Long and Short Term Goals

The past few days I’ve been struggling with the boundaries between work goals and personal goals.

See, I taught adjunct at a local community college this past summer and was asked to do it again this summer. And naively I agreed.

The more I’ve been thinking about this decision, the more I believe it was the wrong one for my professional goals. However, teaching is absolutely the best thing for my personal finance goals.

Here’s the scoop: Teaching at the community college nets me a very sexy $5,000. I work 2.5 hours a day for 8 weeks. Not a bad deal. However, the class is right in the middle of the day (noon to 2:30pm). So because of its timing it is difficult to do anything before and I’m always so exhausted it is hard to do anything after either. With the rate I’m paying debt down and the addition of another $5,000 in the summer – I could be credit card debt free by August (not a promise, though, just an “if everything goes as planned”).

However, what I think I should do professionally is do research in someone’s lab over the summer. It advances the goals of my department (that I set), it keeps my research skills fresh, and will help make me money in the future as I’ll be publishing, be able to write grants, and there is a POSSIBILITY that whoever I work with will be able to pay me a small stipend. But if I’m teaching this class, I won’t be able to do this.

So I’m stuck between two things I want: Debt Free vs. Thriving Department

Both have negative consequences if I wait. The longer I’m out of research the harder it is for me to get back in. The longer I’m in debt the harder for me to get to my big long term financial goals.

The only half way in between I can figure out is switching to teaching a night class or finding someone who doesn’t mind me coming in just 2-3 hours a day during the week. Neither are ideal situations, but neither are perfect.

Since I’m the one who wants both of these things to happen I’m having a hard time deciding which is the MOST important at this point in time. And if I don’t get my debt paid down, I’ll be wondering the same thing next year and the year after.

So maybe I just answered my own question there…


Three Weeks?!

I can’t believe the school year is almost over. My MWF classes only have 5 more class meetings before finals. My T/Th classes just have 4 (I’m cancelling 1 day to take the students to a conference).

I’m feeling that end of the semester crunch to get everything graded and tie up loose ends. It is stressful and exhausting. I’m definitely ready for summer and a nice 3 week break before I start teaching again. =)

Also, it occurred to me just this morning that spring (real spring) is finally here. The rain is happening, the trees are blooming, and the threat of snow has all but disappeared. ❤


Last Friday I received my contract for the 2011/2012 school year.

I was disappointed (to say the least) when I opened it. It was a 10-month contract for $53,800. The amount was up $2,800 (only a 5.5% increase when I was told 10%).  I was expecting at least a $5,000 increase based on the conversation that I’d have with the dean of our college.

Also, it was still a 10-month contract, which I was sort of expecting – but when I found out that the other new professor in the department ALSO got a 10-month contract for no extra work, well, I got a little angry.

I took the weekend and a day or two to think about it and resolved that I’m going to attempt to negotiate my contract.

I feel a little greedy doing it, but I also am putting in a lot more work above and beyond what most people in my similar position are doing.

What I plan on doing is returning my contract unsigned, with the changes that I want, and a letter of explanation.

So what am I going to ask for?

I think I’m going to ask for either my base salary (no raise) on an 11-month contract (+1 month for being chair, +1 month for my extra iniatives in the department – which is the reason the other faculty member got an extra month). This would bring me to $56,100. I don’t think this is unreasonable.

Actually, let me rephrase, I’ll settle for that number above.

I’ll ASK for an 11-month contract with the raise amount. This would be $59,180. I don’t actually expect to get this much. While I would LOVE to have that much I don’t see it happening.

I plan to make clear in my letter to the Vice President that the first month is for chair duties and the second month is for the projects that I want to see happen in the department including (but not limited to):

