Wednesday, November 21, 2012

5 Questions Series - Will Duffy


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I located a subject that had theoretical as well as pedagogical implications. That's the short answer. The slightly longer answer is that I stopped trying to invent a topic that felt dissertation-y or book-y and instead took an assessment of the questions/challenges/ideas that I found myself confronting as a scholar and teacher at the moment. The project I'm working on right now is about collaboration, which became important to me when I started co-writing with a friend in grad school. We enjoyed the process of co-writing, but we also couldn't explain why it worked. That gap is what I find myself now trying to bridge with this project. It sounds cliche, but I believe the most important projects are waiting right in front of our noses.



2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

My first year out of grad school, I started making "semester plans" at the beginning of each term that consisted of identifying the projects I wanted to complete. I had calenders with swaths of dates filled in with things like "Research Jon Stewart essay" and  "Draft Jon Stewart essay" and "Plan summer course" --you get the idea. Then I marked deadlines and submission dates, many of which were arbitrary. But we need these kinds of self-imposed deadlines as scholars. What I found is that making these calendars worked. I got stuff done even as I was teaching a full load. I did do something like this when I was writing my dissertation, but I definitely could have started this practice much earlier.

 
3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Trying to maintain the attitudes necessary for being an effective teacher and successful academic. For example, when does shrewdness (positive) inflate into competitiveness (negative)? When does patience (positive) atrophy into laziness (negative)? The list goes on and on...

 
4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I love thinking about how the world works, and being an academic makes me a professional "thinker" in this regard. Taken to an extreme, however, this idea makes you into a pompous jerk, so, you know, see #3 above. 

 5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

Was it Stanley Fish who quipped that being interdisciplinary is so very hard to do? Whoever it was, I think that idea is a crock. I'm a rhetorician, so I basically have built a career on the backs of other fields of study. The sociologist Clifford Geertz suggested that it's when academic fields of study borrow from one another that novelty occurs. I agree. I think it is crucial to have feet in at least one or two other disciplines other than your "home" field.
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Will Duffy teaches at Francis Marion University. He has a website: www.virtueeater.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

5 Questions Series - Kristen Pond


1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

I was watching Football Night in America and listening to a bunch of guys sitting around talking about football players around the league, including the latest girl Tony Romo was dating, and it suddenly struck me that they were gossiping, it just was not recognized as such because it was a) men in ties and b) sports. This made me interested to know what other assumptions we make about neglected discourses, so I started exploring silence, gestures, and laughter along with gossip. All this is to say that sometimes not doing academic things can be the best thing for your career.

Transitioning from the dissertation to the next big project has been one of the hardest things I’ve done, but the idea for this project was one that I simply could not ignore because it kept creeping in to every thing I wrote and taught. The tough part was just figuring out how to capture the more abstract ideas of ethics, difference, and sympathy in a concrete way, which eventually became the figure of the stranger.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

To read scholarly articles and books twice when possible – first for content, then for style. The earlier you figure out how scholarly pieces are put together, the easier it will be to get your own material published. I think the first few years in grad school you are just in survival mode trying to get through classes, and then you get very inwardly focused while you write your dissertation. It’s worth looking up and out to take notice of your field, what is going on and how it’s going on. Some practical ways to do this? Make time to read the leading journals and blogs in your field, keep track of who are the leading scholars in your field, and take note of the way successful articles, books, and conference presentations are put together.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

Quite honestly, I think many people in our field take themselves too seriously and this leads to petty infighting and territorial tiffs. It also makes professors unable to reach their students in any meaningful way. I find it very difficult to deal with this attitude, and terrifying that the longer I am in academia the more I will take on this attitude myself. The idealism you have as a graduate student is very hard to sustain in a tenure-track position when towing the line becomes part of survival. To all of this I would say, it has been vital for me that I remember what I love about academia, that I remind myself of that often, and that I continue to do the most essential things that make me who I am as a scholar and teacher, regardless of the institution or point in my career.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

