Everyone always portrays R1s as high-pressure institutions that aren't really compatible with spending much time on family, hobbies, etc. But it's not immediately clear to me that R2s or LACs are necessarily better. After all, some aspects of the research process can either be done at home or outsourced to graduate students—but teaching a class or attending service meetings can't be done flexibly or remotely. So even though these institutions have reduced research expectations, it seems to me that the increased teaching and service expectations would consume your life just as much, if not more so, than research. Can somebody speak to their experiences of work-life balance at any of these types of institutions?
Date: 26 Nov 2012 20:19
Number of posts: 9
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I am a department chair at a SLAC and make it a priority to have work-life balance not only for myself, but all of the faculty in my department. We have a relatively high teaching load, but I try to schedule classes to fit faculty requests and also try to assign multiple sections of a class so the prep time is reduced. The service expectations are about the same as at an R1. There is a lot of flexibility in time spent on research and grading. I definitely feel a lot less pressure than I did at an R1.
I'd like to suggest that we all (including work-a-holic me) remember that an important predictor of work-life balance might just be the individual. I am at an R1 now and it seems that most of the pressure I am feeling is actually self-imposed.
I agree with socialite that a lot of the pressure is self-imposed. Some people are can easily stop thinking about work as soon as the day is over. Other people, regardless of whether they're at an R1, R2, or LAC will be glued to their computer/phone even on their time "off" and more flexibility probably isn't going to help much.
You mention that teaching can't be done flexibily or remotely, but some places offer online or hybrid courses and/or have team-taught courses which may offer more flexibility.
At R1s where tenure expectations include external funding, the pressure can be extremely high if you just aren't getting the grants. On the other hand, if you've gotten grants, it may be quite comfortable (I'm not saying people who have grants don't work hard, just that it's less pressure if you know that you're "safe" for X number of years and that you have the funds to hire project coordinators, RAs, postdocs, buy out of teaching etc…). I've been at a couple of R1s and my impression is that when the funding is there, you work hard but work-life balance is good and you have a sense of stability. When you are having trouble getting grants and/or publishing (maybe your studies just didn't work out, maybe you ran into a bad streak of negative reviewers or whatever), it can be very stressful. LACs may be less risky since your bread and butter is teaching and there are always courses to teach (assuming you're full time and not adjunct) and the expectations for pubs/grants aren't as high (of course if you consistently get bad evals…)
Institutional resources are also important. If your school has good admin, resources for research, travel, teaching, a good IRB, help with preparing grants etc then it'll feel much less stressful than if there are budget cuts left and right and your department is understaffed, everyone is overworked, and there's red tape everywhere.
Finally, your own background/training and resources are important. If you go into an R1 with lots of good postdoc training, an established network of collaborators, experience with grants and pubs etc you're more likely to be able to hit the ground running and won't have as rough a time as someone for whom the whole thing is new and needs to learn/do everything from scratch.
What teaching load folks considered to be acceptable for a work/life balance? Does one have much time to do research for a 2/2 teaching load? How about 3/3? Will one have time to write grant with a 2/2 teaching load? Thanks!
It's more about how many new courses you have to teach each year than the total number. If they're all new preps, even a 2/2 load will suck up most of your time. Some schools will give you multiple sections of the same course, so you only have to prep once, or the same courses every year so that only your first year is new preps. I did manage to write a grant with a 2/2 load, but it meant no work/life balance at all for about a month (i.e. loooooong days, working 7 days a week). Once you're dealing with courses you've done before then it's possible to be very productive, research-wise, and still have a life.
I think a 2/2 and writing a grant is very doable, even with new preps. I suppose it depends on how much time you spend for a new prep and the nature of the course (e.g., grad seminar or ug survey course). I spend about one full day per week for one new prep.
I have a 2/3 and have managed to do a fair amount of research work on the side. But I am also used to working more than 40 hours a week, so spending a Saturday grantwriting doesn't seem like a huge deal to me.
I think it also depends on the administration. I teach 3-3 at a regional school and I am able to get plenty of research done. The problem for work life balance is that the administration schedules meetings, classes etc without consulting people and expects you to be there no mater what. The total time is not bad at all, it is just that the time you must be on campus is so inflexible, nights, weekends, kids holidays from school…