Sabbatical Snippets

Been on sabbatical this semester. And it’s quickly coming to a close. I needed a definite closing point for this sabbatical experience, so I’m combining my travel for AERA with some adventure. This seems climactic. On Friday (4/21), I boarded an Amtrak train from Indianapolis to Chicago. Once in Chicago, I boarded another train, the Empire Builder, to Portland, Oregon. Arrived in Portland on Sunday (4/23). From there, I drove to Eugene, Oregon, where I’ve rented a small cottage for three nights. I have another 24 hours here until I travel back to Portland for another two nights in another little bungalow-style home. And then on Friday (4/28) I’ll fly to San Antonio, Texas for the annual meeting. I’ll fly back to Indy on Monday (5/2). This time–between leaving home and moving on to the conference–will give me space to metabolize the sabbatical experience, and I plan to do some writing on what I did and what I learned. More on that later. Until then, some photos.

2016 SAAHE Celebration, Words

Had the opportunity to speak at this year’s SAAHE celebration, and I wanted to share those words here.


Last year when I spoke at this event, there were two points of focus: adoration and placing students “first.” My, or our (your faculty), rather, adoration for each and all of you was expressed. And let me remind you that adoration is a deep respect and a kind of love. Those are things I feel, we feel, for you.

I also talked about this checklist I created before starting this job in 2011. The list was a way to remind myself to stay human and remember important things that can get lost in the never-ending state of busy that the academic year often brings. When we get busy, it’s easy to forget to take care of ourselves and other people. It’s also easy to make getting things written or graded or accomplished or achieved a priority, and then we forget to put students first. Sometimes putting students first is tricky, and it may not appear as if that’s what we’re doing. For example, sometimes your own absence is putting students first. But, if we can’t trace our actions within this work—student affairs, faculty, whatever—back to students, what are we doing? The first item on my checklist was “Whenever possible, put students first!”

So, now that I’ve given some context related to last spring’s talk, I am going to talk about two more things, different things, this time around. First, I am going to unleash the whole list I wrote nearly five years ago. You may find some helpful tidbits, as many of you are moving onto a new adventure very soon, just as I did five years ago. I will just read the list; you can use it as you like. Finally, I am going to wax poetic for a while on the word beauty.

Here is the list:

  • Whenever possible, put students first!
  • Take time for loved ones, dogs, exercise, and creativity every day.
  • Work on your own research and scholarship for at least 10 hours per week.
  • Always be reading an interesting book. The book doesn’t have to be about academic stuff, but it can be.
  • Keep up relationships with other faculty/academics/friends. Have coffee, get lunch, grab a beer!
  • Remember that students want class to be fun!
  • Don’t fret over things you don’t know. It’s ok that you don’t know everything. No one knows everything.
  • Get involved in a committee or two on campus.
  • Be eager to work with others on projects.
  • Start something new if it’s interesting.
  • Listen before you talk. Have compassion.
  • Remember that people’s lives are more complicated than you realize.

Again, do what you want with this. It’s helped me more than I thought it would. Consider making your own. Then leave it alone, and take it out again when you need it.

Finally, let me go on about beauty. Beauty is not glamour. Beauty is not about appearances. Beauty is not superficiality. Beauty is something else.

I recently listed to a podcast, an episode of On Being, which was an interview between Krista Tippett and John O’Donohue. John O’Donohue, now deceased, was a poet and philosopher who wrote about beauty. Regarding his work, Tippett said “He believed that the human soul does not merely hunger for beauty, but that we feel most alive in the presence of what is beautiful.” This passage was so striking to me. And I thought to myself, while trotting around the track in Ball Gym, you all must be beautiful! Do you know how enlivening it is to do my job, which is saturated with each and everyone of you? I know you’ve been witness to my being enlivened in the classes we’ve shared, and you have also, perhaps, read me as enlivened in the comments I have left you in assignment documents or inside feedback boxes in Blackboard. This may be a little odd, but what is beauty, really?

O’Donohue asserted that “Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming. And I think when we cross a new threshold that if we cross worthily, what we do is we heal the patterns of repetition that were in us that had us caught somewhere. And in our crossing then we cross on to new ground where we just don’t repeat what we’ve been through in the last place we were. So I think beauty in that sense is about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.” There is so much within his words here that pertains to you. You have been in the process of becoming, and you will continue to become. And that is beautiful. And you, you are beautiful.

You should be proud of what you’ve done. Think about it for a moment—what you’ve done. Think of the breadth, depth, and meaning. Think about the lives you’ve touched. Consider, for another moment, about the looks of your becoming. How have you been becoming? What has it felt like, who has been there, and what have been the contexts? Now remember becoming has no finale. It is not finite. How are you becoming right now? How will the past year or two of becoming influence the becomings of your future?

Let me soon come to a close here. In summary, use my list as motivation to make your own. Wherever you’re off to—think of the axioms that shall guide you and (re)center you. As you do so, remember the beauty on which I have just waxed poetic. You are beautiful. Perhaps “Remember you are beautiful” will be your first check on the list. More importantly, remember that just as I have been enlivened by you, you, too, will be enlivened—as I am sure you already have been—by your students, your colleagues, others. Just as I have told you today, that you are beautiful, remind them, too, and perhaps add something related to that to your list as well.

