It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I felt up to writing another post.

One of the things preoccupying me is the start of grad school for the second time after 28 years. It’s an experience that is weird and interesting at the same time. The grad school orientation at Wheaton College is top notch and such a contrast to when I entered grad school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign many years ago. Wheaton’s faith-based orientation is heartening and encouraging and makes a big difference. Faculty who participated in the orientation day came across as genuinely caring and eager to work with incoming students.

I am currently taking only one class a semester. My first class for this Fall semester is sort of like a survey course on Christian theology that is a required course for many different grad programs, not just the historical theology M.A. that I’m in. For example, almost half of the students in it are part of the inaugural class of students in the M.A. in Humanitarian Disaster & Leadership program, the first of its kind anywhere.

It is strange to be a student again while at the same time being a faculty member at two different schools (at Wheaton and at Illinois’s iSchool, where I teach M.S.L.I.S. students). For example, I’m used to calling other faculty members by their first names yet I need to be careful not to do that while in class or around other students. It also gives me an interesting opportunity to learn from another teacher’s teaching style, the way they conduct their classes, the way they write their syllabi, and so on. There is a lot I can glean from others that may help me improve my own teaching.

The course is quite enjoyable so far, but I must admit to surprise at how significant its impact has been on my regular daily and weekly routine. There is of course the need to make up the time spent in class, about four hours per week, but then also there is the complication of timing, since the class occurs during my regular lunch hour. Each class day is already quite busy with regular work stuff, and I need to go directly from class to staffing the research help desk for a few hours. If I don’t bring a lunch with me to eat in class, I go hungry (and so far I haven’t been organized enough to do this, so class days are hungry days). Another example of its impact is the need for me to minimize travel so as not to miss class. Next week I’m traveling to Pittsburgh for a board meeting and normally, I’d stay for two nights. This time, however, I cut the travel time short so that I’d miss one class rather than two.

Another interesting aspect is that another library colleague with whom I work closely decided to join the program at the same time, and also to take the same class. That provides a nice opportunity to share the experience and to discuss what we are learning.

Frequently I look at this whole situation and think I’m crazy for doing it. My work and personal lives were already maxed out, and I often wonder if choosing to do this extra thing was the right thing to do. Work and personal things are certainly not calm or quiet or undemanding; in fact, more things seem to be coming my way to occupy me than ever before. Time will tell if I’ll succeed or not in this grad program.

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