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From the Editor

Tara S. Behrend

Last year, I met a student who told me that our conversation was the first he had ever had with a professor; he didn’t know we were real people. “Wow, it’s so interesting,” he said, “that you have, like, a real personality and stuff.” He was a junior. The thought that he had spent 3 years as a university student and never interacted with a professor made me incredibly sad. My own college experience was profoundly enriched by conversations with professors after class or over coffee. These conversations shaped my thinking and my career path. Upon further reflection, I realized that I was not doing my part to pay it forward. I had been spending most of my time with graduate students and other faculty, and wasn’t making enough time for undergraduates. So, last month I moved into the dorm, where I have just been appointed as the new faculty-in-residence and from where I am currently writing to you.

My position here is not that of disciplinarian or administrator. I don’t have to check for parties in the hallways or resolve roommate disputes. Instead, I open my home to the students and have conversations over a plate of cookies. I take them to art shows and book talks. I say hello in the hallways. I am their neighbor.

My students are really impressive. They are better feminists than I was at their age. They care more about the environment; in fact one group of 30 students is running a zero-waste experiment for the year. They cook from a shared CSA and recycle absolutely everything. They compliment me for using cloth napkins instead of paper. They are savvy about politics and world affairs. They pay attention.

Because they pay attention, they have many anxieties about the future. They want to find a job they love, and they want to make a living wage doing it. They want meaningful work. Most of them aren’t thinking about anything more long-term than that; the idea of buying a house in our expensive metro area is so ludicrously out of reach that it doesn’t even cross their mind. Most of them would prefer not to work for someone else—they’d rather be on their own—but they know how difficult that will be.

The more I listen to them, the more I realize that our theories about work are not useful to them. We need to do much, much better, and not because they are “millennials” but because the world has changed and so too must our understanding of what work is and what it means to people.  I’m heartened by SIOP’s efforts to lead this revolution, and I’m excited about all the good work that is going on to improve the world of work. In fact I got a little bit giddy when I read President Bauer’s column this month; there are so many good things happening. We should all feel proud.

While you’re reading this issue of TIP, also be sure to check out the two feature articles. In the first, Sy Islam and Vivian Woo build on the alternative rankings project to explore the question of where top programs get their faculty. Certainly interesting food for thought. In the second, Kisha Jones and Bharati Belwalkar begin a very important conversation about how race and ethnicity are classified for HR purposes and what the implications of those decisions might be for our science and practice.

I like to put controversial articles in TIP, because starting conversations is generally a good thing. I’m not too concerned with whether everyone agrees with everything they see. We’re a diverse group and our perspectives differ. That said, I don’t like to screw up. If you see something in TIP that is just plain wrong, I hope you will take the time to write a letter to me, and I will publish the letter immediately.

You might also observe that this issue of TIP is slim and trim. Many of you have commented to me that you are overwhelmed by TIP’s length and end up skimming instead of reading. So, we’re trying something new by moving some columns to semiannual and retiring others.  I would love to hear your thoughts about what you like and what you want to see more of.

Finally, I want to note that my term as editor is coming to an end shortly, so please nominate yourself or someone else to take over in 2019. Send all thoughts to behrend@gwu.edu.

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