Friday, June 20, 2008

Knight to queen?

Did you ever have a realization about the changing (growing) status in your academic life? I have recently come to realize that I often approach situations like I am still in grad school... even though that was 9 years ago. I see myself as the young one, the inexperienced one, the one with very little power or privilege.

So, when I was scheduled to speak at a national meeting as one of the featured speakers, I didn't really get it. I just thought folks wanted to hear about the project their group had helped sponsor--and I was the hired hand--so, I was presenting. Imagine my surprise to see myself seated at the head table, with the organization's senior staff and the other featured speaker. As I looked at the Executive Director, I kept thinking, "I've seen your picture in the Chronicle!" But I was pleased to find thatI could contribute to the conversation about current events in higher ed, and even started a conversation that might provide the basis for some of their work in the future. I went home a little stunned by my reception at the meeting, and wondered at what the change in status portends.

Then, a member of our school's senior staff asked to meet with me. We set a time, but never set the location. I assumed it was in her office. Yet, minutes before we were to meet, she showed up at my office to let me know she would be back momentarily. Yes, she assumed the meeting would be in MY office. Let me just say that the only people who meet with me in my office have been students and adjuncts I was mentoring. This new perspective--that of course we would meet in my office--was very strange and yet somewhat satisfying. It reminded me that I have an administrative role, one that bestows upon the holder some (meager) power and privilege. I'll bet she will never know what it meant to me that she assumed the meeting would be in my space.

Add to this that I have just received another consulting gig upon the recommendation of some of my more senior peers--based on my work in the field--and I am feeling like perhaps I have changed levels. Maybe this is reflective of the changes that come with tenure... I dunno. All I know is that it feels like recognition--and I am a sucker for recognition. (Of course, it feels like extra work, too, but that is the price I am willing to pay.)

Of course, even as I write this, I acknowledge how much I am buying into the higher ed hierarchy system, accepting the unevenness of power as it privileges me now. And I do feel a bit like the pretender to the throne, as it were. But there is something nice about a feeling of forward movement, of growth, of progress, that is especially helpful to those of us in the muck and mire of academe, especially academic administration.

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