Post CRDM posts: Dr. Ahern

Dr. Kati Fargo

Dr. Ahern in her office.

As we’ve mentioned before, we are incredibly proud of the excellent students–now representing the program all over the world–who have come before us in the CRDM program. For the next few weeks,  we’ll be interviewing a handful of recent graduates for thoughts about life, the universe, and everything. This week we’re talking with Dr. Kati Fargo Ahern, a 2012 CRDM graduate.

Can you tell us a bit about where you are now and what you’re doing?

I’m an assistant professor at Long Island University– Post campus. I’m working in a tenure track position where my emphasis is on teaching creative writing, digital writing/digital rhetoric, and writing theory courses in addition to our intro courses in First Year Writing. One of my administrative roles is to organize faculty development in digital writing. I’m also working with a program that articulates between high school and college writing, and I’m serving on our First Year Writing committee, and as the faculty adviser for a “colony” (as opposed to a chapter) affiliated with Phi Beta Kappa.

What is the biggest difference between the last year of CRDM and the first year with a job?

Believe it or not, I have even more autonomy this year than in my last year of CRDM. It seems strange at times because you spend so much energy during a campus visit convincing a department that you will be a confident, competent colleague, but once you are in the position, what you have worked so hard to convince people is now their automatic assumption. There is very little oversight, which can be great and motivating.

What is one thing you wish you’d known when you were a CRDM student preparing for the job market?

It is really challenging to read a job posting. Even though we practice that in colloquium, there are so many other factors at play that despite all your research about a school, simply are not available knowledge to the candidates. For instance, I was hired for a job that advertized a concentration in digital media. I thought that I was a good fit, and certainly our program gives us that sort of foundation. However, little did I know, the department REALLY wanted someone who could step in and teach a writing theory course that they had “on the books” but had not been offered at any time recently. This wasn’t in the job posting, but I am *convinced* that I was offered this position, because not only had I taught this course (twice) before through CRDM, but I came to both the MLA interview and the campus visit with copies of my syllabus (bring copies of a variety of syllabi or at least course sketches to your interviews). Also, I created something I titled a “Candidate Summary” that was really just a table with research projects in process/publications accepted, courses taught, “dream courses,” and service. I know a CV covers all this information, but making a 1-page, visual layout for this information was also very helpful for anyone who I was just casually meeting on the campus visit. I had oodles of copies of this “Candidate Summary” with me that I could hand out to anyone who wasn’t on the search committee or didn’t read search materials, or didn’t remember me from two other candidates. It was an effective strategy.

 What is one piece of advice you’d give CRDM students in preparation for their first year out?
Try to be happy. I love my job and I LOVE my department, but I think it is really important to remember something Christian Casper said in my first year– “this [program] is like a gas, and it will expand to fill any space you give it.” I’m terrible at work/life balance. I work every day of every week. But, I’m trying to plan in a few excluded spaces where I don’t feel guilty just because I’m not doing something work-related. Of course, you can’t go the other direction either, but for me it is still a process of letting go the idea that I could somehow “just catch up” or work every usable hour of every 24-hour period. I know there was a HigherEd article (?) recently about people who are teaching perfectionists to the detriment of research time. I’m not finding that it is hard to research. (I actually think I’m doing far more research this year than last!) But, I am finding it very difficult to ever stop working. So, my really circuitous advice would be that once you have your dream job, you can still sometimes not work. You don’t have to feel this overwhelming guilt about having something so great. You can have that great job and allow yourself to be happy too.


Filed under CRDM grads, job market

2 responses to “Post CRDM posts: Dr. Ahern

  1. Pingback: Post CRDM posts: Dr. Dickerson | CRDM @ NC State

  2. So nice to see Kati, smiling and happy, one year after her graduation. Easy to tell she loves her position.”Try to be happy….” Great advice for anyone, no matter the job or circumstance. We miss you, Kati!

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