Reflecting on my first semester as a professor

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been employed by Michigan State University for five months at the time of writing this blog post. The past five months have been a rollercoaster: buying a new home during a pandemic, moving a farm (including 13 goats) 450 miles, navigating the difficulties of rural Internet access for the umpteenth time, being unable to fully explore my new community due to the pandemic, missing my friends and family, and trying to learn what it means to be a professor while working exclusively out of a home office. I don’t know about other new professors, but that last one has been the hardest. In my heart I am a lover of organizations. Not being able to fully explore and discover the different kinds of tacit knowledge embodied in hallway conversations, in-person meeting norms, different conference rooms, and being stripped of the ability to formally meet most of my new colleagues has meant that while I am indeed an Assistant Professor of Media & Information at Michigan State University, I still feel only half-attached to the institution I now call home.

In other ways I have been very fortunate to connect to students as a teacher and a mentor. My very first time solo teaching went as well as it could’ve possibly gone in the era of Zoom University. I hired my very first research assistant last week who will be working with me on data analysis for The LGBTQ Futures Project. And I am teaching a new class this semester on Rural Innovation & Computing that I hope exposes students to new and interesting ideas about the role of rural places in America’s technological future.

While I didn’t get anything published (though I submitted one paper on the impact of COVID on rural tourism economies), I am excited for what this new year holds for my research. I continue to have way too many ideas to write about and am working extra hard this year (within reason) to make sure those get out into the world so I can stop repeating them over and over in my head. But beyond just what I see as “productive” for my career, I have to keep reminding myself that we live in extraordinary times and that our primary goal should be to help each other survive, building communities and economies of solidarity in the process.

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