Fifth Anniversary Update: Irena Smith

December 20th, 2013

Since the publication of Mama, Ph.D., I have left higher education entirely to work full time as an independent college admissions consultant and to pursue freelance writing and editing on the side. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have a job where I can set my own hours and call the shots, and I would love to see that kind of flexibility in higher education, although I realize that this is impossible for all kinds of reasons. And, on a bursting-with-pride note: my son Jordan, who was diagnosed with high-functioning autism during my first year as a post-graduate lecturer, and whose diagnosis made me rethink staying in academia (as well as everything I thought I knew), has graduated from high school (where he was a varsity wrestler all four years) and spent the summer working full-time as a lifeguard and started college life as a freshman at University of the Pacific this fall. Is he miraculously cured? Yes and no — but if there’s anything I learned from the past 18 years, it’s that there’s progress (toward a dissertation, toward full dilation, toward tenure), and then there’s progress that puts a lump in your throat and makes you believe in miracles.

Fifth Anniversary Update: Angelica Duran

December 17th, 2013

Husband-Sean and I have just entered the empty-nester stage, now that daughter-Jacqueline (Purdue B.A. In Linguistics with minors in English and Asian-American Studies, 2012) is happily married to Peter (Purdue B.S. Astronautical and Aeronautical Engineering, 2012) and happy mothering grandson-Patrick (b. 08/28/12); and son-Paul is set to enter Purdue Engineering in August 2013, where he will be the pianist in one of the university’s jazz bands.

I am amazed at the great strides women are making in higher education, despite the low turnover in tenured positions. I have felt supported in my going up the ranks: I was an Assistant Professor from 2000-2007, and am now an Associate Professor going up for full starting August 2013. I have indeed been offered many leadership opportunities in high administration. I took on being my university’s Director of Religious Studies (2009-13). While I am very pleased with the job I did and was asked to continue on in the position, my passion lies in researching and teaching, so I declined. This was a hard decision since I know one measure of professional success in the field is higher pay and visibility, both of which come with administrative jobs. But I need to follow my bliss. I mentor women and men alike but do note that female students well-populate my office hours, and that our conversations are devoted in some part to professionalization matters. I tend not to forecast, so I find it hard to write anything to answer “what would you like to see happen for women in higher ed in the next 5 years?” except to say that I hope for women what I hope for all, that they strive to live, teach, study, research, and conduct all the other aspects of their job with integrity, compassion, and freedom.

Fifth Anniversary Update: Rosemarie Emanuele

December 15th, 2013

I found the request for essays for Mama, PhD when I was searching for information on how to balance the life of a professor with that of a mother. I was hoping to design a workable maternity leave program for my college, one that, unlike the current use of medical leave, would include new fathers as well as adoptive parents. In the back of my mind, I thought that designing such a program would help me achieve the rank of full professor. I never did find the answer, but instead found my essay published in Mama, PhD.

Five years later, I am still in search of a good answer to the maternity leave issue, but even with this need unmet, I am now a full professor with a daughter who is now a pre-teen. What is more, I am now a regular blogger for the Mama, Ph.D. column in Inside Higher Ed. While I have, for some time, been a math professor by day and an economist by night, I now consider myself to be somewhat of a part-time writer, too. Being published in that book opened options for me that I previously did not know existed.

Five years ago, most of us would not have known what a “MOOC” was, nor would many of us have given a second thought to the plight of our adjunct professors among us, or the large amount of debt that some of our students take on to earn their degrees. The academic would has changed greatly in these past five years, but many of the challenges for women remain. The tenure clock still strikes women at the heart of their child-bearing years, and many women still find themselves making compromises with their careers in order to find a balance between being an academic and being a mother. I would like to see academic institutions evolve in the coming years to better support parents of both genders who want to contribute as academics and also do their best as parents. In addition, I hope that some of the issues that seem to bring “disruption” to academia help us all evolve into a part of the economy that can best use the talents and skills of all of those working in this sector.

Fifth Anniversary Updates: Amy Hudock

December 13th, 2013

I’d have to say that much has changed for me in relation to academia and motherhood. Mainly, in moving from working at 4 year colleges to a 2 year college, I’ve noticed that the number of women in leadership positions is much higher. The culture about parenting, thus, is more open. Faculty sometimes bring children to campus, and no one comments on it. Both male and female faculty have no problem explaining that they cannot do that meeting at 3:00 because they have to pick up children. Taking a day off to care for a sick child is not frowned upon. And when we set up our teaching and office hour schedules, we are allowed to do so around our child care duties. The research supports what I see in the 2 year college – the more elite a college, the fewer women in higher level positions. Community and technical colleges, on the other hand, don’t rank high on the scale. They don’t have a research requirement, and their main mission is teaching. They work in the care taking area of academia, which is less prestigious. Thus, more women and men who are primary caretakers work at them.

