ERIC Number: EJ989766
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012
Reference Count: N/A
Shaping the Humanities through Sustainable Service
Christensen, Kirsten M.
Academe, v98 n6 p8-13 Nov-Dec 2012
Funny thing about pebbles dropped and the ripples they create. The pebble the author dropped years ago was agreeing to serve as a student liaison to the department in her graduate program at the University of Texas at Austin. That position, which normally meant little more than attendance at regularly scheduled graduate student and department meetings, quickly created ripples of labor activism that have now spanned and shaped much of her career. Her motivation for accepting the position was equal parts wanting to do her share in the program and curiosity about faculty meetings, topped with an opportunistic desire to develop the "service" section of her still-skeletal CV. But an unexpected assignment to get some basic information for her fellow graduate student instructors in Germanic studies from the unit that represented "instructional workers" in a branch of the Communications Workers of America union quickly opened her eyes to a world of labor activism that she had never before associated with academia. That awakening, in turn, led her to a wide variety of other opportunities, which she accepted at first hesitantly but increasingly with a passion that has given great meaning to her professional life. The simple lesson for her continues to be somewhat paradoxical: saying "yes" to service that one feels less than passionate about may ultimately lead to passion. Or it may not. But, at the least, it will usually teach something helpful about oneself and the communities of which one is part. In their recent thought-provoking and timely essay, "The Sustainable Humanities," Stephanie Lemenager and Stephanie Foote argue for making the humanities "central to discussions of what sustainability is and might be." The author believes that the engagement of humanities disciplinary organizations in the metaprofessional issues such as fair hiring practices, support for contingent labor, gender equity, and family support constitutes a vital contribution to the discussion on sustainability. Academic service is almost always interdisciplinary, since so much of it demands engaging with colleagues and students across academic units or subspecialties. Service thus inherently models much of what is needed for the future of sustainable academic units and institutions. In this article, the author argues that it's time for sustainable service that doesn't exceed one's "ecological carrying capacities."
Descriptors: Unions, Labor, Graduate Students, Humanities, Sustainability, German, College Faculty, Professional Associations
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Texas