So let me explain why I’m staying at ETSU.
I’ll be quite frank. I was unhappy when Mass Communication became a separate department a year ago. There were professional and personal reasons for this. I like my Mass Communication colleagues. I consider Andrew Dunn, not just someone who shares my same interests, but a friend. I was more upset that I wound not see him regularly on campus, or have the ability to pop into his office to talk. (He writes this great blog about beer!)
When I got here as a new faculty member, the Mass Communication faculty immediately asked me to be on thesis committees, etc. The thought of losing that daily interaction really bothered me. My fears were not justified. We still see each other and we still collaborate. (Downtown over beer at Johnson City Brewing or The Atlantic Ale House instead of in our offices, which is waaaaay better!)
Then we lost a faculty member who did not get tenure. If you have been or are on the tenure-track, you know how that will freak you out! So the department, while growing in the number of students we serve (ALL the students who come to ETSU have to take at least one of our classes), we are a faculty member short. It meant changes in who teaches what. Dr. Dorgan took Interpersonal Communication. I picked up Communication Ethics. It meant a strict adherence to our class rotation. It meant all of us doing a lot more service with less.
I was getting ready to bail.
Something clicked this summer regarding the job as I was wrapping up that latest piece on Kierkegaard. Where else would I have so much freedom to research whatever the hell I want? Where else could I write an piece on my father, do an autoethnographic piece on my love affair on a rock band, examine Kierkegaardian philosophical concepts, and help but together a book to develop the term polymediation - all overlapping at the same time? And where all my publications COUNT toward tenure, even the piece on Spike the “bad boy” vampire.
Granted, there is something positive to say about having a research agenda that only examines one thing. However, the more I thought about that, the less appealing I found it. I imagine myself, for example, studying organizational socialization all my life and it makes me shudder. Not that organizational socialization research is not important, but I…just…can’t…EVEN. I take the advice I give my students when it is time to pick a speech topic: “Talk about something you are passionate about.”
Where else could I start an Honors-in-Discipline program in the department, working with talented and smart undergraduates on their thesis? Where else could I reboot the internship program and get that up and running so quickly? Where else could I create new classes like Organizational Communication and Consulting, Subcultural Communication, Professional Communication and Technology, and Organizations and Society? Where else could I do independent studies on the TV narratives in Breaking Bad and Supernatural, Autoethnography and Disabilities, Economic Discourse, and pretty much whatever else floats my and my students’ boats?
What I am getting at is there is a freedom here – in teaching and research and service – that would not be possible at an R-1. Sure certain things about the position drive me bananas. I never wanted to be a Basic Course Director lecturing to 200 students a semester. No matter how you slice it, that’s a tough gig. Ask Kathy Denker, who teaches a basic course multiple times larger than mine. (We went from online to off after my first year, revamped with a new text last year, and just started with a new edition this year.) However, now in my fifth year, I have a handle on all of that.
They say colleagues make all the difference. I find that to be absolutely true.
My Communication Studies colleagues are very supportive. I cannot give them enough praise in this regard. They are collegial – no one has a stick up their bum – we work and struggle and collaborate to make this department the best that it can be. We work hard and we work smart and we have turned into a heck of a “fighting force.” They’ve done an outstanding job protecting me from the auspices of a lot of the nonsense that come with being in academe, so I can work on the things that are not only important to me (research) but benefit the department (rebooting the Communication Studies Association and Lambda Pi Eta, our two student groups).
Between my newfound love of Johnson City, and my appreciation for THIS department and my colleagues in it, I’m staying put. So here I am, starting my fifth year, and thinking about my tenure dossier.
Now where did I put those student evals…?