Three Things We’re Thankful For This Year

A pile of autumn leaves.In the ProfHacker tradition of collaborative group posts (seen earlier this year in Five Things That Helped Us Survive Summer) we thought this would be a good point in the year to take some time to reflect upon all that we are thankful for.

High on that list is the ProfHacker community of writers and readers interested in discussing productivity, pedagogy, technology, and academic life. We are thankful for you, our readers, and look forward to continuing the conversation after a brief publishing hiatus in recognition of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. We will resume publishing on Monday 29 November.

Like our Surviving Summer post, this post gives you a sense of some of the different personalities and academic roles that make up the ProfHacker team. We hope you’ll join in and let us know in the comments what you’re thankful for this semester, too.

Brian Croxall

  • A (new) job: In the summer of this year, I had the opportunity to begin a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellowship as the Emerging Technologies Librarian. This has been great for a number of reasons. I’m getting to work on a number of really fabulous projects (a Digital Scholarship Commons, THATCamp Southeast, graduate student outreach, to name just a few) in a job on the alt-ac track. (Don’t miss the forthcoming volume on alt-ac at MediaCommons!) What’s more, it eliminated my need to hack a commute over an insanely long distance. (Now I just get to deal with Atlanta’s traffic.)
  • Colleagues, collaborators and co-conspirators: One of the differences between a faculty position and my new one is that I work in a lot of different teams toward large projects. That’s taken some getting used to in many situations, but it’s also been a pleasure to have a big goal. I’m grateful for the chance to try this new style of work. But outside of my 9-5, I’ve got other collaborators. My good friend Rachel Bowser and I recently finished a 2.5 year project as guest editors for a special issue of the free, open access journal Neo-Victorian Studies on steampunk — check it out! I’m also thankful for the Profs Hacker, colleagues on Twitter, and co-conspirators in other, shadowy, and unnamed projects.
  • Family and soccer: One of the great benefits of my new job is that have a lot more time to spend with my family. They’ve been incredibly supportive of my career and work over the last 10 years. One of the ways we spent time together was with soccer teams for our two oldest. While one kid was playing, the other four of us could be working on our own skills or catching up with other players’ families or just with each other. Having not only time, but something to do was great for all of us.

Kathleen Fitzpatrick

  • My sabbatical, and the job at a supportive, innovative institution that made it possible. The ability to spend this period focusing in on my writing and research, particularly at a time of economic and employment crisis throughout the profession, is something I do not take lightly.
  • My friends online, who have gotten me through a range of minor crises and have inspired much of the work I’ve been doing lately.
  • My health, and the health and happiness of my loved ones, without which none of the rest would be possible.

Billie Hara

  • Friends and Family: This has been a stressful (what an understatement) 18 months, and I’ve had the most supportive network of people to help keep me grounded and sane. Some of the friendships have spanned decades and numerous modes of communication (handwritten letters in high school to Facebook today). I’m grateful for ways that we can connect and reconnect. The family might not understand what I do for a living or why I do it, but they love me anyway. My daughter, on the other hand, gets what I do, she gets me, and she loves me. I’m the luckiest mom in the world to have her as my child.
  • My Camera: I’m grateful that I have the photographic eye that I do, as it allows me to see the world around me from a unique perspective, and the camera allows me to create that world for others. I’m grateful for the collaboration with a colleague (Bill Wolff) on Photos for the Gulf, a photo book we edited, proceeds of which help Gulf oil spill relief efforts. I’m grateful that in this profession, many of us can use our gifts for good.
  • Second Chances: I think I’ve had dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of second chances in my life, and I’m grateful for each one, as they teach me compassion, gratitude, humility, and acceptance.

