Friday, April 30, 2010

An engima wrapped in a blog post

So there was a thing I blogged about a few days ago, and then I removed the post because, while it is unbelievably unlikely that the person involved would find it, if ze DID find it, as innocuous as it was, that might be a problem.

Anyway--to continue in this cryptic light--we--the people in charge--did the right thing.

And, predictably, the appeals process is beginning.

Lord, give me strength.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lull

At Field, we have a one-day study period between the end of classes and finals. It's awfully short; I would be fully in favor of having what we had at both my undergrad and grad institutions--a full week of study period--provided, of course, that a couple of days were lopped off at the instructional end and not the vacation end (which was, I assume, how things worked at UGI and GI; our semesters at both schools were shorter than they are here). Of course, every time I think this through, I realize that I can just redirect the last few teaching days in my classes towards paper-writing--which is what I often do, in fact. So anyway.

The POINT is, we have this one day. My papers come in tomorrow and Tuesday.

And all I want to say right now is that I love study day. It's my own little holiday of cleaning. We're supposed to spend most of it in our offices, and I do: I clean out my folders, enter participation grades, recycle a LOT of stuff, and move files from the Courses In Progress drawer to the Courses Taught drawer. (And, now that I have a workable Brit Lit I, move that file from Courses Taught to Courses In Progress--I'm all set for 1/4 of my fall teaching! Sorta.)

This year, the day wrapped up with a beer-and-wine-and-cheese (quite literally: there were no crackers. ???) reception in the Fancy Room at the library. There's something very pleasant about drinking with the rest of the faculty in the library while students are (supposed to be) studying for finals.

(Perhaps we're no better than they are?)

I'm braced for grading and my office is clean. Summer, here you come.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Status Update

First of all: Kalamazooers, it looks like the 8:00(ish) Friday morning MugShots meet-up is happening again. I hope to see you there!

More substantially: It's the end of the semester, or almost, and I feel inclined to do a little summarizing. So here's where I am, in the form of a numbered list.
  1. Classes end tomorow. I only taught two this semester (and people, if you only teach two courses per semester, you do not ever get to complain about teaching load, especially if your classes are, as mine were, small [21 and 10]. It is a sweet, sweet deal, even when you're stupid and spread that teaching out to five days a week). One release was for Honors, which has been eating my life this month (as it's supposed to), and the other was for research/editing the manuscript. Updates on the latter below.
  2. Honors: The situation that I mentioned a few days ago is en route to resolution. And otherwise everyone and everything is on track. Whew.
  3. The book: is being indexed. Slowly. In full terror that I'm doin it rong. But it does look pretty! And I must say that I did a killer job of editing it in the last go-round, because I'm finding almost nothing to change (other than a handful of editorial errors for which I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE. So there).
  4. Other research: My grand plans for drafting a proposal for The Next Big Thing did not materialize, but I was able to read some real live scholarship in the field, and I currently have two articles out for review (one a big-shot R&R, the other a small-shot solicited submission). So that's cool.
  5. In my personal life...erm...things are fine? Not sure how to update this one. We have stuff in the gardens (yes, plural), due almost entirely to The Minister's machinations. Today we hunted for morels. It was a failure, but the forest was beautiful, and we got to ride his Vespa.
  6. Next year: I'll be teaching a mess of stuff, including a one-hour overload in the fall (5 classes! 4 preps! I die) and mentoring 12 Honors juniors through the prospectus process, which might kill me, while serving on 4 thesis committees. As for my service load: I will be chairing curriculum and also serving on what I affectionately call the Gossip Committee (actually a task force, but that doesn't have much of a ring to it) and the Cash Cow Working Group. Protection of junior faculty from service? Not so much. And I'll be attending an overseas conference in the middle of the semester, which'll make scheduling all kinds of fun. However, I shall endeavor not to think about the fall when the summer is so tantalizingly close.
  7. Classes end TOMORROW. In my head, they're already over. (But I still need to read for tomorrow's class....)
The semester in seven bullets. There ya go.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Kalamazoooooo?

Anyone?

I will be there, and NOT presenting. Hurrah!

I know that a few of you will be there, too. Meals? Coffees? Free wine? Dancing, perhaps?

Let me know if you'd like to meet up! Because I would love to see y'all.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Indexing: Unbelievably Tedious

Shocker, right?

(Twenty pages in 90 minutes.... So I should be able to finish up in the two weeks allotted to me, barring, well, you know, GRADING or anything like that!)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Thing that I Noticed Today

I say "fait accompli" a lot.

