• On 05/06/2020
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Service orientations

Life does indeed come at you fast….and sometimes you are forced to slow down and to reorient.

Few people know all the parts of someone’s life. In higher education, it’s easy to believe that you know a lot about a person because of their scholarship or public interactions, but that’s never the whole story. We are all multi-faceted people with a multitude of layers and priorities that are often not fully represented in someone’s professional or public life. I am no different.

Long before recent national events, I was making moves to reorient when and how I spent my professional time. In large part, this reorientation was driven by a year of devastating personal losses and changes that I have struggled to make sense of, to reconcile, to manage, or to successfully find a way through. The heart, mind, body, and soul are remarkable in their resilience, but sometimes they simply need space and time to regenerate and to strengthen again.

And then a month ago, rather unexpectedly (the need and the decision), I agreed to be interim chair of my department. That has meant I needed to speed up my stepping away and handing off many things (e.g., from #womeninTC to committee roles to being managing editor at RHM). All of this work in letting go and handing off has meant I have had little time to interact on social media (which is also likely to continue). So the next stage of my professional work will be more local, more focused, as I balance my new administrative role with other aspects of my life.

This moment, however, is also a great reminder to encourage you, if your life permits, to step into service roles or to even suggest new roles at organizations. And while I’m trying to chart a different path, I wish for you the same–a path where you can do meaningful work in ways that align with all the facets of your life and your commitments. I wish for you ways to find your unique voice because so many voices and hands are necessary to do the work of a field and to do the work in the world, particularly in times like these where such systemic change is needed.

In times of crisis, it can be easy to forget that everyone has to find their own unique place and their own way to advocate, to speak, to act. I urge us all to be generous and patient as each of us is trying to find their way to contribute to the different communities in which people belong. Action and advocacy can take on many different forms, and it’s important for all of us to remember that just because one person’s may be different, look different, than others, it doesn’t make it less or not enough or wrong. It just makes it different.

I have never been an eloquent writer. So I have been grateful (and humbled) to listen and to learn from so many of you in different ways and in different venues. While I have made mistakes, I tried to atone for them and to work to be better. Those lessons have given me strength to keep working, to keep learning, and to keep growing, which is what service in its broadest form is all about. My life has been so enriched by the hundreds of conversations you have gifted me because in each one I have learned so much.

To serve and to advocate have always been roles that have guided me, and they will continue to be. Just for the next little while that work will look differently for me professionally than it has. But, I can always make the time for a conversation or to read a draft or listen with you if something is on your mind. You can still reach me through all the usual channels.

Please believe in your work in all its forms and know I’ll still be cheering you on.


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