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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Noncommittal

So, I had my meeting with the department head yesterday to discuss the future of the observatory. I was hoping for an indication of whether or not I can still push ahead and develop an education/outreach program for the facility. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get an answer either way.

During the meeting, held with another professor in the department who is supportive of the program, the head brought up a few of his concerns. Each time, either I or the other professor had a reasonable answer. Yet, by the end of the meeting the head was still not convinced the initiative is worthwhile, and I got the feeling he will never be convinced but doesn't want to be the one to say "no".

Where does that leave me and the program, then?

Well, he wants to discuss it more in another month or so. Before then, he wants us to come up with a proposal that outlines what outreach can be done at this observatory that can't be done on campus, how it can be tied into the priorities of the department (research and student recruitment), what we need in terms of support, and what our plans are to prove the viability of the program.

If you've been keeping up with this particular sub-plot of my life, this might sound familiar. About a year ago, I was asked to write a very similar document.

In addition to the proposal, the head also wants us to prove the viability before he commits any funding to the project. This is a Catch-22, because we're not allowed to use the facility before December 31st. But, if we wait until after this date there is a whole host of issues that arise: I'll be on maternity leave; the weather is awful until about the end of March; the telescope won't be maintained (and so will basically degrade); etc..

So, here I am again - I have to decide whether to jump through another hoop, or just give it up already. On the one hand, writing the document won't be too difficult or time consuming. So, jumping through that particular hoop won't be particularly onerous. On the other hand, a year ago I told myself I would give this project a year, and if nothing comes of it, then I should move on.

I have put a lot of time and energy into this project (for free), put together a draft of a business proposal, put together a steering committee, ran two very successful events this summer, and still haven't been able to convince anyone to give me the full go ahead. I've done everything that's been asked of me, and still no progress.

Is it worth it for me to jump through yet another hoop? Maybe after this, I'll actually get backing from the head; or maybe another hoop will appear and I'll have to rethink this whole thing again.

Lots to consider (but nothing at the same time). I'm not going to rush into any decisions right now. I'll just sit on it and see how I feel in a week or two.