Last Wednesday, Rector Abdullah Atalar gave a talk at UNAM on the topic of “Being an Academic, an Administrator and a Father.”
Prof. Atalar began his remarks by highlighting the numerous positive aspects of an academic career: the joy of teaching, freedom to work on any subject, the absence of a “boss” or hierarchy, flexible though long working hours, an intellectual work environment, the opportunity to attend conferences all around the world and the possibility of late retirement. As negatives, he mentioned the need to find funding for research and lower salary levels compared to positions in industry.
He continued with a discussion of various aspects of academic life, touching on such topics as good teaching practices, working with graduate students, funding and research. In this context, Prof. Atalar incidentally offered his description of a good student, saying that a student should be motivated, hardworking, creative, intelligent and more. With respect to research, he mentioned the need to “keep your all brain cells concentrated on the same subject for a while,” saying that such dedication had its reward in “the joy of finding something that no one knew before.” He also recommended publishing research results in the best possible journals. He said that quality of papers is much more important than the number of papers, and added that the impact factor is no longer a good indicator of the quality of a scientific journal.
The rector next spoke about the responsibilities of being a university administrator. This included a discussion of the administrator’s role in the hiring process for faculty members, and a description of the tenure system in North American universities as well as the faculty promotion system at Bilkent.
He ended his remarks with a general observation on the topic: “For success in academic life you need motivation, a love of what you are doing, a lot of hard work and good luck, and an understanding and supportive spouse or partner.”