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Career Profile: Ann Bykerk-Kauffman

Ann Bykerk-Kauffman. Photo courtesy of Ann Bykerk-Kauffman.

California State University-Chico

California State University-Chico is a public comprehensive university.

Ann Bykerk-Kauffman
is one of the leaders 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 to read Ann Bykerk-Kauffman's answer to an individual question, 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 * Balancing work and life * Advice

Briefly describe your educational background and career path.

BS: Grand Valley State University (a small 6000-student public 4-year college when I was there; it is now a much larger comprehensive university). MS and PhD: University of Arizona. I began teaching at CSU Chico immediately after receiving my PhD.

Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.

I am in the classroom about 12 hours/week. I teach 3 classes/semester (includes labs). I talk one-on-one with students about 4 hours/week; e-mail takes an additional 2-3 hours/week. I spend an average of 4 hours/week doing committee work and attending meetings. Class preparation and grading take up about 15 hours/week during the semester; I also spend several weeks before classes start and after they end doing class preparation and grading.

What do you like best about your work?

The flexible work hours and the freedom to choose how I teach, what research I do, what I publish on, what what committees I serve on. Turning students on to science. Watching and helping students mature into true professionals. Sabbaticals.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?

The demands on faculty are high and are continually increasing. There just isn't enough time; some things are simply left undone. To tackle that challenge, I say "no" to a lot of requests on my time. I try to stay focused on what I really want to do and what I consider truly important.

What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?

Big-name university and advisor, publication in both Geology and the Journal of Geological Education as a graduate student.

Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in these workshops are interested in balancing a family and career, in dual career couple issues, and in how other personal choices affect the search for a fulfilling career. Please share information about your situation, your ideas and experiences.

My husband is a software engineer. We lived on my salary alone for five years while he was a full-time student; it was very hard to make ends meet. We are now a dual-career couple with a good situation. He has the high-paying job; I have the secure job. We both work flexible (albeit LONG) hours and can work at home a lot, which makes it possible to be with the children and get them to and from school, soccer practice, music lessons, doctor's appointments, etc. I had one child while writing my dissertation and one during my first sabbatical. The 8-year spacing actually works very well. Choose a place to live that makes it easy to do the things you want and need to do. I squeeze in exercise by bicycle commuting (to work, to my children's schools, to shopping); living in a bicycle-friendly town has made a HUGE difference in my quality of life.

What advice do you have for graduate students or post-docs preparing for academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?

Get as much teaching experience as possible; as possible, take an active leadership role the classes you teach, developing lab activities, doing some lecturing, overseeing other graduate students, etc. Give lots of presentations at professional meetings. Develop relationships with researchers at a variety of institutions. Completely finish writing the journal articles on your dissertation before starting a teaching job but, if you have a job lined up when you graduate, don't submit them for publication until after you start teaching (that way, you will probably receive credit for them when tenure comes around).

Times have changed for public higher education. Most public universities are very strapped for funds. The job of raising money is increasingly falling onto the shoulders of faculty. Location and lifestyle are very important, perhaps more important even than the job itself.