The University Does Not Love You

It’s January 2023. I’m at only my second live, in-person conference since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. And, it’s the Modern Language Association annual convention – the behemoth where I get to bump into my old pals and serendipity prevails. The convention hallways are rife with mask-covered faces that I’ve really, really missed these past 3 years. Other than the masks, the biggest change is that most everyone has moved off of Twitter, where we usually had very engaging intellectual conversations across panels that made it feel like the academic universe wasn’t so gargantuan and cold-hearted. And, this year, it’s in San Francisco – just a 45-min drive from San Jose where I’ve been stationed for the last 18 years. Giving everything I have. Volunteering for more service than I could handle. Killing myself every year to “do good.”

Despite having been in the same institution for all of my professional career, I still carry a vast curiosity for everything. I race triathlons in order to meet people from all walks of life. I attend conferences in far flung places to ensure that my scholarship isn’t myopic, white, colonial. During the pandemic, when I couldn’t travel to a triathlon to race with my endurance community and partner that travel with giving a talk at some super cool audience of colleagues (mostly self-funded), I resorted to outright traveling with a run adventure company that included cultural learning along with running through unimaginably beautiful vistas to hear bells tolling in a small town up in some far-away mountains. It was exquisite. And the first vacation that I ever took since starting into academia.

But, here I am back at the MLA and not having such a great day. That lasted all of 2 panels until I bumped into a beloved friend who I haven’t seen in a very long time. And, she immediately reminded me why I’m in this game of academia despite the overwhelmingly disappointing news that I received this morning. News that directly relates to the advancement of my career. That would have been a reward for all of my loyalty to my institution. All I’ve been thinking since receiving that news is how the University has betrayed me. That administrators don’t care.

She reminded me that they don’t.

She’s right.

I know this. All too well. From two decades of swimming around, under, past, and through institutional morass. I should know better.

In an effort to advance my understanding of the institution, I had an opportunity to shape my leadership vision recently.

In thinking about how I wanted to articulate what I’ve been doing through Digital Humanities, Digital Pedagogy, and more recently, Public Humanities, I bumped into Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s draft of her latest project, Leading Generously. I’ve long been a fan of Kathleen’s work and used Generous Thinking in conjunction with the HumetricsHSS values-based initiative to create the mission for the initiative that I have created and lead as Director of Public Programming for the College of Humanities & the Arts, H&A in Action.

There’s a learning curve to be where I am (and undeniably in a position of privilege at this point). I’ve spent a lot of time making space for other people but have found that my position as a full professor means that often people don’t reciprocate that, thinking instead that my privilege is already enough space. This has resulted in, for instance, being pulled from edited collections in favor of making space for other voices or failure to provide peer review feedback on an article submission because editors thought I would be insulted.

I realized that others don’t know to make space for me – that I need this generosity, too. So, I’ve been more specific of late. But, I’ve made a small error – in this new position, I’ve been using “we” instead of “me” to articulate and claim credit. My thought was that “I’m doing it for the college, the university, the public good” and that collaboration makes us much more powerful as a community in what we want to accomplish.

This is the error that I’m really coming to grips with right now:

“Our institutions will not, cannot, love us back. However much we sacrifice for them, they will never sacrifice for us. 

(Draft, PrefaceLeading Generously)

If I don’t stand up to articulate the invisible labor to create a college-wide initiative, no one else will. If I keep volunteering for extra intensive service because no one else is volunteering, the University will keep inviting me to the table. If I don’t insist on resources to help me do my job, the University is happy to let me self-consume. If I don’t speak up about ethical breaches by other units on campus, the University is happy for my silence. If I don’t push for better conditions so that other faculty don’t fear for their futures, the University is thrilled to have me as an automaton.

If I take the University at its word to empower and train anyone who’s ready for administrative roles, I should look at the broken promises over the last 20 years.

I’ve survived the University in spite of its dangling carrot that never comes close enough to grasp.

After all, I’m only an employee of a large, urban public university that just doesn’t love me.

Get over it.

*************************

See: Agate, Nicky, Rebecca Kennison, Stacy Konkiel, Christopher P. Long, Jason Rhody, Simone Sacchi, and Penelope Weber. “The Transformative Power of Values-Enacted Scholarship.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications vol. 7, no. 1, December 7, 2020, pp. 1–12.