This perhaps sounds cliché or nerdy, but I simply love to learn. I really enjoy the college environment built around learning about yourself and facing new ideas. I like nothing better than to walk across campus and see students throwing a football, sitting on blankets reading, skateboarding to their classes, or pouring out of buildings at class change time. I am constantly learning from new things I read and from the students in my classes. I also enjoy the combination of stability and change that comes with this job: the central aspects of my job do not change, but every semester I get a new schedule, new classes, new students, and new writing projects.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

This answer goes back to my first one, it may seem counterintuitive but setting academia aside on a regular basis is the best thing for my intellectual curiosity. Doing things in the world outside “the ivory towers” enables me to return with fresh ideas, and to avoid becoming stale and burned out myself. So I run, tutor kids, hike, take one day off a week, watch football, go out to dinner, go on a day trip in the middle of the week. I am not saying this is a program for becoming a top scholar in your field, but it is how I maintain my intellectual curiosity._______________

Kristen Pond is an Assistant Professor of Victorian Literature at Baylor University. She received her Ph.D from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro in May of 2010.  She teaches British literature survey courses, as well as courses focused on the eighteenth-century novel and a graduate seminar on Victorian encounters with otherness. Her current project examines constructions of the stranger in nineteenth-century British texts, including settler narratives, newspapers, charity publications, and novels. She has two forthcoming articles in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal and Victorian Literature and Culture.  You can check out her course blog at http://blogs.baylor.edu/britlit/  and her personal blog at http://lumiacompositions.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Questions Series - Tanya Golash-Boza

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope?

My ongoing research is on the experiences of people who are deported from the United States. I decided to research this population because, when writing my previous book on immigration policy, I had trouble finding out what happens to deportees. The few stories I was able to find in journalistic accounts were compelling as well as devastating. I wanted to know more about what happens to people once they are deported. Additionally, I was confident that this project was important not only to me, but also to the population I hoped to study.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

Teaching well is not about knowing a lot of material. Thus, you do not have to over-prepare for class by reading widely. Instead, focus on the knowledge you and the students share and push them to think critically about it by asking questions. This has two benefits: 1) it makes class more engaging; and 2) coming up with a list of questions to ask about the reading takes a lot less time than trying to learn all of the background material.

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?

I find writing books difficult. But, that’s what I like so much about it. Figuring out to write a book was a tremendous challenge, and I love a good challenge. Now, I am trying to figure out how to write a better book. That too is a challenge.

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I love being able to exercise my intellectual curiosity, having the freedom to teach and research topics I think are important, and having a tremendously flexible schedule.

5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I attend colloquia on and off campus. I travel to conferences. I talk to colleagues about my work and theirs. I read widely – I am always reading something.
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Tanya Golash-Boza is the author of three books: 1) Due Process Denied (2012), which describes how and why non-citizens in the United States have been detained and deported for minor crimes, without regard for constitutional limits on disproportionate punishment; 2) Immigration Nation (2012), which provides a critical analysis of the impact that U.S. immigration policy has on human rights; and 3) Yo Soy Negro: Blackness in Peru (2011), the first book in English to address what it means to be black in Peru.  She has also published many articles in peer-reviewed journals on deportations, racial identity, U.S. Latinos/as and Latin America, in addition to essays and chapters in edited volumes and online venues. Her innovative scholarship was awarded the Distinguished Early Career Award from the Racial and Ethnic Minorities Studies Section of the American Sociological Association in 2010.

Tanya Golash-Boza’s most recent work is on the consequences of mass deportation. With funding from a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad Award, she completed over 150 interviews with deportees in Brazil, Guatemala, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic in 2009 and 2010. This research forms the basis of her book manuscript – Deported, which she is currently writing.

Tanya Golash-Boza graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Maryland, a Certificate of Anthropology from L’Ecole d’Anthropologie in Paris, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Prior to working at the University of California, she worked at the University of Kansas. She lives in Merced, California with her husband and three school-age children. She has lived in Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean, and speaks fluent English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.