Tuesday, June 14, 2011
June 14, 2011 [Tribute post 15]: Collegiality
My first colleagues were my fellow Temple University English graduate students. I didn’t necessarily realize it as much as I should have at the time, since we were a commuter campus and folks were scattered pretty broadly around the greater Philadelphia area, leading to a sense at times that we came together for classes and then headed back our separate ways, but we were an impressively close-knit and supportive community in all the ways that matter most. As we began our scholarly and teaching careers together, we relied heavily on each other’s perspectives and feedback, voices and ideas, sanity and humor; I know I would never have had such a productive and positive time at Temple were it not for Jeff Renye, Frank Portella, Matt Chambers, April Logan, Julia Mendenhall, Gerry Malek, Mike Parker, Lynn Johnson, Fran Lassiter, Graham Callaghan, Lydia Pottle, Keith Gumery, Matt Desiderio, Marc Schuster, Matt Badura, Kathy Malone, Gina Masucci, Ganina Lagodsky, Daniel Ellis, Jeff Hibbert, Jaime Longo, Jeff Reichman, and many more. I suppose every academic’s definition of collegiality begins with his or her grad school colleagues, and I couldn’t have asked for a better first version of the concept.
I spent the year between grad school and Fitchburg State as an adjunct, teaching mostly writing courses at both Boston University and UMass Boston. I know it can be pretty difficult for adjunct faculty members to feel truly integrated into departmental and institutional communities, what with the insane workloads and usually multiple locations and commutes (to say nothing of the terrible pay and benefits and unfortunate lack of appreciation for the amazing work they do), but once again I was very lucky to be part of welcoming and genuinely collegial communities at each institution. In Boston University’s Writing Program I found an incredibly diverse and talented group of teachers across a wide range of disciplines, and while I connected most fully with my officemate Maria Gapotchenko, I also learned a ton from many other colleagues, including Chris Walsh, Jackie Walsh, Allison Adair, and Michael Prince. I’ve already written in this space about the chair of the UMB English Department, Robert Crossley, and how fully he made me a part of that department; but the same certainly went for Judith Goleman, Esther Iwanaga, Janet Mickevich, Pam Annas, and others. What could have been a very trying or overwhelming year became instead a truly positive and meaningful one, and I owe that almost entirely to these groups of colleagues.
And then there’s Fitchburg State. A paragraph instead nearly enough space to do justice to the collegiality I found and have continued to find (and, I hope, contribute to in my own ways) over these past six years. That starts of course in the English Department, and most especially with the tone set by the two folks who have served as department chairs, Jan Alberghene and Patrice Gray; but through my work with an American Studies program, with the Liberal Arts & Sciences Council, on the All College Committee and Curriculum Committee, and with numerous other efforts I’ve had the chance to spend a great deal of time with colleagues from every other discipline and department, as well as Academic Affairs and other administrative offices, and have found them just as truly collegial. Days and weeks (to say nothing of semesters and years) at a State College/University are incredibly full and chaotic, and the 4-4 teaching load and numerous service responsibilities, the commutes and families, the many other commitments, can pull us in a million different directions as individuals, much less as a community. But I’ve never felt anything less than supported and buoyed in all those efforts, and am reminded day in and day out of how lucky I am to be surrounded by such amazing colleagues.
There was a terrible fire late last night in a downtown Fitchburg apartment building, and a number of my FSU colleagues, including two from English—one of our department’s and FSU’s most senior and impressive folks, Tom Murray; and my best friend at FSU, Ian Williams, about whose work in prisons and whose blog I’ve written here multiple times—lost their homes and much if not all of their possessions. Nothing I could write here will make any sort of meaningful contribution to what those folks are dealing with. But I already know that our departmental and university colleagues will do so, in any and all ways we can; not because it’s the right thing to do (although of course it is), but because it’s who we are. More tomorrow,
PS. No links needed, but any stories of collegiality very welcome!