GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Author Archive

The Kids on Mary Drive

In Uncategorized on 2016/02/06 at 00:48

Dear Mayor Weaver,

When I saw the map in the New York Times this week, I felt compelled to find out where I had lived from birth to five. I knew that I had lived in a trailer park near Dort Highway and that I had lived on Mary Drive (yes, the little street in our trailer park was named after me and it still bears the same name. The trailer park had changed owners just as I was arriving on this planet and the owner had three streets to name. Completely by chance, he only had two daughters. Timing is everything: a lesson learned on day one, literally.)

Well, I found it and it is in the 61% zone – the highest density of polluted water – most likely the poorest part of Flint.

I escaped – and moved from deep urban trailer-park poverty to an isolated, newly built, working-class subdivision in a small town 20 minutes from Flint – too small and rural to be called a suburb. And from there, to East Lansing, Michigan State, and a BS in Psychology.

In 1989 I moved to Boston and I’ve never looked back.

I’ve felt immense and overwhelming guilt at “getting out” but I’ve never looked back. I’ve felt lucky, very lucky. I still feel lucky and grateful and relieved that my 10 year old son didn’t grow up drinking Flint water and with that relief comes even more guilt. I try to assuage my guilt by giving my time, energy, and charitable donations to my Roxbury neighborhood in Boston but I have never given to Flint.

I think it’s time for me to look back.
I think it’s time for me to do something for the kids on Mary Drive.

Can we talk?

Mary Churchill

Meet Me in St. Louis: #NAFSA13

In Uncategorized on 2014/02/04 at 03:57

This is my inaugural trip to St. Louis – my first time in Missouri, in the heart of the Midwest of the US. Fitting that it is for NAFSA, the country’s largest annual international education conference.  NAFSA 2013 has taken downtown St. Louis by storm with over 8,000 attendees from more than 120 countries. If you work in international education, this is the place to be.

Last night’s Opening Plenary Address was given by none other than Kofi Annan, Noble Peace Laureate and former Secretary-General of the United Nations. The room was packed and it was an inspiring presentation. He urged us all to do more, to listen to young people, to engage, to be global citizens. For the most part, the audience was captivated. NAFSA 2013 is an exciting place to be. International educators are generally pretty optimistic folks, usually focusing on the future and the potential for what could be.

I will be here through Friday morning tweeting and blogging about #NAFSA13. I would love to connect with readers and potential guest bloggers. You can connect with me on Twitter @mary_churchill or through NAFSA’s very impressive on-site Conference Connection Message Center.

So, if you are one of the 8,000+, why don’t you meet me in St. Louis!

UVenus 2012 Edublogs Awards Nominations

In Uncategorized on 2012/11/28 at 01:25
 Our writers have nominated the following blogs, bloggers, learning tools, tweeters, hashtags, etc. for the 2012 Edublogs Awards:
  • Best open PD / unconference / webinar series

Life Lessons From Patti Smith

In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/16 at 22:35
Mary Churchill, writing from Boston, Massachusetts in the US. 
I finished reading Just Kids last night – Patti Smith’s incredible memorial to her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I am grateful that she let me into her world and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the social nature of creativity.
Smith’s working-class voice and sensibility made for a down-to-earth exploration of friendship, love, art, creativity, poverty, inspiration, and community-building. She did a fantastic job of illustrating the link between how the work we are able to do is directly related to the type of community we build and live within, and the people we choose to interact with.  (This was my read of the book; others may focus more on the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll).

I think there are several relevant lessons from Just Kids.

First – WORK HARD – Smith and Mapplethorpe were obsessed with their creative work: drawing, painting, making collages and altars, writing poetry, creating their daily costumes. Although Smith’s depiction may be a bit romanticized, it is not a stretch to see this type of creative obsession in some of our students and fellow faculty members. I appreciate the fact that she does her part to debunk the genius paradigm.

Second – BUILD COMMUNITY – Part of building upon your past mistakes and successes requires creating community; solo creative work takes its toll. When most of the people you interact with don’t get it and are constantly questioning why you waste your time painting, writing poetry, writing books, or studying obscure literary movements, it is very difficult to continue to push yourself. Smith thoughtfully shows the reader how different creative communities were crucial to her evolution as an artist. From this retrospective view, she carefully describes those who helped her, pushed her, encouraged her, inspired her and also, those who turned her off and discouraged her. She was wise to avoid the nay-sayers and to intentionally build a community of muses, coaches, and supporters. Ideally, our classrooms and departments would represent a space where we could encourage a collaborative and supportive environment, an incubator of sorts.

Third – SEIZE OPPORTUNITIES – In the 60’s/70’s, in Smith’s life, this involved being at the right place at the right time – the Chelsea Hotel, CBGB’s, the Factory, Max’s – all of this built on community. It was about being in conversations with people who could push her ideas and her art but who could also offer her opportunities: roles in films and plays, performances at clubs, and funding for her (ad)ventures. Similar conversations happen across our campuses – how do we bring the right people together in discussions that create opportunities for students and professors? How do we encourage our students and faculty members to take creative risks and try out new ideas?