At least, a lot for those words.

Like a couple of times a week, lately.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Proof

For indexing purposes, my editor emailed me the proofs of my book today (the hard copy is on its way).

While I know that indexing will be not tons of fun, I'm glowing. I mean. Wow. It. The book. It has beautiful fonts and big fancy initial letters and and....

It's just so pretty.

I want to kiss it.

Do Thi Werk

So says The Cloud of Unknowing, and it's good damn advice, even if it's advice that I can't seem to follow these days.

(I can see the end of the semester. You know that feeling? When it's hovering there? And you can't begin to do all the things that need to happen between now and then? Because you're so focused on the hazy heat of summer? Oh yes.)

I spent this weekend avoiding working on a short little article that I'm trying to send out by the end of the month. A low-stakes kind of thing that I was invited to write up and submit (and really, the journal must have been groping at the bottom of the pile to find me, for all I have in print right now is one article and three book reviews, all of which are published in the same small-circulation journal). Being a junior-type person trying to build a publishing record, I of course said Yes.

I then wrote rapidly for a couple of days and produced almost a complete draft--which I then didn't look at for two weeks.

That, my friends, is a recipe for procrastination: Write fast, don't edit, leave it alone for two weeks.

Because I know that it's bad, but I've kind of forgotten what it says, and I don't want to look at it.

So I spent the weekend stewing and unproductive, equally avoiding all other borderline unpleasant tasks (i.e. grading).

This morning, I opened the file and revised the first couple of pages. It's not great. But it's okay. It'll get fixed (as everything always does).

And now it's like something's jarred free and I can actually work again. Hooray! Why didn't I do this on Saturday, exactly?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Interruption

So I'm pretty much overwhelmed and triple-booked every day until the end of the semester. There is all kinds of Stuff. And, as next year's service assignments get distributed (and I continue to develop more and more schemes for expanding the Honors Program), it looks like I'm in for some serious work hell come fall.

I will post about that. Miss the opportunity to bewail my over-committed state? Never!

But.

I will put all of that aside today to welcome into the world Baby Mihi, son of my brother and sister-in-law, who clocked in at a whopping 10.5 pounds and 23" early this morning.

His first name is Charlie...and, if you know me in real life, you know that that just sounds SILLY with my last name. Silly in an adorable, can't-wait-to-say-it-to-the-real-live-guy kind of way.

Welcome to April, Charlie Mihi!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Library bleg

Has anyone out there done paleographic research at the Royal Library in Brussels? I emailed them some time ago (in French, even) about what I'd need to get in to look at a manuscript, and haven't heard back. If you know it--or have done similar research at similar libraries--what credentials, paperwork, etc. does one need to get in there and look at the old stuff?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sacrificing Students to the Major

This post at Dr. Crazy's has me thinking about problems of institutional culture--specifically, what happens when a significant minority of a college's faculty does not value intellectual exploration and development for its own sake. Sounds like a paradox, right? Only, at Field--and obviously elsewhere, as indicated by Crazy's post--it isn't.

Let me give you some background. We have quite a few faculty who don't have Ph.D.s--fewer than we had even just a few years ago, but still a good handful. Some of these faculty have, say, MBAs and significant work experience, and teach business or accounting; some have M.A.s in foreign languages and teach those (both our French and Spanish professors actually just have M.A.s and originally taught high school); etc. I am quite certain that many of these professors, by virtue of having had minimal reseach experience of their own, retain a kind of business model of education whereby students come to acquire a degree, and it's our job to get them to that degree as expediently as possible. Period.

And some of our faculty who do have Ph.D.s have been here for a very long time and, I suspect, grown accustomed to the minimal research expectations at the College as well as the largely pre-professional orientation of our student body, and are, perhaps, somewhat resigned. For our students, by and large, come in thinking that they need to get a degree in Education or Business and then go on to get a related job, because (I suspect) they have no idea just how many varied jobs there are out there (in fairness, neither do I) and they don't come from a background that values intellectual pursuit as a formative and exploratory thing.

I know that we're not going to radically change our student population anytime soon. And I know that job prospects are a real concern. But I can't help but think about how much our students are missing if they see college as a road to a job, and nothing more. (And how much they must suffer through most of their classes if that's how they see it!)

The other thing is that we still are a liberal arts college. Not a Swarthmore or an Oberlin or a Carleton or a Reed, but a liberal arts college (with pre-professional programs). And our mission is to provide students, whether they are in a traditional liberal arts program or a pre-professional program, with an education that gives them a liberal arts perspective: a cultural breadth, a holistic framework, a broad set of approaches to the intellectual, social, and personal situations that they will encounter throughout their lives.