  • Starting an American Chemical Society student chapter here on campus. I’ve already made steps towards making this happen and have even devised a plan to integrate students from the local community college to increase transfers from that school.
  • Starting an Honor’s section of General Chemistry in tandem to the “regular” General Chemistry to attract more honor’s students. This year 3 of my 25 General Chem students are Honor’s students. Next year that number will be up to around 10. When 1/2-1/3 of your class is an Honor’s student it helps to provide them a little more bang in the class. I am planning on offering them a 30 minute weekly seminar where we go more in depth to the topics we cover in class and really start to show them the connections. This would take the form of an Honor’s Contract that they’d make with me. I’m VERY excited about doing this, but also I recognize that it will take time from my class prep and chair duties.
  • A complete revamping of the Chemistry curriculum for upper division students. Right now our class offerings are inefficient to the upper division students. I want to revamp the upper division classes to they get a breadth of chemistry knowledge rather than in depth study of just 4 topics. Both myself and the other Chemistry professor see this as a great option, it will just take planning and initiative to make it happen. Both of which are expected to come from me.
  • Starting a monthly “Science Saturday” for local 4th – 6th graders on campus to expose them to our program at a younger age. I see this as a way to get our undergrads connected to the science in a fun way AND to bring future students to campus. We’ll offer this as a free program that we’ll fund through soap sales in December from the Chemistry department and plant sales in the spring from the Biology department. As well, we have a grant to start the initial program.
  • Starting a summer research program on campus including:
    • Grant writing to fund summer research (including faculty summer salary compensation)
    • Time investment in finding research collaborators (will spend two weeks this summer with a collaborator brainstorming grant ideas on my own dime)
    • Time investment in getting preliminary results of said research during the summer

I personally want all of these things to become sustaining entities or well on their way to being sustaining by the end of the next academic school year. All of these are things that will better our department and increase student enrollment over time, but without the monetary compensation for my efforts it will be difficult to motivate myself to do these things in addition to teaching and chair duties – especially since most of these activities would take place during my weekend and summer time.

I also want to make it clear that the additional 11th month in the contract would only be expected as long as I am continuing to make progress on these goals with the end point expectation being that eventually I would procure summer research funding that would pay for my own summer salary and stipends for students.

So – I have to ask. Do you guys think I’m being unreasonable? Should I just take what is being offered or try to fight  for what I think is fair? Keeping in mind of course the fact that our school is in a huge financial hole right now.

(P.S. – It should be noted that I know for a fact that another school in the same family of school’s is DESPERATELY trying to fill a Chemistry position for the Fall. It is in Nashville, which would not be a bad location, and could be  a huge bargaining chip in my favor. I don’t want to leave, but just saying the pieces are out there for an exceptionally successful negotiation.)

Teaching Over the Summer!

I heard back late Thursday from the Dean of the Science department from the local community college and they’ve offered me the teaching position. I’m super excited!

I’ll get paid $3,500 for the 8 week class.

If my class makes at my school I’ll also get another $2,000 minimum (up to $3,000 depending on the number of students). If less than 4 enroll it will get cancelled and I get nada. Boo.

I’m pretty stoked though that for SURE I’ll get an extra $3,500 this summer. This will be COMPLETELY on top of my normal pay.

However, this does mean that my super awesome road trip will be cut from the summer agenda.

Mr Hive and I are planning a long weekend road trip to Texas to visit his parents in July. Then I’ll have 2.5 weeks off before my contract begins at my school. So I may still take my shortened version during that time, but my dad is also talking about the two of us going scuba diving during that time. Which I would MUCH rather do. I LOVE diving!

Knowing my dad though there is only a 50% chance that going diving will materialize. However, I would love to take a road trip to the keys and spend 4-5 days diving before the school starts.

I’m getting really excited for the summer. Just a few more weeks of classes!!

Office Hours

One of the very joyous things I get to do on a daily basis is have students in my office.

That isn’t sarcasm. I LOVE helping students in my office. If I could have them in all afternoon I would, but unfortunately I only get students coming in when they decide they want help. I can’t force them in to my office. (I do have two assignments in my General Chemistry class where they HAVE to come talk to me for a homework grade, for most students that is the ONLY time they ever come see me).

Which is really quite hilarious to me seeing as I’m at a small, private, liberal arts college. The reason 90% of these students came here is because they wanted small class sizes. They wanted individual attention. They wanted their professors to know them. And yet… only a small handful actually take advantage of the reason they’re paying $30,000/year in tuition.

This morning I was thinking about how I run my office hours and I realized that the old standard “open door” I’ll be here from 1pm-5pm for office hours is out of date for the modern student. While they’re okay with traditional classes, my students actually aren’t interested in one-on-one education. What they want is one-on-one ONLINE help. They want me to walk them through email by email, IM by IM – and I believe that one-on-one or even group online office hours is something they would greatly appreciate.

