After being unemployed for a year, I accepted a lecturer position at Texas A&M University-College Station last summer for the Fall of 2018. After writing my last article, I was down to two jobs, one in Idaho and one in College Station. After a lot of thought, my wife and I decided I would take the A&M position and commute.
Learning to Whoop!
For those who are unfamiliar with academia, a lecturer position is where a professor teaches courses only and is not responsible for scholarship or academic program building. This position opened the door for me to demonstrate my teaching prowess and my ability to work collaboratively with new colleagues. Within 5 weeks of being hired, I was approached to begin developing a New Media Lab initiative as well as to envision how new media could be integrated into the Department of Communication. Furthermore, I was asked if I would be interested in taking a position as an Associate Professor of Practice. I was so honored and taken aback. After enduring several arduous ordeals throughout my academic career, it was surreal to have such an offer come my way. The faculty and administration have been phenomenal..not perfect (no place is perfect), but phenomenal nonetheless. My department places a large emphasis on diversity and inclusion and has renowned scholars within the program who exude these values in addition to studying them.
I taught fall courses, inviting Convergent Media Collective members to come and give lectures. Guest lecturers Jonathan Guajardo and Kaye Cruz both gave stellar presentations and having such stellar friends come and present real world talks to the students was awesome.
Furthermore, I was asked to apply for an Instructional Technology Services Innovation Grant in the late Fall of 2018. I was awarded the grant in February of 2019, which consists of a $10,000 dollar award for equipment purchases to develop innovative course curriculum.
A Balancing Act
Despite all my successes, I did face several hardships along the way. Due to the short notice of the position, my wife and I had to face the everyday challenges of living in two separate cities. I lived in a one-bedroom efficiency close to the university during the week which had its fair share of issues and I found myself missing my wife and child more and more each day. Indeed, it was a super tough position, both for her and I. In the Spring, Jojo would begin to notice my frequent absences from the home environment. In an attempt to balance out the situation, JoJo would help me operate Dreamonoid’s on the weekends and we would FaceTime a lot during the week.
Despite these hardships, I did find myself making the best of my situation. I found places to ride my bike in the Bryan-College Station area, as well as a great lifting gym called Brazos Valley Barbell. In addition, I found coffee shops such as The Village in Bryan, TX where I could co-work. I even was able to make an awesome set of new friends with my fellow lecturer colleagues. They were so inviting and sincere, inviting me to Trivia night every week.
This was definitely a big departure from my previous academic experience at UIW. In San Antonio, I kept visiting Armadillo Boulders climbing gym with my family as well as riding the Mission Trail as often as I could. Also durning this time I would meet up with local San Antonio colleagues and mentors like Nick Longo, Luis Martinez, Diego Bernal, Stan Renard, Susan Price, and many others who helped me so much through this process.
Great Students Make For A Great Job
In the spring I began holding ACTLab/CMC style office hours and meet ups with students coming to work on and ideate about creative projects. Maxwell Burgess, a student of mine, was one of the first students to embrace the CMC/ACTLab mentality of “Make Stuff.” We worked on a number creative projects together, even formed an impromptu band called “The Banters.” We also have a yet to be released video about Mario Tennis….
Teaching A&M students was not only a pleasure, but an honor. Yes lots of UT/A&M jokes were cracked, but when the dust settled, it was amazing to see their passions come to life through their projects. I have to admit, it was also an amazing feeling to know my pedagogical practices translated well at A&M. Not only did they translate well, they took on their own A&M flavor. As some of you may know, I tell my students to “take their passion, a topic, a skill/theory set and mix them all together to Make Stuff.”
The student’s passions varied and covered so many great topics. I am happy to include some highlights here in this article! Whether it was the history of their family business, addressing suicide and mental health or migrant farm working, I was amazed at how they expressed themselves. Here are just a few:
Coming Up Next
This summer I, along with my family, will be moving to College Station where I will teach summer school and in the Fall my wife will begin teaching at Bryan ISD and I will continue in the Department of Communication. My colleague, Patrick Burkart Ph.D., and I will be furnishing and building out a New Media/Gaming Lab over the summer and fall. The goal is to develop a space for students to ideate, create and iterate their projects. So stay tuned for an article just about that.
I am really looking forward to future ACTLab/CMC events at A&M and seeing the cross collaborative phenomenon that is Make Stuff, Take Risks and Be Awesome.
Keeping it Real at A&M
And if you made it this far, I will admit that I have found an overtone of racism in the greater Bryan-College Station area, as well as on campus. As stated, at the beginning diversity and inclusion is something that my colleagues (and students) exude and study. However beyond that, I do admit to seeing my fair share of confederate flags on cars and being sold on the side of the road. Our department experienced graduate students being followed home and harassed for their religious background and they sadly ended up leaving because of it. I also had an Aggie friend of mine report to me his cousin who attends A&M was harassed on campus due to her ethnicity. Lastly one of my colleagues left the semester early after being harassed.
I take these experiences, like all my experiences, to heart. My colleagues Professor Ramasubramanian and Professor Wolfe are leading research into these issues and have been for years. I was honored to participate in a “difficult dialog” workshop they hosted this spring where these tensions were directly discussed and addressed. I came away with great respect for this research and the journey to finding a resolve to the lived reality of being geographically located in a high racial tension environment. Moving my family into this environment isn’t taken lightly, but as many of you know and if you read my last article, you will see I have applied in San Antonio and afar without any other options. I also know that to some extent any where you move in America there will be racial tension and discrimination, I will always do my best to be part of the solution.
I Can’t Thank Everyone Enough
I am proud to say that as I write this in mid-May, I have been notified that my promotion has indeed been processed and I will begin as an Associate Instructional Professor at Texas A&M-College Station this Fall. I cannot thank everyone who has believed in and supported me enough through these years. Sticking to one’s convictions when the chips are down and having the support of loved ones is what has gotten me through all the struggles I’ve faced. When I strove to become a radical academic who wanted to bring 21st century teaching into the collegiate realm, I never thought I would be test so thoroughly, especially when losing a student as part of the process. My wife and I gave our child the middle name Cameron, so we will never forget the impact my student Cameron Redus had on our lives and I am proud to this day of him and all he accomplished the short time he was alive.