I’m Ron Edwards

ron_edwardsWow – 25 years in academia, including 16 years as a professor. That’s more prof years than grad school years, so I’ll call that a win.

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.

5 thoughts on “I’m Ron Edwards

  1. Hi Ron, do you own copyright of the figure showing the evolution of swim bladder and lungs, which I found on your website? If you do, can you grant me permission to use it? Or maybe you know the source of this image? I want to reproduce it in a (Dutch-language) book on Human Evolution.


  2. Greetings. I am a research associate at the Field Museum and have published several books on natural history including A Natural History of the Chicago Region (U of Chicago Press) and A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction (Bloomsbury). I am currently working on a book tentatively titled To Life: Jews Exploring Nature, the heart of which will be biographical essays on selected subjects. One person I am very interested in is Phil Hershkovitz, someone you knew and have written about. It would be of great value to me if I could interview you as I am seeking anecdotes and insights related to his life and work. I would be grateful if you could email me at joelrgreenberg@gmail.com

    Joel Greenberg


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