Thank you, and congratulations.

SAAHE Grads_2016



Is Instagram a global photovoice project?  I really have no idea, but it’s been on my mind. We’ll get back to that question in a moment.

I recently reread Wang and Burris’s seminal article on photovoice. The following excerpt from page 178 really struck me (it should be noted that in this paper the authors refer to photovoice as photo novella):

Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 6.57.44 PM

Work. Play. Worry. Love. How do we see these intangibles? How do we translate them into images? Where do we do work, play, worry, and love? In what ways would we document those spaces? In what ways do these four things, or actions, relate to health?

As I reread the piece, these–and more–questions swirled in my head.

And at about the same time, I was in the midst of preparing for the spring 2016 semester. This meant getting ready for the three courses I am currently teaching at Ball State University. In one of these classes, EDCC 641 (Community Colleges and Diversity), we are going to be engaging in an Immersive Learning project with a subgroup of community college students. It will be a photovoice project. The purpose is, simply, to understand. So in class this past week, I asked my students to engage in an activity to get us acquainted with the methodology.

I wrote the following on the board: #playworrylove and my cell phone number. Yeah. I forgot to include work in the hashtag. *sigh*  I asked who had a public Twitter or Instagram account. Then I asked the students to go out into the world for about 15 minutes and take a photograph that was illustrative of one of the words in that hashtag. They were to caption the photograph, add the hashtag, and post it to one of the two social media platforms. They could also text me the image and the caption, and I would post it to my public Instagram account for them.

While they were outside the classroom, I pulled up the following sites and projected them intermittently onto our whiteboard/screen: TweetBeam and Tagboard. I called up our hashtag, which was #playworrylove (because I forgot, remember?). Once everyone returned from the adventure, we reviewed the images and further narrated them. It was both fun and interesting. We had carried out a brief photovoice project.

So back to the question with which I started. I don’t know the answer. But I know many self-narrate on social media platforms in a very visual way.

Let’s try something. Can we?

In an effort to honor and re-engage the work of the two individuals credited with coining the term photovoice and developing it as a methodology, if you have a public Twitter or Instagram account, take a photograph of what work or play or worry or love means to you, add a caption/narration, and share it using the hashtag #workplayworrylove. Search the hashtag; engage others. And then let’s see what happens. More soon.

Well, I’m back.

I bought four doughnuts from Voodoo, and over the course of about 18 hours, I managed to eat three and a half of them–for dinner, dessert, and breakfast. Ouch. It was worth it, but still, ouch. Also, ew. After an evening of doughnuts, napping, thinking about packing, and actually packing on Monday, August 3, I hit the hay. The next morning, I had coffee, ate all but half a doughnut, sat on the back porch, wrote, packed comprehensively, and drove off to the car rental return place and then took the shuttle to the terminal.

As should have been expected, there were flight delays. But that was okay with me, as I became carried away with The Learners by Chip Kidd. There’s something about his style I love. Haven’t finished it yet–want to savor it. In between reading, I made a massive “to-do” list for the next two weeks, things to complete or attend to before the fall semester is upon us. Is it really that time again?!?! I suppose it is.

The last item on my “to-do” list is “Plan more adventures.” This trip was amazing, and I am beyond happy to have taken it. It was fun, relaxing and tiring, strange, communal and independent, beautiful, and completely enjoyable. Therefore, I intend to “Plan more adventures.” In fact, this may become a weird, pedagogical tradition. I’ll keep you posted.

Weirdness and the University of Portland

Last night was super relaxed–and strange. After settling in at my Portland rental, I decided to walk around the neighborhood in search of needed things (cream for the coffee). I ventured out to Division Street, found a pizza place, had a slice, and then hit up the local grocery story on the way back (to buy the needed things).

Shipyard, A View from Campus
Shipyard, A View from Campus

I love grocery stores, so I wandered around quite a bit before actually placing any items in my basket. Peering down one of the aisles, I see a familiar face. I travel all the way to Portland and randomly bump into one of my former athletes from Appalachian State where I coached field hockey from 2001 to 2005. What are the odds? It was unbelievable and awesome and serendipitous and, well, weird. (We both agreed and were a little shocked.) Hadn’t see her in nearly 10 years.

Hey people!
Hey people!

After a night of journaling, post card writing, and internet surfing (yay wifi!), I hit the hay. Was up early this morning to get ready for my trip to the University of Portland to visit with one of our SAAHE alums and see the campus. A beautiful place! We walked all over the grounds, chatted and caught up, had a lovely lunch (the dining hall was inspiring; yes, inspiring) with one of his co-workers, and took a trip to the campus bookstore.

With a new hoodie and stack of post cards in hand, we ventured back to my car. It was an awesome two-hour visit, and I really enjoyed seeing Jody and hearing all about his plans to make the cross-country drive home (to NC) in just a few weeks! Love it.

Next stop: downtown Portland for books and donuts. Naturally.

