Meet Dr. Molly Worthen, the accomplished author and academic whose generous, motivational teaching style and boundless support for her students inspired our Molly blazer. She’s a professor of North American Intellectual History and Religious Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, she just released her course on the History of Christianity for The Great Courses, and she regularly contributes her insights and reflections on contemporary politics as a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times.
What is your personal definition of success?
Using your gifts to make the world a slightly more humane place.
Can you tell us about a mentor figure that has played a significant role in your life? What did they teach you?
For me, it was a college professor who took me more seriously than I took myself. I thought I was writing a term paper, but he saw from the start that it would be my first book. He treated me like a professional scholar, not a student, so I had to step it up.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
I started babysitting for a neighbor in 5th grade. Patience! And reverse psychology.
What is something you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
Most young people finish school with a very narrow idea of all the possible career paths open to them. Before you sign up for the most obvious thing, take some time to learn about the weird ones.
How did you know when you had found your ideal career path?
I don't believe there's just one career perfectly matched for each person. I'm still just bumbling along, and that's okay.
What are some techniques you use to manage stress and the competing demands of your work and home life?
I use the app Wunderlist to manage to-do lists and emails to which I need to respond. On Sundays my husband and I map out the week's dinner menus and take turns cooking. And lots of daycare. And I memorize poetry so I have something to murmur to myself when I'm feeling stressed. And this year I taught myself to knit.
What is your view on failure?
You don't have to romanticize it in order to learn from it.
What's the one productivity tool you couldn't live without?
My candle-lit tea warmer. Without it I would be up and down every 15 minutes to microwave my tea.
How have you mentored/supported other women?What advice do you give other women in your field?
I try to! My advice to everyone, not just women, is that hard work and stick-to-it-iveness is way more important than innate talent.
Any other thoughts or words of wisdom to share?
What matters most is what happens next.