Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Legacy that Counts

One of the delights of a career well spent, I'm learning, is a world full of former graduate students.

My partner and I spent a marvelous Monday evening with LGT, who finished her PhD here in 2001 (her defense was the week after September 11th) and landed a job at a small college in the deep south of the USA. It's probably not the job she imagined - did I mention, the deep south? - but she has flourished. She is, I confirmed last night, a marvelous teacher. I saw her Teacher Look and I heard her Teacher Voice, both of which are awe-inspiring (and, therefore, awe-some, though usually to different audiences). She told stories about her colleagues and her classes, her triumphs and her questions. She has established an annual lecture series; she is working on her second book; she is tenured and promoted. We talked about her grad school experience ten years out. All evening I just kept thinking how proud I am of the person she's become and what a gift it is to work with someone like her.

This morning, a current graduate student aced her candidacy exams. This afternoon, I started organizing the thesis defense for yet another brilliant student. And although we haven't said this explicitly, Aimee, aka digiwonk, aka Friday's blogger, completed her PhD under my supervision too.

It's a world of amazing people that just keeps growing.

Next week at my school the Faculty Evaluation Committee will hole up for five continuous days to evaluate the successes and failures of the academic year. They will proceed with scrupulous procedural fairness; whether that's what the academy needs - whether that's what women in the academy need - remains, for me, an open question. Increments will be handed out and moved around and reconsidered. Nonetheless, at the end of the week many people will feel that their teaching is unrecognized, their research undervalued, their service made invisible. FEC can make you feel like crap, but even when it rewards you, it's nothing like spending an evening with a fully fledged colleague and friend.

As I like to say, when all else fails it's nice to have your integrity to fall back on.

3 comments:

  1. That's wonderful. I wonder how those of us who aren't on the the tenure-track reasonably measure our academic successes, or if we are forever limited to hey, I got another contract, so yippy! Or if our supervisors are as proud of us as you are of your obviously stellar former student.

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  2. Lee, most of the students I keep track of are former undergrads: some of them are in grad school, and I'm proud of them, but one just called me the other day from Malawi, where she's doing the work of angels, and when students like that tell me what they're doing out in the wide world, I'm not only proud, I'm awed -- I mean, I never left the academy and the breadth of their accomplishments, and the niches they've carved out for themselves, is never less that amazing to me.

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  3. Having spent yesterday evening mourning the loss of a former PhD colleague and friend -- amidst more former and current colleagues and friends -- I agree that these communities are sometimes what make all the difference.

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