Fireside Chat: A True Story About a Home Run

“You can’t hit a homerun unless you get up to bat.” I am not the best baseball player.  In fact, if you were picking your team you wouldn’t select me.  But I did learn that I can hit a homerun. Let me tell you a story about how I hit a home run out of the ball park.

I was applying for Graduate Dean Positions.  I had served as an Associate Dean and then Interim Dean.  I knew it was common practice at many universities, although not at all, that the internal candidate is passed over. Partly because faculty know where your “warts” are or “you can’t be a prophet in our own backyard.”  It was clear to me that I better hedge my bets.

My campus was searching for the Dean of the Graduate School.  As Interim Dean, I knew I had a shot at the position.  I also knew that I better look for a position outside the university.  I began applying for positions.  It takes a lot of work to apply for an administrative position (but that’s a story for another fireside chat.)

There was one position open at a major research university. I had been on that campus to recruit grad students for my campus at the time.  I was so impressed by the people I met and the beautiful campus.  I could feel the positive energy of that campus and I knew I would love working there.

While I was there recruiting, I met with the Dean of the Grad School.  He told me that he was never going to retire.  I got depressed thinking “that’s too bad for me”.

Shortly after my recruitment trip, that position came open.  The Dean didn’t retire, he was promoted to VP for Research and that left a vacancy.  A vacancy that I knew I wanted and that all my male colleagues and then some would want as well.

As I made applications to other schools, I thought about that one position I really wanted. I kept thinking that I’d never get that job.  I was listening to the “self-doubt mind gremlins”.  Did I have enough experience? Could I do the job at a large research university?  Would they even consider my application? Those were the self-doubt and lack of confidence issues I was facing.

I also knew there exists gender and implicit bias that women may not be able to lead a male dominant large research-intensive university.  The biases affect the decisions that we make such as – not to apply.  They limit us. Or a I say, they become ingrained as part of our limiting belief systems.

It’s wasn’t uncommon for me at that time to feel that I didn’t deserve the position.  “I’m not as prepared.”  “I need to do more before I am worthy of such a position.” I find these thoughts to be a common theme among many high achieving women.  Studies have shown this as well; “I’m not deserving.”  At times it’s difficult to internalize your own accomplishments.   It’s easier for others to see them before you do.

That’s why mentors (peers included) are so important. They can make a difference.  They see in us what we can’t or don’t see.

So, I hope you get the picture.  I wanted that position and I was letting my limiting beliefs get in the way. I thought, “All the guys will apply, and I won’t stand a chance.”  Then I had another thought, “Yes, they all will apply, but if I don’t – I will never get the job.”  That’s when I realized that if you want to hit a home run, you have to get up to bat!

I did get up to bat.  I put in my A+ game.  I paid attention to every aspect of that application process. Did my homework and then some.  I was ready.

You know what? I hit that home run. I hit that ball out of the park.  I got that position. I was the first female to serve in that position. I was the first person from outside the university they hired for that position. In both cases, it only took 93 years to accomplish that. I served in that position for 12 years and loved every minute.

So, the next time you let self-doubt creep in, remember – You can’t hit a home run unless you get up to bat.

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drmgrasso

My experience as the chief academic officer and administrator charged with providing vision and leadership in planning, guiding, and coordinating all aspects of graduate education from admission through graduation at two major research universities provides the foundation for our fireside chats.

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