48. i'm off to harvard

thinking about embarking on another transition

Hi there! 👋 I’m Ida, and this is tiny driver, a newsletter about research, pedagogy, culture and their intersections. Thank you for being here. Reach out anytime by just hitting reply, I love hearing from you.

Hi there, and happy Monday.

From the subject line, you'll gather that there's been change of plans in the next couple of years.

What I write.

Rather than spend a second year as a Visiting Assistant Professor in Northwestern's Asian American Studies Program, I'll be starting a 2-year position as a Global American Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard's Charles Warren Center for the Study of American History.

Something that I've had to explain to my non-academic friends is the difference between a visiting assistant professorship (VAP) and a postdoctoral fellowship. I thought that this might be a helpful way of explaining what this transition means for me and my work.

As a Visiting Assistant Professor, my primary role was teaching. My contract was for 2 years and my salary was based on the number of courses I was teaching. Because of the teaching-heavy nature of the position, there is less time to spend on research and writing. Generally, being a VAP is being a contingent faculty member—this is a non-tenure track position. This also means that many opportunities within the institution—internal grants & fellowships, professional development training & funding, and other benefits that tenure-track faculty have access to—are not given to VAPs.

An important note before we move on: While I have read essays online about VAP experiences that were isolating and unfulfilling, I have to say here that I did not feel this way in my experiences at Northwestern. Yes, what I wrote above is true for my position in the sense that I was a contingent faculty member who did not have benefits given to those on the tenure track, my colleagues did so much to make me feel like I was a part of the community and that they were mentoring me to go on and get a better position. It is likely in part a testament to their mentorship that I was able to get this new position after a year at NU.

As a postdoc, my primary role will be researching and writing to turn my dissertation into a book. I will only teach one, semester-long course during the academic year. Postdocs in the humanities are generally understood as a time where you are really able to focus on your own work because the teaching load is relatively light.

Really, with this postdoc, I have been given the wonderful gift of time. Time to work on my book project. Time to spend dreaming of future projects and bigger ideas. Time to really cultivate a sense of what I really want readers to get out of my work. And also, time for writing tiny driver in a way that will not burn me out.

So what does this mean for tiny driver?

The newsletter has been such an important part of my growth and reflection over the past year, so I will definitely continue writing on a weekly basis!

However, the content will likely evolve as I do. There may be less on teaching, as I will be shifting into a primarily writing-focused position. I'll also be based in Cambridge, MA and not Chicago, IL, so you'll no longer be getting glimpses of midwestern city living.

But, I hope that you'll stick around and continue evolving with me. Thank you for reading, and thank you for supporting me on this academic journey. 💗

What I consume.

In the Bookshop:
Currently Reading: Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
On Deck: The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler


For June's book club, we will be reading Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salesses! Thank you to everyone who voted, and feel free to purchase a copy of the book here! Details are below.

Event info:
Date & Time: Tuesday, June 29 @ 5PM PST/8PM EST
Registration Link!
Suggested donation (for those able to donate): $3-20 through Paypal or Venmo (@idyalz)

Item(s) of note.

A pup-date.

Whether Girlie is on the couch or the bed or even the floor, you can bet she wants a belly rub.

As always, thanks so much for reading through, and I'll see you in the next one!

Warmly,
Ida


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