Our (extensive; perhaps too extensive) gen ed program introduces them to the liberal arts. But I know how easy and tempting it is to talk to advisees about these requirements as a series of boxes to tick off--to say things like, "Great, you got your lab science out of the way"--which only adds to the sense of these courses' being arbitrary hurdles and the "breadth" component of the liberal arts curriculum as a hassle.

And then, as director of the Honors Program, I meet students who--as first-years!--have had their advisors tell them that they shouldn't bother pursuing a psych minor because they'll never have time to finish it, even though the student himself really wants to study psychology. What the hell is that? Maybe the student should major in psychology, not just minor, but how will he ever know, if his advisor discourages him from taking it because a) he might not have time to pick up a minor (to which I say, Really?) or b) it might deflect him away from his original major--which is, of course, in the advisor's department. (And dude, you can take a psych class. The idea that there's no point in taking a course if it's not going to show up on your diploma is absurd.)

There are a series of forces at work here, of course, and part of the problem is that there's been a lot of talk in recent years about eliminating "under-enrolled" majors. So we want to hang on to our students. But that shouldn't be a consideration (nor should "under-enrolled" majors be cut. Luckily, we haven't been having those conversations recently). And when it starts to look like the student's interests are being ignored for the sake of keeping a major on the books, or--less perniciously--because the advisor forgets to think of the student's intellectual trajectory as her own and instead remains bent on following the curriculum that he has been accustomed to recommending, the student suffers.

And the college suffers.

Because we, the faculty, are then telling our students not to pursue intellectual enquiry, not to take courses to seek fulfillment or satisfy curiosity or because something sounds cool. We are telling them that education is about getting a job, and a job is gotten* by completing a particular major, graduating as swiftly as possible, and maintaining a good GPA--by taking easier courses, if need be.

And yes, I am partly angry about this because I see students being talked out of completing the Honors Program, because what's the point of writing a thesis, after all? Better just to take another intro-level course to fill out your required hours to graduation.

Not all of my colleagues are like this, of course. I wouldn't even say that most of them are. And many of them have twenty or thirty-five advisees and just don't have the time to help each one find him or herself. But it's a problem of institutional culture. What can we do to address it?

*I hate the word "gotten." I used it there on purpose.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hey Blogger, you know what's annoying?

When I draft a post last week, then forget about it, then go in and post it, and the date that is associated with it is NOT today, when I actually posted it, but the date last week when I drafted it.

Anyway.

So I have that silly post up now.

I don't know why I haven't been blogging. No particular reason, really. Same with writing in my diary--just nothing much to report, though everything is proceeding more or less swimmingly. No real irritations, even (I mean, little bitsy ones of the kind that we can't avoid, but nothing worth writing down). (Other than, perhaps, a recent back-and-forth with my on-again-off-again nemesis, but I'm going to save that for another day...or never, maybe, since I don't want to write anything that I would be too troubled to have get out. Not that our nemesisity is all that fraught. But I'd be embarrassed if s/he knew what I was thinking. And honestly, it's probably not very interesting to people who don't know this person.)

Recent triumphs? Some little ones. I got a grant to go look at a manuscript this summer. So now I need to refresh my Latin and my paleographic skillz, such as they are, which have never really been tested before (unless you count the midterm exam for my paleography course. That was an ass-kicker. I did well, though, after a breakdown over my notes the night before the test. But that was, oh, seven years ago?). I've also had some more good conversations with Awesome New Dean, who said something to me the other day about "needing to surround [him]self" with people like me (i.e. intelligent, committed to the liberal arts, and not completely burnt out). It is pretty awesome, I must say, to be an Insider. Even if that's kind of an illusion. I mean, we're such a small campus that almost everyone could be an Insider. But I could name at least five people who are not Insiders, because they are irritating, and so at least I get to hang on to some sense of being Special.

My brother and SIL are about to have their baby--he or she was due on Saturday, in fact. I'm keeping my phone handy these days.

Erm...what else? Well, most fantastically OF ALL, we get Good Friday and Easter Monday off. So I'm at the tail end of a four-day weekend. Really, I think that we need four-day weekends every week. Because it takes three days to actually realize that you have a break, and then the fourth is a nice day to finish catching up.

(Also the weather is spectacular.)

And after this, only 3 1/2 weeks of school left. I am so ready for summer. Lordy.

Thanks for bearing with me through this self-indulgent and uninteresting post! We appreciate your patience.