Tenure

People have told me that tenure is an anti-climactic event, and frankly it’s true. I just spoke with the Dean today who told me the committee enthusiastically supported tenure (yea, yea, yea, it’s not final until the Board meets in February but I’d have to rob a local liquor store to get turned down if the committee and the dean votes in my favor). Yes, I’m thrilled, but it also feels like a long way around to a conclusion I never really doubted. Hmmm…

It’s rare, however, that a variety of decisions all come together at the same time. The tenure committee meets throughout the year to make reappointment, tenure, and promotion decisions. Its just a quirk of the schedule that my meeting fell this week which coincides with sabbatical decisions and decisions for funding. I got word on all three today: yes on tenure, yes on sabbatical, yes on funding. Woo-hoo! I will be a Campbell McConnell Fellow for the next year which will allow me a variety of travel funding for my half-year sabbatical. When I spoke with the Dean, though, he also offered me the position of director of Cornell’s “wilderness field term” in northern Minnesota, a program that takes students into the Boundary Waters. With a half year sabbatical, I would normally teach three courses in the fall, but the director position allows me a two course release (and one course release for the next two years), so I will only be teaching one course next year. In Cornell’s “One-Course-At-A-Time” schedule, this means that I will only be teaching in November next year. I will travel to the Minnesota field station in September, travel elsewhere in October, teach in November, and for all practical purposes begin my sabbatical in December.

I have a variety of projects I am working on for my sabbatical, most notably applying for “artist-in-residence” programs at a variety of national parks to work on a series of essays about our relationships with landscape. But another new and intriguing project I’m working on is with the relatively new non-profit “Act and Empower” which is working to help the Batwa peoples of Uganda. I am hoping to travel to Uganda over the next year to record a variety of their folk tales and have them translated and collected into a book. This would not only be a way to highlight the dire situation of the Batwa (and bring awareness to the important work that Act and Empower is doing and hopefully raise some money for the organization), but it will also  serve as a way to preserve some of this culture that is at immanent risk of being lost because of their displacement. This is a very new arena of work for me, but I’m excited to get this project rolling. I feel honored that Cornell has agreed to help me in this venture.

It’s exciting how much has been determined very quickly. I can see the next few years much more clearly now than I could a few weeks ago. So tonight definitely called for a special beer and I tapped into the Lost Abbey supply that I’d been saving for a worthy occasion. MB has a busy few days still, then we can settle back in to what will supposedly be a good Christmas ice/snow storm for a few days, drink some nice wine, eat some good food, and celebrate.

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