September 23, 2020
As COVID-19 began its spread, parents from academia took on a variety of new or expanded roles: daycare provider, tutor, and more. At work, they managed new responsibilities while current duties grew at a rapid pace. Currently, there is no room for any of this work on the traditional curriculum vitae, or CV, which is often used for academic review and promotion. But what if CVs better reflected the reality of their work, even documenting the disruptions caused by the pandemic – particularly for women who have shouldered a great burden both at work and home?
That’s what IUPUI’s Rachel Wheeler and colleagues Jane Williams, Aaron Ganci, and Rajeev Raje are hoping to do through the development of an app called COVID CV.
“I have read so many articles showing just how hard working women are being hit by the pandemic as they are the ones more likely to be overseeing home learning of children, and in academia, women and faculty of color often bear a larger burden of academic service,” said Wheeler, an associate professor of religious studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts. “If measures aren’t taken by universities to address these disparities, then academia will be riven with greater inequities along racial and gender lines in the years to come as these groups fall behind in scholarship – the main category used to chart and reward academic merit.”
These growing disparities, as well as the disruptions caused by COVID-19 particularly as they relate to childcare for young children, will be highlighted by the app, which will generate a COVID CV for the user using simple graphical elements to illustrate the pandemic’s impact. An online exhibit featuring representative COVID CVs of scholars at varying stages of their careers will accompany the launch of the app, projected for early 2021, which will highlight the disparate impact of the pandemic on faculty at different ranks and stages of their careers.
As Wheeler wrote in a May blog for Inside Higher Ed, “COVID is wreaking havoc on CVs, halting research, stealing dedicated writing time and mushrooming course prep and design. The pandemic presents an opportunity to think carefully about the structural inequities of the neoliberal academy and to chart a different future.”
While COVID CV is not intended to replace the traditional CV, Wheeler envisions it being used for its therapeutic value, professional development purposes, and a window onto the realities of academic life at a particular cultural moment.
“We want our app to help make the invisible visible and to represent the fuller context of faculty lives, both in terms of their work done on campus – what is recognized and acknowledged – and how their home life factors in,” Wheeler said. “We want to have a way to highlight a broader spectrum of skills and value to an institution than what we feel is currently valued.”
The idea for the COVID CV app resulted from Wheeler’s own experience dealing with the impact of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment as a young faculty member. It pushed her back into the job market, setting her scholarship and tenure clock back significantly. Years later, the #MeToo movement and Brett Kavanagh Supreme Court hearings sparked her desire to find ways to make these impacts visible.
She created what she called her “RealCV,” using color coding entries and listing professional accomplishments alongside other events – such as harassment, prolonged stress, illness, and single parenthood – that impact the timeline of those accomplishments. This helped her see her work in a contextualized, more holistic way.
“It was a helpful, therapeutic tool to think about my career in the context of my larger life, and I started thinking wouldn’t it be cool if more people could do that?” Wheeler said. “With COVID, people seem to recognize the need to account for the larger context in which work happens. The workplace has to evolve. This isn’t simply a loss. There are things to be gained by understanding that employees have full lives.”
This project is supported by the IU Office of the Vice President for Research and the IUPUI Arts and Humanities Institute.