Thursday, October 7, 2021

Reflections on My Academic Career - Part I

 I'm currently in my second year of a three-year phased retirement from IU. After this semester, I will have one more course to teach in the 2022-23 academic year. I don't know whether the inclination is natural or not, but I've already begun reflecting on my career, the ups, the downs, the in-betweens. My reflections are not intentionally structured or organized. This will not be a chronological narrative; and it certainly will not be complete. It is not an exercise in nostalgia - I am not normally a nostalgic person, though I am sentimental. In other words, I care about the people and places currently and formerly in my life, but I have no desire to return to some earlier time in the mistaken belief that life was better then. Finally, I don't presuppose that anyone outside of my family will find any part of this, let alone the whole thing, interesting or valuable either in itself or as a socio-historical reference. For the most part, I'm writing this for myself and my family. 

This first installment examines the question of why I am retiring now. I'll be fully retired just after I turn 65, which is a traditional retirement age, but not so common today as it once was, especially in academia. Several older colleagues of mine have no intention of retiring any time soon. So, why am I retiring, when I'm in good physical health? I have several reasons, some of which are more important than others;

(1) I no longer enjoy teaching as I used to do. I increasingly dread it. It has a lot to do with changing course packages, something I knew would be necessary when I moved from Indianapolis to Bloomington. The biggest change was a move to regular teaching of undergraduate courses around 2014. Before then, I had zero experience teaching undergraduates who, pedagogically speaking, are very different from grad students or law students. The special challenges they present I've never been able entirely to overcome. The class preps more onerous and time-consuming, in part, because undergrads require more in-class activities to keep them engaged. And I taught three different undergrad courses over the course of five years. Anyway, SPEA kept me in the undergrad curriculum until I signed the contract for the phased retirement. I suspect I might not yet be retiring, if I was not regularly teaching undergrads.

(2) The increasing stress of teaching aggravated the depression and anxiety disorder I've been dealing with most of my life. It impacted not just my work life but every aspect of my life. 

(3) While my love of teaching has diminished, my love of music, especially (but not exclusively) jazz, has reemerged. I want to spend more time learning about, playing and listening to it. [It's very important to have something to retire to because, otherwise, retirement could feel like a death sentence.]

(4) Izabela and I want to travel more, especially to spend more time in the UK and Europe, while we are young and healthy enough to take full advantage. 

(5) Sorry to say, but I want more time for reading and writing than the life of a teaching professor, ironically, allows. I'm not nearly eminent enough to get course relief in exchange for more writing time. I have at least two books on my agenda, one on the global history of environmental protection extending back to the earliest human settlements, and one on institutional analysis (as a method). I'll be writing other pieces as well, I imagine.

(6) Very fortunately, according to my financial consultants, I can afford to retire.

(7) I don't think of my retirement as complete. I'm not leaving IU so much as changing my relationship with it. In exchange for not paying me, I will not teach, but I'll keep on producing scholarship, working with PhD students, etc., especially in the Ostrom Workshop. I might even teach the Workshop seminar, as needed or desired, after I'm "emeritus." That's assuming that the Workshop does not start ignoring the Ostroms' legacy again.

Future installments of reflections will focus on: perceived highlights, such as they are, of my career; whether my move from Indy to Bloomington was, on balance, worthwhile; as objective as possible assessment of my scholarly contributions, including one or two writings I consider under-appreciated; opportunities I've screwed up or spurned; the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary scholarship in the university; great scholars, and people, I have known; the silliness of over-seriousness in the cut-throat world of academia.   

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The Gates BBQ Suite

 I've been waiting for this LP to arrive for months. Bravo, the great Bobby Watson.