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It’s been almost 3 years since I moved to Urbana Champaign and I can’t believe how time flies, and how much (and how little) I’ve learned. Professionally, politically, academically, socially, spiritually… what a challenge. I just returned from having lunch with a potential anthro doctoral student, and I almost wish I was in his shoes, about to embark in a doctoral program. When I first arrived at UIUC in 2004, I didn’t know a single person outside of my (mostly white) program, I didn’t know the other APA grad students on campus, or what resources were available to me as an APA grad student. C (the anthro student) is coming in having already met at least half theAPAGSO members and AAS faculty, which is something GSLIS couldn’t even have imagined for me 3 years ago. People like me and my roommate had to struggle to find our community here (and thank God we did), but C is more fortunate. Much more fortunate.
On the one hand, this struggle strengthened me and my roommate, and we’re both happy that we could build something to make it easier for future APA graduate students. On the other, it would have been nice to have an APAGSO from Day One. It’s our right. That’s one reason APAGSO members invest in the undergrads. They have community, but they hunger for direction and mentorship. We want to make sure they know how much power they have, and how to get the resources they need and deserve to exercise that power. It’s their right.
So despite doing all this other work (which I consider an integral aspect of my existence here), I finally reached that stage in the doctoral program called “almost ready to defend the dissertation proposal.” Let’s just call it “pre-dissertating,” because it sounds cool. Or “staring at my laptop,” because that’s really what is is…
Now that I’m writing the proposal, I’m evaluating what I’ve read and learned and understood over the past 3 years, and I realize there’s still so much more to know. Is 3 years really enough to get me started on a dissertation project? My advisors and colleagues always tell each other, “you know more than you think you know, and you know more about your project than anyone else.” I need to believe that more than ever, now, as I prove to my committee that this project is worth doing, and that I’m ready to do it.
AAAS was last week, and I cherish it more and more for being a critical site where I can meet with other like-minded scholars from the many different disciplines that make up APA scholarship. Now that I’ve been going for a couple of years, it’s also a great place for reunions with colleagues and friends. It’s exciting to see people taking up projects in adoption and children’s literature, and for the Association to invite children’s literature-related professionals to participate in the conferences.
Being in that space really forced me to think about questions I avoid about where I situate myself disciplinarily: Where do I see myself in the future? To whom do I address my work? Who needs to hear my work? With whom do I want to work? Who are my allies? Where is my presence most needed? Do I have to align myself with AAS or LIS, or is there a third space? Most importantly, how does my faith inform and shape what I do?
I don’t know the answers to some of these questions, but I’m beginning to realize I should.