Today is Tuesday, the 18th of August, 2015. That means that the new semester (at least part of it) began, yesterday. Classes at Fresno City College began, this week — Fresno State starts up, next week.
In many ways, I’m really looking forward to this upcoming term. All my classes are either at Fresno City College (the community college a block from my house) or at California State University, Fresno (Fresno State, just a few miles away). This means, for the first time in many years; minimal commuting. For five years, I’ve driven (or ridden the train) to UC Merced, 3-6 times/week to attend seminars, meet with advisors, teach classes, or TA sections. Last spring, you may remember, I taught at Merced College and UC Merced). At various times (before and during those five years), I have also taught in Hanford, Lemoore, and Visalia (at the three Brandman campuses and West Hills) — making me a poster child freeway flyer. The semester before I started at UCM (Spring 2010) I commuted every week to San Francisco to attend classes at the California Institute in Integral Studies (CIIS), while teaching in Kings, Tulare, and Fresno Counties AND working as a substitute teacher in Kerman, Sanger, Parlier, and elsewhere. For someone who hates to commute, the last 6-7 years have been hell. When I was at UCLA, I lived a block from my office. When I worked in computers here in Fresno, I lived less than a block from my office — I’ve never believed that humans should spend that much time driving — and getting nowhere. I will only have to go to Merced 4 times, this term, to meet with my advisor (and possibly have dinner or coffee with colleagues who I will otherwise not be able to spend any time with). Since the drive-time normally takes me up to 3 hours/day, the savings in time will be welcome.
I will be teaching History 11 (precontact to 1877) at both campuses, one section of the first half of World History (at FCC) and two sections of an upper division Applied Anthropology writing course (online, at Fresno State). This will be the first time I have taught an online class. The University is providing training (which I should have completed BEFORE this class — it got added, late in the process), so I will be certified to teach any class face-to-face or on-line, in both History and Anthropology. The more flexibility I can build into my CV, the better. Additionally, the University will be paying for medical, dental, and vision, for both Nikolas (my son) and me, eliminating one of my major worries. The 10-20 hours spent driving each week, will be refocused on my writing and research, with the goal, as mentioned, before, to finish my Ph.D., this coming May.
As I was offered the opportunity to teach an introductory Anthropology course at the UC, this past summer, Fresno State has been gracious enough to offer me the two Anthropology courses this term (and, we’re already talking about Spring). This has been an issue, as I began wrapping up my degree at the UC, because it’s not a degree in Anthropology or History. I’m in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program (World Cultures and History), which is often hard to sell (jack of multiple disciplines, master of none?). Because I have an MA in History, I’ve taught lower and upper division history classes, since even before the completion of that degree. Because of my research and foci, I’ve also taught a range of ethnic studies classes. However, my first love — and my goal — has remained teaching Anthropology at the collegiate level (it’s a long, drawn-out story about how I ended up here). Now that I’ve been able to put multiple semesters of Anthropology courses on my CV, it should be a little easier to land assignments teaching within that discipline (at least, at Fresno State). I have a game plan, but it will take a few more years to complete. This is phase one. Finishing the Ph.D. in May, is phase two. After that… I’ll talk about that, later.
Speaking of my research, yesterday, I attended a meeting in Fairmead with Congressman Jim Costa, members of the board of Fairmead Community and Friends, and others (from Fairmead and Planada) to discuss the current water crisis. No real progress, at the meeting, other than a promise to return, next month with participation by the appropriate federal, state, and county agencies to seek solutions to the on-going problems. As strange as it may seem, the combination of the construction of the High Speed Rail (which will have a junction in Fairmead) and the drought may, in the long run, be highly beneficial to Fairmead, thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of Fairmead Community and Friends. All of this activity plays into the ethnographic work I’ve been doing in that small Madera County settlement.
The other exciting (for me) development, this semester, is the return to Fresno of my bestie, Dr. Elvia Rodriguez. Elvia and I have been friends for quite awhile. Several years ago we spent an entire summer writing our MA theses together. Since then, we have traveled to conferences Seattle, Las Vegas, Long Beach, and New Orleans, as well as numerous visits throughout SoCal (she’s been in Riverside). Luckily, another of our colleagues, who had classes at both Fresno State and Fresno City, landed a tenure-track, full-time job in SoCal, creating a need to hire someone to teach those classes. Luckily, I heard about them when they first became available, and was able to recommend Elvia to both schools. Because of her talent and skill, both schools jumped at the chance to bring her on-board, and she is moving back to the area. Yesterday, she taught her first two classes at Fresno City College, and will begin teaching at Fresno State (where we both earned our BAs and MAs), next week. We have joked, for years, how perfect it would be to be teaching at the same school. Although, I expect her to move on to a tenure-track job, in the next few years, I will enjoy having this talented, smart, and lovely person as my colleague at both of these schools (she’s also in talks with Brandman, as well, so we may be sharing three employers). It is a great joy to call her “Professor Rodriguez.”
I spent the past weekend in Morro Bay, on California’s Central Coast. That part of the state holds great memories for me. As a young adult, I spent many weekends visiting friends in San Luis Obispo County. I moved to Atascadero (18 miles from Morro Bay) in the mid-70s (I returned to the Valley in 1979). While there, I met my daughter’s mother and began working in radio. Over the years, that area has been one of my refuges — a place where I go to get my batteries recharged, and my head cleared. Again, this year, I only had a few days between the summer and fall sessions, and I chose to spend that time, alone, on the Bay. It was great to get away from the heat. I had a great room, right on the embarcadero (just across the parking lot from the docks). I had some good alone time, ate (fairly) well (had one horrible steak and lobster meal at the Great American Seafood Company — avoid it, at all costs), enjoyed conversations with fellow tourists and local, and managed to have a couple of meals with my UCM colleague, Erin Renn. All-in-all, it was a success, although, I think that my next solo getaway should be somewhere else: I need a change. I’ll need to decide — Santa Barbara or Monterrey? I’ll be in San Diego, in April for a conference, but that’s not the same as a non-working vacation.
So, Fall 2015 is well underway. There will be challenges (teaching online, getting certified to teach online at FS, and finishing my research) and rewards (reclaimed time, finishing my research, and good work with good colleagues).