The SSK is online

I have posted several entries about the Social Sciences Kaleidoscope (SSK), a web portal for social media channels students maintain to discuss what they are learning and researching in the social sciences. A call went out in the fall 2013 semester for students to participate in the spring 2014 semester, and two student projects were selected; each student is receiving a $400 stipend for participating. A new University of Wisconsin-Parkside website is being developed that will have a dedicated SSK page, but the students are already working on their projects, which can be directly accessed. Jenn Zentmyer is using a Tumblr to examine her experiences in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) certificate program, and Manvinder Singh is using a Facebook page to engage the public in facts he is learning in his Victimology class as a Criminal Justice Major. Check out their pages!

Taxes and Google Glass

For months I’ve known that tomorrow (April 15) is Tax Day in the United States, when federal and state tax returns are due. I just learned that it’s the one day when Google Glass will be available to the general public. Back in May I wrote a post about trying to become a Google Glass early adopter. While it’s cool that a wider range of people will have temporary access to Google Glass, I think I’ll sit out tomorrow’s inevitable purchase rush, however, and wait for the price to come WAY down before trying them. $1500 is a steep price to pay for a fancy toy (at this stage of development)…

Microaggressions on a plane

The Microaggressions Project tumblr popped into my head yesterday while sitting in the first class section of a commercial airliner. Two bottles of water await passengers in each twin seat when boarding. I took a sip from one and then put it in my bag, and then a few minutes later I absent-mindedly took a sip from the second bottle. When my seat-mate sat down I apologized for taking his water by mistake, and asked the flight attendant to bring him another. He told her that he didn’t need a replacement, and turned to me and said, “you didn’t take it by mistake, you stole it.” Racial microaggressions, as quoted on the Microaggressions Project “about this project” page, are “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” The first thing that popped into my head was “does this White cat think I took his water because Black folks always steal stuff?!” In the next breath, though, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt about innocent teasing, smiled, and patted him on the arm.

A few minutes later he tapped my arm (I was wearing earphones) and asked me about my iPad. We went on to have a very good conversation, mostly about parenting and changing educational systems. I think that he was impressed that a college dean agreed with him that a 4-year degree was not necessarily an absolute requirement for everyone; he was proud that he built a multi-million dollar business with a high school degree as his final step of formal education. He was worried about how he could buy his two college-educated sons a business and set up the partnership in a way that would respect the sons’ different skills and dispositions, and not drive a wedge in their friendship. I joked that he should adjust the plan and give half of his planned purchase budget as a gift to my college. He took my business card, so maybe I’ll get lucky down the road…

One of the most harmful components of racial microaggression is the mental toll on those with particular socially constructed identities: “Did that person just do X because I’m a member of Y group?” I have enough privileged identities that I can shrug off possible slights (I was in first class on a plane, for example!), but the process is very much a powerful reality for others. We still have much work to do in creating more equitable social structures and processes.

Digital Storytelling

This morning I was interviewed by a reporter for upcoming digital storytelling workshops I am conducting with one of the lecturers in my college. Digital stories are short, first person video-narratives created by combining recorded voice, still and moving images, and music or other sounds. Digital storytellers are those who have a desire to document life experience, ideas, or feelings through the use of story and digital media. We will teach U.S. military veterans how to make digital stories and become digital storytellers; on April 12 we will work with student-veterans here at UW-Parkside, and then on April 26 we will conduct a workshop at Kenosha’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post. The workshops were made possible by a generous grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council.

I’ll post additional information after the workshops have been conducted, but if readers want additional information about digital storytelling check out an article I co-published in 2010. Embedded in the article is a 12.5 minute digital story about digital storytelling, but see a higher quality version that we posted on an older blog.

The Boss in Academia

Dean Paula Krebs recently posted an interesting article about academic administration in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Meet the New Boss…” She discusses very real differences in supervision of tenure-line faculty, department chairs, and deans. Check it out!

Spring Break

It’s spring break week at UW-Parkside, and campus is mostly empty. As usual for a spring break, however, I’m on campus, working. (I can recall only one spring break trip as faculty member [to Costa Rica two years ago] following zero in graduate school, college, high school, and grade school.) I had meetings Monday, Tuesday, and today, but tomorrow and Friday are meeting-free, so I’ll have time to catch up on tasks that got pushed back due to higher-priority fires during the semester. Maybe next year I can take my second-ever spring break trip and go out of town for a few days?