Snow Lake

The drive from Walla Walla to Bellevue, WA was, again, stunning. I90 traveling west was just majestic. I drove through the Snoqualmie Pass, and landed in Bellevue where I spent two nights with one of my teammates from college (GO DUKES!).

Snow Lake
Snow Lake

We reconnected, ate Vietnamese pho, and retired to her front porch for the evening. After breakfast the next morning, we drove east on I90 (back the way I came) to hike the Snow Lake Trail. Such a beautiful destination.  It was awesome to get out and stretch the legs! The sights were unbelievable. The vistas were so perfect, they looked fake. I assure you, however, the photographs here are real places. *smile* After the hike, we stopped at DRU BRU for a pint and late lunch.

The view from DRU BRU. Really.
The view from DRU BRU. Really.

We stared at a giant mountain as we ate, and it was a great way to cap off the afternoon.

On the way back, we hit up the local grocery story in anticipation of making a light, late dinner, which ended up consisting of a grilled salmon salad. YUM. The rest of the evening included more porch sitting, music listening, and story telling. “Do you remember when . . . ?” A lovely four words!

This morning, after a late brunch, two cups of coffee, more porch sitting, and packing up, I left to head south on I5 toward Portland.

In Portland now, tapping away from the Brooklyn Neighborhood, where I’ve rented the upstairs of a cool old house. I’m out on the back porch daydreaming and admiring the neighbor’s gigantic black walnut tree.

Walla Walla Community College

Back at the Coffee Perk because I’m a creature of habit. I’m all checked out of the house, and it was a wonderful stay! On to Seattle in a few. So, more about yesterday. After rising and getting in a few hours of writing, I drove to Walla Walla Community College for a morning meeting with Tim Donahue. It’s hard, frankly, to express how awesome my visit was.

Yes, a Wine Library.
Yes, a Wine Library.

First, Tim is an incredible human being. Within five minutes, I knew this. He was so generous with his time, kind with his attention and care, and candid with his words. He is the current Director of the Center and was prominently featured in this mini-documentary, which is basically the entire reason I am here.

After talking about all manners of things (career path, teaching, students), we toured College Cellars and then made our way our to the vineyards in a massive, bumpy, wonderful red truck. I loved it.

It was amazing to see everything in action, and the being here really brought the video to life. Loved hearing about the care and attention each student within the program receives–as well as the pragmatic and student-centered approaches to teaching. The very first thing the students do is make wine. Practice first, (some) theory later. Wine making seems romantic, whimsical, and FUN. However, not (aways) so. Making wine right away gives students the experience they need to make a sound decision–is this for me? Can I stand the work, the lack of sleep, the cold, the wet? Moreover, the internship experience happens quite early on as well. Tim shared that students often “land” (paid) assistantships all over the world. Amazing. The world needs wine makers! Skillful ones. With all of his experience in the business, he knows. And he knows people, which is a huge asset to the students. [In fact, he’s working on a plan to send me to New Zealand right now. Okay, I’m kidding. Maybe.]

Tim plus grapes.
Tim plus grapes.

So, we’re at the vineyard, which is super close to the incubator. I tell Tim about missing J&J Vintners. He’s like, no worries, I can call Jeremy of you want. Um. Sure?(!). We’re looking at grapes. I am learning about grapes. I eat a grape. Then, Jeremy DRIVES BY! What?!?!? So, Tim being Tim flags him down, and Jeremy turns his big truck around to come visit with us for a few. It was amazing!

Jeremy, like Tim, is the nicest. We had a good time chatting, and it was awesome to witness the rapport between these two–teacher and student, mentor and mentee, and now, friends and colleagues. There’s something about the people here that draws you toward them. A sense of being acknowledged, a kindness, I am not entirely sure. But being here felt good.

Me. Jeremy. Truck.
Me. Jeremy. Truck.

Once we returned, I had the chance to get myself some swag and a bottle of wine (thank you, Tim!)–Scholarship White. We spent about two hours together in total, and I loved every second of it. This place deserves the recognition it has received. The good these folks do for the students, the community, and community colleges is real and palpable.

My next visit was with Wendy Samitore, Vice President of Student Services at the college. She was warm and lovely and candid and giving and curious and smart. I loved hearing about her career path, which included teaching high school English, adjuncting at the college, and working with the TRIO program at the college. We talked about teaching, what it means to believe in students, and how working at a community college can feel, sometimes, like culture shock, depending on a person’s background. She told me about the simple yet brilliant initiatives they’ve launched as well as the ways in which they’ve “tested out” hunches and discovered things about their students, thereby serving them better and more purposefully. Completion does matter, and steps can be taken to advance students’ completion.


Wendy and I visited together for about an hour and a half, and she plans to retire within months. It was wonderful to listen to the new ways in which she’ll continue making herself, inspiring. We discussed succession planning, institutional memory, and new leadership. She’s been at the college for over 25 years. She’s lived the college–lived Walla Walla. This was evident in our discussions abut the video. It occurred to me that, in some ways, institutional memory can be inhibiting. I suppose it’s in what we choose to do with that memory, however. Anyway.

After hitting up the bookstore (actually, I did that prior to meeting with Wendy), I ventured to the coffee shop (internet) and then drove back to the house.