Dr. Jill Schneiderman

Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Photo of Jill Schneiderman
Most of the information on this page is from an interview conducted by Carol Ormand on February 1, 2006.

Jill Schneiderman is a tenured professor in the Geology & Geography department, and is also currently Associate Dean of the Faculty, at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY. The college is a highly selective, small, liberal arts college in the Hudson Valley. While her responsibilities as a dean require the bulk of her work time (nominally 2/3 of it), Jill is still a part-time faculty member as well, teaching one course per year and continuing her scholarly activity. She and her partner are also parents of two children, ages 8 and 5. In addition, Jill serves on the GSA Council and on the Family Pride Coalition, and she and her partner are "house fellows" at Vassar, providing an academic presence in the residence hall.

Setting priorities and making choices

Jill is very clear about her priorities: in deciding whether to take on something new, she asks herself whether it would prevent her from spending time with her children. If it would, she's not interested. Instead, she looks for ways to meet her professional responsibilities while maintaining an active family life. For example, her current scholarly project is editing a book, rather than a field-based research project. Her position as a "house fellow" at Vassar is something that she and her partner decided to do as a family, thinking that it would be fun and interesting for all of them. At the same time, it's convenient, because they can eat in the dining hall if they want to, and it allows her to give back to the institution. When she thinks about what to do for a sabbatical, she finds a project (or projects) that allow her to be with her family. And always, she protects her summers as family time.

Some major decisions in Jill's life have hinged on this criterion. On the personal side, she and her partner recently bought some land, about two hours away from home. While there's not much there, she says, it's their summer getaway, a place to go to together. They enjoyed it immensely last summer, and are looking forward to going there again this year. On the professional side, Jill has been attending a series of seminars at Wellesley College. It's a series of five seminars, for women in higher education administration, about moving to higher levels. One possible outgrowth of this would be for Jill to move toward becoming a provost or a president. Although she has been enjoying the Wellesley seminars, Jill is realizing that that kind of career advancement would take too much time away from her family. At this point, she'd rather continue to do her best in her current job, which is very fulfilling, so that she can spend time quality time with her family.

Jill's decision making process

When it comes to making choices, Jill has already established her priorities. Every decision, then, is weighed relative to those priorities. However, when faced with a new decision, she doesn't leap to any conclusions. She likes to take some time to mull over the possibilities. Going to the gym, she says, helps her to relax and get some perspective. The other thing Jill finds helpful is taking advantage of opportunities at Vassar, when they present themselves. Her current position as dean, for example, felt like a safe way to explore the possibility of moving into administration, without requiring huge changes in other areas of her life at the same time.

Advice for new faculty members

Jill's advice, she laughs, "is so much easier to say than to do": keep your sense of perspective, and live each day to the fullest. By maintaining a sense of perspective, you can avoid the twin pitfalls of overwork and stress. Don't let work be your whole life, she cautions. Similarly, focus on the positive: rather than dwelling on what doesn't go well, celebrate the good things in your life. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so make choices today that you can feel good about.