Fifth Anniversary Update: Laura Levitt

December 11th, 2013

My news is bittersweet. I am so very happy that my mother got to celebrate the publication of this book and read the essay I wrote for her five years ago. She was diagnosed with a form of frontal temporal dementia not long after the book came out. And she died at the end of 2011.

Attached is a piece I wrote and presented for the Yizkor, memorial service at my synagogue as I approached the anniversary of my mother’s death. …it expresses some of what I have felt around my mother’s death.

Reading Alison Bechdel’s amazing graphic and comic drama novel/memoir Are You My Mother? was an estranging experience. Of course I related to and felt distant from both this material and the very notion of searching for my mother. The title of this book is the same title as the book in the Dr. Seuss series about the baby bird who fell out of her nest and goes in search of her mother. I had always felt that that book was the model for my first book. Like the baby bird, I too was on a long journey home and could not find my place. Any and all and none of the places I visited were exactly what I was looking for. Of course, I am now more keenly aware of how “mother” and “home” seemed to have been interchangeable at that moment in my life in ways that feel almost impossible now.

Bechdel’s book is about a woman not unlike my mother and Bechdel is a daughter not unlike me. We are the same age and our mothers were both teachers although our mother’s lives were quite different. And yet there was something about beginning this book on Mother’s day, this spring, the first Mother’s day after my mother’s death and finding tracing of a relationship between a mother and a daughter that were deeply familiar but profoundly distant from me. It was as if I were looking at and reading about a younger self and her mother, me and my mother in those days when I was sure she was completely invulnerable, indestructible, a force of nature that would never be anything but her self. And that is part of what made this reading so difficult. My mother changed. She became a number of different people over the last years of her life. She calmed down, she listened, she was quiet and thoughtful, and then, having lost her thoughts, she was, at her best, serene.

A moment returns. I am in the kitchen sitting with my mother at the table. I have brought her a copy of a review of my book about my family, especially my parents. I want to share it with her and with my father. I show her the review. She tells me that she wants to read it to me. I sit and listen as my mother who can now hardly comprehend what she reads, slowly, deliberately read to me this review out loud. I think it may be the last thing she ever really read to me. It is not a short review, four pages in the small print of an academic journal. She reads and I hear her voice sharing these words. I no longer remember what they sound like only the feeling of her love, the pride and joy that animate her effort. She is proud of herself in being able to read these words and she is proud of me for having written the book that elicited this review. She is genuinely delighted and determined even if she can no longer fully take in the words on these pages. She is reading them to and for me. I wish I had a recording of that reading that I could play again and again just to hear her voice. I have a semblance of its cadence but mostly I have simply the glow and warmth of this gesture, a gift.

I am not exactly sure how to characterize what it is but reading about Bechdel and her feisty and difficult and complicated mother, I have a sense of the distance between who my mother was and who she became when she read me that review and then later who and what became of her in those final months. I cannot imagine Alison Bechdel’s mother disintegrating but that is what this book has shown me. It marks a distance I have not been able to fully appreciate until now. And coming to this realization, I think I better understand why it was so hard for me to read this book on Mother’s day.

As I was writing about this book, the phone rang. It was my father. I tried to tell him about this and my voice was breaking but he did not quite know how to acknowledge this although I think he heard it. I tried to tell him about reading Bechdel and as much as I wanted to share with him the specificity of my reading, the connections I was making to this book, he wanted to make it about something more abstract, more distant and general. He could not, I suspect, allow himself to more fully engage with what I was telling him. It remains just too heart breaking. Phyllis is gone. The person she was, the person who resembles the woman in this book is no longer here but the text helped me touch that part of my loss. For this I am extremely grateful to Bechdel. And I want to tell her and all of you to hold tight, to take in as much as you can because as strong and solid as your mothers and loved ones are, none of us live forever and sometimes even the most formidable women and men can disappear. I don’t know that I could have ever heard this about my mother when she was just herself as she had been, but now knowing what I know, I am keenly aware of how even walls move. She is gone.


Writing this made me cry. That seemed right. I look up from my screen onto my desk where I see next to each other, an image of my mother and me last year all dressed up for an event at the synagogue where I grew up, a tribute to my parents, and many pictures of my darling Philine, my Swiss girl, the daughter of my beloved advisee Tania, my perhaps fairy goddaughter, and I am struck by the way the images seem to belong together in the constructed world of intimacies that are my life and my family, a family without children. They are part of this alternate legacy, and poking out behind the picture of Philine barely visible before the clearly visible faces of my mother Phyllis and me, is a photograph of my friend Susan Shapiro. I see her arm and a sliver of her pale chest. She is wearing a dark blue cloak. I know the photograph and I am happy to see her here with Philine and Phyllis and me.