I’m thinking something like an hour or two a week in an online environment with a white board where they can ask me questions and I can work through problems online. For Chemistry there would have to be a white board – nearly impossible to talk about most concepts without having something to draw on.

So I’m thinking of spending some time looking at different online conferencing software to see which will fit my needs the easiest and be the best to use with students.

I have an account already with Dimdim, which is super easy to use, so I may go with that. The problems I can see with Dimdim is #1 they just got taken over by another company, so they may not offer the same service for free. And I can only have 10 users logged on at a time. Not that I ever have more than 10 students banging on my door for help when I have real office hours – but online office hours is a bit more accessible I’d imagine to students. I really don’t want to hear angry complaints the next day about how they TRIED to log in to office hours but couldn’t. That would be worse than not offering it at all…

It also looks like Vyew does a similar service that Dimdim has, also free with up to 10 users.

So this is something to think about. I’m not sure if online office hours are the way to go, but I can definitely see how me spending only 2 hours in the office in the afternoon having office hours and then another 3 hours of office hours at home could be nice – and also more beneficial to the students since the office hours would be during the time they’re actually working on the assignment.

Since many of my readers are either college professors, teachers or college students I have to ask: Have you tried online office hours? If so did students show up? As a student, would you use online office hours?

For those of you with online business experience: What online conferencing environment would you recommend? Free is preferable. Also, no log-in names would be great (I’d rather they just click on a link to get to the conference room).

All advice appreciated!

(Also, if you’re the maker of an online conferencing tool and would like to have me review your service, please let me know! I’d be more than happy to accept compensation for this service in return for a review. Hint. Hint. Nudge. Nudge.)

Extra Money This Summer

This summer I need to earn some extra money – I’ll have lots of “free time” and why not make money to pay off debt? So far I have 3 different avenues that are in the works to get me some extra cash:

1. Summer school at MY University. From May 16th to June 10th I’ll be teaching a 4-week summer class at my University. I’ll get paid based on the number of students enrolled in the class. I’ll get paid between $2,000-$3,000 depending on the number of students. If 3 or less sign up then I can run the class directed study, but I’ll only get a few hundred dollars for it – not worth it at that point. So here’s hoping for at least 4 students!

2. Summer school at the local community college. I have an interview on Tuesday at the local community college to teach a summer class there. The class would run from June 6th to July 28th. So there would be 1 week of overlap between that class and the class I’m teaching at my school. There is also a slight time conflict, but since I’ll know about it before hand I can change the time of the summer school class at my university before students sign up so that it doesn’t conflict with the community college class time if I do get the position. This is a moderate inconvenience, but shouldn’t be a big issue. If I do get the position I’ll make between $2,500-4,000 for teaching the one class (it is more units than the class I’ll be teaching at my university, so I’ll get paid a bit more).

3. My dad will rent my sister’s room. I talked two years ago about how my dad was working at Costco to survive the recession and his unemployment. He’s since moved on and is now working as a product demonstrator at grocery stores and warehouse stores. This job is 100% travel based. He loves it because he gets to have the freedom to be anywhere in the country. Right now he’s in coastal California. For May-June he plans on being in Kansas City to spend some time with me and my sister. In July-August he plans on going to Colorado. Then coming back to Kansas City area in the fall – and then going to Florida for the summer. He loves that his job is also a vacation tour around the country. Being that he is single and all his kids are out of the nest, it is a pretty good situation for him.

The only caveat to my dad’s new position is that he has to live in extended stay hotels. He pays 1/2 of the bill and his company pays the other. Which amounts to essentially what he’d be paying in rent/mortgage if he lived somewhere. So for the time that he’s staying in Kansas City (once my sister leaves), he’ll be staying with me.

This isn’t the first time that my dad has lived with me while I’ve been an adult. He also lived with me for 6 months when I was a graduate student. It really isn’t a huge issue for me as my dad loves going out on dates and entertains himself very well. So it will be nice to have him around.  The only problem is that he’ll probably want to have more meals together, which could definitely increase my food costs since my dad likes pretty elaborate dinners. (But since he’s diabetic, they’re also really healthy dinners, too!)

