Fifth Anniversary Update: Libby Gruner

January 10th, 2014

When I wrote my essay for Mama, PhD, I was looking back–back at the struggles of taking my orals while pregnant, dissertating with a young child, navigating the tenure track with two small children. These days I mostly look forward. My daughter (the one with whom I was pregnant when I took my orals) graduated from college this past spring and has just accepted her first “grown up” professional job; my son (the one who was a baby while I was on tenure track) is a junior in high school, and he’s starting to think about colleges. The institution for which I still work, in the meantime, now has a generous parental leave policy, and I sit on the other side of the desk as an associate dean who has to figure out how to cover the classes of those who take that leave. We’ve come a long way. In my office, everyone’s a parent, and there’s an unwritten rule that any meeting can be interrupted by a call from a kid. But we could still do better. Our next frontiers are with our students, who still disproportionately expect female professors to mother them, and with an institutional culture that does not really reward the service that is still disproportionately performed by female and minority professors. I’m in a position now to effect change, but I also see how hard it is do so, how resistant our culture is to change–especially when we feel beset by concerns about the status of the academy as a whole. With women overwhelmingly filling the ranks of adjunct and online professors–the fastest-growing sector of the professoriate–I also fear that the issues of Mama PhDs may simply disappear again into the realm of home-based and part-time workers. I’m really grateful to have been part of an anthology that started bringing these issues and so many others out into the open, and I hope we keep up the conversation for a good long time to come.