I usually describe myself as a liberal arts scholar with a biology problem. Within the biology, my advanced degrees are in Zoology, and my general interests included evolutionary morphology, behavioral physiology, systematics, and history of science. From the start of college in 1983 through employment in 1987-89 and then through grad school until 1997, I participated in (did) a lot of reseach ranging widely across biology, including yeast genetics, biomechanics, brain-and-behavior, steroids and development, systematics, evolutionary analysis of morphometry, and all sorts of little byways among these.
If you want to get all academic about it, here’s my formal curriculum vitae, as of early 2014. Or the short version, “I studied penises but that wasn’t shocking enough, so I went on to wonder what humans and evolution really did with one another, and also why science seemed like it kept stepping on the aforementioned body part.”
In the mid-90s, nearly done with my Ph.D., I realized this profile wasn’t going to get me grants or tenured positions, so I decided to focus on teaching. I’d been involved with the then-new although scattered active-learning movement for a while. Upon finishing the initials, I was quickly successful in job searches and became contingent faculty, meaning non-tenure track, but in perhaps the best situation one can have that way: full-time, officially faculty and titled professor, insured, and although on yearly contracts, not in much or any fear of losing the position. The plain and simple task was all teaching, all the time. I did a year at the U of Florida, a year at Valdosta State U, and then settled into DePaul University. Plenty of generally prof-like tasks including committee work, advising, and similar got rolled into it too.
I love teaching and quite liked this situation. It took over a decade for the downsides to get to me – no leave to work on things like books, the general short end of whatever stick the university administration had hit the department with lately, differing views toward contingent status among tenured faculty, and obviously, the bad pay. I’ll be talking more about the historical reasons academia came to look the way it does in the blog.
Not too long ago, nearing 50, with three small children, I realized that I wasn’t going to be saving any more money ever, nor would I really ever manage to get my ideas for books and curricula any further. Upon landing the contract for my upcoming book in 2014, I declined to renew the position and switched to doing … well, this. The plan is actually not to resign at all from what I always liked most and did well in formal academics for 25 years, and plan to do well now: to open doors of thought, to learn from the past, to build connections among questions, to design means of finding answers, and always, to sandblast what we think we know so it doesn’t get moldy.
I said I like teaching. What that really means is that the questions stay fresh and always keep changing. Let’s do some of that here.