See: Mark Sample’s remarks re intellectual leadership and professional development from a panel at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention 2023.

Value Everything – Coming Together in 2022

High Atlas Mountains – Morocco 2022

When former President Mary Papazian took over SJSU, she instilled in the entire university a new way to codify and value different forms of research, scholarship, and creative activity (RSCA). Every tenure-line faculty member who was already pursuing a RSCA agenda could apply and be awarded a course release each semester for 5 years (with renewals) as long as they make progress on their agenda.

This opportunity came up in Fall 2018 while I was on sabbatical. I proposed an ambitious project that also rolled my Digital Humanities, and now Public Humanities, expertise into a literary-period specific research project while also highlighting my ongoing Digital Pedagogy work. The output or remnants of that project used to be “what did you publish?” Now, with the metrics being determined each year by our faculty-led College Committee on RSCA, we have been able to define the terms of what is “scholarship” or “research” ourselves. The metrics are revised each year by this committee in consultation with faculty in the college. And, I have to say, this has been quite successful!

In addition, SJSU has a wildly effective shared governance Academic Senate. About 15 years ago, the Committee on Professional Standards started trying to change the retention, tenure, and promotion (RTP) guidelines. We are unionized. So, once those new rules were passed in 2015 (finally!), we are locked into them — S15-8 was triumphant, but also constantly open to revision as necessary by the Academic Senate. As the Chair of the College RTP Committee, I took my role seriously the last 2 years and worked with full professors who also found this heavy committee work to be incredibly rewarding — we stuck to the language of the policy in all of our decisions and written reviews before sending the dossiers to the dean and then over to the University RTP Committee. With these guidelines, candidates achieve a particular level in each of the 3 primary categories: Academic Assignment (which is more than teaching); service; and RSCA. Below is a handy chart with language taken directly from the policy language to help our committee conversations have immediate reference to the policy. The mandate of this policy is to avoid over-reliance on student evaluations, do more than count number of publications, and reward faculty for service.

Since 2015, we’ve added Amendment E to validate “The Scholarship of Engagement“:

2.3.5 Scholarship of Engagement. Similar to professional achievements, the scholarship
of engagement requires the application of expertise and/or talent grounded in the
candidate’s discipline or interdisciplinary fields. Achievements that do not require such expertise and/or talent shall be evaluated under the category of service. This form of scholarship engages significant problems, needs, issues, and reforms in the professional, academic, local, or broader public/global communities.

ENACTED FALL 2021

And this year, our incredible team on the Academic Senate’s Committee for Professional Standards acknowledged the work of many of our faculty to create a more equitable environment on our campus and crafted Amendment G “To include within the category of Scholarly/Artistic/Professional Achievement, activities that specifically enhance inclusion, educational equity and achievement in the surrounding and broader communities” – an amendment that has been approved & signed by SJSU’s Interim President, Stephen Perez on April 13, 2022 to be enacted Fall 2022.

In Fall 2021, our College RTP Committee reviewed 21 dossiers — some were requesting tenure and promotion to associate professor, others promotion to full professor, some vying for early tenure and promotion, and others were submitting their third year review for feedback and retention as assistant professor. TWENTY-ONE.

It doesn’t seem like a lot for eight committee members to review, but each of these digital dossiers is jam-packed with years’ worth of career progress, all of which we read very closely. Our Committee, in an effort to move away from quantification of student evaluations or number of publications as a way to articulate success, conforms to S15-8 requirements in writing 3,000-word holistic reviews of these dossiers. We don’t have to author 3,000-words, but considering that our RTP culture is shifting slowly and some levels of faculty review still rely on quantification, we find it necessary to be so bold and recognize everything that the faculty member offers (and identifying where there might be some lack in order to help).

I learned how to do this, this style of value metrics, from a generous HumetricsHSS workshop in Fall 2018. That workshop not only gave me a method for voicing the value of my own multi-disciplinary work, but also emboldened me to take a path to value SJSU’s S15-8 RTP Policy. The workshop (and its leaders) influenced me to not only serve on College RTP, but also to Chair it to ensure that we (College of Humanities & the Arts) were truly valuing faculty contributions according to S15-8….which, really, is a mirror for what HumetricsHSS teaches 😉

Full circle

I’ve been completely immersed in my new role this year as Director of Public Programming and creating H&A in Action (with lots of success!) and haven’t even posted anything since last year’s #dayofdh2021. Reading #academictwitter has fallen to the wayside while I work on funding strategies, community engagement, and crafting Public Humanities (with a heaping mound of Digital Humanities) for the College of Humanities & the Arts with a wonderful team of colleagues and community partners.

