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Career Profile: Tessa Hill

University of California, Davis

University of California, Davis is a research university.
Tessa Hill is one of the leaders of the 2014 "Early Career Geoscience Faculty" Workshop. Prior to the workshop, we asked each of the leaders to describe their careers, for the benefit of workshop participants, by answering the questions below.

Click on a topic to read Tessa's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Early teaching challenges * Research transition * Institutional fit * Balancing responsibilities * Advice for new faculty

Briefly describe your educational background and career path.

I received a B.S. in Marine Science at Eckerd College and a Ph.D. in Marine Science from University of California, Santa Barbara. I was a postdoc at UC Davis for two years before transitioning to a tenure-track faculty position. I am in the Department of Geology and I am considered a 'resident' faculty member at Bodega Marine Laboratory.

What were some of the challenges you faced in your early years of full-time teaching? Could you briefly describe how you overcame one of those challenges?

Well, challenges in time management and the constant feeling of being 'evaluated' are things I remember most clearly! I also had two kids somewhere in there.

One of the ways I overcame these (and other) challenges was by forming a series of 'support networks' around me. One is with colleagues (friends) at other universities but all within a 2 hour radius. We meet every six months and it is a truly safe space to talk about the challenges and the highlights of our careers and lives. Another support network that I lean on is with other faculty at the same rank at my university. These folks are invaluable!

How did you make the transition from your Ph.D. research to your current research program?

Over time, I worked towards having several ongoing research projects in my laboratory, which are interconnected in the broadest sense. I continue to do work related to my Ph.D., and with my Ph.D. advisor, but it was very important for me to develop a research program separate of that work. I did this through collaborations with people at my institution, and also by reaching out to folks elsewhere. I also encourage myself (and my students!) to allow my interests to wander and not follow a straight path - being creative can be a risk but also is so much more fun!

An essential component of achieving tenure is finding or making an alignment of your teaching/research goals with the goals of your institution.... How do your goals fit with those of your institution? Did you adjust your goals to achieve that fit? If so, how?

I think my goals do fit with my institution, which means they are (in order of priority): research, teaching and service. I am fortunate to be in a department that values a wide range of research and also values quality teaching.

I think we all have challenges - weak points - in our ability to balance these demands. I have to actively work at building up things that I am weak at... and sometimes I have to tone down my excitement for things that may not be 'valued' by my institution.

Many of the new faculty members in these workshops are interested in maintaining a modicum of balance while getting their careers off to a strong start. Please share a strategy or strategies that have helped you to balance teaching, research, and your other work responsibilities, OR balance work responsibilities with finding time for your personal life.

I try not to use the word "balance" because it provides a false sense of what this is going to feel like - "juggle" is a bit more accurate. I think juggling between your work priorities (which can be complex) and your home demands requires quite a bit of clarity about what is important to you. You also have to be able to communicate those priorities to your partner/spouse (if applicable). I don't find that "balance" is a point where I reach and can stay in stasis; instead this is something I am always working at, some days more successfully than others.

What advice do you have for faculty beginning academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career in academia?

Think about your 5 year (tenure track) plan and also the long view of what you want your career to look like.

Develop support networks (family, friends, colleagues) of people that you feel comfortable leaning on, and who will be there to celebrate your big accomplishments.

And, don't forget to celebrate those accomplishments: there are many days that add up to that successful paper or proposal or promotion - so be sure to acknowledge the milestones when they arrive.


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