A Departure

Today I’m giving my last lecture(s) at Cal Poly Pomona. This summer I’ll move and in the fall I’ll be teaching at The Waterford School, a wonderful K-12 independent school in Utah. I’m delighted to be joining that community but also a bit sad about the departure. On Wednesday the department honored me at their end of the year lunch. There were flowers, a card, and a nice gift. After two long-time faculty who are retiring, I was invited to say a few words. I thought I’d record here the gist of what I said to them, with a touch of expansion. I’ll write later, likely elsewhere, about more of my reasons for leaving.

It’s not easy being an adjunct faculty member right now, especially one who has decided that he does not want to pursue a tenure-track position. It seems sometimes like every-other email from the university is a reminder of your subordinate position. For instance, all the calls for faculty members to serve on committees come with the implicit reminder that, though I teach 100’s of students each year, I do not count as “faculty” in that sense. And it can be lonely when your only role is to show up, teach students, and then leave.

So one of the best things I can say about the history department at Cal Poly is that it’s never made me feel that way. From the first moment, I’ve been made to feel welcome and at home. Fellow faculty have been friendly and helpful and collegial, giving advice but also asking it. They’ve provided me with real space (physically and pedagogically) and encouragement to pursue my own dreams. Two of them wrote letters of recommendation for me, even though they’d rather keep me around the department. It’s been as great a place to work as I can imagine in the current institutional setting. I’ll miss my colleagues there and look forward to staying in touch with many of them.

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