He said that he would pay me rent money for the time he’s with me. From our conversation it seemed like ~$75 per week will probably be what he pays me. Since he’s planning on hanging around for around 4 weeks in May/June and then another 2 weeks in August. That is a cool $450 I’ll make tax free. Also, I’ll save money by not having to redo my sister’s room in to my craft room too soon. Also, he’ll save money since he won’t be staying at the hotels during that time and getting to spend time with his beautiful daughter. It really is a win-win situation. 😉

All in all, for these three summer activities (if I get the position at the local community college), I’ll be able to make between $4,950-7,450 (before taxes). This will be ON TOP OF the regular paychecks that I’ll get from my faculty position now (I’m on a 10-month contract, but that amount is paid to me over 12 months). So all of this money I’ll be earning in the summer will be able to go STRAIGHT to debt. That means that I could easily reach my goal of reducing my debt by $5,000 this year by the end of the summer. How freakin’ sweet would that be?

The Universe Knows

As if by a chance of fate I got an email yesterday from a book publisher asking me to review a Chemistry textbook for them. It isn’t a lot of money, just $50 to review one chapter of a text book and give my thoughts on it.

I’m pretty excited because I’m getting $50 and also excited because it is by one of my favorite authors so it will be nice to see what his new book looks like.

ALSO, it is nice because it is definitely something that if I do once I’ll get more offers to do again and can do at my leisure. $50 every few months or so is a great little snowball to throw on to the debt. So I’m super excited.

Summer Plans

I know it is really early to start thinking about summer. But the idle hands I’ve felt the past week has made me realize that I seriously need to make sure that I have a plan for this summer. Three months off – nothing to do – recipe for disaster! My idle hands won’t be able to contain my boredom. And my budget can’t afford a 3 month trip around South America like I’d like to do. 😉

My goals are to both occupy my time AND to earn some extra money to pay off my debt. So I’ve started coming up with some options, from more likely to least likely:

  1. Sit at home bored all summer. This seems the most likely if I don’t figure out some other plan for myself in the summer. Bonus: I have access to a pool just 1/2 a block away.
  2. Teach a summer class locally. In February I’ll start sending out emails to the local community colleges asking if they have any positions (click here to see  how to get an adjunct position at a community college). I can offer a class at my school, but I have to get 7 students in it to be able to teach it. The chance of that happening is low from what other faculty members have told me. But not impossible. I can also see about helping with some of the adult education classes we offer. They fill up very quick and I have sat in the one I could help teach and know that I’m perfectly able to teach the science portion of that class. So there are quite a few options here that I’ll explore.
  3. Research position. I’ve had a few people offer to have me in their labs over the summer. One in Kansas – a quick half hour drive away. Another in Ohio (one of my collaborators that I’ve published two papers with so far). The last in Switzerland. These would be good career decision moves, but I’d likely not get paid. The would be mainly to develop projects for writing grants that we’d later get funding for – and thus I’d LATER get paid for. No immediate financial gain, but high potential for long term career growth. The last two (Ohio and Switzerland) would cost me quite a bit since I’d have to stay somewhere else, pay for travel expenses, and find something to do with the dog. But they’re still not terrible options. Also, Switzerland I’d be able to do some vacationing on the weekends and work with one of my close friends who is an Assistant Professor there. Two huge bonuses, even though not cost effective in the least.
  4. Grade AP exams. Thanks to the inspiration from TeacHer Finance on this one, I submitted my application to the AP testing center to be a grader for the Chemistry exam. My application was accepted for review, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be chosen to actually grade. If I do get selected I’ll spend June 12 – 18 in sunny Daytone, FL.  I’d get my travel reimbursed and room and board for the time I was there. Also, a stipend – TeacHer got $1,200 for grading Human Geography.
  5. Random job. I could try for some random job in Kansas City over the summer. I could renew my life guarding certification. Work some retail gig for minimum. Something, oh something… Just to keep busy and give me a few extra bucks.
  6. Teaching position at a community college in another location. One way to vacation is to do a working vacation. I am thinking I could apply for an adjunct position at a school in a place where I would also like to vacation in my “off time” – I’m thinking Florida for scuba diving or California to stay with my friends for a while or even Connecticut to hang out with my dear friend Okturn Delmoniq. The salary I get for teaching would pay for my housing while I’m there and I can use my normal “living expenses” money to pay for touristy things. It would be a lot more difficult to get an adjunct position in a place I don’t live – but since I have contacts in San Diego already it wouldn’t be impossible there (I’ve taught at 4 different schools there already).
  7. Summer dive master position. I’ve mentioned on this blog that I’m a Dive Master. It is one of my passions and something that I wish I had more money to invest in to. I’d love to take 2-3 vacations a year dedicated to diving, but in recent years have only been able to manage a trip every other year. I could take this free summer opportunity to find myself a summer Dive Master position. This is essentially the same idea as getting a teaching position at a vacation destination, but I’d probably get paid less, work harder – AND get a great tan. Also, I’d get my fill of under water adventures which sounds pretty awesome to me.
  8. Plan and successfully execute a bank heist. With three months of non-stop planning I think I may be able to successfully find a way to rob a bank with no traces left behind. This is both profitable and will keep me occupied. Please understand – I’m fully joking about this. =)

