Friday, May 05, 2006

Thoughts before departure

On the eve of departing for Ontario, I find myself reflective. Leaving somewhere for three months requires a lot of thought, particularly when a significant part of my transportables consists of research materials. One way or another, I know there's a significant book or file I've left behind ... but then, I guess that's what libraries are for.

It feels odd, returning to London for such a long stretch of time. It will feel even odder, I'm sure, going back in August, as I'll be returning to St. John's at more or less the exact same time a when I first arrived in the city last year. Full circle.

As for now, the feeling is that of a year come to an end, my first year at MUN and my first year as tenure-track faculty. What's heartening is that I leave this school year extremely excited about next year's prospects ... heartening that after the growing pains, hard lessons and occasional near-exhaustion of the past eight months, I'm not looking at this summer as recuperation so much as simply continuing on a somewhat different tangent.

I feel as though I switched gears mentally at some point, and finally shifted out of the part-time mentality that by necessity worries incessantly about the next period of employment and, because of that, has difficulty visualizing long range plans. Or, I suppose I shouldn't generalize: that's how my mind worked in that situation.

(As an aside, I was quite surprised by the quasi-firestorm my entry on tenure issues touched off. Kind of cool, actually -- I never know what subject matter is going to push buttons. I do love starting a vigorous debate! A number of people here who follow my blog were quite intrigued by the whole interchange).

Anyway ... part of the reason I'm stoked about next year is that we're starting to see the faculty turnover happening in a serious way. MUN's Department of English is seeing twelve full-time faculty retiring in the next three years, this on the heels of some more substantial retirements that have happened in the years previously. We've hired a new Americanist (yay!) with whom I'm looking forward to working; and we had the great good fortune of having a spousal hiring dropped in our lap (for the non-academic: when someone with a spouse in academia is hired into a tenure-track position, he or she can make the hiring of their partner into whatever is his/her discipline a part of the contract negotiations; such hires, when and if they go through, do not cost the home department anything and do not count against future hiring considerations). In this case, MUN's Math department wanted to hire a new professor who happens to be married to a friend of mine, whith whom I'd done my MA at U of T. Nancy, a protege of Linda Hutcheon, is a remarkable young scholar (I look at her CV and suddenly feel the intense need to work 20-hour days), and an extraordinarily cool person too.

So the posse forms. Next year we'll be hiring (we hope) at least two, preferably three new people ... and after that? It's an odd feeling to know that by the time I qualify for tenure, I'll effectively be senior faculty.

Also, we've been interviewing candidates for the position of Dean of Arts, all of whom have to deliver a public presentation to the faculty. My thoughts of late have been turning to issues of curriculum and change anyway ... but listening to these people coming through has added a certain amount of fire to these thoughts.

This, I think, is the best part of this job -- by which I mean this job at MUN specifically, as opposed to academia generally -- that is, that the radical change and renewal that is happening at universities across the country is particularly magnified here. And I get to be a part of that.

Which is a comfort, knowing that I'll have a lot on my mind as I drive the 24+ hours from St. John's to London ... I'll have a lot to think about.


jer said...

Have a safe trip, Dr Lockett. The Grad Club beckons! Oh, and so does the library.

Lesley said...

That's awesome. Sorry to have pressed a few buttons, but you're right, having a hearty debate is sometimes interesting. Here's a to a new team of intellects at MUN in the coming years. Sounds like it's shaping up well. It's very hard to get out of that mentality of not working part time or struggling to get by. Today I walked by a sign in the grocery store announcing hiring. I actually stopped for a second. Have a safe trip! Can't wait to hear the tales from the road!

FanglyFish said...

Have a safe drive bro. Michelle, Morgan, and I are looking forward to seeing you.