September is here, and for many, the academic year has already started. We still have a few more weeks (thanks to the quarter system), but things are already picking up with preparations. I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the summer.
I spent a few weeks at Oxford in mid-June, taking in a more relaxed pace this time. I had a chance to spend time in the libraries, explore the network of colleges, attend talks, visit museums, and have productive meetings with my supervisors to discuss my progress and ideas for moving forward. This was the first time that I felt as if I were truly a student at Oxford and incredibly lucky to take advantage of all its resources. It was also a lovely reminder of the luxury it is to be a student— after all these years of “teaching” and being in front of the classroom. In short, I’m enjoying this aspect of my life.
After returning to the Bay Area, July was a period of intensive work— finishing and submitting two chapters on work that started before the DPhil that will hopefully be published in edited volumes next year— and following the directions from my supervisors to explore new directions for my literature review. I spent most of the month reading some fantastic books and works— particularly on black feminism, intersectionality, and feminist history—that helped to ground and re-energize me. At the same time, I was co-teaching the Chinatown Urban Institute with my colleagues at CCDC, which reinforced the awesomeness of exploring research questions with and in the community. Outside of work, this was a great time to intensify my half-marathon training, taking advantage of the cool and foggy San Francisco summer mornings. And, at some point, the massive flock of elegant terns arrived at Chrissy Field, and my runs became spontaneous birdwatching expeditions.
In August, I had a chance to attend my first American Sociological Association conference and presented at a round table session for the Teaching & Learning Summit. Overall, it was a good experience learning more about sociology as a discipline, attending a few paper sessions on topics that I am interested in for my dissertation, and briefly getting to meet people whose work I’ve been reading. The best part about being in New York was being reminded that I am far more than what I do for work. I grew up in New York, and this was in many ways a homecoming. It was nice to do something else but conferencing, to leave the big hotels (in Times Square of all places… definitely where I did not hang out growing up here) and see my classmate from middle school (and meet his adorable 8-month-old son). For me, what was most fulfilling about conferencing was thinking about all the things that were not at the conference— a reminder about why I study the things I study, why I still feel that many perspectives are missing (both literally, figuratively and intellectually given those who are in the room) and why I think I could be one of these people who could potentially move the needle forward (just a bit). Many thanks to my workplace for sponsoring this experience, as I came back to the Bay Area with renewed energy and purpose.
But not before taking a quick visit to Massachusetts to enjoy the New England summer. Thank you NARM, for giving us an excuse to visit and see all the museums wherever we travel.
Last but not least, this summer, I participated in the Urban Studies Summer Research Program. As this was Shania's first research assistantship (and my first as a faculty sponsor), we tailored the position to meet a few goals. First, I had some specific contributions in mind for ongoing research projects, but I also wanted to make sure that the research assistantship was fulfilling and provided exposure to a range of different things that fall under research— but more importantly, to encourage my RA to be inspired and interested in pursuing this work long after the RA-ship (yes, always keep the long game in mind!). So, she started with reading some seminal works so we could start on the same foundation, then she helped with a bit of database management and learning to sort through spreadsheets via desktop research. When she got tired of sitting in front of the computer alone on most days, she participated in the Urban Institute environmental justice project group and was involved in on-the-ground fieldwork and surveying. By the end of the summer, Shania learned how to use NVivo to code the documents in the database and completed a draft of a working paper to submit to conferences in the future.
All in all, I'm proud of all that she has accomplished and know that this is just the beginning. Shania, if you're reading this, I hope this summer has provided you with an overview of what research makes possible, and I hope that you're excited about these possibilities to continue pursuing them in what I'm sure will be a long and productive career. I was also grateful that I had a chance to deploy and refine my mentoring skills, as every data point is a learning experience. I loved working with Shania and look forward to doing more of this in the future.
So now, we're back and gearing up for the coming academic year. I've updated my syllabi for the two classes that I am teaching this year, the Sustainable Cities and Introduction to Urban Studies. So happy to see a course enrollment for Sustainable Cities at/around ~25 (which is the maximum that is realistic given the project-based nature of the class) and looking forward to a new quarter of learning with my students. I'm headed to the UK again in October to run my second half marathon and to attend doctoral week— and looking forward to meeting the new batch of students in our program, perhaps over brunch at Balliol or Christ Church?? The first day of classes this year falls on the Fall Equinox. Soon after, the weather will turn cooler, and in Northern California, a bit wetter (and hopefully nothing too extreme and on fire a la last year), and we'll be putting up our holiday decorations in no time.
I wish everyone a great start to Fall.