Sunday, May 16, 2010

A good day to be a professor...

Friday was a strange day, the kind I usually have to fight to not see as a "waste" because none of "my" work could be done...

In the morning I drove to Dearborn to meet up with my Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL) students and the girls they mentor at school in SW Detroit. I wasn't actually supposed to do anything other than be there when the girls came on this field trip to the university, but I enjoyed meeting the girls and had a lovely chat with them as I tagged along with to the Environmental Interpretative Center on the grounds of the old Henry Ford Estate. Only two of the nine girls who were supposed to come had made it -- sickness and a lack of permission slips kept the others away. This was a great disappointment to my students, but they powered through (the only option!). They had arranged a great day for the girls and obviously had put much effort into making the program work over the last term. I had a great time doing the pond study (cool critters living in there!) and I was mighty proud of my people!

Task number two was to hop in the car and drive to UM-Flint in time to see a student from my Urban and Regional Studies seminar this fall present the work her team had done with the Fair Housing Center of Metro Detroit. Even though this was just an undergraduate research conference, she was beyond nervous. I'd tried to talk her down via e-mail in the days leading up to it, but she called me an hour before the presentation in a full-on panic. For half an hour, I went through it with her again and reminded her that she knew her material, that she had the presentation, that she could do this. She was with another student of mine who is in WILL and was also in the seminar, so I knew she had some immediate moral support, but that support was coming from a woman who is, herself, terrified of public speaking (I learned this two weeks ago when she melted down at the Women and Gender Studies luncheon -- we'll be working on that next year...). Anyway, I got there, walked her around, helped her load her powerpoint, and tried to keep her calm. When it was her turn to talk, I was the nervous one. I really didn't know if she would be able to pull it off or if her nerves would get the better of her.

Once up there, she fluffed for a moment, then looked at the audience, smiled genuinely, introduced herself... and then talked (not read!) a wonderful presentation. She paused in a couple of places as she processed where to go next, but always came back quickly and on target. It was wonderful. Her passion on the issue (that only really developed through her research) came through and she won over some key audience members... including the dean of our college. She did a great job with the questions too and I managed to hold my tongue other than to offer her one prompt (she seemed greatly relieved). I'm proud of her and, more importantly, she was proud of herself. See that smile on her face as she gets a certificate from the panel moderator?

Oh yes, it was a good day that made the stress of two particularly stressful parts of my job from the last year (teaching a community-based research seminar for the first time and directing the WILL program) very much worth it.

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