I got tenure!

One week ago today I saw a small, white envelope in my mailbox in the department. I saw it was from the Office of the President at UBC and I tore it open — careful not to destroy the sacred contents inside. I knew what it was. It was a letter signed by President Stephen Toope telling me he approved my tenure file and I will be promoted to Senior Instructor with Tenure effective July 1, 2014. Tears welled up in my eyes and I blinked them back to actually read the words. I wandered around for a few moments, aimless, slack-jawed, alone. I vaguely remember telling grad student/ former TA and student of mine/ turned sessional instructor Ben Cheung and he congratulated me. He left. I stayed in the mailroom in shock. Larry Walker came by — wise Larry, who knew me as a terrified grad student applying to the PhD program almost a decade ago, and who sat on my hiring committee evaluating my potential five years ago. I looked up at him and said I got tenure, still holding the letter and staring at it. He congratulated me with the gentle sincerity he brings to every encounter, paused, and said “this is something to celebrate, you know.” I did. I knew. He then asked if I was ready to be called “Senior” — ha! Then he called me a “young kid” and we laughed. I was shaken back to reality and ran to my office to phone my husband, then my gran, my mom, my aunt, my mother-in-law, and my friend Lesley who wrote her dissertation back-to-back with me. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and was overwhelmed by more “likes” and comments and retweets of congratulations than I ever could have imagined! My friend Lara called me squealing with excitement — Lara, who I knew as a nervous but extremely competent undergrad deciding on grad schools, now on the tenure-track herself at SFU. It was all a celebration of love and support of my achievement and it was **amazing.** Later that night, and the next, I indeed celebrated. Then I went back to work creating exams.

A week later, I’m starting to open my eyes and face forward. Far forward. So much of my life has had the next step pre-planned. What will you do after high school? University (though that was at one time much more obvious to my teachers than my family). What will you do after University? Grad school (though that was for a long time much more obvious to my undergrad advisors than to me or my family… what’s grad school?). What will you do after grad school? Apply for this amazing teaching faculty position and if I don’t get it then figure out something else (I had no back-up plan, really). I got the job. Amazing!! Now what? Get tenure. You have four years (+8 months of waiting for our committees to evaluate you) to show us we want to keep you. So get to work.

I did. I worked harder than I ever thought I could. And to anyone who has known me a long time, that’s saying a lot.

Now I’m in. I have a permanent job and have started my career with gusto. How do I want to steer it now? What comes next? It’s five years until I’m eligible for another promotion, but that one doesn’t have the threat of getting fired if it’s negative, so it feels different. What teaching techniques or topics do I want to learn about? explore? try? With whom might I want to collaborate? On what? What does a tenured faculty member do to steer the career ship off the coast and into mid-career waters? (Ok, that just got weird.)

So much feels open. So many possibilities. I think first I’ll take a little time to breathe.


Creative Advertisement Showcase 2014

A couple of weeks ago in my section of Psyc 208 we held the Creative Advertisement Showcase, which was a fantastic celebration of what my students had discovered throughout the term! Previously, each team of students identified a learning challenge they face, investigated primary sources for insight into understanding and addressing the challenge, and summarized those sources in annotated bibliographies and team abstracts. (See the Team Project Guide for a full description of this multi-part assignment.) The purpose of the Creative Advertisement was to get the word out to fellow students about research-based techniques and strategies for addressing the learning challenges they face. They truly were creative! Projects ranged from video and live games to posters to live skits and demonstrations to videos and pamphlets… an impressive variety! Check out some of their videos and websites (ordered by team #)…

Team 4′s Sleep Fairy:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGOWxnPizOk 

Team 5′s Culture Shock: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyZcynf2jk4&feature=youtu.be

Team 22′s Motivation Makeover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6syynl18XA

Team 11′s Loneliness: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_qDfS_x4VtvLWhIZXRNS2pxVHc&usp=sharing

Team 18′s Sleep: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B0xsEQGqsy3IVGczVVpZTGZkcGM/edit

Here’s a shot of Team 19′s Effects of Internet Use on Learning station…

… and one of Team 3′s Social Loafing game based on Apples to Apples

Thanks to everyone for a solid effort on these projects and throughout the term! Study smartly for your finals… and remember that no matter how you do on them, that’s not a reflection of your worth as a person.

Term 2 Exam Period Drop-In Office Hours

Please note that my regular office hours as stated on my syllabi are on hold for the summer. During the exam period, my drop-in office ours are as follows.

Psyc 218: Friday 11 April 2-3 and Tuesday 15 April 11:30-12:30

Psyc 102 and 208: Tuesday 22 April 11-12

Or, please email me for an appointment.

