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2004-10-20 - 8:13 p.m.

workshops and teaching

This week I have been stressing out inordinately, because I leave tomorrow for the workshop in Boulder, Colorado where I will give a talk on a subject about which I know very little...And yet, I have been asked to give a keynote on the topic. To a certain extent this is flattering. In another way, this is terrifying. Because my tenure in New York has been an ongoing process of putting out fires - there has been very little active thinking and research.

In other words, I have very little to say, apart from introducing the topic, explaining why I think it's a great idea, and then listing all of the technical difficulties I've faced since taking on the project. I have decided that my goal is to use this meeting as a means of collecting information.

Sometimes life is a process of forcing yourself to look at the positive side. Some people can do this automatically - I find it is my challenge. For example, the talk that I spent all last night working on (even skipping my rehearsal to do it) vanished from my disk today. A frustrating moment. So I just redid it - and the positive side is that I think it has become better the second time.


In other news, I attended the college-wide faculty assembly today - a ceremony that introduces new faculty to the college. But of course, there was confusion - the college introduced me last year even though I was not here last September.l And so the college repeatedly sent me notices about RSVPing while at the same time "uninviting" me to participate in the ceremony. In the end, the kind organizer pulled a few strings and arranged for me to participate, and so I sat in the front with a carnation while the Provost stumbled over my unexpected name in a list of 50.

Normally, I play the role of cynical academic and these types of ceremonies. It must be terribly difficult to please a crowd of like-minded people. But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed being introduced and watching my colleagues get well-deserved teaching awards. It is not often that educators are applauded for their work, and it kind of makes me all misty to seem them appreciated. Today was no exception.

I am not to the point of feeling that this college is my lasting home. I do not feel the pride in this college that was touted throughout the ceremony. There have been too many bumps in the road already. Nevertheless, I looked out at this bunch of intelligent people in slightly rumpled clothing, and I realized that many of them share my romantic goals towards education, my desire to know, and even my degree of cynicism.

One particular professor, who was given a teaching excellence award, gave a rather interesting speech. He talked about the most famous scientist in the world: the infamous "they." As in, "They say that tapwater is bad for you.." or "They discovered that ..." He then said that his goal as an educator is to change that pronoun from "they" to "we" for his students.

This powerful message will probably stay with me. My colleagues and I just submitted an NSF proposal that would provide opportunities to minority students in geology by involving them in field research on a research vessel in Long Island Sound. The proposal provides essentially no money for us. But it may be enough to do just what this man said - we want to empower minority students by making them feel part of the "we."

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...they are just words, Suzi... - 2011-08-29
...the nature of doing science... - 2011-07-22
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...a small ripple on the big wave... - 2011-02-04

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