Vocation & Vacation: Challenging the “Culture of Competitive Martyrdom”

How often have you heard this joke? “Question: What are the three best reasons to become a professor? Answer: June, July, and August.”

Anyone inside the profession, however, experiences a very different world and many academics find themselves in a paradoxical situation inherent in the very nature of their work. From the outside, viewed by, say truck drivers or dentists or factory workers, their jobs look embarrassingly easy. Just 4-12 hours/week of actual time in class, no requirement beyond a few office hours to “clock-in” to a particular place, no direct oversight of the classroom (“my class is my castle”), and unheard-of-in-other-fields job security (believe me, they have heard of tenure and don’t realize how tenuous it is). Oh yes, and three months of vacation. Every year. Continue reading

Connecting the Dots: What we can learn from Steve Jobs, college drop-out

In his 2005 Stanford commencement address, Steve Jobs reflected upon his life: his birth and adoption, his early firing from Apple and marriage and then his scare with death after being diagnosed with cancer.  The first part of the speech was dedicated to “connecting the dots” and to his early life and college experience. Like Jobs, our most successful students are able to “connect the dots” and take important risks. Continue reading

A heresy worth considering…

Image result for geek heresy images
Geek Heresy

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Kentaro Toyama back in February 2018 when he visited our campus for an engaging seminar on the role of technology in addressing social problems. Dr. Toyama is the W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan, and his 2015 book, Geek Heresy, articulates what I consider “hard won” insight into the role of technology in society and, more specifically, how technology impacts social change.

Toyama began his career as a computer scientist working for Microsoft in their research division.  If you have ever enjoyed the Kinect accessory in Microsoft’s XBox—the stereo imaging system that converts a player’s motion into real-time video game inputs—you are at least tangentially familiar with some of Toyama’s early research that led to the development of Kinect.  Ultimately, though, Toyama found this work unfulfilling and a far cry from the idealism of his youth that had drawn him to the sciences in the first place.  His original goal was to help solve the energy crisis. Continue reading