Tuesday, June 07, 2005

"Hello, Hello..."

Hi, everyone. I feel like I know many of you already through our blogs (though this is my introduction to Jason, who is just down the road from me!). I just received the book today and have only flipped through it, but I like the idea of thoughtful introductions, so I'll dive in. I earned my PhD in English from Illinois at Chicago in July 2003, starting my TT position here at the University of Hartford in August 2003. I am in the Department of Rhetoric, Language, and Culture, which houses the first-year writing program and the professional and technical writing program.

I always feel just out of place in most of my personal and professional situations. In terms of my education, I have a BA in English (from U of Houston) and two MAs, one in Women's Studies and one in Comparative Studies (from Ohio State). I knew early on, in junior high, that I wanted an academic life, a life of reading and writing and teaching. This is a bit odd considering that neither of my parent's finished high school (though my father did get his GED in the army and did finish college through night classes while I grew up). But I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I loved poetry, but I could not see building a career or a life around it. That's how I ended up in Women's Studies because the women's lit class I took as an undergrad really felt significant and important to me. It felt like we were talking about life and not just the text as text (I had a prof ruin romantic poetry for me because he wanted nothing to do with the lives of the poets or the social context or anything that, to me, provided a reason for studying such lit in the first place). I found rhetoric as a field that tied all of my diverse interests together, and I love teaching writing. So rhet/comp became my focus.

It's no secret that my years at Illinois at Chicago were chaotic. Stanley Fish took over as dean the year I started. I saw a lot of change in my few years there, some good, some not. I saw a lot of political grandstanding and infighting. But I also met some great people. My exams were a blissful experience I loved, but my dissertation defense was awful, partly the result of the politics I just mentioned, or so many of my committee members told me later. There was also an administrative snafu that was not my fault but almost led to me not getting my degree. I left UIC with a bad taste in my mouth. Sometimes, I wonder if it's fair of me to feel that way, though many there support my thinking.

I never heard of U of Hartford until I saw the job ad. I do like it here. We have a wide range of students, some amazing and some not. I was told by some jaded faculty that we only get the students who are rejected elsewhere and whose parents have enough money to send them away anyway. If true, it's only partially true. We have some great programs that attract great students, and we do get those with little to no motivation.

Did I say that I just finished my second year? Already, several people who started with me have left for "better things." Our teaching load is 3/3, which is pretty good. We have research expectations but they do not seem onerous. Some faculty do want more prestige and higher pay. I can understand that, but I haven't been looking. It's funny because people expect me to be looking. I've been asked about it, about how long I think I'm going to stay. And I have no plans to leave. I know I should want to teach graduate students and should want more money, but it's been good so far. I don't feel the pressure to write a book, which means that the book I'm writing can really be what I want it to be. If it fails, all is not lost. And that's a good feeling. I have not taught anything above the 200-level yet, but I do get to teach books I want to teach, for the most part.

I'll be honest and say that I like the potential to become a big fish in a small pond here, but I also like the chance to blend in and do solid, good work without the Research I kind of pressure. So, that's me, and I'm looking forward to the book discussion.