Wednesday, October 19th 2016

Come work in the Clancy Lab – now accepting grad students

The 2016-2017 Clancy Lab. Top row: Rachel Mitchell (U), Katie Lee (G), Mary Rogers (G), Summer Sanford (G). Bottom row: Kate Clancy, Michelle Rodrigues (P), Zarin Sultana (U), Sara Gay (U). Not pictured: Kristina Allen (U)

The 2016-2017 Clancy Lab. Top row: Rachel Mitchell (U), Katie Lee (G), Mary Rogers (G), Summer Sanford (G). Bottom row: Kate Clancy, Michelle Rodrigues (P), Zarin Sultana (U), Sara Gay (U). Not pictured: Kristina Allen (U)

The Clancy Lab (my half of the Laboratory for Evolutionary Endocrinology) is looking to accept PhD students for fall 2017. Here are some of our current projects:

  • PI: Clancy, NSF #1314170: “Ecological determinants of luteal reproductive function.” The goal of this project is to explore the proximate determinants of women’s fecundity and fertility in the luteal phase.
  • PI: Amos, co-PIs: Cross, Clancy, Imoukhuede, Mendenhall, NSF #1648454: “The double bind of race and gender: a look into the experiences of women of color in engineering.” The goal of this project is to analyze and understand the problem of poorly sustained participation in engineering among women of color.
  • PI: Clancy, co-PIs: Hekman, Urban, Simons, Hammack, Focal Point: “Training the 21st century scientist.” The goal of this project is to identify the factors most important to graduate training and professionalization for scientists, and to produce workshops and a graduate course that develop those skills and competencies. A major focus of this project is diversity and inclusion.

Additional projects, pending funding:

  • Co-PIs: Clancy, Lara-Cinisomo, NIH R21 PA-16-161: “Trauma, inflammation, pain, and quality of life outcomes among enodmetriosis patients.” The goal of this project is to clarify correlations between past traumatic events with reproductive hormones and inflammatory biomarkers, as well as pain occurrence, severity, and duration through the menstrual cycle, in order to make clear associations between these factors believed to produce variation in quality of life outcomes among women with endometriosis.
  • PI: Clancy, HHMI Science Professors: “The Human Side of Science.” The goal of this project is to develop a weeklong camp, The Human Side of Science Program, that develops undergraduate STEM students’ personal resources, their competence in scientific culture, and time and space to build a support network they can call upon in times of stress or difficulty. We will assess student experiences of microaggressions and other setbacks, their resilience around these experiences, and their health effects in the weeks before and after camp.

My affiliations:

The Clancy lab has two major priorities: 1) develop an inclusive, humane working environment to promote advancement of a more diverse population of scientists, and 2) promote science through individual and group outreach efforts. And as you can see, our laboratory’s research is intentionally diverse, with projects that cover traditional biological anthropology as well as science and technology studies. More recent efforts in our lab have integrated these two halves of our work, to understand how lived experiences within the science climate influence social, mental, and reproductive health. This means we are hoping to recruit students interested in any of the following topics:

  • Women’s reproductive ecology
  • Biocultural anthropology, particularly related to women’s health or racial health disparities
  • GxE interactions, particularly as they relate to life history trait timing
  • Broadening participation in research – interests in research questions on underserved populations, including but not limited to transgender/genderqueer/genderfluid, differently abled, migrant identities.

Finally, if all of that didn’t excite you enough, here are a few great things to know about the University of Illinois that, if you happen to be a senior in college, you may not realize are very important:

  • Our graduate school acceptance generally carries five and a half years of guaranteed support in the form of both TA and RAships.
  • The graduate students at Illinois have a strong union that will have your back throughout your time here.

If these research areas and climate sounds good to you, we hope you’ll apply to the University of Illinois Department of Anthropology PhD Program! The deadline is December 1, 2016, and the application is here.

Please email me to set up a time to talk. Other folks in the lab may also be able to answer some of your questions about the university, living here, and the resources of the graduate program.

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Wednesday, July 6th 2016

Take the damn rollback

Dear junior faculty with aging parents, impending adoptions or pregnancies, medical issues or research setbacks,

Take the damn rollback (or stop your tenure clock, or whatever you call it at your institution). Stop worrying, stop losing sleep, stop hemming and hawing. Stop ruminating on Professor Crustypants and whether he’ll have a problem with your rollback. Stop wondering if you will be denied a promotion.

Here’s the thing. If you are a person of color, identify as female or a non-cis gender identity, or have any number of other identities that stray from Albert Einstein’s*, there are plenty of ways through the course of your career in which you will be discriminated against. It will happen. So rather than let that crap seep into your personal life and make it hard for you to choose elder care/bear a child/whatever, take the damn rollback. It’s not that your fears may not be real, it’s that you can’t let them affect every decision you make.

Play the long game. Play the game that means, in ten years, you’ll have the healthy relationships and thriving lab that you always dreamed of. Play the game in a way where your institution is the institution it should be rather than the one that it is. If the institution turns out to fail you, it would have failed you at some other point – better to know now and figure out how to deal with it.

Play the game so that you can be asking the questions you care about, doing the research that is important to you, over the next several decades. If this means a dip in productivity right now, so be it. Good institutions recognize human reproductive life cycles as a normal part of the life span of a good worker.