Everyone once in awhile, though, I catch someone requesting on Twitter a model for all of what I’ve described above. And, I keep responding that SJSU has a venerable and enviable position as a unionized, state university with an admirable (now) RTP policy that has built-in plasticity.

We’re also building a new NEH-funded Digital Humanities Center that’s more than “humanities.” I personally went to every event I could during the pandemic to hear about faculty RSCA projects — and I amassed a spreadsheet of those projects and queried those who do some form of digitally-inflected RSCA or pedagogy to invite them to list their work with our library’s faculty DH page. In one year, we amassed more than 60 projects by SJSU faculty, students, and staff. SIXTY!

This is a massive feat for one reason: There’s no way for SJSU or even California State University DHers and DH-adjacent to find each other. So what do we do? We build those pathways ourselves. There’s 2000 faculty at SJSU. Give us some time.

Even more exciting: Stay tuned for news about a CSU DH-wide initiative! Can you imagine it? TWENTY-THREE CSU campuses of DHers coming together — massive!

The irony is that I’m proofing our co-authored article (with Rebecca Frost Davis) for one of the Debates volumes about the rigors of doing Digital Humanities in an under-resourced university. With the pandemic, the article has been floating around in various forms of draft for the last 3 years. Rebecca and I write from our own positions instead offering a one-size-fits-all DH. The pessimism I express in this article has inspired me, though. I’ve always taken to heart: “Be the change you want to see.” (Thanks, Graduate Center, CUNY for that lesson!)

So, I did.

I dug into the red tape that was holding back DHers and others who are doing really interesting, engaging work and ran straight into the bowels of university muck. It’s not pretty in there, but I found others who are doing fantastic red-tape slashing work on my campus. And voices are being heard to make change.

Go ahead – take a look.

It’s the university I wanted to work at in 2005.

I’m very happy to be contributing to our potential for anyone we bring on, hire up, and advance forward.

– Very happy –

Ultra Paine Race Trail – Patagonia 2022

Day of DH 2021: I’m at the Building Capacity & Infrastructure Part of a DH Career

Last year, we were DHing it up with everyone else who breathlessly converted to online pedagogies within a week with the expectation that all would be back to normal by April…or…May? Surely by May. Here we are more than a year later. Day of Digital Humanities this year and April 29 followed on some extraordinary about Digital and Public Humanities at San Jose State University. I captured the day (and some of my perpetual exhaustion) over on Twitter #dayofdh2021 and archive them here for posterity along with the last 5, 7, 8 (?) other instantiations of Day of Digital Humanities from years past.

It’s #DayofDH2021 again!

So many irons in the fire…and they’re all infrastructure building under the umbrella of Public Humanities, but really is everything I ever learned from #dh

First up, a little Google Forms, spreadsheets, ontologies, and curating people— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

As a faculty member, over the last year, I spent much of my time teaching #pandemicpedagogy & doing super pumped up #digped – that left me way way depleted by Dec 2020 https://t.co/Fzeqlxe7hi #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

I started doing a lot of Public Humanities work with this programming grant initiative I run in @SJSU_HAhttps://t.co/SDIiHRQcEC #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

so, the Dean, in the face of dropping enrollments and the pandemic budget shortfall, saw a way to pump up this position & turned me into a Director of Public Programming – starts in the Fall, officially https://t.co/EMQSz2wlgw #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

We’re ramping up for @NEH_Challenge fundraising to support the NEW Digital Humanities Center @SJSU_HA @sjsulibrary (hmm, shd create a Twitter acct for that!) – so, I’m curating faculty from all disciplines — bc we have a boatload of faculty who already do DHy stuff! #DayofDH2021 pic.twitter.com/OMLzhWXQ5V— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

This means I attended *every* virtual event over the last year to curate faculty research projects – collaborate w/our fabulous librarians on how to collect, collate, represent faculty work #DayofDH2021 pic.twitter.com/YtyjffWYW1— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

But, first, we collaborated on how to organize those multi-disciplinary faculty projects.

