Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Visualizing my job

Posted by Melissa on January 14, 2011

This afternoon, after writing a big pile of recommendation letters, my brain was fried so I took a break and found myself exploring wordle. (For those of you unfamiliar with wordle, the website takes text and turns it into a word cloud with the size of the words related to the frequency of their appearance in the text.)  Most of the writing I do is for professional purposes (I’m not a journaling type), but it was fun to see what wordle produced for course materials, grant applications, etc. One of the documents I put into wordle was my prospectus for tenure review. The prospectus is my ten page personal narrative summarizing my professional trajectory while at Carleton. I thought the result gave an interesting snapshot of my professional life:

One thing is clear, interactions with students are central to my work. I knew that, but I was amazed by how that word dwarfed all others.

Two other thoughts…

I was surprised that the word research appeared more often than teaching. As a Carleton faculty member, quality teaching is the most important aspect of my job. Perhaps the relative frequency of research versus teaching (and the prominence of several technical terms) was because my discussion of teaching was more nuanced than my discussion of research and therefore I employed a richer vocabulary in writing about my teaching and a more limited, technical vocabulary in my discussion of research.  (I spent about an equal number of pages in the document discussing teaching and research.)

A few words were either conspicuously absent or small relative to their importance to me, namely colleagues, advising, and community. All three loom large in my professional life, but they hardly registered in this document.

Anything else catch your eye?

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