Staying Alive at ASLE 2019

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With June comes a western wind bearing intimations of summer, California, and the upcoming ASLE conference at UC Davis. The Staying Alive Project will be there, hosting a panel on Friday, June from 8:30-10:00 AM. Six of our colleagues will share their journeys, wisdom, and ideas about how to flourish along the torturous path of an academic career, both inside and outside of institutions. Please join us for a lively and productive exchange! Here, to spark your interest, is a foretaste of what’s on offer from our panelists:

Brad Monsma (California State University Channel Islands, Camarillo CA)

In the midst of my story institutional betrayal and dual-career decision-making, I wonder whether scholars and teachers in the environmental humanities may be particularly susceptible to an earnestness that can set us up for disillusionment. For excitement and complexity, add new fatherhood, becoming a primary care-giver, and full investment in online teaching.

Lisa Ottum (Xavier University, Cincinnati OH)

It’s no secret that today’s PhDs face dismal prospects including a job market that was always-already bleak, and an academy increasingly focused on quantifiable outputs.  In this context, “staying alive” may be less about sustainability than adaptability, less about striving for balance than “staying with the trouble,” to borrow a phrase from Donna Haraway.  How do we “stay alive” in the midst of an ongoing trauma?  What do we strive for when there never was a sustainable option?  In this talk, I’ll reflect on my own efforts at “adaptation” amidst instability—first, as a jobseeker and caregiver, and now, as an out lesbian at a Catholic university.

Arlene Plevin (Olympia College, Bremerton WA)

Indeed, as I focus on navigating the unclear process of retirement (in one year); teaching full-time; working SLOWLY on a book, setting up my 320-bicycling trip from Klamath Falls, Oregon, to Davis for the conference; and posting on the White House (propaganda) FB page, I will, indeed, be staying alive.

Dan Platt (Graceland University, Lamoni IA)

I came to grad school from the nonprofit sector, hoping that studying environmental lit would make me a more effective advocate. But now I struggle with the negative stories that surround the concept of “service” in academia. I’ll share experiences of social entrepreneurship at a rural “grassroots university” where creative engagement with pressing environmental issues has become central to both my teaching and my overall academic identity.

Michele Potter (Independent, Taos, NM)

Pushing 40 with young kids at home, I entered grad school for creative writing and the American Studies. ASLE shaped my vision down a path that has led through a Ph.D. into adjuncting, photography, travel, and adult mentoring. When my academic dream job fell through, I staked my life on my mountain and my community. Taos doesn’t particularly honor scholarly pursuits, but it honors beauty, diversity, and creativity. I now coach young writers and ski instructors. Life is more than the academic identities we worked so hard to claim.