrious career at Georgia College in 1894 when our dear alma mater was known simply as the Georgia State College for Women. His notable students include Flannery O’Connor, Michael Digby, Amici Buffington, Galileo, and John Milledge.
In fact, an old legend in Milledgeville tells the tale of a young Flannery O’Connor who aspired to be a statistician. One day, she’d had her fair share of confusion over covariation and PRE measures of association. She lost her marbles finding T-scores and Z-scores and F Tests… and she took to writing as a way of releasing her anger and stress. Out of pure frustration was born one of the finest Southern Gothic authors ever to strike a typewriter.
As for the rest of us, we now have the tendency to correct our friends when they tell us “Don’t become a statistic!” Because you’re never a statistic- you’re a datum. If you need to know if there is a correlation between sex and salary with respect to education level, we’ll be there. Want to know how much of a correlation there is between education level and poverty in any county in Georgia? Give us a call. We’ll even construct the operational definition.
So the next time you’re confused about where to find the nearest “mature analytical community,” sit on the edge of the table. Scratch your chin with your eyes fixed upward and your head cocked like dear Dr. Mabie does. Close one eye and rub the top of your head too. And be grateful you’re being taught by one of the sharpest, most respectable, and illustrious minds Georgia’s Public Liberal Arts University has ever seen- but please don’t mess up the laptops.
Matt Might did a post yesterday about resolutions for grad students. While his suggestions are valuable, most of them are targeted at grad students. Which got me thinking, which of these apply to academics in general and which ones would I add?
Update your online identity
Something I try to do at the end of every semester is to go through and update things on my website. It may be as simple as updating the number of courses taught on my CV, or may include a complete makeover. Either way, it ensures that the content is updated and accurate.
If you do not have a professional website, now is the time to create one. There are a multitude of how-to sites to accomplish this [ProfHacker] [College Info Geek]. One of the comments the earlier mentioned blog post makes is “If you can’t be googled, you don’t exist.” This is very true. Every time I hear about a candidate or someone giving a talk, the first thing I do is Google their name. If I find nothing, their credibility automatically goes down in my eyes. If I find a well coordinated blog, LinkedIn, and professional site, the credibility goes up.
This one may seem intuitive. But, when was the last time you sat down and wrote for the sake of writing? If you are in grad school, you write constantly. How can you make it better? If you are bogged down in a long paper, try writing something on a completely different topic just to get everything flowing again. Write for the joy of writing. The more you write, the better you get at it.
Don’t only read (good luck surviving in the academy without it) but read something different. I read articles from several different fields. It gives a new prospective on my own research and broadens my interest beyond what is typically seen as normal.
Don’t forget to find time for pleasure reading as well. When I finished grad school, I realized I hadn’t read fiction in two years. That’s how I spent most of that summer; I had to re-find my love of reading.
As the new year begins, it is a time to figure out what has worked for you and what needs to be done differently. As the new semester begins, it is a chance to make a mid-year correction to teaching style. Overall, it is a chance for new beginnings. Make the most of it.
With one of the joys of academia, today is my last day of work for the year. It has been a rather amazing one. My center moved it its new location. It grew from from eleven to sixteen people. I got to teach my first full section of Politics and Society at Georgia College (with 80 students). Now, we are in the middle of an office remodel (well, at least new windows) which hopefully will be completed before students return in January. In all, it has been a wonderful year. I feel I am finally getting the hang of this advising thing, and getting better as an instructor as well.
So, as I prepare to leave for the holiday break, I would like to wish everyone a very happy holiday, a merry Christmas, and good new year.
As instructors, and as advisors, we teach attendance over and over again. One of my professors even included a bonus question on every assignment, “The number one factor in student success in college is attending class.” This information is nothing new, but sometimes it is good just to see how right you are in a certain area.
I took my three courses where I tracked attendance for the fall (two were at Georgia College, one was at Georgia Military College) and compared the attendance to the final grades. I had to do it as a percentage of total classes because it was different courses, different institutions, and different meeting schedules, but the results are obvious. While there were some students who attended class and didn’t turn in all (or any) of the assignments, the correlation between the two measures are quite striking.