Page 66 - Summer 2018
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Two-Body Problem
For 21⁄2 years, they met in the middle every other weekend until the birth of their first son, which “made things a whole lot more complicated.”
“We explored all the options. The whole situation was com- plicated because we both have PhDs in physics. There was a job in the Material Science and Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; my first reaction was, ‘But I’m not an engineer.’ I didn’t know what would be expected, but I looked at the course descriptions and thought, ‘I can teach a good fraction of those.’ I started over as an assistant professor, even though I was close to receiving tenure at UM. I thought it was a small price to pay to have our family together.”
Be Flexible
Andy Piacsek (ASA Strategic Task Force 1 Chair) met his wife, Lisa, while in graduate school. She accepted a tenure-track position at a Central Washington University (CWU), Ellens- burg, before they were married. Shortly after their wedding, they lived two states apart while Andy completed a postdoc- toral position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
“Looking for employment at the university where Lisa was on a tenure track was the easiest path to follow. Although there were no tenure-track positions available in my field (physics) when I arrived, CWU did offer many other op- portunities for academic and scholarly engagement. I also explored opportunities elsewhere, but I eventually decided make the best of my situation at CWU.
“Because Lisa was very happy (and successful) with her posi- tion, and we both liked the academic community at CWU, I was willing to accept a non-tenure-track position. If I had accepted a job out of state, we would have had to make some difficult choices. But I quickly realized that teaching and mentoring undergraduates was a career path that I was well suited for, and I recognized that even without a tenure-track position, the grass was probably greener at CWU for both of us than anywhere else.”
After 11 years of adjunct status, Andy received a tenure- track position in the Physics Department. Today, he has ten- ure and is the department chair, and Lisa is a professor in the Department of Geological Sciences.
These experiences from ASA members illustrate how cou- ples can be flexible, patient, realistic, creative, and open- minded in finding ways for both partners to have meaning- ful careers. Although no couple’s journey will be the same, communication, compromise, and willing sacrifices tend to be at the heart of two-body solutions.
Many thanks to those highlighted in the article for providing their stories. Thanks also to Jennifer Lentz and Josie Fabre for providing information about the Named Luncheon Hon- orees.
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