Nels P. Highberg

  • New York University’s Faculty Resource Network: For the fifth semester, I have been a University Associate through my university’s membership in this program, which means I get library access and the chance to audit a course. Auditing graduate seminars that meet once a week has broadened my thinking just like any course should, and I get more reading done on the train into the city than at any other time during the week. This semester’s course is really helping me out with the book project I started developing last summer. My weekly day in the city, including the trip in and out of it, has been an amazing emotional, intellectual, and physical interlude that refuels me as I face everything else.
  • Like everyone else, my professional development funds are limited, and the class I am auditing at NYU meets at 9:30 on Monday mornings. At first, I would wake up at five in the morning to catch the 6:47 AM train, but I am not a morning person in any sort of way. I’d always been nervous about Priceline because you pay for the room before you know where it is. I talked to a friend who uses it often, and he gave me some tips about how to fill out the request form so I have a better chance of getting a good rate at a good place, and I got several nice hotel stays for around $90 a night (at hotels that would cost $350 if I’d booked with them directly). I was hoping hotels would accept low bids with decreased business travelers and fewer tourists in the fall, and they. Mondays have been much easier to face, and I have money left over for the spring. I never thought that would happen.
  • My petite sawhorse desk from Ballard Designs: As I think I’ve mentioned before, we moved to a new place after I earned tenure, and we were able to get a place that had a room I could use for an office, something we didn’t have at our old place. A desk was at the top of my list of new furniture I wanted, so I saved up for a bit and found this desk when it was on sale (I got it in white). It took a while to arrive, but it came right before the semester began, and I love it. It’s got a large enough surface for me to spread out everything without feeling crowded. I sit here, as I am now, daily, and I always feel comfortable. I don’t always enjoy the work, but I love where I get to do most of it.

Natalie Houston

  • New beginnings: over the past year I’ve established my coaching practice, begun a new collaborative research project, attended a digital humanities workshop, and planned a brand-new course for next semester. I’m thankful for the many people and opportunities that have made these new ventures possible. I have always believed that the capacity for reinvention within an academic career is one of the greatest resources we have available to us as faculty. This year I’ve been actively drawing on that and thereby gained in energy and productivity.
  • The flexibility of the academic calendar: this was a year of significant upheavals and transitions as my mother’s rapidly advancing dementia required several relocations. I’m thankful that I was able to arrange her cross-country move during my spring break and had time during the summer break to take care of additional medical and logistical issues. I’m also very grateful for the generous and loving staff at the care facility where she now resides.
  • Family and friends: every day, the love and support of my partner and our companion animals keeps me happy and grounded in the present moment. I’m also thankful for dear friends near and far.

Jason B. Jones (who can’t count to 3, but doesn’t care)

  • As always, but particularly in this economy, I’m grateful for my job, and particularly for a job in a collective bargaining environment. No matter how busy/stressful things get, the life of an American tenured professor is still, in the main, a remarkably good one, and we should occasionally try to remember that. (Someone should remind me of this when we go into negotiations.)
  • This year started in a not-awesome (if also not terribly dramatic) way, healthwise, and so I’m thankful to be rounding into form and putting all that behind me. Of course, next year already doesn’t bode well [YouTube link; arguably nsfw, for suitably humorless values of "work"].
  • I’m grateful to have been able to see three (!) shows of The Hold Steady‘s tour this year. (Need to figure out how to get to Sydney on March 8!) This is my son’s favorite song off the new album (YouTube): “She said the theme of this party’s the industrial age/ And you came in dressed like a train wreck.”
  • Always grateful for my family and friends. Most days, I’m even grateful for the puppy. Most days.
  • Finally, I’m more grateful than I can quite express to George, Julie (emeritus), Alex, Amy, Billie, Brian, Erin, Ethan, Heather, Jeff, Kathleen, Mark, Natalie, Nels, and Ryan, to all our guest authors, to our hosts here at the Chronicle, to our partners at Digital Humanities Questions and Answers, and especially to all our readers and commenters (whether here or on Twitter or on your own blogs). It has been a privilege to be associated with ProfHacker for these 14-odd months, and I’m looking forward keenly to our future together.

Jeffrey McClurken

  • The largely positive reception of both my first book and my work in digital humanities pedagogy this year. Putting your work out for all to critique can be nerve wracking, but essential. I’m grateful for those who have taken the time to read and comment on what I’ve done.
  • The power of collaborations with bright, thoughtful, and warm colleagues in my department, my school, my town, and online. This year I’ve joined with some terrific people in creating a lecture series and conferences on digital humanities and archiving social media, and have begun work on a variety of on and off campus projects that will come to fruition in the years to come. In every one of these cases, I could not have pulled off these events or projects on my own.
  • My amazing spouse and children who support my work, but also remind me that the work that I do is nowhere near as important as the time I spend with them.

