Archives of Women in Science and Engineering
Special Collections Department - Archives of Women in Science and Engineering - Oral History Project
MS 379: Oral History Collection
Ruth W. Swenson
Interview transcript, 1999
RS: [chuckles] It's all relative, of course. No, I think I enjoyed working with people and thought that I could contribute more there than I had, realizing that I was never—it's also hard to have a career in science jumping in, because by that time I was in my fifties and it had been a very truncated, a very short career, though I'd been very fortunate in getting grant support. But it takes years and years to develop a reputation in science and to get publications out, although I was tenured in no time and full professor. But I think working with people is probably more of a niche for me than science.
TZB: What did you find most challenging about going into administration?
RS: Accepting the fact that things aren't black and white, that there has to be compromise, there has to be patience. You have to see both sides of the coin, working with faculty, many of them prima-donnas; [unclear]—I worked on promotion and tenure and that's a challenge because there are those who feel that research is the ultimate, that you can be a wonderful teacher, but if you can't publish—the publish or perish phenomenon. And now that things—the pendulum is swinging back, which is good, I think.
TZB: I was going to say, how do you feel about that?
RS: Oh, I feel good about that, because I think it's very hard to excel in everything. I suppose I considered myself minimally competent in research. Maybe that's an underestimate but certainly teaching was important to me, and I think should be important, particularly for undergraduate teaching.
TZB: And so you went in to be an administrative dean, and then how did things go?
RS: Well, fine; lots of challenges. There's no end to the job. You become a workaholic and do what's needed—not a nine-to-five job at all.