Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On

My well-intentioned plans to blog a few times a week this summer were blown up by a bunch of stuff that took over this summer.

  1. Most importantly, I managed to secure continuing employment for myself at the National University of Singapore. It all happened really fast, basically in May and June of this year. And I started the new contract on July 1st as a Lecturer in Sociology and Global Studies.
  2. With the new position and its focus on teaching, I was given five courses to teach this academic year (2016/17). Two of the courses would be in Sociology, and which I will never have taught before – although both well within my areas of expertise. Three courses would be in Global Studies. One repeated course that required no real intervention; one repeated course that requires a great deal of re-thinking and new preparation; and one brand new course that I designed and proposed, yet still needs a great deal of planning and creation. Thus, my summer was given over quite quickly to planning and preparing for this year’s teaching.
  3. Along with the new position and responsibilities came housing benefits. Living quite near the university for my first two years in Singapore did not necessarily translate into a reasonable commute. From my HDB flat in Commonwealth to my office door took an average of 55 minutes on the way in (during non-rush hour times), and about 90 minutes on the way home (because I usually stopped to get dinner). So, when my new contract contained housing benefits, I jumped on them. I now live right across the street from NUS and my daily commute is usually less than 30 minutes combined. Indeed, I don’t even think of it as a ‘commute’ anymore. But planning the move, packing, moving, unpacking, and settling in took a few weeks.
  4. I actually took a vacation. One of the things I’ve been trying to do since finishing my PhD is to pay more attention to my mental health. While I still work too much, too often, I do try to take at least one day a week off, and I’ve been trying to actually use my allotted vacation days. Last year (2015) included trips to Hong Kong (although that was mostly for research, but I took some tourist time), Hanoi, Vietnam, and a short trip to Batam, Indonesia. Then in February of this year I went back to Hong Kong. And this summer I spent a week in Penang, Malaysia before my sister came to visit (her first time in Asia). So a little more than two weeks of official vacation time straddled the end of June and beginning of July.

Of course, not all of this is weighted equally. Most of the time I had intended to study on research and writing for publication this summer was by necessity reinvested in preparing to teach. Adjusting to a new department (Sociology), with a capstone course for a new-to-me academic minor (Cultural Studies), took a significant amount of time and energy. As did acquainting myself with my new position as a Lecturer, which is part of a pretty novel thing that NUS does called the ‘Educator Track.’

Unlike most institutions in the US, as well as at least those in Europe that I’m familiar with, NUS offers a pathway to tenure on a teaching track. I’ve come to think of it almost as if NUS is trying to foster both the research-intensive model and the liberal arts model in the same institution at the same time. It’s pretty interesting, and new enough that not many people have modelled pathways to success. Thus I spent a fair amount of labor (affective and intellectual) this summer trying to get a sense of what I need to do to ensure that this position works out for me in the long run.

Anyway, that’s enough for now. I’ll probably soon follow up this post with a few others on my courses.

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