Disciplines? No. Creates silos
Types via #DH @Wikipedia def? No. Not capacious

Ah ha! @roopikarisam pointed me twds *Reviews in DH* ontology. SHAZAM!! https://t.co/LBNgnDGOBP#DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

I really love collaborating with librarians. They see me.

Ontologies. Infrastructure building. Capacity building.

…and credit. Always generously credit

Because I’m able to get this all done only w/standing on shoulders of giants – @roopikarisam@jenguiliano#DayofDH2021 pic.twitter.com/3aUOvj9Jkk— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

I’ve spent the first 2 hours of this morning investigating the self-determined categories by faculty & emailing to suggest different categories (while also explaining the difference).

Look at all this work & different disciplines! #DayofDH2021 pic.twitter.com/y3rRZlfXbL— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

This infrastructure building does a few things:

1) Collects: curates faculty DHy projects
2) Community: creates a single web page for faculty to see others who are doing similar work or who are just engaging tech/dig methods
…..[+]#DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

[+]
3) Educate: Faculty see how capacious an @sjsu specific #dh can be
4) Promote: alert potential donors about how capacious our version of #dh is
5) Disrupt: @sjsu #dh includes research, pedagogy, meta-critique, and projects – *our* kind of #dh *in* Silicon Valley#DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

Also today: revising proposal for @NEHgov grant for Humanities Initiatives @ HSI to help @SJSU_HA faculty integrate public programming events into curriculum by helping them collaborate on interdisciplinary assignments w/a partner outside H&A#DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

All activities are based on key concepts from *Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities*! https://t.co/WIxzEZ4bb6

With monthly roundtables by curators of keywords/pedagogical artifacts https://t.co/DS7jQjyfs8

e.g., Andre Carrington’s “Future”https://t.co/9x2aoNuq8D
#DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

Also (did I mention that gig as Dir, Public Programming starts in Fall?!)

Anyway
Also today: another simul proposal — @NEHgov American Rescue Plan Humanities Orgs — 14 days to write 5pp proposal for ALL humanities @sjsu ! https://t.co/6uy2zWmR8y

DREAM BIGGER! #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

…and that brings me to another infrastructure building small portion of this giant grant proposal — collaborating w/ another @calstate campus on something…bigger…can’t say much now bc we’re still thinking about it…but, we’re dreaming beyond just #dh @sjsu #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

There are 23 @calstate
campuses — how much #dh powerhouse can we become if we unify? 🙂

And create a #dh stronghold that doesn’t replicate research-intensive institutions’ versions of #dh — but instead a #dh for the communities we serve #DayofDH2021— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

It’s 9:30am here. Working from home means I spend 30mins situating the girls (Beatrice & Gracie kitties) before diving into working. Work that is so rewarding but not flashy or visible.

My #dayofdh2021 is to make that work visible. pic.twitter.com/pJxU8lV1Eg— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

Sharing is caring, right Gracie & Bea? #dayofdh2021 pic.twitter.com/77BkjgsrEs— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

Ok, shew. I think Inbox:1 will stay that way for a bit. Flurry of emails for #DayofDH2021 and now the 2nd virtual mtg @sjsu 1) about the Fall/masks/campus return and 2) recognition of student & faculty awards
…while I email w/faculty about listing their DHy projects.— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

Hoping to clear my decks so I can finish revising this @neh proposal and start the routing process on Monday (for just this one!) #DayofDH2021

Hard cut off for the day is a promise to go for a run at 5pm in the hills!— Katherine D. Harris (@triproftri) April 29, 2021

It’s official! Director of Public Programming

Today, Dean Shannon Miller made public my move into being the Director of Public Programming for the College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University. It’s a big, bold move, but the work really encompasses what we’ve already been doing with our live event programming initiative for the last 3 years. It’s taken a Dean with a BIG VISION to see the possibilities for pumping up current initiatives through Public Humanities and Digital Humanities methods.

Read more…

Social Annotation Assignment – Best DH-y #pandemicpedagogy without being DH

I’ve mentioned a few times this social annotation assignment over the past year of #pandemicpedagogy — it’s been the best DH-y assignment without really being Digital Humanities. (If you’re using Canvas to set up this assignment, here’s how you do that (in Canvas but should be public).

