Dear Future Woman Tourism Scholar:
First of all, welcome! I am glad that you have chosen to teach, research and work in the field of tourism. I think it is a field where there is a lot of room to explore tourism from many different perspectives. You are also working in an area that people regard as fun and pleasurable, and travel can be some of the best memories people have in their lives. Of course, tourism as we know is not all fun and games. There are many issues associated with the industry that desperately need our help.
I am assuming that you will be making your career in academe working in a university setting. I know even since the start of my career things have changed a lot and there are more pressures than there used to be. However, I don’t want to focus on all of that. A lot of the pressures and issues are context specific. I will focus on what I think are the joys of being and academic and some other pieces of advice.
For me the joys are working with students. Yes, I love working with ideas and creating new knowledge, but sharing these experiences with students is what I value about my career. So, my one piece of advice to you is to remember that a central focus of a university is still education and despite all of the pressures you may face to juggle the multiple aspects of our jobs, the students and your interactions with them are central to your role. Unfortunately, particularly in the so-called research-intensive universities the external rewards and evaluations are not always associated with our educational mission, but ultimately your students will be your legacy as they will carry on your work and take ideas out into the world. Since I started leading study abroad programs, my joy has been in seeing how field based international experiences can have lifelong impacts for these students! It was these programs that lead me to apply to work with Semester at Sea. I had the privilege of being part of the fall 2017 voyage, an experience I have never forgotten and one I hope to repeat some day!
Secondly, look after the body of knowledge. By this I mean choose topics that you have a passion for in your research, do due diligence with your review of the related literature, and push the boundaries on this particular topic. Again, I know the pressures are there to publish and gain funding. However, what does it mean if you don’t have a passion for the topic, you are researching or publishing yet another paper that doesn’t really make a contribution? When you have a passion for what you do and you care about the knowledge and what you are creating it not only shows, but your students will also certainly recognize if, and for you, you will feel much happier and satisfied in your life and your career.
Thirdly, have fun! I hope that you enjoy what you do; that you seize upon opportunities that come your way and invest in your career if you are able. By the latter I mean, often times, we are attracted to a particular conference, but we just don’t have any funding. Certainly, in the US context this is very common. One of my mentors taught me that we need to invest in our careers. This means we pay for conferences from our own pockets. Turn a conference into a mini vacation where you get a chance to travel either before or after the actual conference. I think post-pandemic the virtual options for conferences will continue, but there’s no substitute for being there. For meeting colleagues face to face, going out to dinner with them, experiencing the attractions of a particular destination, and just enjoying the company of new and existing colleagues. I know not everybody has the privilege of being able to pay for their travel costs, but if you do, regard it as an investment in your career. You don’t know who you might meet, what other opportunities will come your way, and the ideas you may learn from being somewhere new. After all, you are working in tourism and so you need to see the world as this is part of your own personal and professional development!
So, as you embark on your career, in many ways you have shape your own path. There will be unforeseen twists and turns in your journey but be sure there are always many of us who are there for you if you need any help. Just ask!
Heather J. Gibson
University of Florida, United States