Summer is here — several days over 105 degrees. Last night, we had a (for here) massive thunderstorm, which dropped 0.01 of an inch of rain on the area (guess it didn’t end the drought). Last summer, all my classes were in the morning at Fresno City College, which is just over a block from my house, so, although it was also a hot summer, I was able to be home before the hottest part of the day. This summer, my FCC classes were limited to just the evenings during the first four-week session, and for the last two weeks (and the next six) I’ve been teaching Intro to Sociocultural Anthropology and 20th Century US History at UC Merced, requiring me to have to be out during the beginning of the hottest part of the day. The classes are going well, and I’m enjoying my students, but everyday when I make the half-mile trek from the academic center of the campus to the lower parking lot, I find myself wilted before I even try to get into my car (which, most days, sports an interior near 120 degrees). As the classes are just Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ve had lots of time to write and work on my research on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the weekends. For me, at this point in my writing, the dissertation is a huge word file filled with bits, bobs, odds and sodds — partially written chapters and sections; illustrations, maps and photographs; conference papers and publications that will be “folded” into the final draft; and field notes that need to be squeezed, massaged, expanded, and organized, into some sort of final form as the research unfolds. Nothing is where it will ultimately end up, some of it will be discarded, and there’s a great deal of information that still needs to be incorporated, however, by compiling all of these pieces now, I (hopefully) will be able to produce an acceptable draft by the end of winter break, in January, that can begin the review processes with my graduate advisors. My sights are set on finishing the Ph.D. by May 2016. I’m confident that I can make it happen, as long as I don’t lose my focus on that goal.
A couple of days ago, I attended a meeting with Fairmead Community and Friends, members of the Fairmead community, and members of the California High Speed Rail Authority. It was an interesting meeting, as members of the community were able to express their concerns (the intersection between the East-West section, to the Bay Area, and the North-South section that continues on to Sacramento cuts right through and/or around Fairmead). The HSP authority listened carefully to the comments and appear to be willing to make any concessions necessary to build their routes with the least negative (and possibly some positive) impact on the settlement. Another meeting has been scheduled for two weeks, after the Authority has had an opportunity to review the County’s growth plans for Fairmead. We shall see. More interesting developments for my research.
As for the fall, my teaching schedule appears to be full, but it shouldn’t really be too taxing. By not going to Merced 3-6 times each week, and focusing my teaching activities in Fresno, I hope to reclaim all that time to focus on the writing and research. So far, all of the history classes I’m scheduled to teach are classes I’ve taught in the past, and I will be teaching multiple sections of the same class, so prep will be minimal. Additionally, it appears that there is a possibility (I don’t know how strong) that I will be able to add one (or more) Anthropology courses to my CV, so that’s a huge plus. I have loved the experience of working toward my Ph.D. and will be very proud of that accomplishment when it finally happens, but I have always liked the fact that my program is an interdisciplinary program (almost a necessity at such a young university) rather than a discipline-specific program — which, I hoped, would allow me to pursue teaching and research positions in both or either Anthropology and History). However, I have been aware, from the outset, five years ago, that it is more difficult to qualify for most academic teaching jobs with an interdisciplinary degree because of hiring requirements, state standards, and other limitations that really require a discipline-specific title on your degree. The interdisciplinarity of my program means that I can bring multiple disciplines and theoretical foundations to my work, but, on the job market it means that I’m not really a master of both or either discipline (in my case, History and Anthropology). Since 2008, because my MA is in History, I’ve been teaching history at community colleges and universities throughout the region, but landing any classes in Anthropology has proven to be difficult (if not impossible). It was an attempt to offset that liability that several members of the Anthropology program at UC Merced felt it was important to offer me an opportunity to teach an Anthropology class, this summer (which is why I’m teaching it, now). Teaching this class, being a member of the Executive Board of the Southwestern Anthropological Association (SWAA), my presentations at SWAA and AAA (American Anthropological Association) annual meetings, networking, and perseverance my begin to pay off. I’m fairly confident that if I don’t get another Anthro class for Fall that something may open up in the Spring. The more classes I can get on the CV, the stronger my case is that I can rightfully claim both disciplines within my quiver. Having taught lower and upper division classes in African American Studies and History, as well as lower division courses on Native American and Chicano Studies also help to round out the portfolio. At some point, all of this will come together and some school will decide I’m a perfect fit for their program.
The other thing that I should mention is that the Graduate Division at UC Merced, in conjunction with KVIE in Sacramento, is doing a short filmed piece on my work to follow up on the article they published a few weeks ago. Whereas that article focused on activities in South Dos Palos and Teviston, the film will feature my engagement with Fairmead. At the end of June, the camera crew went with me to film a community meeting in Fairmead and conducted a few interviews with community leaders about my research. That, along with an interview with my advisor, Robin DeLugan, an extended interview with me (filmed, yesterday) and so-called B-roll to be recorded in my Anthropology class, next Wednesday (as well as additional background material filmed in Fairmead) they should be able to produce a nice little 90-120 second “news” story about my research. They have agreed to provide me with the raw footage from all of these events and interviews for my own use. I plan to do an extended version of the film to post on my website. Perhaps, I can also incorporate some of the material recorded by Arax, Lowe, and/or Pickford to round out the production. I’ve never done much video editing, so this will be a fun project to work on around my other activities (field work, writing, and teaching). Yes, I’m keeping myself busy.
So, to make the “long story” a little bit shorter. Things continue to advance. Progress is being made.