“Learn how to advocate for yourself!”

13. September 2021

What are the main ingredients for becoming a successful scholar and professor?

I think there are three crucial ingredients: First, you need to be truly passionate about the research project. Second, I think it is key to have a group of people you trust in order to get honest and constructive feedback. It is important to have people that tell you the truth about your work and thus support you in your academic development. Third, developing a thick skin is pretty important: scholars tend to get attached to our work and define ourselves by it. But it’s helpful not to take criticism personally, and instead accept it and find a strategy to handle it.

You have won a number of prestigious awards such as the APSA Gregory Luebbert Prize and the Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies for your book „Nations under God: How Churches Use Moral Authority to Influence Policy“. Do you have a specific writing and publication strategy?

There are so many different strategies of writing and publishing. To me, breaking down big research projects into small and managable pieces has been the most productive way of conducting my research. As far as publishing is concerned, it’s important to not get discouraged in case you get negative reviews. Learning how to engage and how to advocate for yourself is very important. It’s possible to engage with editors and reviewers about your manuscript if there is a disagreement. I have found that a number of scholars, women in particular, tend to avoid these kind of confrontations and unfortunately give up too quickly.

How do tackle the number of tasks – teaching, supervising, research, applying for grants, assuming adiminstrative obligations – in your daily life as a professor?

Personally, I prefer to bundle the similar kinds of tasks all together. Prior the beginning of the week, I set an administration day, a meeting day, a writing and research day in order to finish all the same kinds of tasks on that specific day.

Which was one of your greatest challenges during your academic career? And how did you master it?

In every stage of life, we are confronted with different kinds of challenges, and the challenges change over time. There is getting through grad school, followed by the challenge of getting your first job and then the challenges of managing research and family afterwards. I think it is important to not be attached too much on perfection and to not always think that you have to be impecabble at very single thing. We are often much harder to ourselves than on anyone else. It’s helpful sometimes to change perspectives in these challenging moments and ask the following: What would you do if a friend was confronted with this problem? Usually, if it was a friend, you would be kind and generous and give them support and understanding. We should be equally kind and generous to ourselves.

Which was one of the most valuable advice you got during your academic career?

When I was younger, a very renowned professor had a quote on his desk saying „Don’t get it right, get it done“ which I personally found very true. If you do not submit your papers because you are afraid that they are not perfect enough, then they will never get published. Another important piece of advice was that almost no one will remember the times when you say „no“. In academia, I feel that it is imperative to set priorities and thus not to say yes to every project or every assignment you get. So feel free to say no!