Posts Tagged ‘Academics’


Dear 16th-century Poet Who Wrote the “12 Days of Christmas”*:

I’d like to adapt your song to reference my life as a professor. I hope you don’t mind.

For space’s sake, we’ll skip to the last verse. Please sing to the tune of the standard arrangement by Frederic Austin.

On the 12th day of Christmas, my students gave to me:

12 “strongly agree”s
11 alumni notes
10 brilliant comments
9 rec. requests
8 mangled clauses
7 late-night emails
6 Twitter retweets
5 bacon links
4 lame excuses
3 “utilize”s
2 ampersands
And pride in a job well done!

(They drive me crazy, but I love them just the same.)

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


*No one knows for sure who wrote it.


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Dear Dr. G:

Hello, and I hope you are doing well since I last saw you at AEJMC. I’ve been thinking about you lately for a strange reason.

You once called me a dilettante, which made me mad at the time. It wasn’t really accurate for the situation (as I recall, you were upset with me because you wanted me to focus solely on my doctoral work, but I wanted to keep my full-time job, you know, so I could eat and have shelter).

La dilettante

I know your heart was in the right place, and that you were, in your own way, showing confidence in my ability to do scholarly research full time.

Though it may seem like I am a dabbler, it’s not that at all. It’s the opposite, actually. I throw myself into something fully, learn as much as I can, then I move on to something else. More short attention span than dilettante.


That’s why I have five degrees (yes, five). It is also why my résumé looks like the life of eight different people.

If I could, I’d have more jobs (in addition to the one I have now, which I love). Some of these jobs include:

  • Flight attendant (A waitress in the sky? Yes!)
  • Travel writer
  • Tour guide for some exotic location
  • Cruise ship social director or bartender  (like Julie or Isaac from The Love Boat)
  • Personal chef (Wait … I think I already am.)
  • Character actress (like Rebel Wilson)
  • Personal assistant to someone nearly crazy (Think of the stories I could tell!)
  • NBC page (that’s one of those unfulfilled college ideas)
  • Beta tester for games
  • Game show host
  • Full-time employee at my university’s study-abroad campus in France (!)
  • Owner of a craft brewery
  • PR executive for Disney
  • Train conductor
  • State senator

Maybe Santa can bring me new names for my contact list to help me accomplish my goals.

So yes, I am interested in many things. Dilettante? No. Focused? Yes, for periods of time. Game show host? I can only hope. Thanks for helping me in one of my pursuits.

Anyway, happy holidays, and I look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C.

Beth, Aspirational Polymath

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Dear Readers,

On this day of thanksgiving, I want to share with you the (admittedly random) things for which I am thankful, beyond the usual gratefulness for family, friends and health. I am thankful for (in no particular order):

  1. A husband who isn’t a lazy, fat slob (even if he has gone too far the other way and joined the Crossfit Cult)
  2. Artistic children
  3. The Avengers (specifically Thor and Iron Man)
  4. The ability to visit friends in far-flung places such as Abu Dhabi
  5. A job that I love
  6. Funny and talented colleagues
  7. The words “qi,” “za” and “jo” that are so handy in Words With Friends
  8. Apple (in our house: iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, MacBook Air, two iPads, two MacBook Pros and stock in Apple for obvious reasons)
  9. Bacon
  10. Stan Lee
  11. Adobo seasoning
  12. Full-coverage underwear
  13. Crocs (I know they are butt-ugly, but they are so useful)
  14. This
  15. Honey Boo Boo
  16. Puréed pumpkin in the freezer awaiting pie-making at Christmas
  17. Stephen King and his gloriously messed-up imagination
  18. Parker’s growlers
  19. Facebook and Twitter
  20. The word “moist” (A polarizing word, “moist,” but perfectly descriptive)

Here is what I could do without:

  1. The word “penetration” used in sports
  2. Any recent Patricia Cornwell books
  3. Poetry (Sorry.)
  4. Thongs
  5. Green peppers
  6. Mosquitoes, flies, sand gnats, telemarketers, talk show hosts and other pesky creatures
  7. The 24-hour news cycle that causes the focus to be on the salacious rather than the serious
  8. Men who don’t trim their ear and nose hair
  9. Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr
  10. Any of the “real housewives”
  11. Burlap
  12. Strip malls
  13. Steven Seagal
  14. Fad diets such as Paleo, Zone, Atkins, etc. (just eat more fruits and vegetables, fewer sugary things, and exercise more, people!)
  15. Boys’ pants with unreinforced knees
  16. Knickknacks
  17. Chicago Manual of Style
  18. Anthony Bourdain
  19. Golf
  20. “Talking points” instead of just talking

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Pip pip to the Brits

Dear People of Oxford, England:

Thank you for your hospitality when I visited last week for a conference. At no time did I feel that you thought less of me because I am an American. (Although perhaps I, like many Americans, was just oblivious.)

Thank you for not mocking me when I tipped, or took an inordinately long time trying to decipher the wording on the coins.

I know you could tell I am American because I smiled all the time and was extra friendly. I hope my American accent didn’t sound too much like a bird squawking. Or like this.

Americans are like dogs to England’s cats. We have big personalities and can be overwhelming. We’re always wanting attention, calling attention to ourselves, trying to engage people somehow. Running around with chew toys and slinging slobber. That sort of thing.

In contrast, you English folks are more reserved, aloof even. You might play with the metaphorical cat toy, but only if it suits you, and certainly not when anyone is watching.

But you were kind to me, and for that I am appreciative.

You really are jolly good chaps.

Cheerio, and I hope to see you again soon.

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Warning: This post contains graphic images and text that may be disturbing to sensitive readers.

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

I don’t usually talk about politics in this blog, but I’m concerned about the Republican Party. They’ve had four years to get their act together and this is what they’ve come up with:

How are these guys the best the party can offer?

I can’t address all the craziness these folks have perpetrated over the past few months. Here are a few of the tastiest tidbits.

Mitt Romney

During an economic policy address at Ford Field in Detroit, he mentioned that his wife “drives a couple of Cadillacs.” Later, he explained that they were parked at their different houses. You know, for convenience. Oh. OK. Of course. He must not have learned anything from poor John McCain in 2008.

Romney is like the uptight, nerdy dad trying desperately to “get real” with the cool teenage son. Think Phil Dunphy.

Rick Santorum

At a speech at an Americans for Prosperity forum in Michigan, he derided Obama as a “snob” for suggesting that Americans should go to college. Hmmm … I guess he knows a thing or two about college. He has three degrees: a B.A., M.B.A. and J.D. I suppose he was indoctrinated by those “liberal college professors.” Quelle horreur!

And, by the way, look at the priority other countries place on higher education. The United States is slipping further behind. Do we really want to be the Patrick Star of the globe?

With his sweater vest, he reminds me of the teenaged son’s irritating, know-it-all best friend: Eddie Haskell.

Newt Gingrich

How is he a viable candidate? Let’s give credit to the flux capacitor that transported us back to the 1990s. It was a more innocent time. He was able to squall freely about Bill Clinton’s sexcapades while carrying on a hot and heavy affair with Whitehall Barbie. And he’s trying to represent a party that espouses family values such as preserving the sanctity of marriage. OK. Oh, and he wants to colonize the moon.

He’s like the drunk uncle who passes out on the couch during the family meal. Or like an older Arthur.

Ron Paul

It is amazing that he is running as a Republican in 2012, considering his Libertarianesque leaning (that is actually more like the Republican Party of old). I guess he thinks the Republicans are his best chance (according to him, “parties are pretty irrelevant”). He’s clearly not considered a contender. The debates were tough to watch. Even though the man was speaking some sense, his opponents looked at him patronizingly.

In the family dynamic, Paul is the senile grandpa allowed at the dinner table until he pinches the daughter-in-law’s backside when she goes for more rolls. Then it’s back to the nursing home for Old Man Simpson.

