Thursday 16 May 2019

Another May

Here we are again, at the end of another school year. One of my very favorite parts about working in academia is the constant refresh of energy and focus that comes with the shifting of the seasons. One season does not fade into the next. Instead, all four are pronounced, either with a new beginning or another ending, and that rhythm is really lovely.

We concluded Olivet's semester with a baccalaureate service and graduation commencement ceremony this past weekend. It was a really beautiful spring weekend on campus, and I got my doctorate gown out and was happy to march with my department, other faculty members, and administrators. We were also glad to celebrate the English and English Education seniors with a celebratory lunch and a photo after the graduation ceremony. This year was especially special to me, as it is the year that one of my most influential college professors, Dr. Belcher-Rankin, is retiring. She served as my advisor, then trip leader to Burkina Faso, Africa, then unofficial mentor through graduate school. I felt so honored to spend a year-- my first and her last-- as colleagues in the same department.

As I said, the end of the school year is marked by the end of my first year as a full time faculty member. After graduating from ASU in May of 2017, I worked as an adjunct for a year while going on the job market, and then started at Olivet in August of 2018. In addition to teaching the four classes, which I discussed in my previous post, I'm very happy with what I was able to accomplish this year, as I think some really productive measures were initiated, like the two following items:

  1. Even as a new faculty member, I served on two committees this school year. The first was the Department of English Composition Committee, and we worked on reviewing the composition classroom curriculum. With the committee's support, I piloted using a new textbook in the ENGL 109: College Writing I classroom. The department had previously been using an MLA handbook, but I didn't feel I was able to engage the students in my classroom with it very well. I drew on teaching experience from Madison College and brought the textbook Habits of the Creative Mind into the classroom. I used it throughout the spring semester, and the students responded well. In a survey at the end of the semester, 95% of the students suggested using the text again. As a committee, we decided we are going to do just that, and we will use it in every section of 109 that will run in the fall. I've been working on setting up options for how to teach the text, and I'm excited to see what other professors will do with it. 
  2. The second committee I served on was the Department of English Writing Committee, and we took a look at our programatic offerings for writing in general. From this overview and research we conducted in the fall, we brought a new proposal forward to our department. The department members responded positively, so as a group, we spent a good portion of the spring semester ironing out details of our proposal before we will bring the complete idea to deans and administrators. It was exciting to be part of this work, and we are hoping for a positive outcome. 
My position as a faculty member is shifting. This past year I served as a full time faculty member under the title Assistant Professor in the Department of English, with expectations of service on campus. As the commute got to be too tiring and we realized our family would grow this fall, my department chair kindly offered to shift my position in the department. Starting this fall, I will be an Affiliate Professor in the Department of English. I will still be working full time for Olivet; however, my service obligations will be lightened, so I will be able to do the majority of my work from home. I am excited about this opportunity and so appreciative to my department chair and the administrators who opened up this position for me. 

As part of the shift between roles, I am creating a new online course for the university this summer, which I will teach in the fall. This is an online version of the ENGL 306: Advanced Writing course that I taught last fall. I really enjoyed teaching that course and diving into writing and rhetorical histories and theories with my students. The shift to an online format will be different, but I am hoping it is still very rewarding and productive for the students.

In addition to creating this course, I am also teaching an online section of ENGL 311: Business Communication & Technical Writing this summer. I taught B&T both semesters at Olivet. This is an eight week, online, much smaller version of those classes, but again, I still want to make sure the class is beneficial to the students who are enrolled. Between those two endeavors, and starting department work again in just under two months, I think the summer will go by quickly. 

Personally, I've been very blessed with wonderful support and time with friends these past few weeks. At the end of April, my family threw Wade and I a lovely shower over the Easter weekend when my uncle, aunt, cousins, and their families were all in Madison. We had elephant decor, a guessing game, and a delicious Mexican taco brunch. About a week later, my colleagues in the English department were so kind to throw us another shower on the Monday during the last week of school when I know that everyone had so much to do. 

My cousin Candace made a red velvet gluten free cake with cream cheese frosting for the first shower, and my colleague Ann made a chocolate cake with vanilla cream and mirror glaze chocolate ganache for our second shower. They were both beautiful and delicious! So far, these cakes have been two of the best parts about being pregnant. Just in between the two showers we also found out that Baby Bruce is a BOY, so it was fun to let our family and friends know about that! 

May also started off on a lovely note, as I attended the annual Original Women's Conference in Rockford, IL hosted by City First Church. I went with most of the members of our Bloom Women's Ministry leadership team and several other ladies from Ridgeway Church. This is my second year attending, and I had a really wonderful, refreshing time. The conference was held fresh on the heels of the last week of school, but I'm glad that I got to go and be a part of the conference and the time with the ladies. 

On top of the work that I'll be doing this summer, I do think the nesting instinct will kick in as we prepare for the baby this September. This morning I already got caught down a rabbit hole of learning about toxicity in scented candles, nail polishes, and non-standard essential oils, and I feel like I need to do a clean sweep of my house! I've switched to all natural facial products and hair products over the past nine months, and I'm thinking brands like Pure Hive, Palate Polish, and Young Living will become my standards for cleaner, more natural products in these other areas, as well. 

I am currently loving the summer break (as of yesterday) and time hanging out at home with the worlds cutest doggos. I am looking forward to what's to come, both personally and professionally as the seasons shift once again! 

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