Students in this required course (upper division English majors) have to grapple with a variety of critical theoretical models in order to articulate 10 different ways of analyzing one particular text throughout the semester (Heart of Darkness, and here’s why). Also, these social annotations were one method to build community and get students interacting with each other when we turned to completely online teaching (as of March 9, 2020). The assignment is embedded through Canvas (with Hypothes.is as an external tool that’s added via our eCampus approval) and uses a pdf (stored on my SJSU Google Drive) of the article from a subscription database. We look at examples of what additive means and try to steer clear of writing a formal essay: be generous with each other and the text, explore your ideas, what makes you curious? Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s work, Generous Thinking, has been on my mind alot lately; it’s been important to bring that to my students and their work as well.

The deeper we get into the semester, the better these get. We go over how to read complex literary criticism: first paragraph, last paragraph, topic sentences, then wade in! But, I spend the first few weeks responding to their annotations before the due date to help them perform more than definitions or attempting to be “right.”

It’s an intense exercise because I’m commenting on ~25 annotations prior to the due date and then grading 75 annotations each week. During the pandemic and lockdown, though, it’s the one assignment that has genuinely built upon online community in a way that showcases their intellectual explorations very well. One student told me that with the progress of each week of this course, she feels smarter just from assignments like these and our one synchronous meeting.

One element to note if you’re using Canvas: a rubric can be added to the assignment, but do it before designating the assignment as using an external tool. You won’t be able to see the rubric in the view of the assignment, but you’ll be able to see it in Speedgrader. Also, submission date, for some reason is always Dec 2000. Even if they just open the assignment tool, it gets marked as submitted. Letting them know all of this up front stemmed a lot of panicked emails to me.

Week 6 Feminist & Gender Theory – JHU Annotation for “Gender Theory”

Each week, each critical model is accompanied by articles from the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory & Criticism (requires log-in). Since reading theory can sometimes be challenging, we are going to work together to unpack the theory in this article and explore its relevance for applying it literature and other texts by using the tool, Hypothes.is, to create social annotations. 

This is the first time we’re all using Hypothes.is. If there are questions or bumps with the tech, post a question over in Instructor’s Online Office.

How to Use Hypothes.is – The Tech Stuff

Before beginning your annotations, watch this video on how to work all of the tech in order to leave an annotation that can be seen by everyone in class.

With the Hypothes.is tool, there are 4 kinds of annotations that you may add to our reading :

  • Highlights (private to you only)
  • Annotations
  • Page Notes
  • Replies

Annotations and replies are the types of annotations that we are using for this assignment. Take a moment to look at the “Illustrated Taxonomy of Annotation Types” to help you understand the difference and what these will look like in the Annotation screen before proceeding any further. (Click on “Watch Screencast.”)

Now that you have some tech help on using Hypothes.is, you’re just about ready to start adding some annotations and replies. 

BUT FIRST, read what you’re required to write in those annotations and replies.

What Goes into an Annotation and Reply?

For this assignment, you will add at least three (3) annotations to each article. Once a concept or key point or phrase or sentence has been annotated, you may not add another annotation.

These are the 3 types of annotations/replies that are required:

Annotation Type #1: Help explain the text by asking questions about confusing parts then looking up the answers. You can link out to other resources, thus creating a network of information. Avoid simply asking “what is this?” Connect the annotation back to the key point in the sentence or paragraph. 

Annotation Type #2: How do you see a point about this critical model being applied to any literary text (be specific)?  Feel free to refer to texts you’re reading in your other courses, too.

Annotation Type #3: Engage in discussion of the article by responding to someone else’s annotation. The response should be additive and not simply an agreement. If you annotate early, you may need to return and add more later (more than a 👌😏👍🏼). 

Before choosing a sentence or phrase (don’t do a whole paragraph!), read this “Annotation Tips for Students” and heed its advice:

  1. Select text carefully for annotation;
  2. Annotations should be additive (<—-super important!!);
  3. Make use of the toolbar to create formatting to emphasize important points; and
  4. Use of links and images.

To Get to the Hypothes.is Annotation Page

In order to start your Hypothes.is annotations for this week’s reading(s), scroll down to the end of this page and click on the bar “Load Week 2 xyz  – JHU Annotations into a new window.” I enabled this feature because working on the annotations from this assignment renders a very small window that’s difficult to read. 

Grading

Each annotation is worth 5points and is awarded based on the ability to highlight a key/main point, articulate a well-thought out plan for applying to literature, engage the conversation of another student through the annotations. 

