Select an item by clicking its checkbox
What’s a Catholic College? I grew up agnostic and converted to Islam when I was eighteen. A lifetime later, I now teach at a Catholic, Jesuit, liberal arts college. Like many religious studies educators, I continue to mull over questions about the intersections of identity, metaphysics, and socio-politics. So, ...
The blizzard of the world has crossed the threshold and it has overturned the order of the soul. -Leonard Cohen I still remember vividly the fear and frenzy swirling around my graduate school the days and weeks after September 11, 2001. As the blizzard of physical and spiritual violence and their inevitable ...
Envisioning the Faculty for the Twenty-First Century: Moving to a Mission-Oriented and Learner-Centered Model
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
What functions occupy your time as an academic? Are they equally respected, sensibly arranged, and fairly evaluated? Are they well-coordinated with the mission of your institution? Do they complement the functions your colleagues carry out? Do they all contribute to student learning? If you have ever wondered about such questions, you must read this book.
Adrianna Kezar and David Maxey, of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, gathered a distinguished group of contributors to produce this volume on the future role of faculty in U.S. higher education. They start by pairing two concerns often considered separately despite their proven interconnection: the erosion in recent decades of the traditional faculty model (the full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty member), and student success. The unbundling of faculty roles, and the consequent re-distribution to assorted academic personnel, of curriculum development, course design, content delivery, assessment, advising, research, community engagement, and so forth—has negatively affected faculty-student interactions and therefore student learning and self-efficacy. Adjunct faculty members are not the problem. Even the disappearance of tenure is not the problem. The problem has been the random, reactive, and poorly conceived responses to market forces and technological revolutions in education.
The volume goes on to raise many other concerns that changes to the faculty have effected, including: an evolving understanding of academic freedom based less on individual rights and more on collective responsibility, the way that internationalization of higher education and a global academic workforce challenge assumptions about U.S. supremacy, the need to base faculty evaluations on the success of the department as well as individual achievement, a shift in faculty development programs from mere technology training toward adult learning, and the pros and cons of customizing academic careers to support work-life balance. Contributors do not uncritically valorize the traditional faculty model; while they generally support the return to more full-time positions, they also recognize the need for flexibility and coordination in the design of faculty roles, alignment of those roles with institutional priorities, and collaboration rather than competition among communities of scholars. One specific innovation lifted up as noteworthy is the way medical schools have created multiple tracks (investigator, clinical-educator, clinical, research, and educator) that provide distinct but parallel career pathways for their faculty while simultaneously serving their institutional needs.
Though the book does not conclude with a fully envisioned alternative model for the 21st century, several points of consensus do emerge, especially around the need for collegiality, professionalism, responsibility for students, differentiation and diversification of roles, and more expansive definitions of research and scholarship.
This collaboration is a rare and refreshing example of one to which the contributions are evenly strong. Every chapter piqued my interest. Readers of this journal may especially appreciate the chapter on academic freedom because it is written by a religion scholar and has a familiar ring.
Readers new to the literature on developments in higher education might first want to read Ernest Boyer’s 1990 Scholarship Reconsidered, referenced frequently by contributors. Envisioning the Faculty for the 21st Century will become an equally important and influential work.
Boyer, Ernest L., author. Drew Moser, Todd C. Ream, and John M. Braxton, editors. 2016 expanded edition. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Digital Identity and Everyday Activism: Sharing Private Stories with Networked Publics
Date Reviewed: September 20, 2016
This small book is a brilliant example of grounded research that is thoroughly infused with theoretical insight and practical engagement. At first glance people looking for pedagogical wisdom might not be attracted by the title, but at the center of the book are questions of identity and everyday activism – topics that are vitally important in the midst of higher education contexts permeated with fears of “coddling students” and arguments over the value of “trigger warnings.”
Vivienne is based at Flinders University of South Australia. This book draws on her background in media production and working with marginalized communities towards social change, and focuses on research she did with GLBTQ communities learning how to create in a specific form of digital storytelling:
Digital stories are short (3-5 minutes) rich media autobiographical videos, combining personal photographs and /or artworks, narration, and music. They are traditionally created in a workshop context that takes place over 3-4 days and includes a story circle, technical instruction, and celebratory screening for fellow storytellers and invited guests. (3)
Because persons within GLBTQ communities must constantly negotiate how they represent themselves, when and how they claim specific forms of identity, and in what ways they make these claims publicly, digital storytelling offered a compelling medium for a research project interested in exploring the challenges of sharing private stories with networked publics. The book is full of descriptions of how these stories emerged, with links to specific videos referenced available online.
Vivienne’s work is both participatory and activist in methodology, drawing on the theoretical work of scholars such as Benhabib, Butler, Young, boyd, Jenkins, Bahktin, and Foucault. She ensures that the complexity of these theoretical interventions are made vividly accessible by using them to attend to the conundrums of claiming identity in the midst of highly contested spaces. She highlights the capacity of digital storytelling for reaching across various forms of difference:
bridge building is reflected in the capacity to negotiate one’s position as a part of or apart from networked publics – including familiar, intimate, counter, and unknown. Digital storytelling creates opportunities to ‘bring things up,’ to broach difficult discussions ‘out in the open.’ Ownership of one’s position in society (as represented in a digital story) is reflected in the capacity to receive and give affirmation. Further, public expression of marginalized voices opens space for others to speak as they also negotiate how and where they fit in the world. As a medium that facilitates speaking across difference and bridge building, digital storytelling evokes the profound significance of participatory media as a widespread global phenomenon. (196-197)
Along the way she defines and describes digital storytelling, everyday activism, erosive social change, and a concept she names “Intimate Citizenship 3.0,” as well as exploring issues of identity, nominalization, authenticity, coherence, and congruence in such media.
