It’s May, Happy New Year! Or, How I Spend My Summer Vacation

By May 18, 2013

Sorry this post isn’t very Mormon-y, but it’s part of my occasional postings that try to make academia’s processes more transparent, especially to benefit prospective & junior faculty. So this public service announcement brought to you by the merrie month of May, hopefully it’s timely advice to someone out there.

Faculty/academic calendars are off-sync with much of the rest of the world. For me, the year starts over each May, when classes end. There’s a magical window between the end of my Spring term and the end of my childrens’ school year when I actually get some writing and the bulk of my course planning done. Our university also holds a modest faculty institute in mid-May, and although I’m usually present in body, I’m often using the time to brainstorm on my laptop about future classes and reflect on how the year went so I know what to change (or keep) for the fall. This year I’m organizing a session of advice for junior faculty on the tenure track for our summer institute. We have had a happy couple of years where new full-time faculty have arrived not in a trickle but by the dozens, and so such conversations are more needed than ever (especially given the byzantine schedule for tenure/promotion, set by our statewide faculty union contract). The session will be partly focused on the nuts and bolts of the tenure process, but also more broadly on junior faculty life/work balance and on making smart, strategic decisions about how to make best use of our limited time and resources here (we have a 4/4 load, with about $700 for professional development per faculty per year).

My advice will likely include some of the books I’ve found invaluable (especially Donald E. Hall, The Academic Self, and Kathleen F. Gabriel, Teaching Unprepared Students), as well as tools I can’t do without for streamlining routine processes, most of which have silly names (Dropbox, Gmail canned responses, Flipsnack, Slideboom, WordPress, Respondus, and Zotero). I’ve learned about most of these from being a regular reader of the ProfHacker blog. I’ve also developed a mental calendar which I thought I’d share here too. While some of this is particular to my campus community, hopefully it’s easily adapted to anyone thinking about how to organize their time as part of college faculty.

This calendar starts in May, but of course, stay ahead of any rolling deadlines: campus calendars, professional membership renewals, conference proposal submissions, grant deadlines, etc.

May & June

  • Write end-of-year report to chair/dean
  • Update CV
  • Finish up committee work
  • Summer Faculty Institute at our Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Year-end self-reflection: what worked? What didn?t? What to change next year?
  • Participate in yearly program assessment within the department (i.e. assess collected student work from this year)
  • Make sure books are ordered for Fall
  • Tentative syllabi, ?back end? documents like coursebuilders and governance forms
  • Academic writing projects
  • Organize files; discard saved Fall semester student work

July & August

  • Regenerative reading, travel, writing
  • Course planning
  • Refine syllabi for Fall
  • Put course materials online, build out Blackboard shells
  • Write binder narratives for reappointment/tenure/promotion materials
  • Consider participating in transfer student advising


  • Post office hours; connect with old/new advisees
  • Check upcoming conference & journal submission deadlines
  • Set goals
  • Identify campus service priorities


  • Send any new courses into governance
  • Prep for the advising season
  • Finalize courses and books for Spring term
  • Arrange for classroom visitations if needed for your personnel action


  • Pre-reg advising for Spring


  • Check on courses in governance
  • End-of-term reflection
  • Organize files; discard saved Spring student work


  • Winter Faculty Institute at our Center for Teaching and Learning
  • Consider participating in transfer student advising
  • Dedicated time for academic writing projects
  • Refine syllabi; put course materials online or build out Blackboard shells
  • Post office hours once classes resume


  • Prep for advising season
  • Finalize courses and books for Fall term


  • Notify chair/Provost re: personnel action for the upcoming school year
  • Arrange for classroom visitations if needed for your personnel action


  • Pre-reg advising for Fall

Article filed under Methodology, Academic Issues


  1. Great ideas. Canned responses took me back to college, when I wrote several files that I could then merge into Pine with a couple keystrokes. I was just dumb enough that I included one for people asking how I was doing after we hadn’t been in contact for a while. It was cheesy, and I only sent it once or twice. But the others worked well. Happy new year.

    Comment by smb — May 18, 2013 @ 7:55 am

  2. Really enjoyed this, Tona. I love it when people give a more complete glimpse of the professorial life, since it makes it easier than just wandering your way into it.

    Comment by Ben P — May 18, 2013 @ 3:46 pm

  3. Thanks, both of you; I’ve had great mentors & keep trying to pay it forward. It was eye opening to me once I started teaching full time how much there was to the job that had been invisible to me before. And most of my non-teachy friends think I have the summer “off.”

    Comment by Tona H — May 18, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

  4. Thanks for this, Tona. I am going to have to check out the book for Teaching Unprepared Students.

    I must say I always think of the new year starting in August/September when the Fall semester starts. Thinking about it starting in May may put a new spin on things for me.

    Comment by NatalieR — May 19, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

  5. Thanks, Tona. I find it very useful.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — May 19, 2013 @ 6:43 pm


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