Career Profile: Anna Pfeiffer-Herbert
School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Stockton University
Stockton University is a public regional university, primarily undergraduate.
Click on a topic to read Anna'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 earned a BA in Biology at Carleton College, where I found my career interest in ocean physics and bio-physical interactions during a study abroad program on a tall ship. After a year of various jobs (teaching English in Nepal, environmental education camp instructor, city parks department) and taking additional classes in math and physics, I completed a MS in Ocean Sciences at University of California Santa Cruz and a PhD in Oceanography at University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, followed by a three-year postdoc at Oregon State University. Teaching as an adjunct at a two-year college in the middle of my graduate studies solidified my interest in an academic career with an emphasis on teaching, which led me to my current faculty position.
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?
The biggest challenge was not letting teaching prep take over my work hours. I tackle that by scheduling time for research into my calendar at times of day when I am most productive. I am also involved in a faculty writing group that helps with accountability and making scholarship less solitary.
How did you make the transition from your Ph.D. research to your current research program?
Two adjustments I made were diversifying my research goals and integrating undergraduate researchers. I am the only one in my department with my particular expertise (a change from studying at a large research university) and my lab mainly consists of undergrads working on independent projects. While I still work on some similar questions to my PhD and postdoctoral research, I often stretch beyond that in collaborations with colleagues or to support student interests.
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?
I had pretty clear expectations going into my current position and did not have to make major adjustments, although I try to continually assess my own goals and measures of success in teaching and research. I am fortunate that the tenure expectations at my institution are relatively transparent and reasonable.
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.
I can't claim to have achieved an ideal balance yet – it is a constant adjustment. For work responsibilities, having a detailed system to track tasks and taking time at least once a semester for longer term goal setting helps. I am grateful that my family draws me away from work on a regular basis as well.
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?
Prioritize networking, both within your institution and your research field, especially in the early years when many people will be excited to help you find your footing and flourish. Similarly, be proactive in seeking out mentors and advice from multiple sources.