On Milestones

This coming week my daughter turns five.

Erin and Sylvia May 2008

Erin and Sylvia, May 2008


As I’ve mentioned before, I got pregnant with her during my first few weeks as a PhD student (oh, the tears!) and had her during the summer break between my first and second year. So, now I look back on the last five years and celebrate (or acknowledge, as the case may be), the many milestones in my academic life:

  • I have five solid years of the PhD program under my belt—well, six, actually (as I started fall 2007).
  • My student ID has expired, as it automatically does this five years after it has been issued. Why? Who made this crazy rule? Now I have to hike across campus to some crazy building and jump through a gazillion hoops to get an ID for two measly semesters.
  • I have taught approx. 20 courses as an Instructor of Record, both face-to-face and online, designing them and implementing them all myself. What I have learned in this capacity could fill an entire blogosphere. Stay tuned for more pedagogy posts.
  • I have learned how to speak up in intimidating situations, and what’s more, I’ve learned that I enjoy doing so. My brain doesn’t always cooperate with the words I want to speak (thanks, forever post-pregnant and frazzled mind), but I have learned oral expression and assertion techniques.
  • I have read something like 1000 books and articles. Maybe more. I’ve lost count.
  • I have learned the tremendously complex navigational techniques of the CU library system, Norlin, the online database system, and a myriad of research institutions in between. Most importantly, living an hour away from campus, I’ve learned that I can order in all the books I need through the fabulous Arapahoe Library District, where they will appear, magically, on a shelf for me, five miles from my home. Oh, blessed technology!
  • I’ve learned the best places to park in Boulder, for free.
  • I’ve learned where most of the buildings are on the expansive CU campus.
  • I’ve learned lots of really fabulous big words.
  • I’ve learned how best I learn: lots of repetition, and writing things down, and then doing it myself.
  • I’ve taken over 1000 pages of single-spaced notes on the texts I’ve read, workshops I’ve attended, etc.
  • I’ve learned how to teach—when I entered the program in 2007, I had never taught at the college level, and had only ever taught Sunday School, and technology classes at the law firm where I used to work.
  • I’ve learned how to teach online using Blackboard, Desire2Learn, and MyCampus Learning Management Systems (LMS).
  • I’ve learned how to judiciously incorporate technology into my classroom: HootCourse, Facebook, Twitter, digital texts and projects (digital humanities), etc.
  • I’ve learned how to write a darn good conference proposal, and then I’ve learned how to show up and give a non-deadly conference presentation.
  • I’ve learned how to revise my own work without getting overwhelmed or bitter, or dissolving into tears.
  • I’ve learned that I love academia, and that being a teacher is my dream job. So while I know the job market is murky at best, I hold out hope that I can find a teaching position somewhere, anywhere. While I also love to research and am very good at it, my heart is in teaching.

I could go on. But one of the things I love about academia is its endless opportunities for personal and professional growth, how you can hit the “reset” button every six months and head off into an entirely new and uncharted direction, if you’d like. I’ve learned that I thrive on this untrammeled and uncharted growth, this limitless body of knowledge lying out there ripe for the picking. This life as an academic is sometimes heavy and often frustrating (as are all good things in life), but it feels clean, crisp, and forever remade, always becoming, never stagnant or stale. And for that I’m so very, very grateful.

Erin and Sylvia, May 2013

Erin and Sylvia, May 2013


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