Her research concludes with four specific findings:
Institutions and facilitators can be transparent in actively acknowledging their discursive mediating influence upon the construction of individual and collective identities.
[A]wareness of networked identity work provides an opportunity to sculpt congruent rather than coherent narratives and this labour can have both personal value and constitutive cultural value.
[A]ctive consideration of distribution of private stories amplifies personal and social benefits, especially as a tool for everyday activism.
[I]nitiatives benefit from reflective analysis of cross-disciplinary community engagement strategies, social movement theory, and strategic listening across difference. (205-206)
While this book does not directly highlight pedagogies for religious studies or theology classrooms, it is full of stories in which workshop participants confront and contest religious claims their families, their communities, and broader “imagined” publics are making. By offering compelling descriptions of ways to engage such meaning-making that invite people into dialogue across various divides, this book embodies transformative adult learning and offers a rich collection of pragmatic advice for nurturing such learning.
Teacher, Scholar, Mother: Re-Envisioning Motherhood in the Academy
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Teacher, Scholar, Mother accomplishes its stated goal – to re-envision motherhood in the Academy. The grim statistics facing women in the Academy who are (or wish to be) mothers are not mere numbers, but a lived reality for many, either personally or through the lives of colleagues. These facts mirror institutional, social, and cultural inequities that cause “the consistent talent leak in the professional pipeline” (Young, ix) which forces so many scholar-mothers to leave the Academy. While this grim reality may not be changing fast enough, the essays in this volume offer fresh and innovative perspectives that address these challenges with fortitude and vision; therefore, this book is a must-read for those in the field of higher education – administrators, male and female colleagues, teacher-scholar-mothers, and graduate students.
The seven essays in “Section 1: Motherhood, Feminism, and Gendered Work” explore the “pipeline problem” through multiple theoretical and disciplinary approaches. Andrea Hunt argues that the normative ideologies reinforcing separate models of gendered work need to change to integrative models which can “help lay the groundwork for a new model of academic life and work-family balance” (10). Tracy Rundstrom Williams’ essay examines the confusing rhetoric and divisive language on breastfeeding which can undermine women’s confidence. “Mama’s Boy” poignantly discusses issues of masculinity, mothering, and white privilege through an interview conducted by feminist scholar Catherine MacGillivray with her son Merlin, a conversation that continues with an added interlocutor – Merlin’s step-father, Jason Fly – in “Mama’s Boy II” (section 3). Erin Tremblay Ponnou-Delaffon turns to Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy on encountering the Other as a model to re-envision reading, writing, teaching, and parenting. Susan Iverson and Christin Seher’s qualitative study of mothers’ sabbatical experiences accounts for disciplinary distinctions between Humanities and STEM faculty and suggests that faculty professional development must consider needs of academic mothers in sabbatical planning. Brook Sattler, Jennifer Turns, and Cynthia Atman explore motherhood from an engineering design perspective as an opportunity for reflection and self-authorship. Dustin Harp’s essay critically analyzes how media consumption shapes our lives and understandings of gender and identity.
The five essays in “Section 2: Identity and Performance in Academic Motherhood” document case studies of teacher-mother-scholars. Sara Childers’s essay queries the performative alignment between the objects and actions of motherhood and scholarship. Reflecting on her own subject position, M. Cristina Alcalde’s piece engages literature on non-violent masculinities to develop theories to create a safer world for today’s youth. Allison Antink-Meyer shows how the epistemology of science can be a bridge to connect the historical gap between the culture of academia and family-life. Erin Graybill Ellis and Jessica Smartt Gullion’s ground-breaking study examines how graduate student mothers negotiate the conflicting roles of “good mother” and “good graduate student.” The final contribution in this section, by Caroline Smith and Celeste Hanna, argues that Betty Draper of AMC’s television series, Mad Men, should be recognized as a cultural icon rather than the world’s worst mother.
The essays in Section 3 give voice to topics frequently silenced in the Academy. Elisabeth Kraus poignantly shares her experiences to give new life to the narrative of stillbirth. Marissa McClure’s article “s/m/othering” addresses infertility and cultural constructions of motherhood through artistic practice and academia. Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum’s article, written in a mix of prose and verse, voices institutional and cultural biases that can support and also hinder mother-scholars in Ghana and the U.S. In “Dropped Stitches,” Martha Kalnin Diede weaves together stories of female monsters, challenges of motherhood in the Academy, and fighting cancer. Layne Parish Craig analyzes narratives on IVF and Assisted Reproduction Therapy (ART) that disrupt the heteronormative focus on infertility. The essays in the section are especially welcome as fresh approaches to underrepresented topics in the Academy.
Read as a whole, these essays are greater than the sum of the parts despite the fact that the arrangement of the articles seems extemporaneous – for example, the addendum interview by MacGillivray in section 3, and Ama Oforiwaa Aduonum’s article on identity and performance which would have been more suited to section 2. This minor point aside, Teacher, Scholar, Mother is a refreshing must-read that intelligently re-envisions motherhood in the Academy.