Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Office Space

As a graduation gift when I finished my Ph.D. my awesome husband bought me a 10-inch tall replica of my favorite piece of art.

I keep it on a shelf next to my desk in my office. Twice in the first year that I was here, some student that was in my office to discuss homework or advising or whatever, looked at my little statue and asked me if I broke it.

(I tried to hide my surprise - the first time, anyway, since the second time I was actually not surprised. Not every STEM undergrad had some extra space in the schedule during their senior year of high school and were able to take an 8 am art history class. In terms of courses that were really valuable to me from high school, that class and the typing class I took sophomore year have proven to be at the top of the list. The other things - calculus, say - were also very important in the long run, but were things that my college curriculum would have filled in for me had I not had them already.) (Although my high school calculus class was far superior to most college calculus courses at the kind of university I went to for my undergrad.)

The little statue is one of the only personalized elements of my office. I also have a couple of framed art posters. I had brought them in after some of my colleagues commented on the starkness of my office walls, and I'd intended to hang them but I never got around to it, so for about 4 years they've just been sitting on the floor, leaned up against the wall as if I am just moving in.

And of course I have the obligatory framed photos on my desk of my cute husband and my cute baby, and also one of me and my three awesome and loyal girlfriends from high school.

But for the most part, my office is just a desk and some cabinets and some bookshelves and I kind of hate it but not enough to try to spruce it up. Also, it's just sort of an ugly space, so any sprucing would probably have limited impact anyway.

It's also small. My office has room for me to work without problem, and it has room for exactly ONE person to come to my office to discuss something. There is theoretically space for a second person, since I have two extra chairs besides my own, but the second person would end up kind of wedged in an awkward space from which they could not really see me. But, whatever. If I have to meet with more than one person, we just go someplace else, like the coffee room, or my lab, which has a nice conference table. So, no big deal.

HOWEVER. It is becoming increasingly apparent that colleagues don't all have the same laissez faire attitude about their own offices, because there's recently been a lot of jockeying and moving around within the building, which has resulted in a number of inequalities and screwball situations, most notably the number of essentially non-productive faculty members who have two offices. I guess my department head wanted to believe them when they said that what they really needed in order to get their programs moving was a bigger office, and not instead of but in addition to the one they already have.

I don't actually care about the office space situation. But I do care about the idea that I perhaps should be bitchier than I actually am just in order to make sure I am not shafted all the time, or that I am not giving the appearance to outsiders that my contributions to the department/university/world only rate one tiny office while other colleagues have multiple sizeable ones. You know? LAME.

But maybe it would me more in keeping with my personal and professional ethic to trick out my existing tiny office, to instead give the impression that I believe in doing fantastic things with a small but excellent footprint. You know, like I could hang my posters or something.


Ms.PhD said...

Two offices? For one person? In the same building?

I don't get it.

Office Space Specialist said...

That is a good piece of art perfect to be placed in your office! Thank you for sharing it to the readers.