A College DNA Statement?

UW-Parkside just launched a new website that includes many rewritten pages. My college’s mission and vision statements, for example, are now pretty generic: the vision statement is “an education centered on diversity, social justice and personal fulfillment that gives students the knowledge and skills to address some of the most pressing issues in society today,” and the mission statement is “whether it’s international studies or improving the local community; the University of Wisconsin-Parkside College of Social Sciences & Professional Studies will give you the opportunities to go as far as your ambition will take you. We are the newest college on the Parkside campus, and our programs include International Studies, Teacher Preparation (IPED), Criminal Justice, Philosophy, History, Geography, Political Science, Law, Sociology and Anthropology.” To be honest, I can’t remember what the old statements were…and I have no inkling about the many other vision and statements of units I’ve been in over the last 21 years as a graduate student, professor, and administrator. If anyone can state her/his institution’s current vision or mission statement without looking it up I’ll give you a check for $1000.

So one of my tasks in creating a strategic plan for the college is to come up with more memorable vision and mission statements, but is that really even possible? Perhaps my energy would be better served in creating something else, like a “DNA statement” that succinctly describes the core elements of the college, the essential building blocks that animate everything we do. I know, vision and mission statements are supposed to do that but they are so often uninspiring, and have too many components (like two separate statements!). In a future post I’ll have to post a note about possibilities for something more pithy. If the current vision and mission statements spark any thoughts please share them in order to kick off the brainstorming…

Speechifying the sociological imagination

I’m not a big speechifyer, which would seem to disqualify one from becoming a dean. On the contrary, as I dean I’m invited to all sorts of events and I am expected to “say a few words,” but that’s fine as “a few words” means five minutes or less. A couple of weeks ago, however, I was worried about taping a radio interview, but that also turned out to be easier than expected. Today I was asked to give a 20-minute speech at an awards banquet for graduating high school seniors. The pressure will be to come up with some thoughts that celebrate their individual accomplishments in conjunction with reminders about the operation of social structure; too often these celebratory events get boiled down to “you succeeded through hard work and hope,” ignoring the many other elements — visible and invisible — that contribute to individual success. I’ll have to figure out how to say something about the sociological imagination succinctly. Suggestions are welcome!

January term classes II

At the end of January I posted a note about January-term classes. I said that I wanted to be more strategic in scheduling our “Winterim” classes, but didn’t have any specific ideas. Today’s Inside Higher Education, though, has changed that, as the start of the “Questioning Value of ‘Janterm’” article reminded me that January-term classes should “offer time for students to immerse themselves in travel abroad or a single, intensive course they never would take otherwise – because it’s far outside their course of study, or nontraditional, or both.” Our Winterim schedule, on the other hand, is packed with regular courses that are offered during all other terms (for example, CRMJ 101 Introduction to Criminal Justice). I’ll have to encourage faculty to develop truly unique classes for Winterim, such as an experience that would produce a local version of Minneapolis’ Historyapolis project. Hhhmmm…


Media Appearances

Earlier today I taped a segment for a local radio show, “Education Matters.” I was a bit nervous going in, as the purpose was to discuss the new Institute of Professional Educator Development (IPED), and the experts in the institute do a much better job of explaining things than I ever could; I see my job as to provide resources for them and then get out of the way! Alas, the host wanted to talk to the dean of the college that houses the institute. In the end, though, all was fine, as we discussed a wide range of issues, including my educational journey from high school to UW-Parkside. It was fun!

The last time I made a media appearance was as a department chair at the University of Minnesota. In 2008 I was on a panel discussion of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination on the “Crossroads” TV program (KSTC channel 45 in Minneapolis-St. Paul). I went on “Crossroads” again in 2010 for a panel discussion on African Americans in sports. Although you’d think it would be harder to go on TV than the radio given TV’s hot lights and the pressure to conform to visual standards, I thought it was easier to prepare for the “Crossroads” appearances since I was part of a group and could just answer questions off the cuff. For the radio show I was the only guest, and I had to make sure that I provided proper information about IPED. In the end I think I did OK, but if I’m contacted again I might have to insist on a faculty member being a better choice!