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I am Dave Shriberg, and This is How I Work

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dave Shriberg. Dr. Shriberg has been a professor for the past fifteen years. Starting on August 1, 2018, he will be a Professor of Education and Program Chair for School Psychology Programs at Indiana University. Dr. Shriberg has authored or edited six books and dozens of peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters. He is the Editor of Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation, and has chaired 24 completed dissertations. A founder of a national (US) network of social justice advocates, Dr. Shriberg’s research focuses on the application of social justice principles to educational and psychological practice. He can be reached via Twitter at @DrDaveShriberg.

Current Job: Professor of Education, and Program Chair, School Psychology Programs, Indiana University (start on 8/1/18. Before that I was a Professor of Education at Loyola University Chicago.
Current Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook Air

Can you briefly explain your current situation and research to us?
I am entering my sixteenth year as a professor after obtaining my PhD in school/counseling psychology in 2003. My main research focus is the application of social justice principles to education. I have authored or edited six books, and approximately 60 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters (around 30 of each). I am also a journal editor (Journal of Educational and Psychological Consultation). I have chaired approximately 25 completed dissertations and typically have a research team of 8-12 students. I love both conducting research and mentoring/supporting graduate students in their research areas of passion.

What tools, apps and software are essential to your workflow?
I tend to rely a lot on Dropbox and Google docs to stay organized and to facilitate working together on writing. I also do a lot of video calls.

What does your workspace setup look like?
I work approximately half-time from home and half from my university office. I do very little academic writing in my office and when writing from “home” this often means going to a cafe so I don’t have as many distractions. My work environment I think is fairly standard. Lots of pictures of family at my office and space to meet with students, but otherwise my office is not super-cluttered. At home I have a decided space to work, but I often move around a lot with my laptop.

What is your best advice for productive academic work?

For academic writing, carve out time and protect this time fiercely. I believe the literature says that the most productive writers work for shorter periods of time every day. I actually have done better when I protect whole days and half-days for this purpose.

For teaching and service tasks, I prioritize being really thoughtful about your syllabi and prioritizing giving students high quality feedback. I used to obsess over every possible question a student might ask in class and in this sense “over-prepare”. Now I find that I do best when I have a tight outline for each class with a few extra options depending on how things are going (my classes are usually once a week for 2.5 hours, so I have some time) so I can adapt, but I don’t try to micromanage every minute or stress if I don’t give intense coverage to EVERY reading. I think about the 2-3 main things I want to make sure gets done well in every class session and work from that.

How do you keep an overview of projects and tasks?
I used to keep this mostly in my head and calendar, but either I got older and/or busier because now there are too many things to work that way. So, I rely a lot on lists keeper in google docs to keep me organized. I also take a lot of notes/logs from my meetings with students so I can look at a glance as to where they are with things. For dissertation students, I keep a more detailed google sheet of where they stand, key milestones and deadlines, what we covered in our last discussion, etc.

Besides phone and computer, do you use other technological tools in work and daily life?
I’m sure I’m forgetting somethings, but these are the main ones. I do a lot of video calls via my computer. I’m pretty attached to my laptop, most things flow from there.

Which skill makes you stand out as an academic?
It is hard to answer this without coming across as immodest. I think my greatest strength as an advisor is that I am not trying to turn my students into miniature versions of myself. Only I can be me, you do you. My goal is for students to become the best versions of themselves, whatever that looks like. In this regard, I think I am pretty flexible and am not upset at all when students pursue their own interests, even if they are not my interests. I also try to be very generous about sharing my professional network with my students and facilitating opportunity for collaboration in this way.

What do you listen to when you work?
Usually my Pandora stations. It’s forever the 1980’s/early 1990s with my music as I was born the 1970s so grew up with this. For some reason, I feel like I write really well to Jack Johnson songs, which I would not ordinarily admit, but his music seems to put me in a good headspace. When I’m tired and need a “push”, I will listen to fast and loud music to get myself going.

What are you currently reading? How do you find time for reading?

At the moment I am reading “Little Women” because it’s one of my daughter’s favorites and I promised her I would read it. I have to admit that I like this book a lot–halfway done–but in general I tend to read non-fiction. I like biographies–I get inspired by people who have lived remarkable lives. I find people’s stories really fascinating. I find that if I do enough “fun” reading like this not only am I happier overall, but also more productive with academic reading.

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

I am very much an introvert. I like public speaking so teaching does not drain my energies, but being in a lot of social situations with people I don’t know well or otherwise do not have comfort with drains my energy a lot. Being able to work from home or somewhat anonymously in cafes really helps an introvert like me stay productive. If I were in the office every day, I know that this will take a toll in this regard, no matter how nice my colleagues are, as I need and value alone and family time.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I’m not sure if I really have a formal sleep routine. I have two teenage children so evenings pre-sleep are usually spent catching up with my wife. I do try to do mindfulness techniques to relax right before falling asleep, but not nearly as regularly as I should.

What’s your work routine like?
It really varies. As the parents of two teenagers (one in 7th grade, the other in 10th grade), I try to match their schedules as much as possible by working like crazy as much as I can when they are not at home. But, invariably I end up working some nights and weekends too. Each week I figure out with my wife as we coordinate a lot of logistics, so I don’t end up with an exact work schedule. I also work a fair bit in the field and also do a fair amount of speaking engagements, so my schedule really varies a lot.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
Tough question! I think things related to not personalizing setbacks. I have not always been perfect in following that kind of advice, but the more years I am in academia, the more I see how, which no one is perfect (least of all me), everyone has setbacks. And, academia can be a really competitive and petty place–don’t personalize and internalize when others resent your success and/or happiness. Finally, the idea of paying it forward is really big for me. Don’t be kind to graduate students for your own gain, but because it is the right thing to do and is what you want them to be doing when they are in your role. My graduate mentor was incredibly generous and kind. She passed in 2012, but I feel like anything I do something that is helpful to a student, I’m carrying out her legacy.

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