Midsummer (not Midsomer)

It’s the middle of July, and the summer is on the slide toward fall. The weather continues to be up and down — days in the high 80s as well as other days well over 100. Either way, it is what it is in Central California. Just three more weeks of the summer session at UC Merced and the fall semester will be upon us. Hopefully, I will be able to get out of town for a weekend before Fall 2015 begins.

My fall schedule is finally set in stone. I’ll be teaching History 11 (US History to 1877) at both Fresno State University and Fresno City College, as well as an on-line, upper-division Applied Anthropology “W” course (upper division writing requirement, as likely to be taken by non-majors as majors). This will be the first time I have taught an on-line class (not sure how I feel about it, really). I have to get some training and become “certified” (whatever that means) at Fresno State, before the beginning of the semester, but once I’m certified to teach on-line classes, I can teach on-line versions of any of the classes I teach at Fresno State (History or Anthropology). Having options is always a good thing. The best thing about my fall schedule is that I really have only two class preps. The history classes at both campuses are the same course — a single prep. Although, I have to give each lecture a few times, it’s fewer students than I’ve had for that same class in the larger lecture hall, at FCC (which holds over 200). Lectures, assignments, and exams are pretty well set from having just taught it, this past semester. The Applied Anthropology class (the on-line class) should also be fairly easy to administer, as I will have a course shell provided by a fellow faculty member that I just have to tweak, a bit. It is a class for which I was a reader/grader, while I was working toward my MA, at Fresno State. Since it’s on-line, I can work it around my schedule. I will just have to keep one step ahead of my students.

My plan, as I suggested in the previous blog, was to try to avoid working as a teaching assistant at UC Merced. I love UCM and really enjoy the students, but I have to eliminate the commute. That time will be better spent in Fairmead (or one of the other communities in which I do research) and writing (or sleeping, watching an old B&W movie, or reading). Fresno State pays part-timers fairly well (compared to the community colleges) and they’ll be supplying health insurance (which I was getting as part of my employment as a teaching assistant/fellow). This eliminates the drive to Merced, except once a month, to meet with my advisor(s). The additional income offsets the loss of salary at UC Merced, my student loan will cover my fees, and I will have insurance. It’s nice when things work out.

One of the great ironies associated with teaching at the collegiate level (here, at least) is the insanity in relation to compensation. Here, in Fresno, the University (California State University, Fresno or Fresno State) pays better for part time faculty than Fresno City College (the local community college). Fresno State provides health insurance to contingent faculty who teach a minimum of three classes, and part time faculty can teach up to five classes. On the other hand, the community college pays less, part time faculty can teach no more than three classes per district, and insurance is not available. However, everything essentially flips that model for full time faculty members: the community colleges pay significantly more than the CSU’s (or even the UC’s) for full-time, tenure-track appointments and the time to tenure is half as long (3 years). So, financially, it’s better to part-time at a CSU (or UC), but get a tenure-track, full-time job at a community college. Who knew?

Interesting things happening with my research. Fairmead is currently making progress toward resolving the worst of her water issues, and has been holding public meetings with the High Speed Rail Authority about the impact of the intersection on the future tracks that will bisect Fairmead. I was able to attend the first meeting, a couple of weeks, ago, but missed the follow up meeting, this past Monday due to a very nasty stomach bug that wiped me out Sunday-Tuesday. I even cancelled my Monday classes — only the second time since I began teaching in 2009 (the other time was the day my mother died, two years ago). I’m going to call community members, this weekend, to see what I missed, because I think it was probably a very interesting and important meeting.

According to the summer edition of the newsletter for the Southwestern Anthropology Association (SWAA), the 87th Annual Conference will be held April 22 and 23, 2016 at Humphreys Half Moon Inn and Suites on San Diego’s Shelter Island. According to the the president, Kim Martin, “Famous for its ties to Hollywood and for the intimate concert venue on its grounds, Humphreys is also known for its restaurant and the wonderful tropical ambiance that embraces scenic accommodations and meeting facilities… San Diego, here we come!” Coming on the heals of the conference on the Queen Mary, this past April, this sounds like another great venue for our annual meeting and conference. I encourage all of my friends who “do” anthropology (undergrads, grads, faculty, professionals) to consider submitting papers or posters to the conference. They’re always wonderful mid-sized gatherings. The general theme for the next conference will be centered on sustainability. The actual call for papers, of course, has not gone out, so I do not have the actual conference title, but this should get you all thinking presenting. Since I did no presentations in 2015, I will be submitting something for that conference, and I am considering that I will tackle the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA) annual meeting the following year, in Minneapolis. I’m trying to limit my conference participation for the 2015-2016 academic year so I can finish my dissertation, and hopefully, I can take on of the chapters and edit it down for AAA, the following year. I would like to get another publication in, this coming academic year, but that has to take backseat to the dissertation, at this point.

Yesterday, I got the proofs for my article Growing Along the Side of the Road: Rural African American Settlements in Central California. It will appear in the Summer 2015 edition (Vol. 54, No. 2) of the Journal of the West. It is great to finally see this one heading for actual publication. Several years ago, I was asked to submit a chapter for a book on non-urban spaces to be published by the University of Oklahoma Press. For about two years, the book languished in review. When the editor finally pulled the project and submitted it to a new publisher, it looked like it might finally be published — until that deal feel through, as well. Finally, the original editor of the book approached the Journal of the West, who agreed to consider each chapter for publication over the course of 2015. Because I originally wrote the piece several years ago, I needed to make some minor revisions, but ultimately, I had a version with which the editor was happy. After submitting illustrations and maps, the orphan article finally found a home. I can now update my CV with actual publication information, instead of always listing it as “in progress” or “in review.”

I had a late lunch with my friend, Erin Renn, yesterday in Merced. She’s moved up there this summer, as she begins the Interdisciplinary Humanities Ph.D. program, in August. We were looking forward to being in grad school, together, but it looks like she’ll just have to make new friends. Luckily, we ran into two of the other grad students at J&R Tacos so she has been introduced. Between the Interdisciplinary Humanities and World Cultures grad programs, we have three women with the first name Erin. Two of them will be new, this year. Some of the returning students have already come up with a solution: the existing Erin, will remain Erin; Erin Renn will be known as Renn, and the other Erin will be known as Stempy. Seems to me like they have it all figured out.


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