For the sake of brevity in this blog post, I’d like to focus on the second lesson and our roles in building community as a space to facilitate hard work and opportunities. How can we apply Smith’s lessons about the importance of community to the world of higher education?

While the majority of the scholarship on the socializing aspects of higher education has focused on students, much of it applies to faculty as well. (See Stevens, Armstrong, and Arum (2008) on college campuses as “incubators” that shape our social experiences). It is important for a professor to keep in mind as she manages her class, but it is equally important for a chair or dean to realize as she leads her department or college.  We are creating a community that is, hopefully, a creative and nurturing community.

Through sheer force of personality and luck, Smith and Mapplethorpe worked incredibly hard to create an incubator for their creativity. This is what happens in our classrooms, our departments, our dorms; while the student services folks have always understood this, academics have been less intentional about building community and incubating creativity. Some of us do it very well and some of us fail miserably.

Many academics find community through their professional societies and this can have severe limits on creativity: disciplines are interested in maintaining boundaries and gate-keeping within societies is rampant; some societies intentionally facilitate competition over collaboration and facilitate an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust; and too many of the same types of people thinking the same types of thoughts can be stultifying rather than inspiring. The same can be said for departments and colleges within larger universities.  The life of the mind requires inspirational muses, supportive cheerleaders, and coaches who will push us. Creating an incubator that facilitates building this type of community is challenging. Many of us choose to create this type of environment in writing groups outside of our institutions and others find validation for their work in their local communities.

If Smith and Mapplethorpe had been “just kids” in 2012, they probably would be going to college this fall and it is likely that much of their creative work would be happening in online communities. This is where I am witnessing obsessive hard work, intentional community building, and entrepreneurial opportunity seizing.

The next Patti Smith may be a new student in your class this semester or a new faculty member in your department – how do you support their creative work and where do you find support for your own work?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

Further Updates From #ASA2012: Men’s Friendships, NCLB, and Outputs

In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/08 at 00:55

Mary Churchill, writing from Denver, Colorado in the US. 

One of the great things about the ASA Annual meetings is the Film/Video Screenings. While I missed the one showing of Jessica Valenti’s The Purity Myth, I did get to catch Erik Santiago’s Five Friends, which was very moving. The film focuses on male friendships and centers on a 65-year old man named Hank. (While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of my husband and 7-year old son who were participating in a Father/Son weekend at a boy’s camp on Squam Lake in NH (aka the On Golden Pond lake)).

On Friday, I had attended a presentation by Rachel Dwyer (Ohio State) on Gender, Debt, and Dropping Out of College and the topic of male college drop-out rates was one that interested many of us in the audience. Although Dwyer didn’t mentioned peer support groups in her presentation, Santiago’s film made me wonder what role the lack of these groups may play in retention of male college students. In my work with Ph.D. students (particularly at the dissertation stage), I have found peer writing groups to be a crucial component of retention and completion. (UVenus writer Liana Silva has a recent post on this at her blog, Sounding Out). If, as Santiago suggests, many men struggle to build and maintain meaningful intimate relationships with male friends, this impacts their ability to connect to a supportive peer group. (as the mother of a boy, I think about this quite a bit).

After a fantastic meeting with UVenus writer, Casey Brienza, I headed over to the Colorado Convention Center for a panel on Accountability Policies and Student Achievement. Deep into several No Child Left Behind (NCLB) presentations, I was enviously reading Sara Goldrick-Rab’s tweets on the Wendy Espeland’s presentation – Valuing Education: Why Media Rankings Rankle Higher Education – on one of my favorite topics, college rankings! (how had I missed this in the 350 page program guide!? For one, it wasn’t in a Sociology of Education session – perhaps I will write a post on the pros and cons of sections…). Luckily I tuned back into my panel just in time to catch Emily Meanwell’s (Indiana) presentation on Federal Education Policy and Inequality. Meanwell analyzed congressional hearings from 1965 and 2001 to look at the shift from inputs in 1965 (family income, inequality) and a focus on compensation to a shift to outputs in 2001 (scores, achievement gaps ) and a focus on quantification. In 1965, impoverished parents were identified as the problem and schools were presented as the solution. By 2001, the focus had shifted and failing schools were called out as the problem with parents holding schools accountable as the solution. Obviously, both of these scenarios are problematic and reality is a lot more nuanced – we need to consider both inputs and outputs. Thinking about higher ed, I think of a shift in framing college as a solution/path to the middle class to framing college as a waste of time and money and the intense focus on the link between college degree and job attainment.

