Navigating the unwritten rules

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The National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity (NCFDD) is the mentor/coach you never had to give you the low-down on all the things no one really talks about in Academia.

NCFDD offers workshops and resources for navigating Academia. One popular resource is their Core Curriculum, a 10-part webinar series on themes that shape our professional careers.

I would even say this series should be required for underrepresented minority faculty. Many of us come from backgrounds with no model of professionalism, or generational knowledge of unwritten rules.

I have no affiliation with NCFDD other than completing (and benefiting from) the…


For lone underrepresented minorities, checking boxes can oust your identity. Or erase it.

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Imagine being The Only Hispanic Female faculty in your department. You receive a survey gauging faculty needs and perceptions of campus leadership. Those needs might include affordable daycare, and those perceptions may be that upper admin runs a good PR campaign valuing diversity but when the rubber hits the road those policies lack substance.

That survey also has checkboxes collecting demographic information. For underrepresented minorities, anonymous checkboxes are not anonymous. Most ‘anonymized’ surveys don’t detail the level at which the results are anonymized. …


Why Underrepresented Minorities Need Community to Thrive in the Academy

Three friends and peace sign
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Diversity and inclusion aren’t enough. A sense of belonging is central to diversifying Academia and STEM careers.

I write as a Chicana faculty. American born, Mexican raised. Surrounded by Hispanic culture, language, and family. I belonged to this community. Taquerías, raspas, and the roller skating rink. A remix of American and Mexican culture.

Until suddenly, I didn’t. One of the few who left for college, I fumbled while navigating white spaces, rich spaces at an Ivy League. The polar opposite of home. But at home, I became an outsider too.

For many underrepresented minority students and faculty, Academia is synonymous…


How-to do Academia in 5 hours a day. With a baby. And a mother-in-law.

An Apple desktop on a table with a lamp, shelves, and a few Monstera leaves.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

5–6: The Baby wakes up. Which means I wake up. Sometimes I can get him to sleep in. 630 if I’m lucky.

7–8: The golden hour. If I can get out the door by 7, I try to go for a run. If the surf is calm, I’ll swim. If not, I’ll pedal on a stationary bike. My mental health and daily productivity depend heavily on this one hour.

8–11: I get three solid hours of work in while my mother-in-law watches Baby. Mornings are my…


Vanilla poitaei, Maricao, Puerto Rico

Vanilla doesn’t come to mind when you think of Puerto Rico. Yet the history of vanilla is intricately tied to the history of the island.

Mexico’s Totonac are the first known cultivators of vanilla. When the Totonac were conquered by the Aztecs, they gifted vanilla to the Aztec kings in the same way gold and maize were gifted by other tribes.

Hernán Cortes later introduced vanilla to Europe in the 1500s and in the 1800’s Thomas Jefferson popularized the flavor in the U.S. after enjoying vanilla ice cream in France. …


Ecology is changing. This can be attributed to technology, creativity, and female grit.

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Data and Literature: The Open Access Model

The way data is collected is changing. From Smartphone Apps to publicly available data. Open data means more types of people can participate in ecology. This is pivotal for ecologists with limited funding or mobility.

Another tool is Sci-Hub. Their mission statement says it all: “To remove all barriers in the way of science”. The DIY ecologist is also on the rise with help from organizations like PublicLab. …


On Being A New Mom In Academia

I’m seven months in. My hair is growing back after falling out in fistfulls. I’m finally starting to lose weight. The Baby is just starting to crawl. First tooth.

We survived the winter. We survived our first flight to Puerto Rico to visit Abuela. And our second flight to Costa Rica so I could do field work. We survived the rush to the Children’s Hospital for a high fever, kidney infection, UTI. Antibiotics for months. But most importantly, we survived each other suffering our own traumatic realizations of our changed life.

My University’s…


There is a space in the universe where time does not exist in its present form. A place where day and night are interchangeable. Where dawn and dusk become a ballet. This is the place where I first met you.

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

The dawn came suddenly but in that timeless place the morning light passed us undetected and we remained shrouded in darkness, illuminated by a single overhead light in the hospital room.

Afterwards, a hush falls on florescent hallways. Inside our cocoon we continue living and breathing in that timeless space. …


Race versus ethnicity.

I am Hispanic.

I make a sassy Selena check mark.

But I am not White, Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or American Indian. So I always skip this check box.

A new job means I’ve been filling out paperwork. And questionnaires about my gender, ethnicity, and race. It’s been years since I lived in the United States. I don’t recognize her.

How do Americans tolerate such awful healthcare? What the hell is a deductible? Why can’t I just see how much that blood test is going to cost me?

Forget it. I’ll wait for my third world country…

Catherine Hulshof, PhD

I am a tropical ecologist. I write about life in the field and in academia. https://biodiversityresearchlab.com

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