Erin E. Templeton

  • My job and my colleagues As I watch friends struggle with the uncertainties of the job market, I can’t help be be grateful not only to be employed at all in the current climate but to work at a place where my colleagues are caring and creative; the administration is supportive; and my voice is valued.
  • My health, the fact that I have health insurance, and the health of friends and family After a health scare of my own at the beginning of this year (2010), which turned out to be “nothing serious” but a very expensive “nothing serious,” I began a personal campaign to take better care of myself. Basically this campaign consisted of trying to exercise more and to eat a more nutritious diet. In the last several months I’ve just about reached my goals. It has made a huge difference in my energy levels and how I feel on a day-to-day basis. On top of that, I’ve watched as one family member had back surgery and other friends have struggled with other serious illnesses and health scares. I am reminded how lucky I am to be healthy and how important it is not to take my body for granted.
  • Dropbox We all love Dropbox, but I am especially thankful for it this year because it has saved me from reinventing the wheel several times this semester. I no longer have to remember to save to a USB drive, and then remember that USB drive when I head in to campus. I am especially grateful for this in my current campus workspace, because to get to the USB drive on my office computer, I have to crawl under my desk and grope around behind the computer tower to plug it in. My head is grateful too, as sooner or later, I was bound to give myself a concussion rooting around under there. It might still happen, of course, but Dropbox means that I have to crawl under the desk maybe once a semester rather than once or twice a day.

Ethan Watrall

  • A Change in Department: At the beginning of this year, I was offered the incredible opportunity to move over to the Department of Anthropology. As I am an archaeologist, this was like coming back home after many years abroad (in academic countries which I valued and contributed to, but of which I was not really a citizen). This change also brought colleagues with whom I could have very comfortable disciplinary-based discussions in familiar disciplinary language. This may seem like a trivial thing, but living in a discipline/department that is not your own often has unintended and unexpected consequences that make it far more challenging to be a productive and healthy scholar.
  • Institutional Support for “Pet” Projects: Going hand in hand with the previous item, I was given the opportunity to launch a couple of initiatives (the most noteworthy was the Cultural Heritage Informatics Initiative). More importantly, I was given tangible institutional support to launch these initiatives. My department, college, and the grad school all threw some money my way to make sure that my vision for these projects could be fulfilled. This is pretty significant given the fact that the projects were fairly innovative, and therefor were high risk undertakings (for the people kicking in the money).
  • My family: I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve told my wife that I need to stay on campus late to get something done or told my son that I couldn’t hang out with him because I had to go into campus to work on Sunday. This sucks. I hate having to say it every time. But y’know what’s cool? They never give me crap about it, and always understand. Thats why I’m damn thankful that they support the hell out of me, and put up with all of the time I spend distracted and away from them.

Heather M. Whitney

  • Colleagues: I left a position and started a new one this year. I’m very grateful for the colleagues at my previous position, who were supportive and kind to me before AND after they knew of my resignation and departure. And I’m privileged to still keep up with them and count them as friends. At my new institution, I’m surrounded by great people in my department and I’m grateful to those outside of my department who have reached out to me with invitations for meals and coffee, or offers for any kind of help that I might need during my time of transition. The world is full of some pretty outstanding people!
  • Friends and family: Our move required us to leave many dear friends in Nashville and deposited us further geographically from any family my spouse and I have. All these folks have shown us a tremendous amount of support to us this year and have invested in us by keeping up with how we are doing. Some have even taken the time to visit us, for which we are grateful.
  • Technology: I’d like to give a hearty hurrah for technology. Cell phones, the internet, mobile computing: they all allow me and my spouse flexibility in living arrangements with respect to our respective employment, as tools such as Skype allows us to keep in contact with collaborators. These tools enable me to keep in touch with the aforementioned friends, family, and colleagues. Without technology, my life would be much less rich due to less connection with the people who are important to me.

George H. Williams

  • My job: Not only do I have a job in a very tough economic climate; I have a job that I like. I know well how fortunate I am for that combination.
  • Medical science and medical coverage: In the last couple of years, two members of my family have had major surgery to correct congenital health problems. These surgeries made significantly positive changes in their lives and in the lives of those of us who love them. The scientific advances made in the last twenty years or so mean that their recovery time was shortened dramatically: each person was up and walking–albeit very slowly and carefully–within twenty-four hours of their procedure. I’m thankful not only for such advances that have taken place but also for the access to good health care that my family has.
  • My family, friends, colleagues: I’m thankful that I live close enough to family to be able to visit fairly easily, and I’m thankful that I want to. I have some truly great friends both here in Spartanburg and on the Internets. And I work with some great people on campus, at, and at ProfHacker.

[CC licensed image by flickr user wwarby]

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