No need to use complete sentences or formal writing here. However, each annotation should be substantive and additive, which means that it needs to be more than a “I agree” or “good job.” For the full 5 points, annotations #2 & #3 need to push or challenge the ideas being offered and provide links to other materials that deepen the discussion.

Attached is the rubric used to grade these annotations

Citation: This assignment adapted from Rebecca Frost Davis’ “Digital Reading with Hypothes.is” Assignment, St. Edward’s University (2020).

One Year of Pandemic Lockdown – New Gig, Director of Too Many Ironmans

Thanks, Facebook

A full year, almost to the day, of when San Jose State University declared pandemic lockdown and went online with the intention of returning to in-person after Spring Break during the first week of April. We were all thinking that this would be temporary. I even allowed myself to drink sodas on a daily basis thinking that I was temporarily indulging myself. It was all okay as long as I could get outside…then we had wildfires in the California area with smoke so heavy that it made being outdoors for anything but brief walks to get into car almost impossible. No swimming or running. So, I was left with going full bore into doing and being Digital Pedagogy as everyone suddenly discovered just how time consuming and detail-oriented teaching with technology really was. (As if teaching isn’t already like this without adding in technology.)

But, I was and remain proud of the response from my university and the California State University system in general. Our eCampus ramped up fantastically quickly. Center for Faculty Development staff fielded calls with patience. And, then, we decided, at the suggestion of the Modern Language Association staff, to release Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities while it was still a little buggy and gave a few workshops on how to use this massive project.

So many other conferences, speaking engagements, research agendas, even just grocery shopping crumbled under the weight of getting more info out there about #pandemicpedagogy #covidclassroom — and in the midst of it all, because I was on Zoom all the time, something happened to my hearing. Whether from stress or not sleeping, who knows. But, I couldn’t hear all of the conversations. Then, early in lockdown, I was having some trouble breathing deeply for a month and coughing at the slightest uptick in my heartrate. The only time I could breathe, hear, and relax was on my bike, which is stationary on smart trainer (connected via Zwift). Thankfully, that’s the one place that I could see my framily of close friends and tight athletic circles.

I was locked down. With just my cats. It’s been the loneliest year.

Panic productivity. I remember some of what I was doing for those early months. Stepping into areas where I wasn’t asked but feeling the need to add to the conversation. Getting in the way sometimes. Searching for ways to completely revise our college’s live programming for the next year with 28 events on the horizon. Managing student anxiety at the same time that I tried to dampen mine. Finding hand sanitizer (finally found, bought, and sent to me from my Dad in Texas).

This is what Ironman training was like. I never missed a workout for 2 years because I knew the race was looming. It’s a distance not to be trifled with because when you’re out there in a crowd of 2000 swimming 2.4 miles in open water, you want to be prepared. Always in those races, I have a moment of thinking “oh geez, I’m doing pretty good! Am I near the front of my age group of women? Maybe? Could be?” [never – it’s just in my mind] Get to the 112 mile bike ride. Feeling okay because you did all of those long rides and swam all of those laps. The run is my specialty, so 8 miles in feels great. Even 16 miles. But 17-25 miles. That’s where it feels like complete shit. But, you keep going because you’ve spent 2 years thinking about that final moment that will pass in 20 seconds of knowing that you’re about to complete a goal that has been built up over years. That last 1.2 miles feels euphoric. And when you finish, all of your friends, and even complete strangers cheer for you. Check on you. Congratulate you. For awhile. Then the burning desire to race another one comes over you. To do better. To test more boundaries.

That’s where the comparison ends. No one is cheering during the pandemic.

Until I got my shot last Tuesday. Sitting in that chair in the middle of a huge building. Trying not to burst into tears. I couldn’t even make small talk with the terrific nurse who must have given hundreds of shots already by the time I had arrived that morning.

The pandemic doesn’t end there, though. I’ve taken on a new role as the Director of Public Programming — which is the culmination of this past pandemic year of moving from in-person to online programming. Of spending much time thinking about and working with faculty coordinators on keeping in mind the values behind their events. What do you want to convey to these audiences? Have you held onto that with every tech decision that you’ve made? Zoom with chat or without? Registration required or not? Reaching out to bigger, national audiences, different constituencies? So many decisions. It’s like….

It’s like Ironman training all over again.

