Monday, September 18, 2017

Taco - No, Tenured - Tom

For four and a half years Tom - then known as Taco Tom - worked on his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering at the University of Iowa. For six months he worked as an industrial engineer for John Deere to gain experience in the field. For six and a half years he worked on his Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Cognitive Ergonomics at the University of Michigan. For six and a half years he worked as an Assistant Professor in the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at Texas A&M University. 

And now, after 18 YEARS, the early mornings, late nights, weekend hours, uncertainty, stress, and at times excruciatingly hard work have finally paid off. As of September 1st, Tom is a tenured Associate Professor. 

During the two months prior to his PhD defense, Tom worked 18+ hour days finishing his dissertation. Every evening, after I finished work and picked up Will and Hallie from preschool/day care, the three of us would drive to Panera, buy Tom dinner, and deliver it to him at his office. As we pulled into the parking lot of the Engineering Building one evening, 18-month-old Hallie asked, "Daddy live here now?"

Yes, she spoke in complete sentences at 18 months old. And once she started talking she never stopped.

I mention this story because many people consider academia a "cush" career. I know I did, before I stood by Tom's side throughout this process. I thought my college professors showed up on campus to teach their classes, handed grading off to their teaching assistants, and then headed home to pick up their kids from school and make dinner for their families.


Tom went back to work two days after both Will and Hallie were born. Hallie so saw little of her daddy during his PhD years that she thought he lived at work. Tom missed Will's first six birthdays because of a regularly-occurring and mandatory conference. Many, many times Tom has come home after I have fallen asleep, left for the day before I woke up, or slept through the rest of us heading out the door in the morning because he had been up all night. He missed out on more than he should have because he - we - chose this career path.

Academia is not for the weak, as the path to success is long and treacherous for both the individual who choses it and their family waiting in the wings. Academia is, however, for the passionate. For the hard working. For the long-term planner and big picture dreamer who longs to advance science and bring the next generation along for the ride.

Taco Tom will live on in our memories, but I think we'll start calling him Tenured Tom now. He's earned it.
Taco (or Tailgate) Tom
Tenured Tom

No comments:

Post a Comment