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The other day I found out I was named a 2015-2016 Kopenhaver Fellow, a prestigious award for junior tenure-track women to prepare them for future leadership in communication fields. The award is sponsored by the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication at Florida International University, the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) Commission on the Status of Women,  and the AEJMC Council of Affiliates.

I’m excited to take part in this year’s “Women Faculty Moving Forward” workshop and hear from keynote speaker Marie Hardin and other amazing women in academia including: Elizabeth Toth, Judy VanSlyke Turk, Julianne Newton, and Dorothy Bland. I’m hoping they can answer my questions and provide me direction for my future. Most of all, I’m hoping they can give me advice for some of the situations I’ve encountered as a junior female academic that I had no idea how to handle, and in some instances was told just to let it go because that’s the way academe works.

Without naming any names, or pointing any fingers (because that just gets women branded at the very least as troublemakers or the worst as bitches) I’m going to give some reasons why I need this conference.

The “I’m on this paper too” professors

During my graduate degrees i encountered two different professors who put their names on my work despite never adding anything to the manuscript. The first professor was someone who I took for a class. When I approached him/her asking if I could carry out my “hypothetical” research paper for this class into a completed paper for a conference he/she agreed to sign the IRB forms necessary for my work to go forward. I completed the entire project, submitted it to the conference, and had it accepted to the conference. He/she (I hope) read the version I completed for his/her class and gave me a grade on it. When I found out the paper was accepted to the conference I let him/her know — at which point he/she said his/her name should have been on the paper too as it was done in his/her class. So, silly naive graduate student that I was I added his/her name.

A little while later in my graduate career I worked as a research assistant for another professor. This professor was very busy and never showed up for our scheduled weekly meetings. He/she told me to go ahead and work on research on my own. So, I set about turning four papers I had done in classes into completed research projects. Again, I needed a professor’s signature on the IRB forms and the professor obliged. I submitted each of the four papers to a conference and had each one accepted. When the news that I had four papers accepted to a conference came out the professor I was working for demanded his/her name go on each — even though he/she had never even looked at any of the papers. This time I spoke to a mentor who told me absolutely NOT to put the professor’s name on the papers. In the meantime, I was up for evaluation and the professor told the graduate dean I had not completed anything for him/her. I was berated by the graduate dean and told “maybe I didn’t belong in the program.” I was also told I would need to make up my “missed work” with the professor by working for free for him/her over the summer (which I stupidly did).

The “you did all the work, I’ll take all the credit” professors

In later semesters I was assigned to other professors to help with their research. During this time I had an instance where I did all the secondary research on a paper, wrote the literature review, did a good chunk (about 75%) of the analysis, and wrote about 50% of the discussion/conclusion. The other authors wrote the method section and added parts to the analysis and discussion/conclusion. The paper was submitted and accepted to a conference – without my name on it.

I’ve also worked on papers where I was moved to third author — despite writing the majority of the piece — because I was the most junior member on the paper. In one case I was even listed behind someone who didn’t even work on the paper (I still have no idea if this individual even read the piece). I both these cases, I never approached the professors I worked with. My past issues with authorship fights left me too frightened to say anything.

But it doesn’t end with research…

I’ve had instances where ideas I’ve put forth have been “borrowed” by senior faculty members and passed off as their own (or given the credit to one of their cronies). I’ve had senior faculty members evaluate me poorly because I didn’t agree with them, I’ve asked questions during meetings, or I’ve suggested we do something differently. I’ve had senior faculty members refer to me as “kiddo” to put me in my place. I’ve had senior faculty members lie about things said in meetings so they look better. I’ve had senior faculty members not invite me to meetings of committees I am a member of – then indicate that I’m lazy because I wasn’t there. I’ve even had senior faculty members refuse to acknowledge my accomplishments (and instead send a message to the group listserv praising a blog post by a male colleague talking about how great it is to be an old, white guy in academia). I don’t know how I’m supposed to handle these situations – there is no manual for unethical behaviors in academia. I’m a female in a male dominated world — one who needs these males in order to get tenure. Needless to say, I completely understand why junior faculty are scared to talk in academia (and God Bless you David Brookman for speaking out about unethical research like you did).

