Career Profile: Julie Baldwin

Department of Geosciences, University of Montana

University of Montana is a 4-year public research university.

Julie is one of the leaders of the 2021 and 2022, and 2023 "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 Julie'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 BS in Geology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Following graduation, I worked for one year at the Kentucky Geological Survey. I then received a PhD in Geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003. I completed a 2-year post-doc at the University of Maryland, and was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Montana in 2005. I earned tenure and promotion in 2012, was promoted to full professor in 2019, and have served as Associate Dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences since 2018. My research focuses on the integration of textural, chemical, and in situ petrological and geochronological data sets to reconstruct physical conditions, timescales, and tempo of metamorphic processes.

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?

Definitely balancing research and teaching and learning how to prioritize my time. I arrived on campus my first fall semester with three new M.S. students that I needed to develop projects for, combined with three new courses to prepare from scratch over the courses of my first year, two of which were lab courses that I also had to develop lab activities for. I underestimated the time involved in developing and building a teaching collection and activities. In addition, I was building a lab and working to acquire funding for analytical instrumentation, so prioritizing and compartmentalizing my time efficiently was a necessity and a skill that took time to develop.

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

I have continued to work on similar types of problems now as I did for my Ph.D. work. However, I knew that when I move to Montana I wanted to transition to working on field-based research in the northern Rockies, so I think the biggest transition was the learning curve involved in learning the regional geology and making connections with researchers already working the area to see how my interests could fit into the larger community and knowledge base of the area.

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?

My institution values the teacher-scholar model, and it has always been important to me to pursue my teaching and research goals equally, and to use research to inform my teaching. I don't think that I had to adjust my goals substantially on this front as this philosophy is really embedded at my institution. Teaching continues to be vitally important to my identity and I care deeply about it even within the research institution context. The reward structures aren't always in place at research institutions to recognize teaching efforts, but I have always felt valued at all points in my career for the contributions I have made towards teaching and research both within my department as well as within the broader geoscience community.

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.

This is hard and a moving target that is something I am constantly working at. For me, this isn't a solvable problem, but rather one that changes as life demands change. Initially though, protect yourself from service obligations for at least the first couple of years. Don't be afraid to say no. Schedule everything from writing time to time off for yourself and your partner/family. I found early in my career that work-life balance was actually somewhat more achievable with young children in full-time "business hours" daycare than it is as children get older and have a much busier and erratic schedule of activities and events.

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?

Build your network - for me at a more rural institution this involved reaching across state lines to other regional institutions. Volunteer to give seminars and get in touch with program officers at grant-funding agencies to volunteer to review proposals or serve on review panels. Avoid over-preparation - set time limits and stick to them. Take advantage of faculty development and mentoring opportunities at your institution. Seek advice and counsel from your colleagues who have navigated the tenure and promotion process before you.