Archive for February, 2012

Re-imagining the academic major

February 19, 2012 1 comment

Happily retired, as far as I can tell, colleague Ellen Maher recently noted this: “I look back at some of my sociology syllabi and wonder whether some of the disciplinary sacred cows might not have been better left slaughtered in grad school.”

We were chatting on Facebook at the time. My reply: “Ellen, I think you are onto something. Do we tend to teach undergraduates as if they were going to get MA degrees and MA students as if they were going to get doctoral degrees, when there might be very interesting versions of our majors that are for people not headed down that particular path? This has to be true for English, my field, where we are entrusted with two of the great wonders of human society, language and literature, both of which enrich and ennoble and enable much in our lives besides that narrow path to the doctorate. Surely there must be a dazzlingly interesting BA degree in English that is not a warm-up for the MA and then the Ph.D. I suspect that with all their interest in creative writing majors and minors our students are trying to tell us the very same thing.

Keeping the trails open

February 19, 2012 Leave a comment

At an event at the Natatorium today, four community leaders were honored as Trailblazers–individuals who broke ground for South Bend in areas such as desegregated employment and education. Mayor PeteButtigieg talked about how these individuals had helped change what had been unthinkable to something the absence of which would be unthinkable a single generation later. He went on to remind us that trails, having been blazed, need to be kept open–for the future of our community, worthy accomplishments need to be maintained and developed.

The setting for the celebration was itself a great symbol of transformation, South Bend’s former public natatorium, a swimming pool where segregation long reigned, a building which is now a community center and home of the Civil Rights Heritage Center and a marker of a public university’s commitment to all the people of its region. I am proud to be on the faculty of IU South Bend in part because of its commitment to the Natatorium.