The two other REU mentors, Erin McNicholas and Colin Starr, are incredible people.
Erin is one of the PIs for the grant that’s funding the REU for the next three years. Colin has had this role in the past, too. Aside from the obvious responsibilities that come with that job, there are hidden mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy to summit. Erin is a portrait of productivity. She’s doing the extra work on top of mentoring her algebraic voting theory group, learning new math alongside them, organizing the occasional picnic or outing, and keeping up with her research agenda! Colin spends most of each day working with his students, which is a big time commitment considering everything else a professor has to do over the summer. My only complaint? Erin and Colin haven’t gone to karaoke with me yet. It might be the only activity in which I have a chance of keeping up!
However, I’m not just writing about Erin and Colin because they work so hard for the success of the REU. What impresses me is that they also manage to be excellent parents and spouses.
When I think about my future family, I’ve always got a bjillion career objectives that push the event-horizon further into the future. When people ask about my work-life balance,* I shrug. What balance?
At this stage in my life, as a 30-something junior faculty member, it’s inspiring to be around people who have found that balance. I don’t get the sense from either Erin or Colin that they have compromised or that they have sacrificed being “real” mathematicians or being good parents. When I see them at work and with their families, it’s clear that their successes in each realm amplify their successes in every realm. I am slowly shedding my skepticism of the “You can have it all!” ethos that defines my generation’s values. Maybe it is possible, after all.
Still, tell me to “Lean in!” at your peril. Enlightenment doesn’t happen overnight. 😉
*I will tell you another time how much I resent that this question is put almost exclusively to women!