Monday, December 8, 2008

End of Semester Update

I'm wrapping up a long semester over the next week and a half.

My second year as director of the SJSU Peer Mentor Program has contained its share of unique challenges and opportunities for growth, highlighted by our successful hire of a new class of PMs. I so enjoyed meeting these fascinating and dedicated folks, but it was difficult to identify a cohort of 20 from our 49 applicants. The PMs helped - heck, we sometimes had four or five veterans interviewing with me! - but I alone had to make the final call.

At the same time, movement of my promotion dossier through the department and college marked an important milestone. I know many of the folks evaluating me on a friendly basis, some are in fact quite close to me. But ultimately they are required to assume a certain clinical detachment when reviewing my teaching, writing, and university service. I imagine that it's no more fun for them to make these decisions, particularly the painful ones, than it was for me to carve out a new class of PMs from a number of promising candidates.

Over the semester, I've also savored the opportunity to review page proofs for the omnitopia book, feeling no pressure from the press to rush the process. This is a strange turn, since every other publisher with whom I've dealt has instituted draconian deadlines from page proof to final edit, and I know that I've made mistakes in those rushed periods. In contrast, Hampton Press and the book's composer, Sue Morreale, have patiently endured my constant tweaking -- even allowing me to make changes only to change them back -- without so much as a "hurry up!" email. Now, I think we're ready to go to press (as soon as I receive the author index).

Elsewhere, Jenny and I have been making the transition to the status of empty-nesters, with our daughter off to college. All three of us have found this time to be remarkably challenging. Vienna faces a stressful workload and an understandable desire to be closer to her friends and loved ones back home. Jenny struggles to make sense of a life in which her primary priority and concern, being a mother, is rendered abstract by the miles. And I find myself stumbling in my own efforts to figure out my own role in this time of change.

And work and at home, It's been a busy few months. I have made some mistakes, but I feel that I've come through a difficult time more or less intact. I'm now counting the days until I leave for a solo roadtrip to Phoenix, writing an essay about Waffle House. I've been given a wide berth on how to approach this piece, but I still don't know exactly what I want to say. I'm hoping that a couple of days in the nearest Waffle House to my home will give me some ideas. Given our planet's ongoing economic crisis, I wonder if this opening line might work: "I'm sitting in a Waffle House in Phoenix, waiting for the world to end."

(Photograph of 2009 Peer Mentor training class courtesy of Amirissa Mina - I added the pic after the end of the Spring 2009 semester)

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