I <3 School

| October 15, 2010

It took me a long time to figure out what to write about on Pressible.  The natural choice would be library things but my agonizingly long run in library school has made me sick almost to death of library literature.  I don’t feel like I have the kind of education to equip me to write anything even vaguely philosophical about education in this educational community. Finally, I lit upon it.  It was the common thread that runs through my work and home life: academia.  I am a grad student, I live with a grad student, I work here at TC and at my job at an academic publisher I think of little else.  All these things are great by themselves, but together they mean that higher education may be the only thing I’m equipped to write about.

I’m a little obsessed with university websites. I’ve visited thousands of them while collecting marketing data at the publisher.  I like them all java-ed up or looking like they just rolled out of 1998. I’m transfixed by front page pic rolls especially when they do something to spice it up a bit like a weird transition or distortion.  One of my favorites has a setup that makes it look like a scary doppelganger of the pictured person is existing near them in a parallel dark campus.  I gush over weird departments and the bizarre specificity of focus areas.  It tickles my fancy that there’s someone in Oregon studying gender roles in 19th century ballet and someone in Cleveland , TN with a doctoral degree in Benevolence.

The thing I find most endearing on university websites are the faculty photos, maybe this is because of my soft spot for scholars.  We call them “professors” at one job and “authors” at the other (in a knowing tone).  They’re most often posed and well-dressed in front of a stock backdrop but sometimes they’re really unexpected and delightful.   I like when they have a little spot of personality: a bow tie, a cup of tea, a bookshelf, people involved with ecology often depict themselves subduing some sort of wild animal like a pelican or a small alligator.

I can scarcely ever resist a main tab on a website titled “Know Jesus,” a page devoted to the nightlife and culture of Dubuque, IA, a homepage created by a faculty member (fingers crossed for GIFs and vacation photos), an FAQ page or a doctoral thesis on the evils of alcohol and I’m rarely disappointed I have strayed.  My love bleeds in to the non-web as well.  I love peeking into full classrooms and empty labs and storage rooms of labyrinthine universities.  I even love the detritus of academia, the old books and broken desk chairs stuffed into some forgotten broom closet on a floor that’s almost never used, the little nubs from the side of notebook paper blow around my apartment like leaves, the worn elbows and bleary eyes of an artist whose muse is international trade.

The places and things people study and the people who study places and things fascinate and inspire me. Thinking of these little niches of industry, of people working hard and learning all manner of things in classrooms and libraries and labs scattered across the country fills me with delight.  For the first posts in this series, I’d like to think about how and where we educate for certain careers.  In those that follow it’s anybody’s guess, but it’s a good guess that it will relate, like most all aspects of my life, to academia.  It’ll be fun, I swear!