Fifth Anniversary Update: Sheila Squilante

December 9th, 2013

Here There Be Monsters and Mothers
By Sheila Squillante

In my essay, “Student/Body,” which appeared in Mama, PhD, I tell the story of how one of my business writing students suggested, upon hearing that my ultrasound revealed the sex of my child to be male, that we name him Beowulf. “Because, you know,” I remember him saying, “you’re a writer.”

We did not name our son after the hero of that epic poem, though he certainly grew as a heroic part of my imagination while he was gestating, and has grown to become an equally heroic part of the last eight years of my life as a mother.

In 2011, Dancing Girl Press published my first chapbook, A Woman Traces the Shoreline. Something between poetry and prose, it’s a lyric meditation on the experience—body and mind—of being pregnant for the first time. In it, I figure my unborn child—my son– as both the sea monster lurking just off the map edge of my known world, and as the alien lobbing potatoes (which I suppose symbolized the various, endless, sometimes humiliating and ridiculous physical travails of pregnancy) at me in the overly-strange rooms of my pregnancy dreams.

The book is tiny—more like a pamphlet in size—and it would take a reader something like five minutes to read all the way through, slowly.

But, like the Anglo-Saxon poem with its hero and its monster, it is also, at least to this mother, absolutely epic in scope. It is my whole body. The entirety of my mind, which includes my personality, my fears and foibles, neuroses, curiosities and all my joy which I had, until that moment, no idea would expand so hugely to accommodate the love for this vanquishing force inside me.

Thankfully, all 60 lbs of his second-grade self is outside of me now, as is his kindergartner-aged sister. I’ve written about her, too, though not in a lyric way, not with the nuance and ambiguity of poetry. Her infant battle with serious reflux and my own with the post-partum depression that accompanied her first year commanded the knife-edge clarity of prose. I carved my way through six months of near continual confusion and crying for us both in my essay, “Cry, Baby,” which was published in Literary Mama in 2010.

My body is a generative, heroic force and my children are the only delivered-whole ( and, yes, even holy)-to -the-blank-page works it has ever produced.

Sheila Squillante is the associate director of the MFA programs at Chatham University and assistant professor of English. She is the author of two chapbooks of poetry and a full-length manuscript due out with Tiny Hardcore Press in 2014. Her poems and essays have appeared in places like the Rumpus, Brevity, Barrelhouse, Quarterly West, Thrush Poetry Journal and Literary Mama. She is an associate editor for PANK Magazine and serving this year as editor-in-chief of The Fourth River, Chatham’s literary journal for nature and place-based writing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fifth Anniversary Update: Sheila Squilante

Five Years Out

December 6th, 2013

Mama, PhD turned five this summer and I had grand plans for a birthday celebration. I imagined a blog tour, visiting the blogs that reviewed the book five years ago; I solicited updates from all the book’s contributors, asking how life — inside academia and out — had changed for them since the book’s publication, and planned to publish them here.

But because the book is a quiet object that sits on my shelf, its birthday was superseded by the more clamorous, insistent demands and schedules of the people (and now kittens) living in my house.

Still, updates from contributors came steadily into my inbox all summer, and I’ll be publishing them over the next few weeks. For now, here’s mine. Tune in for more…

My essay for Mama, PhD, “The Bags I Carried,” began as a chronological list. Although I ultimately smoothed the piece out into a narrative, I still often think in terms of dates and milestones. Reflecting back on the last five years, I couldn’t help but think about what’s changed and what’s not.

2008: Mama, PhD is published, after three years of work.
2013: My second anthology, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage, is published, after five years of work.

2008: kids in preschool and kindergarten
2013: kids in 3rd and 6th grade

2008: expecting I’ll get more work done when my kids are in school fulltime
2013: understanding that my kids take as much of my attention/consideration/thought as they take, even if they are not in the house as much

2008: six years since I’d been teaching in a classroom
2013: eleven years since I’ve been teaching in a classroom (and thus, more years not teaching than teaching)

2008: youngest child able to sound out his name in the dedication to Mama, PhD
2013: youngest child reads my essay for Cassoulet before publication and says, “It’s a good essay, Mama.” I can’t get a more meaningful review, but the book does inspire some nice ones.

