A Soulful Return to the Academy

Many of you are well aware that a big part of my business is coaching others in navigating alt-academia. It's been a truly fulfilling process for me — whether it is reviewing job market materials via my Translate Your CV offering, or through fully personalized 1:1 sessions. It validated that leaving academia wasn't a failure just because I didn't want to "stick it out" and get tenure. 

Over the years, I've had conversations with friends and colleagues alike — people who also felt a slight tug to leave but for some reason decided to stay. It oftentimes felt like we shared a dirty little secret, something that cannot leave the confines of a coffee date (or more recently, outside of the Zoom window).

Unleash Your PhD | WinklerPresenting at the Unleash Your PhD virtual summit.

I'm glad I could be a source of support and a sounding board. I'm also glad my experience can help a fellow academic gain insight on what to do next. It's become a major part of my mission to help clients find their Inner Muse, and I'm now committed to make these conversations not only allowable, but also perfectly acceptable — both within and outside of the academy.

But I digress.

In a Dare to Lead podcast interview with Dr. Pippa Grange, Brené Brown made this statement that literally caused me to pause the podcast, scream in my car, and dictate the quote to Siri as a note in my phone so I can share it with all of you. 

The Academy does not train us well to be vulnerable, soulful, love-centered learners. ~ Brené Brown


I was damn speechless (after I screamed, of course). I felt SO seen. This quote is essentially what led me to leave in the first place.

I initially went to graduate school because I loved learning...and because, let's be honest, I graduated in the midst of an economic recession and was terrified I wouldn't get a job. I got my Ph.D. because I loved teaching and conducting meaningful research, and it appeared I had quite a knack for it.

Back when I was an academic, 2013-2016.

But once I became the professor and was no longer the student, and got to take a more thorough look at the environment around me, something shifted. My passion was replaced by productivity standards that felt unattainable — after all, I had to publish or perish, right? My teaching felt constricted by politics and policies that were cosmetic at best. The joy was gone. The depression started to creep in.

I knew I had to get out.

And so I did. Without a plan (which, BTW is VERY unlike me) I moved back to Maryland. I got married. I worked at my alma mater for a year, then moved into the communication industry. I managed a team of writers. I got pregnant, and moved on to a marketing agency position. COVID-19 hit, and I became a mother after an exhausting round of IVF treatments. I launched this business.

Now here's the next part.

I actually left my 9-5 job in October. I am now back in the Academy. But not in a way you would expect.


Back in 2013, when I was a wide-eyed and bushy tailed fresh graduate, I was walking in blind. But in the five years since I've left, I've learned a couple of things:

  • That my work is not my sole identity, and I have value and worth outside of the work I do.
  • That strong leadership + open collaboration and synergy is so transformative for an organization.
  • That COVID-19 has changed the landscape of all the things, including academia.
  • That my industry + academic experiences add a depth to teaching like never before.
  • That I am now in a much better place to shape the future of the academy, based on what I've learned.

Butler University

With that, here's where I'm going next — I am working as an independent consultant and affiliate instructor for Butler University, building courses for their online master's program in strategic communication. It's the perfect blend of my professional experience, interest in technology, and love of mentoring, and I simply couldn't turn it down. Plus, it allows me the flexibility and space to build this business, while spending more intentional time with my husband and daughter.

So, hello hello again, academia! It's been some time since we've last interacted. I've changed since then, and you have too. 

Can't wait to see what magic we can create now that we've both learned and grown a bit. 😊

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