Then there’s next year and setting up this new infrastructure for Public Programming, the equivalent of Public Humanities, but with performing arts, art, art history, digital media, design, languages, letters, journalism, mass communication all in one college. There are grants that need to be written. Tenure and promotion guidelines to shore up that value publicly-engaged scholarship. Mentoring infrastructure to ensure the initiative’s longevity. Web presence to create. Mission statements. It’s like Ironman training all over again.

Also, my cats were constantly fighting in competition for my lap. Why can’t they just get along?

At one point, I embarrassingly yelled in frustration during a committee meeting – fueled by my frustration that I just couldn’t hear in Zoom.

I managed to write 300 words for a couple of conference proposals that would be virtual presentations, but barely. Thank goodness for terrific collaborators.

Doodle by © Jojo Karlin

Then, I walked into doing my own talks again on my nascent research project with an invitation from the Book Club of California to talk about 19th-century literary annuals in India — but since all of the conferences were cancelled, I hadn’t had time to really test out this new avenue of research, if it was shite or not. I’m venturing into a project that has multiple unfamiliar languages and new ideological and physical geography for me. I’ve never gotten over imposter syndrome, and I live to work instead of working to live. That working to live isn’t going so well, though I’ve always loved a good challenge, especially one involving laborious spreadsheets and archival research. It’s like Ironman training all over again.

The Book Club of California has always been generous with their invitations to me. We put together an Omeka digital exhibit in lieu of displaying my collection of literary annuals, emblems, and conduct manuals in their beautiful San Francisco location. I publicized the talk widely but regretted that during the week of the talk. Scholars I deeply respect had registered. I just wasn’t sure. It’s like Ironman training all over again.

I also chaired the College Retention, Tenure, and Promotion Committee, which was a pretty important service to me since we had created new tenure and promotion guidelines in the University Academic Senate that really heralded what I needed back in 2010 to value the very type of scholarship and pedagogy that we were now attempting to uplift. We have some culture shift to perform among the faculty on all of the committees, so I was committed to doing this work. Primarily, I wanted to ensure that we valued pedagogy beyond the student evaluations, as is explicitly written into our policies.

Completely valuable work, and I’d do it again, but in those 6 weeks, it was like Ironman training all over again.

In there, among all that, my 2 collaborators on Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities and I presented at the Engaging Open Scholarship conferences with a 5-min pre-recorded talk that ended up shaping some arguments we made in the collection’s introduction, “Curating Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities.” It would be the first time that we had moved beyond the workshop demonstration model and into provocations about what users could do with this collection in this moment. Just 5mins. That’s all the 3 of us needed to record. The outtakes are hilarious. It took 2 days to record. We were simply giddy and punchy from being “on” since March.

It was like Ironman training all over again.

Colleagues and friends say nice things to me about what I’ve accomplished in my career. But, admittedly, I’m lost these days. Unsure if what I’m saying is productive for the faculty who are applying for funding for their Public Programming events. Or, if other colleagues are passing off my unintentionally sharp critique as “pandemic times” and all will be forgiven later. Or, if that Book Club of California talk was additive. Or, if I’m so engaged in self promotion that I’m not adequately seeing the workload in front of me. Or, if this grant that I’m currently writing….or pretending to write….really, struggling to write because I can only put together about 4 sentences each day…is going to kick off this new role successfully.

This position entails everything I ever learned from Digital Pedagogy, Digital Humanities, project management, open access, Writing Across the Curriculum, archival work, non-canonical literary studies, and public engagement — thanks entirely to my education from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. It all culminates in this position. But, still living to work even when we know the relief of ending pandemic-times is on the horizon.

With the news of this new position, that I announced gleefully as acknowledgment of my hard work over the last 2 years in my college, a good friend and colleague simply asked me “are you going to be okay? because you tend to overwork yourself into shock.”

He’s right. It’s still like Ironman training. A long, methodical process that requires daily commitment and a great infrastructure. But it’s still a hard (voluntary) journey. The good thing is that I’ve met others who’ve taken on similar roles across U.S. institutions with exciting results. And, the fun of talking to all of my colleagues across campus. That’s the utter delight of the position. Making space. Making connections. It’s like Ironman training all over again.

I would never race 4-5 Ironmans in one year, though. That would be insane. My body wouldn’t hold up under that kind of mental expectation and daily grind of physical exertion.

Right?

Just one more.

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