Play the game so that the people who come after you, the students you mentor and postdocs you chat with in the line for the bathroom at conferences, will have a better work climate. Be one of the people who makes things better, rather than tells her mentees to suck it up because that’s how it is.

Just take the damn rollback.

Love and kisses,


*If you will look like Albert Einstein when you’re old or you look like him now, be a good ally and not only take the rollback, but don’t be like these dudes and actually use it for its intended purpose. Don’t mess this one up for us.

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Tuesday, April 26th 2016

Support NTFC #6546 – Education First!

Edited to say: After NTFC’s second strike they were successful at ratifying a great contract! Press release here.

I’ve come out of bloggy hibernation to share with you an email I just sent to my Chancellor and Provost. If you support NTFC #6546 (and you should), please write and to encourage fair contract negotiations.

Dear Chancellor Wilson and Provost Feser,

I am writing to you today to ask that you agree to the terms of the NTFC #6546 contract they are requesting, specifically their reasonable request for evaluations and, after years of good service, multiyear contracts. I am astounded that contract negotiations have stalled given NTFC’s rather meager request. Further, I believe, as do many other students, faculty, and staff, that a strong contract for our non-tenure track faculty will strengthen the mission of this university.

When I was in graduate school, I was a union organizer. I was a member of GESO, now Local 33, the graduate student union at Yale University. The organizing I did over five years of my PhD provided me with a better education than any of my classroom experiences, fieldwork, or dissertation writing. My time as a union organizer is the reason I had the strength and confidence to dare to follow my scholarly instincts and study sexual harassment and assault within science. I’m sure you can imagine the kind of backlash I and my collaborators experienced just by daring to pose the question, and what we continue to experience today by colleagues who wish we had kept the whole thing quiet. But our discipline is changing, and other disciplines are following suit, from philosophy to astronomy, and I know a big part of it is the research we conducted that blew open the idea that scientists are different, more ethical and moral creatures than other humans.

Labor unions are powerful, positive forces on campus. They provide training, a mission, and a voice to those workers with some of the most mentally and financially oppressed conditions. They are often the only organizations on campus to push against the casualization of labor that has been a constant in academia for the last several decades, the only ones trying to turn terrible wages into living wages.

Unions give workers pride in the work that they do, and a sense of their real value, something that unfortunately Illinois has failed to do for non-tenure track workers for some time. As a tenure-track faculty member, I have been told by my colleagues far too many times to “rebudget my time” away from teaching and outreach. I have been told it is not valued here and will hurt my chances at tenure. One of my colleagues, in his first week of campus, was told by no less than six of his departmental colleagues to “keep in mind that the only person to not get tenure in our department was the one who won the teaching awards.” You know this is the culture here, and you know that in many departments the people who care most about our students and most about teaching are the non-tenure track faculty. They keep the teaching part of this university’s mission alive more than most other constituencies on campus, they provide substantial face time to our undergraduates, and they often teach the lowest-level, least gratifying courses. Non-tenure track positions are also more likely than tenure-track positions to be occupied by women and men of color and white women.

Here is the education our undergraduates receive when you continue to stall on the issue of multiyear contracts: they learn that they don’t matter, that we want them for their money as part of a big accreditation machine. They learn that their favorite teachers, the ones that helped them when they agonized over a major, that directed them to mental health services and kept them alive at a vulnerable moment, that provided tough love on a paper draft, won’t necessarily be here next year to teach, advise, and write them letters of reference.

Here is the scarier thing that our undergraduates learn from you: they learn that the leaders of their university don’t value good working conditions and good relationships with their workers. They learn that good business decisions call for turning away from low-paid workers, for disrespectful conduct towards those doing the most service on campus, for a cynical perspective on what we are all really trying to do here. Perhaps they pay it forward in their own workplaces and create hostile conditions for others, or perhaps they just decide Illinois is the sort of university to whom they will never, ever donate.

The education I want for my students, a perspective shared by the non-tenure track faculty I know, is quite different. I want my undergraduates to learn that Illinois leads, that it does right by its workers, that when situated in a small town in central Illinois, you recognize that your most prized resource is always your people. I want my undergraduates to learn that our motto, Learning and Labor, still means something to a lot of us, and that these words go hand in hand every working day. I want my undergraduates to be challenged, to be forced to question closely held beliefs, to gain skills that will help them secure good jobs and live good lives. This is the work done by so many of my non-tenure track sisters and brothers. This is also a risk that they take, every day, because they have no job security.

One final point: Illinois has invested resources recently in more progressive pedagogical practices, particularly around the Learning Design Laboratory (name?). This suggests to me that Illinois leadership recognizes the importance of taking risks when it comes to our teaching. My non-tenure track colleagues will not be able to radicalize their teaching or take as many risks as tenure-track faculty without more job security. I have had to endure upset students who are resistant to active learning strategies many times over the last eight years. But I have never feared that I would lose my job for taking these risks to encourage more engagement with my students.

Without multiyear contracts, it is difficult to expect non-tenure track faculty to build programs, maintain institutional memory, and develop relationships with their students. As you head into what I hope is your final negotiating session with NTFC #6546, I hope you take the needs of your students, and the core mission of this university, into account.

With thanks,

Kate Clancy

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