So this is what we’ve got:

Lest you think I’m a “liberal college professor” or part of the “left-wing media,” I’m not giving Democrats a pass. They’ve just (wisely) kept their collective mouths shut and let the crazies duke it out.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do have to unveil a skeleton in my closet. (Remember, I warned you about graphic images.) Here it is in all its tattered, bony glory:

I was Newt’s press intern during the Jim Wright scandal. So glad the days of “mindless cannibalism” are over. Oh … wait.

(Notice my hand is in my OWN pocket.)

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This has been an eye-opening week.

I feel old. Scratch that. I feel like I’ve landed on another planet.


Kids today.

(This is where I shake my fist menacingly and yell, “Get off my lawn!”)

  • A student approached me after class one day and asked me, in all seriousness, if I would change the time of a required class next quarter because she doesn’t “do 8 a.m.” classes. Because she is a very sweet student, I nicely replied that I couldn’t help her with that, but I was sure she would be able to rise to the occasion. And I reminded her that college (usually) leads to a job where she would be required to perform on schedule.
  • A student has missed a number of classes because he “slept through” the alarm repeatedly. The class meets at 11 a.m.
  • A student who informed me he needed an A in the class stood me up for the meeting where we were supposed to discuss his progress toward that goal.

These students are all interesting, talented people who are paying to go to college. Yet I seem to care more about their education than they do. So I don’t understand what is going on here.

Back in my day …

Wait a minute.

I seem to recall sleeping through a 9 a.m. history class. And I may have tried to get out of that class because it met at 9 a.m.

I still don’t have an explanation for or experience with the other two scenarios.

At least I don’t have helicopter parents making my life miserable. One such person called my husband to request that he wake up her son to go to the gym.

Now THAT’S truly alien behavior!

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Dear Lacoste,

It’s going to be hard to say goodbye. You’ve meant so much to me over the past 10 weeks. And although we’ve had our differences — I like to walk normally, and you like to try to break my ankles with your cobblestone streets at 60-degree angles; I like to sleep, and you like to let the clock tower chime three times every hour — we’ve gotten along splendidly overall.

I regret the time I cheated on you with Paris. I admit that I felt dirty in the City of Light. Yes, the week of having access to world-class shopping, restaurants, landmarks, artwork and entertainment was wonderful, but I thought about you the whole time.

You know I also cheated on you with Apt almost every weekend; L’Isle Sur La Sorgue on a number of Sundays; Fontaine de Vaucluse and Bonnieux four times; Avignon, Ménerbes and Lumières three times; Gordes, Ménerbes, Oppede le Vieux and Roussillon twice; Cavaillon, Carpentras, Coustellet, Saignon, Lourmarin, Nîmes, Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles, Milan and Turin once. But they meant nothing to me. I always came back to you.

You are like sleep-away camp for grown-ups. I enjoyed being a camp counselor and didn’t even mind being on call all day every day. I may never again have the opportunity to discuss a grade on a paper while scooping potato balls onto my plate at dinner. Or hear students coming back from the Café de France at 4 a.m. I love your isolation that enables and requires close connections with others who are also enjoying your charms.

You are intense. You are immersive. You are insulated. You required me to work closely with other professors on a variety of projects and field trips. I might not have had that chance otherwise. You required me to practice my stick-shift driving skills in rickety nine-passenger transit vans on narrow, winding roads. Never before have I had to fold in my mirror so that I could safely pass a La Poste vehicle on a dirt road built for one car. You required me to rethink my idea of space and material goods. I lived quite happily in a small centuries-old apartment with few personal items and no television.

You are not the sleepy, hilltop village everyone thinks you are. You are a locus for plenty of activity — much of it mental — that results in a life-changing experience.

While I have to say goodbye — I was actually cheating on Savannah with you — I want you to know that I won’t forget you. Thank you for everything.



Things I will miss about you:

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