Career Profile: Cathy Manduca

cathy manduca

Science Education Resource Center, at Carleton College, Northfield, MN

Carleton is a private liberal arts college.

Cathy Manduca is one of the conveners of the 2006 Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences 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 below, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Personal choices * Advice

Educational background and career path
Cathy earned her Bachelor's degree from Williams College, and her Masters and PhD from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech); all of these degrees were in geology. She then accepted a post-doctoral teaching position at Carleton College, followed by a one-year sabbatical leave replacement, also at Carleton. Because she wanted to stay near her husband (he has a one-in-the-country position at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, MN), she then began looking for other employment opportunities nearby. For several years, she was the director of the Keck Geology Consortium. By that time, she was actively involved in a variety of professional development opportunities for faculty, and she was able to create a career for herself from those activities.

Current job responsibilities
Cathy's responsibilities are essentially those of an entrepreneur and manager. She has a vision of what she wants to accomplish, via SERC, and she is responsible for bringing that vision to life: raising all of the money to run the office (including salaries), hiring the staff, managing the office, managing the grants they receive, assuring the quality of their work.

What Cathy likes best about her job
What Cathy likes best about her work are the people she gets to work with: her own staff, the faculty at Carleton, and faculty across the country.

Challenges and strategies
The biggest challenge Cathy faces in her job is balancing: managing her time so that what needs to get done, does. In particular, she finds she has to make time to write what needs to be written, and to keep up with developments in geoscience, education, digital libraries, and faculty development. Fortunately, she has a great staff that helps with all of these tasks. In addition, Cathy uses a system of timelines to manage, very intentionally, the distribution of work throughout the year. These timelines show what needs to happen, on scales from weeks to a year or so, and help everyone in the office to plan ahead. Finally, Cathy also consciously works to make time for herself and her family.

There are many qualifications Cathy brings to her job that enable her to do it well:

  • a strong geoscience background
  • experience teaching in a variety of places
  • strong writing skills
  • an ability to work with different kinds of people
  • the ability to be organized
  • an entreprenurial spirit

Personal choices
Cathy is married, with two teenaged children. Because of her husband's position at the Mayo Clinic, and her desire to be with her family, she has chosen to create a career for herself in southern Minnesota. She ascribes her personal and professional happiness to her choice not to compromise on her personal priorities. While you can't always see where you're going, she says, if you're following your heart and stay open to creative possibilities, you'll find a way to do something that you love.

Cathy's advice to anybody thinking about a career in academia is to think broadly and creatively about what you want, and to look for opportunities. There are lots of different paths to personal and professional satisfaction; find one that works for you.