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I am Coleen Clemens, and This is How I Work

Today, I am hosting Dr. Colleen Clemens in the “How I Work” series. Colleen, an associate professor of Non-Western Literatures and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania, earned her Ph.D. in Post-Colonial Literature at Lehigh University. Previously, she earned her M.Ed. in English Education at DeSales University (where she still teaches courses on South Africa and English Composition) while teaching twelfth grade English in the public system. She earned her undergraduate degrees in English and French Education from Penn State University. She’s the co-creator of the Inside 254 podcast. Colleen lives in Bucks County with her partner, two dogs, and daughter. She can be reached via her blog Her professional editing, writing, and tutoring site is

Current Job: Associate Professor of Non-Western Literatures, Director Women’s and Gender Studies
Current Location: Kutztown University
Current mobile device: iphone
Current computer: a slowly dying macbook air

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
At this point, my research brings together my twenty years of teaching and researching. I am working and writing primarily about how we can all move our students forward in regards to social justice and equality. I write mostly about teaching, pedagogy, and social justice in and out of the classroom.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I would die without word. I am still pretty old school in that regard, but to be fair, I grew up typing on wordperfect on a blue screen.

What does your workspace setup look like?
I have a five-year-old, so I work wherever and whenever I can find a pocket of time. I have a desk at home—a gorgeous office—but I don’t often get to work in there. I have a chair that I work in often at home—downstairs in the morning, away from my sleeping kiddo.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?
Know thyself. My brain doesn’t function for academic writing past noon. I need to save non-production types of work for that time of day. I know that I need to do my heavy lifting in the morning. Honor your brain.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
Lists and more lists. It helps to have a color-coded calendar on my computer. I immediately put dates on there. I have daily, short-term, and long-term lists (those are usually determined by projects that I have committed to).

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I have a digital recorder for podcasting. That’s about it!

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
My view of the long-game. I was advised early in my teaching career that this run is a marathon, not a sprint.

What do you listen to when you work?
Absolute silence. I get distracted easily. Plus, with having a kid, silence—when I can have it—is golden.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?
I decided in grad school that I would have a pleasure book always going, that I didn’t want higher ed to ruin my love of reading. These day I find that my pleasure books still have an element of work. I am digging Jessica Valenti’s Sex Object.

Are you more of an introvert or extrovert? How does this influence your working habits?

I am an introverted extrovert. I love being alone because I don’t get to be alone very often. When I am with students, I am give it my all and am extroverted.

What’s your sleep routine like?
Sleep is non-negotiable. I don’t watch much tv because I choose sleep. I get at least eight hours a night. Full time working and parenting leaves me wiped.

What’s your work routine like?
Get up early and write, read, grade—whatever is most pressing. I basically work every second—check email in between crafts with my daughter, write in the morning, sometimes read. When I have two full time jobs, I have to use every second.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

The mantra I always use is “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I remember reading something that encouraged you to just write for five minutes and then stop if you have to. The idea is you won’t stop once you have started. Good advice!

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