[I don’t need to tell you all how long this last year has been. But there have been plenty of inspirations among the horrors, and many have come from badass and impressive women. So for this special Thanksgiving week post, I wanted to highlight five such women alongside whom I’m fortunate enough to work. I’d love to see the people and things for which you’re thankful in comments! Thanks!]
1) Aruna Krishnamurthy: I’ve called Aruna an English Studies colleague and friend since I came to Fitchburg State in 2005, but over the past sixth months she’s taken on an incredibly challenging and vitally important new role, as the President of the FSU Chapter of our faculty union (the Massachusetts State College Association). We’re currently working without a contract (in the state known as “work to rule”), making our situation even more precarious than is that of any public and higher ed employees across the nation in 2017. That situation continues to play out, but I can’t imagine a more dedicated representative and activist, impassioned and eloquent spokesperson, and inspiring leader than Aruna has already been in her role as Chapter President. I’m very thankful she’s stepped up for this key role at this crucial time.
2) Katharine Covino-Poutasse: Katy’s a newer FSU English Studies colleague and friend, and one whom I’ve already found inspiring in many ways over our two and a half years working together. But it’s been since I moved offices and ended up Katy’s next-door neighbor that I’ve gotten the chance to see, again and again, one of her most impressive qualities: her exemplary mentorship of any and all students with whom she has the chance to work (ie, not just advisees or English Secondary Education students, but also each and every student she teaches). Katy’s about as busy as she could be with teaching and scholarship and professional organizations and family and much else, yet her office and perspective are a clear and potent resource for any student who has the good fortune to encounter them. I can’t imagine an office neighbor who more fully challenges me than Katy does to be a better mentor and campus community member, and I’m very thankful for that daily challenge and inspiration.
3) Lisa Gim: I’m not sure if I ever wrote about it in this space, but a few years back I ran for department chair, losing a close election to my colleague and friend Lisa. And man alive am I glad I did, as Lisa has been a wonderful and wonderfully effective chair throughout her time in the role (which fortunately has another year and a half to go). It’s been an incredibly challenging time for English Studies and FSU, and this fall more and more challenges have been added to the mix, including the aforementioned labor situation, a heavy push toward online education, an entirely new FSU administration, and much more. There’s no one way that any department, nor any institution, can navigate such challenges successfully—but having leaders who can help guide us in thoughtful yet impassioned ways, responding to our voices and needs (and those of our students) but offering a shaping vision, is key if we’re going to find and sustain such success. Lisa’s been precisely such a leader as chair, and I’m thankful both for all that work and for the model she’s provided for how to perform this difficult role at its best.
4) Diane Lucas: If Lisa’s one half of that FSU English Studies leadership team, however, Diane, our department administrator, is her vital other half. One of the largely unspoken but entirely understood realities of higher education is that departments succeed and fail largely as a result of whether they’re fortunate enough to have administrators who can combine knowledge and experience with dedication, kindness, and an ability to kick ass and take names when the occasion arises. I’ve had the good fortune to know such adminstrators at many institutions, but I’ve never met anyone who fits the bill better than Diane. Our department is big enough that it really needs two administrators, and for many years we had a great second one as well, Jean Varchol. But since Jean retired a couple years back, Diane’s been shouldering that dual load solo, which is far from ideal but makes the amazing job she’s done and continues to do that much more impressive and inspiring. To say that I’m thankful for Diane is to understate the case quite significantly.
5) Cecelia Cancellaro: I’ll end this giving of thanks on a more personal (while still professional) note. Over the last year I’ve begun to work with Cecelia, a wonderful literary agent and founder of Word Literary Services. Our work together is very much in progress, and I hope to have great news to report on that front in the new year (if not before). But whatever the results for my next project and career, I can already say that Cecelia is a model for this complex role, both in what she has added to my writing and thoughts, and in her colleagiality and support at every stage of the process. I’m very thankful to have connected with her and to be working alongside her as I move into the next stages of my public scholarly goals.
Happy Thanksgiving Next series starts Monday the 27th,
PS. Thanks you’d share? I’m thankful for you all too!
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