Life, Lemons, and Set-Backs

Jul 03 2013 Published by under [LifeTrajectories]

My lab hit the proverbial wall a few years ago. As paylines continued to drop, the writing on the wall grew bigger and bolder. My lab would not survive.

I grieved and ranted and begged and accepted. Eventually I found other creative outlets in communication and faculty development, as well as directing a vigorous clinical research support program. When my spouse got recruited to a new institution, I managed to make faculty development part of my day job, via an associate dean position. I took on that position in September 2011, less than two years ago. I have met with a number of faculty over that time and participated in our Faculty Forward survey analysis. A number of needs were identified, and I had solutions, some of which I had developed at my prior institution. The final report was presented to the Dean on a Monday; he called me in for a meeting three days later.

And told me that my position would be eliminated effective July 1. Two days ago.

Grieving and ranting have happened. The chance to make faculty development 1/3 of my job, with the possibility of expanding that in the future, allowed me to give up a named professorship and my administrative duties without feeling like I had been demoted. Without the administrative responsibilities and the chance to grow my passion for faculty development, I would not have agreed to our move. Now, it looks like I will be doing full-time clinical work.

So far I have not found the sugar and water to make lemonade, nor the silver lining of this storm cloud. At least I have learned some lessons that may serve as an example for others:

  • Never be hurried in the negotiation process. My spouse's offer letter had been made more than 3 months before I got my offer, and there was incredible pressure to get us signed. I agreed with the 1/3 associate dean time assignment, but I did not take time to firm up other details, like a budget and goals. Another month to clarify some of this might have led to more visible early successes.
  • Get clear goals. I have heard this before, and I did get one course set as a goal; however, as it approached the "finalize the sessions, book the speakers and set a date" phase, a halt order came down from above. I was told that the business college wanted to retool some of their offerings for medical school faculty, but we never could get the meeting set up between myself, their contact, and those interested parties. While I identified other needs, I never got to begin developing anything to address those as my position was eliminated less than 2 weeks after the report to the dean in which those needs were outlined.

At the end of the day, I do not know if either of these points would have saved my position. Further negotiation and clarification would not have hurt.

Now, I am left with curricula for faculty development that I cannot implement at my own institution. My only outlet for this passion will be as a consultant to other campuses and groups (Shameless self-promotion? NEVER). Over time, I will highlight my presentations and thoughts on medical faculty growth here and at my website, Like I said the day this happened, I suddenly find myself open to new opportunities! Positions that do not require relocation will be considered as well (after the battle we had selling our last house, I am not going through that hell for at least a few more years).

So far, my lemonade still sucks. But I will find water and sugar soon!

3 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    Although it is always good to get commitments in advance, institutions can almost always decide to "go in a new direction" or some nonsense, right? So whether this was a bait and switch planned from the outset or a decision made later, not sure what could have been prevented in advance.

    When you work for an institution, unfortunately there is always the chance they are going to screw you over.

    Sorry that things are going so shittily and hope you can find something better soon, Pascale.

    • whizbang says:

      All associate/assistant positions are easy to create and eliminate; you really are at the mercy of the unmodified dean/chair/chief that you serve.

      If nothing else, I get a blog post and experience. Lemons, in other words!

  • […] Career setbacks happen. Examination of the literature reveals little good advice for dealing with "lemons instead of lemonade." In general, the advice falls into two categories: […]

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