Halfway through the semester...
Walking back to the library from class today, I realized that I am about halfway through the fall semester. I started thinking about what I've learned so far, what progress I've made, and what I have to show for all the time I've spent crammed into the stacks of Norlin Library, wanting quiet (and craving an office of my own).
The first weeks of fall were difficult for me, after a long, quiet summer on campus. As an older student, four years removed from undergraduate life, I have a hard time relating to the individuals I'm in class with. I have a mortgage and a husband, for one thing. There is just a difference between "going to college" and what I'm doing now, in my mind. This is my job - going to class, collaborating with professors, doing research, writing papers. This is what my job will be for the rest of my life, if things go as well as I hope they do, so I'm already settling in and I'm happy about it. But the differences in my interests compared to that of the undergraduates I'm taking classes with took it's toll the first few weeks back. I've had to learn to cope, and one of those ways is by getting to know my professors, as well as the other graduate students in the sociology department here. Since I am basically operating as a graduate student, though I am taking undergrad classes, I really lean on them as my community. It's been great to work more closely with faculty like Stefanie Mollborn and Fred Anderson of the History department this semester, as well. They've been so helpful in guiding me towards academic accomplishment.
I've been loving my classes, especially the opportunity to study food and corporate agriculture. My husband and I have really transformed the way we eat in the last few years, spurred on by familial experiences with autoimmune and eating disorders, and by films like Food, Inc., and books like The Omnivore's Dilemma. I've really loved diving deeper into America's obsession with cheap food, and how this affects farmers, farm workers, and consumers. Particularly, I was struck by the fact that so many of these large corporate food companies are either monopolies or monopsonies in their structures. How is this still allowed to happen? is the question I keep asking myself. Don't we have anti-trust legislation? Didn't Teddy Roosevelt go in to Standard Oil and the like in the early 20th century and break up all these corporate trusts? I'm concerned for the health of myself, my family, and general society as we interact with these companies everyday because we have to eat. I'm concerned that they don't have the health of the people in mind, and that it's all about the profit imperative, instead.
My research assistantship this summer went well - so well, that I decided to continue working with Dr. Reed into the fall. In order to keep working on this project in spite of his sabbatical this year, I was able to set up an independent study with Dr. Fred Anderson of the History department. I can't even begin to tell you how much I am geeking out about working with a world class historian like Dr. Anderson. Under his direction, I will be working on comparing the experiences of the Massachusetts and Virginia colonies during the Cromwellian interregnum, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution. How did these English events play out on the periphery of the empire? I just finished reading Prospero's America by Walter Woodward, an enlightening account of John Winthrop, Jr. and his interests in alchemical philosophy. The final chapters discussed Winthrop's role in securing a colonial charter for Connecticut, and how he was able to finagle England's imperial agenda after the Restoration to keep autonomy for Connecticut, as well as the rest of New England. Books on the docket right now are Colonial Massachusetts: A History by Benjamin Labaree, From Colonial to Provincials by Ned Landsman, and Protestant Empire by Carla Pestana.
Finally, I've been thinking a lot about the future. This is what I do. I get antsy. I want to use what I'm learning now and go out and do something with it. I am itching to get writing. With the help of Stef Mollborn, I'm working on developing a research study of depression at evangelical colleges. I want to know if depression is talked about, if it is more prevalent at Christian colleges, how it is addressed, etc... Personal beliefs aside, I find the faith-based educational model interesting at the college/university level, and especially as these institutions continually come in contact with societal norms or culture that is challenging to their communities, I wonder how they will continue to move forward. I hope not towards polarity, but instead, towards respectful dialogue and engagement in a global conversation.
I've got a lot of trains rolling all at once, that's for sure. But I'm excited and energized by the work, and you can't really ask for much more, can you? I hope these next seven weeks prove to be as fruitful as the first!