I worked on two of the nation’s largest college campuses for a grand total of thirteen years. At the University of Minnesota, I cut my teeth in residential life, in community arts programming, even working with a data collection group on a research study. At Arizona State University, I continued my work with residential life, only to migrate into teaching English and creative writing, and then managing and helping to grow Phoenix’s largest community-oriented writing center.
Working in academia has its pluses and minuses. All summer long I enjoyed what amounted to a private city, with restaurants empty at lunch time, wide sidewalks and quads free of pushing and shoving and skateboarders, and on-campus services like the gym and library that seemed to be waiting for me to command them into activity. It’s a stark contrast from the other nine months of the year. Throughout the academic year, students swarm the campus like picnic ants. Waiting for Starbucks was more excruciating than waiting for Godot. And food in the union, when it was even available, was like revenge—always cold and never what you were expecting. On a given day, I was once told, the University of Minnesota gathered 75,000 people, making it the fifth-largest city in the state.
I was frequently reminded of Matthew McCaughnahey’s iconic line about high school students from Dazed and Confused: “I keep getting older, but they stay the same age.” While that was a turn on for him, all it succeeded in doing for me was making me feel old. Like codger-old. Read the rest of this entry »