My own students would troll me if I buried the lede, so I won’t. I got a letter from the Lehigh University provost today confirming the Board of Trustees had approved his recommendation for tenure. So as of next month, I’ll be promoted to associated professor.
I won’t stay long here but I wanted to say a few things.
I interviewed for my job here at Lehigh back in 2008. It was, probably, the worst time to be on the academic job market out of PhD school. I applied for 15 jobs, and half the searches were canceled within a month due to the cratering economy. I went on four campus visits, and I fell in love with Lehigh. Like, the kind of hard where I would have been crushed to not get an offer.
There was something about this job. The place, the people, and the opportunity to build out a digital effort that was pretty basic (the latter fits my main advice to any graduate: seek opportunity over salary when you are able to do so). I had a really good visit, and a really good vibe. I was thrilled to get an offer and accepted quickly.
Eight years letter, my love for this place has only grown. I came in with high expectations and they’ve been surpassed. We’ve hired five professors since I’ve started here and I told them all this: This place, this sense you have right now falling in love with the place, it’s not hype. I speak with a lot of PhD school colleagues and this has not always been their first-job experience. It’s fate, dumb luck, whatever … but I walk into work every day feeling like I’m robbing the bank.
Lehigh has its issues institutionally, but there are some good people here who are working on changing us for the better every day. I’m proud and willing to stay engaged in that.
A few quick thank-yous.
First to my PhD school mentors Esther Thorson and Clyde Bentley. They set me on this path as a masters student back in 2004. I wouldn’t be here without them.
My department is amazing. Seriously, a rocking group of people. Jack Lule and Wally Trimble were chairs who helped guide and mentor me. I felt welcome here on the first visit thanks to them. My other colleagues Sharon Friedman and Kathy Olson both helped guide me when I was struggling on publishing early on. I work with so many other good folks: Janey Lee, Haiyan Jia, Matt Veto (a hero without a cape, if there ever was one), and Imaani El-Burki. Nancy Ross retired but was a great colleague. And then the amazing staff, Linda Lipko and Kathy Throne. Our department is a family and I love working with these folks.
Third, I want to thank some folks post-PhD who have really made me what I am. Jen Reeves, once of Mizzou and now setting the world on fire with her advocacy work, has been the best model on releasing my inner nerd that I could have. Really, I am so grateful for her counsel as she’s taught me how to dream big in the classroom. I continue to be inspired by the scholarship and teaching of folks like Seth Lewis, Amy Schmitz Weiss, Cindy Royal and Chip Stewart. We joke sometimes about standing on the shoulders of giants in academia, but sometimes those of us still forging the way need to combine our powers and form Voltron too. Friends doing it out in the real world keep me grounded and serve as models too, and so a shoutout to Beth Carpenter, Shanley Knox and Joy Mayer.
And, of course, my students. I went back to grad school to be a teacher, and the ones I’ve been privileged to teach at Mizzou and Lehigh have made me up my game in ways that — well, that would be a book if I wrote it all down. I’d name names but I’m sure I’d forget a few. But you know who you are, because I’ve made a point to tell you how proud of you I am. I’m inspired to do my best work because of my students. Thank you for letting me try every loony idea I can think of to push both you and myself in the service of experimental journalism. I hope if you took anything from time with me it’s that the spirit of discovery and exploration are the entirety of what education is about.
Finally, and not least of all, my wife Amy. Tenure isn’t my accomplishment alone. Partners and families make sacrifices in ways that are big and subtle. When I needed to hunker down and write, she took up the slack.
I’m grateful, you all. Here’s to things getting better.