4 CHAPTER 1. THE MEANING OF LIFE 1.1 What Am I Supposed to Be Doing Here? And well might you ask. When I landed my first job—an Assistant Profes- sorship at UCLA—I may as well have been placed as first trombone in the Milwaukee Symphony. I had no clue of who I was or where I was supposed to be or what I was supposed to do. Well, that is not quite true. I knew that I was a math professor and that I was supposed to teach classes and to prove theorems. But I had no detailed knowledge of what that really entailed. Certainly the first thing you should do when you show up in your new department, assuming that you are in an academic job, is to go to the Chair’s office and introduce yourself to people. This includes all the secretaries and the staff and, of course, the Chair or Head himself/herself. Be prepared to sit for a while and pass the time of day with the Chair—be sure that you have enough time to get acquainted! Discuss your duties, your goals, and your frame of mind as you join this new department. Ask the Chair whom you should meet, who will be the key people in your life. You will also want to find out who is the Vice-Chair for Undergraduate Studies and the Vice-Chair for Graduate Studies and introduce yourself to those people. You may not have meaningful relationships with these folks for a while yet. But they are, or will be, significant players in your life. You want to know who they are, and you want them on your team. Spend a little time studying the entire composition of the department and its place in the university infrastructure. There may be a Coordinator of Lower Divi- sion Teaching, a Supervisor of Undergraduate Advising, a Graduate Student Mentor, and any number of other people whom you never dreamed of before.1 They are all a part of your world now, and you would do well to get to know them all—at least to the extent of being able to say hello to them when you meet them in the hall. An immediate need and responsibility for you is to find out who are the key people in your subject (i.e., research) area. Knock on their doors. Intro- duce yourself. Find out when the seminar meets and become an active and participating member. That means that you should volunteer to give talks, you should attend all the meetings, you should participate enthusiastically and meaningfully. If the analysts are all in the habit of going out for a beer 1 If you are in a small department, with just a handful of faculty, then the structure of the department will be much simpler. Certainly there will not be so many officers. You may find, in such a context, that you are inheriting responsibilities much faster than you expected. This matter will be discussed later in the book.
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