I wish you thoughtful and thorough preparations for your final exams, while remembering that those finals — any grades — do not define who you are or what you can contribute to this world.

Have a fabulous summer!


[This post is a bit belated... I forgot I wrote it last month and just found it in my drafts!]

I understand that there are political, social, economic, etc problems with the Olympics. Like every institution, it’s flawed in many ways. And yet as a psychologist and a Canadian I am fascinated by the Olympics.

In the span of 2-3 weeks of watching the Olympics I feel like I was able to witness and sometimes feel a fraction of Olympic joy, pride, victory, defeat, humility, frustration, sadness. Olympians use self-control and internal motivation to train for years and years for that one moment to perform. Sometimes, their best happens and they win. Sometimes they do their best and still lose. Sometimes - for whatever reason – they don’t perform at their best and their hopes are dashed. But they pick themselves up and keep going. Sometimes re-appearing the next Olympics (I’m thinking Chris Del Bosco, Alex Harvey…) seeking redemption and it still doesn’t come.

The Olympic path is an uncertain one. It requires dedication, self-control, countless hours of training, and it all comes down to one moment, one performance. My job is one of patience and less measurable results. sometime even unknown results. Does that student remember a thing once they leave my class? I have no idea. I hope so. But it’s not measured. How can I be the best teacher I can be without a finish line? I train for countless hours without a coach, but with passion. There are awards, but I have to choose to put myself out there and reach for them… maybe that’s what makes the difference between an Olympian and a really good hobby athlete. Olympians put themselves out there to reach for markers of success, publicly and sometimes even when they face certain defeat. They show up anyway. Maybe that’s part of what being an Olympian really is: putting yourself out there to be tested in a very public way, and dealing with whatever success or defeat comes along.

I think one of the many important ways that my career differs from an Olympian’s is that my path is not a zero sum game. I think sometimes I forget this. If I make it to becoming a gold medal teacher, there can be — and I hope so! — many people sharing that podium with me. The world is a better place when more teachers are more effective.

Watching the Olympics also brings out my fierce Canadian identity. There’s something about the Olympic winter games that just grabs my spirit and reminds me that I wear red and white for so may good reasons. To cheer for a fellow Canadian in whatever sport I’ve never heard of means I’m part of a shared community with that person. And Canada tends to do well, particularly in the Winter Games, which probably influences my interest too. To the extent that my self expands to include their successes, I can claim a little tiny piece of their victory as mine too (called BIRGing, or Basking in Reflected Glory, in social psych circles). Waking up to find out we won a medal or two is like a little present. Does it make a difference in my life? No, not objectively. Does it add a tiny boost to my national pride? Yes.

Academically I’ve been interested in issues of goal setting, self-control, motivation, and identity for a very long time. Perhaps it’s no surprise then how addicted I get to the Olympics and Paralympics. But it’s more than that. There was something about being in Vancouver for 2010 that changed how I feel. Being there to spill out onto the Cambie bridge with hundreds of other Canadians after the men’s hockey team won gold… that was pretty magical. We were all dressed in red and white, laughing, cheering, singing the anthem, high fiving strangers. I can’t think of another time I’ve felt more like my ingroup was all Canadians. It was beautiful.

Goal striving, emotions, self-control, identity, self-expansion… these are realities of the day-to-day that get magnified for me during the Olympics. I finished watching the closing ceremonies feeling a little more connected, a little more aware of humanity and what we can accomplish alone and together. If we can do great things athletically as a nation, maybe we can do great things in other domains too. Maybe I can be bold enough to put myself to a public test, learn from the results, and fight to improve even more. Maybe I can be like an Olympian too.


My Syllabi are Ready!

I didn’t quite realize it’s been a full term since I last wrote a blog post. It was a hectic one for sure, for reasons both academic and personal. And here we are, about to start on the next journey. It’s an interesting life, being tied to an academic year. We really get two “new year” seasons: September and January. Then May is the start of a bit of rest interspersed with conference season, and a chance to write and contemplate big-picture questions about my courses and research interests. Ahh enough about May… back to January!

Syllabus for Psyc 102 Section 004

  • MWF 12-1 in Buch A101
  • 270 students
  • Teaching Assistants: Stef Bourrier and Alex DiGiacomo

Syllabus for Psyc 208 Section 002

  • TTh 11-12:30 in Buch A201
  • ~150 students
  • Teaching Assistants: Michael Barrus and David Williamson

Syllabus for Psyc 218 Section 001

  • MWF 9-10 in AERL 150
  • 100 students
  • Teaching Assistants: Jennifer Lay, Meighen Roes, Mason Silveira, and Wanying Zhao

I’m looking forward to meeting you this week, and to an exciting term!

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This work by Catherine Rawn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.