How I Spent My Summer: Part 2

Editors’ note: We asked some English Department faculty members to share one, or some, of their summer adventures — academic or otherwise. Here’s Part 2 (of 2), answering the age-old essay prompt: “How did you spend your summer vacation?”

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The K-State contingent at the Children’s Literature Association Conference, June 2018.

At the end of June, a record number of K-State English faculty, current graduate students, and alumni presented at the Children’s Literature Association Conference, held this year in San Antonio. The photo captures seventeen of the eighteen in attendance at the 2018 conference — and that number is a testament to the success of our MA Track in Children’s Literature, which began in 2006.

It’s always exciting to introduce current and former graduate students to colleagues from other institutions, but it’s also fun to connect alumni from different years in the M.A. program. Elizabeth Jett Williams Bell (MA ’10), ABD for her Ph.D. at Illinois State University and teaching at Heartland Community College, was able to meet Roxana Loza (MA ’17), who is entering in her second year of her Ph.D. at UT Austin. Cat Williams (MA ’18), starting her first year at UConn for her Ph.D., met Becca Rowe (MA ’16), who is entering the third year of her Ph.D. at the same university.

Not all of our graduate students studying children’s and young adult literature choose a career path in academia right after the M.A. in English at Kansas State. In July, for instance, Phil Nel and I had the pleasure of visiting Orlando Dos Reis (MA ’13) in New York where he works as an editor for Scholastic. ChLA, though, has become a gathering place for K-Staters each summer, and our annual photo is a highlight of the conference.

Proposals are due October 15 for the 2019 conference in Indianapolis, and the theme is “Activism and Empathy”: See you there!

Karin Westman, Associate Professor and Department Head

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I spent much of my first Little Apple summer exploring Manhattan by bicycle. This included daily rides to the city pool, Aggieville, downtown, and several final Friday group rides with #bikeMHK.

I also went on a few long countryside rides, which made me realize that Kansas does, in fact, have hills. My favorite summer ride was a  24-mile cycle to and from the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Friends and I left at 6 a.m. to avoid the sweltering July sun and were able to make it back in time to grab breakfast at The Chef before the crowds arrived — a successful journey.

Now that summer is over, most of my bike rides involve dodging squirrels as I commute to campus.

— Ania Payne, Instructor

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“Rose” from the collection “Grown Up Flowers” by PLAYLAB, INC. (2018), hosted by The Avenue of the Americas Association & Rockefeller Group, 1221 Sixth Ave, NYC. July 2018.

“Being a professor means you get the summers off!”
­ frequently expressed misunderstanding

“HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa…. And no.”
­ response from professors to this misunderstanding

Writing of the work I did this summer risks losing an (admittedly small) audience after this first sentence. But making academic labor visible helps correct the common (and false) impression that professors do not work in the summers.

As is true of many jobs today, there is no clear boundary between work and not-work. Technology allows us to bring work with us everywhere, and creates the expectation that we do just that. Also, academic labor doesn’t really break down into discreet parts. Professors think, write and edit (articles, books, grant proposals, letters of recommendation, committee reports), evaluate manuscripts (of articles and books), prepare for class and grade student papers where and when we find the time.

Though it violates the American belief that everyone work all the time (and must feel guilty if they do not), I have been making an effort to do less — and to actually take some time to spend with friends and family.

So, in sum, I had a great summer — busy, productive, interesting. I even managed a healthier balance of labor and leisure, though should still strive for more of the latter. I hope you all enjoyed your summers and are having an invigorating fall semester, and that you’re able to manage the right combination of hard work and necessary rest.

[To read Phil Nel’s complete entry, visit his blog.]

Phil Nel, University Distinguished Professor

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