“What are you doing on campus in the summer?”


I’m back from vacation! Anyhoo, a funny thing happens to me every summer.

Campus has an eerie quiet. There are plenty of people around, but compared to the academic year, there are relatively few students. So if I’m walking from the parking lot, or buying lunch in the union because I was lazy, I might bump into someone. Because I serve on a semiplethora of committees, I know folks in lots of roles on campus.

There’s a pretty good chance they’ll ask me: “What are you doing here? Are you teaching a summer course?”

Depending on who it is, they’ll get an appropriately snarky retort, or a gentle explanation that I am employed by the university and that research doesn’t stop when classes end.

It continues to amaze me how people, even within our own institution, don’t realize that science faculty actually work year-round. As do many other faculty outside STEM.

Admittedly, I’m not on campus that much in the summertime. Because I started the summer off by traveling to the field for a couple weeks, and I often work from home, and I take vacation time, and all that. I am not running a lab full of students in the summer – instead, it’s my time for writing, analysis, and bigger projects. I do have a research lab and an office on campus and I, you know, sometimes work there.

Adding it all up, work keeps me busier (or at least, more harried) in the summer than during the academic year. Traveling to a distant field site is a huge time sink, of course. Every parent of school-age kids in the US knows that summer is an ordeal, involving a combination of having the kids around while you’re working (if that is even an option), or having them signed up for camp (which is expensive and/or requires serious advance planning), or leaving them to their own devices (including literal devices).

Of course, I often work away from campus in the summer. I don’t live that close to campus (and I could explain why in a few minutes but you really don’t want the story I would guess), so I don’t really go in all that much. But when I do go in, should it be any kind of surprise?

Oddly enough, I haven’t yet gotten the “Why are you here?” question yet this year. Probably because, well, I’ve barely been on campus. Because I was doing stuff like this:

I’ve got to pick up a reimbursement check (for five plane tickets I bought in April), so in to campus I go soon enough. Maybe it should be a surprise I’m on campus after all. But, crikey, I’m surely working plenty over the summer.

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