Countering the Isolation of Academic Life

Decorative: A person, standing alone and staring out a window with extended black walls on either side of the window


"How to Counter the Isolation of Academic Life" (post; doc) sketches the problem of academic isolation and "highlight[s] tips and tricks for growing your own professional-support network," focusing on cultivating "[f]our categories of support": 

  • "Senior mentors in your discipline"
  • "Colleagues in your field on other campuses"
  • "Senior mentors and colleagues on your campus"
  • "Staff support"

A. The Problem(s)

a. "The traditional academic model requires you to demonstrate autonomy in scholarship and teaching ... [and]  emphasize[s] individual success."

  • Yet, "in today’s scholarship culture, which increasingly values interdisciplinary work and socially embedded research, few people make it in academe purely on their own."

b. "Loneliness is especially problematic if you work at a small institution, in an uncongenial department, and/or in a discipline full of introverts."

  • "If you have ever shown up at the office and seen every door in your hallway shut, you will know what we’re talking about."

c. How does one "find allies and advocates"?

  • How does one cultivate "a support network as an ecology — a living, breathing, ever-shifting collection of connections and contacts that needs time and attention to nurture and grow"?

B. Relationships to Develop 

Each point is developed in the post, including the following:

  • Explanations of the point made and why it is important to you and your career
  • Specific, actionable strategies for each suggestion.

1. "Senior mentors in your discipline."

"Senior mentors are critical to your career advancement and to a healthy ecology of support." 

  • "Show gratitutde."
  • "Show recognition."
  • "Show respect."
  • "Pay it forward."

2. "Colleagues in your field on other campuses."

"Building support among people who are in your discipline, at your same rank, is critical to both your productivity and your sanity."

  • "Start small."
  • "Only work with people who energize you."
  • "Find true peers."

3. "Senior mentors and colleagues on your campus."

"They may not be in your specific subfield but are people you collaborate with on campus committees, teaching, or in leadership roles."

  • "[L]ook into the official mentoring programs."
  • "Find what you need and when you need it."
  • "Go for coffee." 
  • "Don’t be a gossip." 

4. Staff Support

"Being kind, responsive, and grateful to the staff is not just the right thing to do: it’s also a strategic part of building your support network."

  • "Be a good human."
  • "A little gratitude goes a long way."
  • "Be sensitive to their working conditions." 
  • "Help staff get to know your work."
  • Remember "[s]taff members are busy, too."
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