So there are the options folks – I have a lot of avenues to pursue and will probably try all of them with an equal amount of gumption (with the exceptions of #1 and #8) to see which ones work out to be the best for me.

I talked with BF about a lot of these options today at lunch and he (of course) preferred the ones that involved me staying close. And while I would like to stay near just because it is CHEAPER and closer to him, that doesn’t mean that I feel exclusively like that’s what I want to do. He also commented that he had been thinking that if we did ever decide to have kids that he would definitely have to be the one to stay home with them since he doesn’t have issues going stir crazy like I do. He’s thinking about us having kids? How… cute?

Note from the Lecturn

A couple things of note:

  • One of my students dropped off in my office a hand made dish towel, a bag of homemade cookies, a Christmas CD and a handwritten letter thanking me for taking the time to help her in the class and help her figure out what she wants to do with her life. It was very sweet. For anyone who teaches you know how special things like that are from the students. I’ve been grinning all afternoon.
  • I had a long talk this afternoon with the current chair of the department. We talked about the responsibilities, the duties, and whether he thought I would do a good job at it. He said that if I did choose to do the position that he would be a mentor for me for as long as I wanted. Letting me know what things needed to be done, when they were due, and helping me with tasks when I get overworked. Knowing that he would be there helps a lot. I also realized there was a huge lack of delegation of tasks that was going on in the department. One person doing everything is insane and a lot of work, ten people doing ten jobs can help ease the burden on the one person and add very little more work to their burden.
  • I’m meeting with the Dean of the college tomorrow to ask about what support they will give me. Reduced teaching load, monetary support, ect. I hate to say it but my bottom line is really money. I would need to have someone cover my labs, since they’re the biggest time sink, and have additional salary support (I’d say $5,000/yr at least). Unfortunately I won’t have a reduced teaching load too much because the department isn’t big enough to have enough faculty members to cover everything. We have one semi-part time faculty member who is finishing up his Ph.D. – when he finishes that it will be much, much easier since he can teach a year of upper division chemistry classes.
  • I’m so glad that the semester is nearing an end. Finals week is rough for everyone – including the professors! I’ve had a stress ulcer in my mouth for the past 5 days that has just made it nearly unbearable to eat and even sleep.  I’ll be happy for a few weeks off in December to regroup, prep for next semester, and get excited again. A clean slate is always nice. =)

So What’s The News?

It has been over a week since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update of briefly what is going on. I’ll go in to more details on some of these things on later posts:

  • My trip to Vegas was fantastic, I took $300 with me and came back with $200 and saw 2 shows. I consider this a “win”
  • The school in San Diego has decided to post-pone their search until the 2011 school year
  • I applied to three other schools for faculty positions
  • I got a phone interview with one of them, and 4 hours after the phone interview they asked me to come for an on-campus interview
  • The school is in Kansas – I’m learning to live with this – at least it is in the Kansas City area rather than being in Timbuktu
  • My savings account with ING got cancelled and I missed my last payment at the community college – I didn’t even notice until I got an email from the HR department asking me for my bank account info
  • There is a boy, and I like him, a lot. =)