Today, I told them…1…that having left Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC) in June of 2002, I now have moments of sincere longing for the people and the place that gave me permission to grow into my own, for allowing freedom and giving encouragement to be independent and strong, a scholar with voice. It was a place that reveled in its students’ successes and craved their growth, generally speaking. I left in 2002 ready to face the academic world and all of its challenges. But, there is very little that can prepare one for the adult playground of academe for it is a yard that can be fraught with cattiness, passive aggression, and manipulation that is sycophantic at best and soul compromising at worst.Today, I told them……that in Ronald J. Pelias’ essay, “Making Lists: Life at the University,” he enumerates some of the lessons and observations he has made over his multiple years in higher education. He imparts his sage wisdom to new graduate students and, in turn, teaches them about academic culture. I remember taking that introduction to graduate studies course the first semester of my doctoral program. Ron taught it. I remember sitting in class shocked by the beautiful and beastly practices that constituted the life of a scholar in academe. I wondered: “Do I belong here?” Of course, who doesn’t wonder that in the wake of faculty “doing their job,” reminding graduate students how little they truly know? I had those moments of doubt, too, but the doubt that pressed at the time was whether or not I wanted to romp in an academic park where the see-saw wanted to buck you and the merry-go round caused severe vertigo to one's sense of self. It was a park carpeted with river rock and “red crusher,” not refreshing, cool Bluegrass; it was xeriscaped, needing no attention because little could grow without willfulness to spite the climate. My impressions of academia were altered that day in graduate seminar. I had to consider what I wanted and what obtaining a PhD would mean in terms of the politics of everyday life in a place where “resource management” often brought out the base in people. Those weren’t make-believe tales Ron acquainted us with, they were cautionary ones designed to deconstruct any notions naiveté might hold about higher education and its practices. Racism, sexism, and, most definitely, classism were all doing fine and well in the academy, tucked neatly away in the creases and folds of ambiguous tenure requirements, unfair divisions of labor, and competitive self serving. Of course, the academy is also plump with potential, full as a tick, for exploration of and excitement over ideas and culture. It is a place distended with possibility, glutinous with hope. After all, there were alternatives. There had to be.Today, I told them……that I sat in The Kleineau Theatre for the final professional seminar of the school year. It was the last Friday of the spring 2001 semester and I was glad to be finished with the press of all that had to be done in too short a time. I don’t remember many details about that afternoon – who I sat next to or what questions were asked of the speaker – but I do remember the quiet that settled over the place: all sat mesmerized by a methodology of the heart, a different way to do scholarship, one requiring vulnerability and insisting the human body be present. The heart was declared that day, the heart of Ronald J. Pelias.Today, I told them...…that at the time, I had been a member of SIUC's Department of Speech Communication, as a student (both undergraduate and graduate), since fall of 1993. I transferred from a large, urban junior college in San Antonio, Texas to the unknown solace and earthiness of southern Illinois and completed my undergraduate and graduate education at a university I had never known of until my ex-spouse declared its virtues. I unknowingly started down a road that, in time, would cross the path of my doctoral mentor. Oddly enough, a working class, Mexican–American girl from south Texas, would meet a white, middle class, man teaching in the Midwest and who unknowingly would change her life.Today, I told them……that the etched surface of a life can be amazing, a gorgeous patina of age and experience. But, what bleeds through to the surface from underneath or in front of from behind can be just as mesmerizing, just as charming as a heartfelt embrace between old friends.
Menchaca, D. (2006), "Pentimento, Permission, Poetry, and Pelias: Declaring my Heart", Denzin, N. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 29), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 17-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0163-2396(06)29003-3Download as .RIS
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