2008: dinner table conversations with the kids about planets and space, interrupted by their loud bodily functions and subsequent giggling
2013: dinner table conversations with the kids about planets and space, interrupted by their loud bodily functions and subsequent giggling

2008: one co-edited anthology with a writer I met through Literary Mama
2013: a second co-edited anthology“ with a writer I met through Literary Mama

2008: wrote a column for Literary Mama about the challenge of continuing to make art after becoming a parent
2013: in the third year of working with my husband to support parent writers and artists through The Sustainable Arts Foundation

2008: “Congratulations on Mama, PhD! What are you working on for your next book?”
2013: “Congratulations on Cassoulet! What are you working on for your next book?”

Stay tuned, I say, stay tuned…

The Broad Experience: Podcast on Women in Academia

November 18th, 2013

“You have to be able to concentrate and that requires a lot of time free from any other thoughts. And that means you can’t be thinking about taking the kids to the doctor, you can’t be thinking about how dirty the house is.” – Aeron Haynie

“Who do you report an assault to when it’s your boss? What do you do when that’s the person who raped you?…and when you finally talk to HR they say you’re a graduate student, you’re not technically an employee, so they can’t help you.” – Kate Clancy

Ashley Milne-Tyte recently interviewed Mama, PhD contributor Aeron Haynie and others about the challenges of being a woman — and especially being a mother — in academia. Click here to listen to the podcast!

Posted in Academic News, Mama Ph.D. News | Comments Off on The Broad Experience: Podcast on Women in Academia

Fifth Anniversary!

July 30th, 2013

The fifth anniversary of the publication of Mama, PhD is today and we’ll be celebrating into the fall with posts from our original contributors, updating us on their lives in and out of academia today.

Please join the conversation in comments here and on our Facebook page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Fifth Anniversary!

CFP: Staging Women’s Lives in Academia (Literature and Language Workplaces)

May 8th, 2012

CFP: Staging Women’s Lives in Academia (Literature and Language Workplaces)

We are putting together an edited collection, tentatively titled Staging Women’s Lives in Academia. The subtitle, yet to be figured out, will indicate that our focus is upon women in literature and languages. The book, under serious consideration at Rutgers University Press for its new Higher Education Studies series, will focus upon nodal points of professional (graduate school, pre- and post- tenure, mid- and later- career, and retirement) and personal life for women in academia. We have two key premises: that choosing not to continue down the traditional path of academic life stages is as significant as following it, and that the usual conflation of academic and age-specific life stages is deeply gendered.

Our design for the collection outlines professional life stages. These range from:

• finishing the degree (who chooses to write or not write the dissertation);
• seeking academic or other employment post-Ph.D.;
• beginning and then remaining in the profession (publishing, promotions, moving into administration or not);
• leaving academia once employed (whether in a full-time or part-time, pre-tenure or post-tenure position);
• deciding to retire or to continue working.

We welcome essays from women who have followed a traditional career path, but also from those who’ve travelled other roads. We can readily see a graduate student writing about the decision to get the Ph.D. but not pursue academic employment, for example, an adjunct writing about mid-career parenting decisions, an administrator writing about being “stuck,” an associate professor talking about the decision not to seek promotion to full professor, etc. Parenting, elder-care issues, and general assessment of “professionalization” values can also lead to priorities other than those usually counseled through professional advice venues.

Although we of course want contributors to draw upon personal experience, we will be asking that they both theorize and concretize their essays. As you think about this call, we’d like to ask that you also think about some very basic questions that could help others, such as: “Do/did you discover that your experience was typical, but nonetheless didn’t expect it?” “What would you point out as the key features of this stage to a colleague just beginning it?” “How do you think your experiences were shaped by the kind of school you worked at and where your school was situated?” and, everyone’s favorite, “What would you do differently if you had it to do again?”

Besides these basic questions, there are many others that you might consider, such as: What is gendered about your career path, your career experience? How did race/ethnicity, age, class, sexuality, and culture affect your academic experience at each stage? How did your academic work feed into, enhance, or distract from other parts of your life? Or how much of your personal life intersects with or clashes with your work life? Has your work changed over time? Have you changed over time in terms of your enthusiasm for, and interest in, your work?

We want contributors to be frank, but we also want these essays to encourage “best practice” discussion and also to serve as references for other women. Because responding fully to some of these topics may be difficult, we are willing to accept proposals or essays by authors writing under a pseudonym or anonymously. We also invite proposals written by several people in dialogue with each other.

Please consider sending in a proposal for this collection, but also think about students and colleagues who fall under the “did not choose to” rubrics who may not be receiving notes such as this. Please forward this call to them. We would like to receive proposals by June 1, 2012. Proposal packets should include a 500-word abstract (or a full essay, if appropriate) and a brief c.v. Final essays should be around 6250 words, including notes and Works Cited, although we will consider shorter pieces. They should be sent to both of us:

Michelle Massé at
Nan Bauer-Maglin at

« Previous PageNext Page »