Why I Need a Kopenhaver Fellowship

These are just a few of the issues I’ve dealt with. Granted, there have been many people I have been honored to have wonderful working relationships with. They share credit, give credit, and don’t look to take other’s credit. They build people up instead of trying to tear them down. They don’t try to take advantage of junior faculty members (or students), but look for ways to give back. I look to both the bad and good academics I’ve encountered as examples – the first as what I don’t want to be like, and the second as what I would like to emulate.

Consequently, I strive to treat all my graduate students with respect and make sure they get the credit they deserve. I have always put graduate students on papers they have worked on (no matter how small the effort). If graduate students come to me with research ideas I immediately clarify what they want from me. If it’s just to give them some advice on a draft or sign off on IRB forms so they can carry it out I don’t ask to have my name on it. Nor do I insist students put my name on work done for any of my classes. If they want me to work on research with them I get them to think through how much work needs to be done and how much of it they want me to do in order to assign authorship. I don’t try to put my name on research unless I do a great deal of work on something – I also don’t put my name first unless I have completed the lion’s share of the work.

When it comes to undergraduate students I work hard to mentor them and guide them toward successful careers in public relations – especially the females. A recent article in The Atlantic shows why I need to do this. In the PR industry, the majority of the workers are female, but the majority of those in management positions are male. In addition, average salaries are between $10,000-15,000 less for women.

I guess it's not much different in my field - as only 20% of women become full professors.

I guess it’s not much different in my field – as only 20% of women become full professors.

So, I’m doing my part to help female PR students at LSU realize their potential. I have advised 11 women toward Distinguished Communicator honors, served on 4 LSU Honor’s undergraduate thesis committees, served as an advisor for a McNair Scholar, recommended student work for LSU Discover Day, and supported one female student’s placement in the Summer Research Opportunities Program. I’ve also helped female students win various awards and scholarships including:

  • Jack H. Sanders Memorial Award, JoLena Broussard, PRAL, 2015.
  • Margaret Dixon Outstanding Female Mass Communication Senior Award, Kelsey King, 2015.
  • Ruth Edelman Award for achievement in women’s leadership development, Erin Kenna, PRSSA National, 2014.
  • National Gold Key, Mallory Richardson, PRSSA National, 2014.
  • National President’s Citation, De’Andra Roberts, PRSSA National, 2014.
  • Stephen D. Pisinski Memorial Scholarship, JoLena Broussard, PRSSA National, 2014.
  • Diversity Multicultural Scholarship, JoLena Broussard, PRSSA National, 2014.
  • Jack H. Sanders Memorial Award, JoLena Broussard, PRAL, 2014.
  • Baton Rouge Area Association of Black Journalists Scholarship, JoLena Broussard, 2014.
  • Jean Wheeler Women in Media Scholarship, JoLena Broussard, 2014.
  • Hugh Mercer Blaine Service Award, Mallory Richardson, Manship School of Mass Communication, 2014.
  • National President’s Citations, Mallory Richardson and Paige Weber, PRSSA National, 2013.
  • Diversity Multicultural Scholarship, Cyone Batiste, PRSSA National, 2013.
  • Jack H. Sanders Memorial Award, Mallory Richardson, PRAL, 2013.
  • William M. Michelet Honorary Award, Megan Gibbs, PRAL, 2013.
  • William M. Michelet Award, Erin Kenna, PRAL, 2012.

Finally, I’ve helped them seek and carry out leadership positions at the national level including:

  • PRSSA Vice President of Chapter Development, Paige Weber, PRSSA National Committee, 2014-2015.
  • PRSSA National Publications (Forum and Progressions) editor-in-chief, Mallory Richardson, PRSSA National Committee, 2013-2014.

I’m looking forward to other tips and strategies I can pick up at the “Women Faculty Moving Forward” workshop. I’m trying to change my own little corner of academia and be the most ethical faculty member I can, but I still struggle with when and how to speak out about some of the issues I have encountered. I’m hoping this excellent panel of speakers can give me some pointers.

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