Career Profile: Josh Galster

Earth and Environmental Studies, Montclair State University

Montclair State University is a public comprehensive university.

Josh Galster is one of the leaders of the 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 "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 Josh'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 my undergraduate degree in geology from Carleton College, my MS in geology from the University of Vermont, and then my PhD from Lehigh University. After a 1 year post-doc at Lehigh I came to Montclair State University in New Jersey where I have been since 2007. I like that my educational background has spanned a variety of different university types which I think gives me some perspective on different ways to approach students.

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?

Some of the early ones involved knowledge. One part was learning that it was OK to admit to the students that I didn't know everything. I think the students appreciated me admitting "I don't know, but I'll look that up and get back to you next class." The other aspect of knowledge involves thinking about what I want the students to learn from a class, rather than thinking about what topics I "need" to cover.

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

I work with rivers and how they're affected by things like dams, land use change, climate change, etc. Under that umbrella I keep my focus flexible and found good colleagues at my new university that were willing to work on new areas, including ecohydrology. Saying "yes" as a new professor is important when it comes to new research opportunities.

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?

This is really important. In the beginning I was more aggressive in pursuing outside funding of my research in order to establish that part of my record. I'm a stronger teacher than researcher, so I worked harder on the research-end. Now that I'm tenured I'm focused more on projects that align with my interests rather than projects that are "fundable".

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.

Placing limits on the job is really important, regardless of what places those limits. Whether it's kids (I had a 1 year old when I started, and had a second child 4 years later), pets, exercise, outside interests (volunteering, hobbies,etc.) I think having something that is on your schedule is important. I don't do much work from about 5-8 PM, and trade that time with working in the evening.

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?

I wish that I had been more focused on fewer research projects in the beginning. I had some projects in the beginning that I didn't bring to some kind of completion (e.g., publication), and luckily that didn't affect my tenure. It's important to be able to show some products for the work.

I would encourage new professors to get to know some professors outside their department. I stayed in touch with my roommate from this Early Career workshop and we emailed each other either weekly goals and some perspective on how another university handled things. I also met some of new professors at my university but in different departments. What they helped give me was a cohort of people going through very similar things and valuable perspective.