Season 1, Episode 1 (Scaling Down)

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Context: In July 2020, I pledged to myself to minimize my online footprints.  I deactivated my Facebook account in November 2020, and I do not plan to go back to Facebook in the foreseeable future.  Currently, I am only active on Twitter and very rarely share something on LinkedIn.  I plan to discuss my gradual exodus from the public internet more as we move to new episodes of this newsletter.  Stay tuned! 

My hope is that this semi-private interaction can lead to building something more meaningful than the white-noise of the public internet.  I know it sounds odd, especially considering the modern online sharing culture.  Nowadays, everything is about scaling-up, expansion, and eventually catering various products to the masses.  Being part of the public domain mostly enables big players to profit from your presence at your expense unless you are seriously invested in making a non-negligible amount of profit (monetary or non-monetary) from it.  That is why I have recently developed more appreciation for being less hyper-connected and staying more focused.  I think the best way of achieving those goals is building up and eventually retreating to one’s hidden city (https://nadiaeghbal.com/hidden-cities).  So, if you are getting this email, it means *you are already in my hidden city*.

A personal update: As of January 1st, I’m an  Assistant Professor of Agribusiness and Experimental Economics at Auburn University.   This is a tenure-track position.  So,  I have roughly six years to build up my academic research, teaching, and funding portfolio to earn my tenure.  More about this in the next paragraphs.

Adapting: Now, I am in the process of transitioning from doctoral student life to tenure-track faculty life.  As expected, this is going to be a little bit bumpy ride.  Because when you are a doctoral student, your primary job is doing *research*.  Usually, your department has a necessary setup to keep you on track (shout out to my professor Marco Palma and the HBL family —> https://hbl.tamu.edu/). You have less flexibility, but it is not necessarily a bad thing.  It helps you to ride along with the wave and be productive.  Being an Assistant professor means that your shackles are off, and you should determine your own path and gradually start advising master and Ph.D. students. 

What do professors do? Auburn is an R1 university - it means peer-reviewed research papers get heavily weighted in academic promotions here.  My academic appointment comes with 60% Research and 40% Teaching loads.  I am expected to publish around three papers and teach nine credits (or three courses) during an academic year.  

Research is a cost-intensive process.  Running experiments and hiring research assistants require funding.  So, I am also expected to develop a lot of grant applications and seek funding from NSF and NIFA type institutions.  If I manage to meet all the tenure requirements at the end of my sixth year, I will be granted tenure.  Earning an academic tenure means guaranteeing lifetime employment unless you commit a crime or your university goes bankrupt. 

The collegiality at my new department:

I am grateful to the Auburn family and my professorial colleagues for helping me out during the last three weeks.  Our department is small and has recently hired four Assistant Professors.  Having a young and energetic team really helps to move things forward, and I hope I will be sharing more exciting vibes about my department in the future.

This is all for now.  Again, thank you for subscribing to my semi-private content!  And please feel free to share the subscription link to my newsletter with your friends interested in learning about the nuances of academic life.

Stay safe and healthy ~~~ Cheers!