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Friday, October 2, 2015

October 2, 2015: AMST Colloquiums: Advice for AmericanStudiers

[This past weekend, we held the fifth annual New England American Studies Association (NEASA) Colloquium. So this week I’ll share some responses to each of the five colloquia to date, leading up to a special weekend post on AmericanStudies in 2015!]
On a few key pieces of advice for grad students, junior faculty, and other AmericanStudiers given at this past weekend’s 2015 Colloquium:
1)      Consider different types of institutions: In my own session at the Colloquium, on preparing CVs and other application materials, I connected many of my thoughts to another group I’m part of: the Cross-Sector Partnership, a Massachusetts initiative (started by Bridgewater State University Dean Paula Krebs) to help prepare grad students and others for “teaching at teaching-intensive institutions.” That’s a great organization, and if you’re interested you should check out their blog and contact Paula for more info! But in any case the broader point is one I would stress here: that different types of institutions have very different models for teaching, research, service, and all other aspects of our scholarly and educational lives and careers, and it’s vital for all of us to consider and engage with those different models.
2)      Balance our goals: A Colloquium session on the canon and students, which featured BU Professors Hunt Howell and Ross Barrett and Plymouth State Professor Diane Hotten-Somers, included a great deal of relevant information for all of us who teach and work in AmericanStudies and higher ed. But I found particularly interesting a recurring thread that has a great deal to say to all AmericanStudiers, both as teachers and in our scholarly work: the need to balance between more specialized (or “boutique,” as we called it in this conversation) goals and topics and more widespread and shared (or “canonical,” ditto) ones. Without eliding all the issues with and around the canon, it’s worth noting that at least partly that concept has to do with what we all (ideally) share—what authors and books, what histories and themes, what conversations. And so it seems to me, as it did in our conversation I believe, that an ideal goal for our teaching, scholarship, and careers is to keep working for a balance of the specialized and the shared, the boutique and the canon.
3)      Join NEASA!: Or organizations and efforts like it, at least. Another main topic of my CV clinics is always the need to find and build service, which really forms the third leg of academia (and tenure and promotion) alongside teaching and research, but which is often far less emphasized at any level of training or in our conversations about these questions. Service can mean many different things, but certainly membership, leadership, and work in organizations like NEASA (or the Cross-Sector Partnership) represents one great way to build the service part of our CV and experiences—and to connect to so many amazing colleagues, conferences and colloquiums, and conversations and communities along the way. If you’re in the New England area and interested in being part of NEASA, feel free to contact me or our current President Gretchen Sinnett. And wherever you are, join conversations and communities like this if you get the chance!
Special post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Advice you’d give to grad students or others on the market?

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