After a panel of NCLB, I went on to more NCLB at Building a Better K-12 Education System. I couldn’t stay for all of this but I did stay long enough to hear Aaron Pallas (Columbia) talk about teacher evaluations and the public dissemination of those evaluations. This public release has the effect of presenting teacher quality (from highly effective to ineffective) as a commodity exchanged on the market.

I instantly thought of my son and the upcoming school year. What if I knew the rankings of the two second-grade teachers…wouldn’t I fight for the higher ranked teacher? Especially if the lower ranked teacher had been labeled ineffective? Would I threaten to leave the school if I couldn’t get him out of the ineffective teacher’s class? Would they move him to the other teacher’s class? Who would be left in the ineffective teacher’s class? The children of the parents who didn’t know about the evaluations and/or didn’t fight to have their children moved?

What if we did this in higher education? What if we ranked professors based on their outputs? If all of our students took standardized tests at the end of each semester – how would this change the way we teach? Who we teach? Who we recruit to our classes? Who we discourage from taking out classes?

Have you experienced something like this? If you thought you would be promoted or fired based on these outputs, how would it change your behavior?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed


In Happy Mondays on 2012/09/08 at 00:43
Mary Churchill, writing from Denver, Colorado in the US. 

I’m at the American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in Denver through Monday and I’ll be writing up short dispatches and posting them here at UVenus.

Liminality  -I am in a funky space located somewhere between a sociologist and a member of the press. I’ve been attending/presenting at ASA since the late 90’s and this time, I am representing UVenus and Inside Higher Ed. It’s a strange feeling, a space of watching and observing rather than participating. I’ll write more on this as the weekend progresses.

I received my Ph.D. in 2004 and, after a short stint as a faculty member, took a dean position and dove into administration.  At ASA2010 in Atlanta, I presented two papers – one in Sociology of Culture (based on my dissertation research) and one in Sociology of Education (based on my administrative work). That was also a time of straddling two worlds: academic and administrator.  I was very much aware of watching faculty members at work, watching the boundaries of a discipline being actively maintained, watching graduate students being indoctrinated into the discipline through the mechanizations of a professional society.  As an administrator, I was aware of how this helps faculty become known entities in their worlds and increases their status. I was also aware of how this takes them away from their institutions, departments, students. It is not a bad tension but it is a place of push and pull.

Writing for UVenus, I can’t help but think of our writers and readers as I attend sessions, read the Twitter feeds, and watch the interactions. The Twitter feed is dominated by the voices of PhD students and early-career faculty – resisting the indoctrination and professionalization while realizing that “success” requires some sort of acquiescence.  I’d like to hear more from you in the comments on the good and bad of attending conferences.

I attended a fantastic panel on Inequalities in College Access and Completion yesterday afternoon and I’ve asked a couple of the presenters for their papers.  I’m hoping to write a more substantive post on this topic later this weekend. One important issue that came up at the end of the series of presentations was around the obligation of an academic to the people she studies. Do we prioritize the “purity” of our research over the lives of those we study or vice versa? For me, this comes back to one of my favorite topics – the role of academics with regards to public engagement.

Stay tuned for more and follow the Twitter chat at #ASA2012.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

What’s New at University of Venus? 14 July 2012

In Announcements on 2012/08/14 at 02:15
What’s New at UVenus:
  • Denise Horn at University of Venus with Academic stress: reaching the end of an unbalanced semester (Guardian UK).
  • Liana Silva at University of Venus with  Academic blogging: minority scholars cannot afford to be silent (Guardian UK).

What’s New With Our Writers:

  • Janni Aragon was interviewed by CTV News regarding the BBQ Chip Bandits in Victoria, BC;  CBC All Points West about the recent US Supreme Court decisions; and by the Times Colonist about social media and politics.
  • Mary Churchill was nominated to the board of Dudley Main Streets of Boston Main Streets, invited as a member of Boston City Council’s working group on education, and asked to join the advisory group for the re-design of her local neighborhood branch of the Boston Public Library.

Our Writers At Other Blogs:

Coming Up:

  • Don’t miss the next #Femlead Twitter chat, led by Brenda Bethman, on Tuesday, July 17, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT.
  • Lee Skallerup Bessette’s MLA Panel was selected to be a part of the President’s Theme. You can read the panel proposal/description here. Hope to see you in Boston in January!

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

What’s New at University of Venus? 30 June 2012

In Announcements on 2012/07/25 at 00:21
What’s New at UVenus:

●     Sarah Emily Duff for University of Venus at The Guardian with Could ebooks be the future for university libraries?

●     If you missed the #Femlead Twitter chat, on summer plans and productivity, led by Brenda Bethman (@brendabethman) on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT, you can read the archive of the conversation here.

What’s New With Our Writers:

●        Rosalie Arcala Hall attended the Asian Public Intellectual Regional Project assessment team meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia on 1-4 June and the culminating event in Bangkok, Thailand on 12-17 June. She chairs the assessment team, which spearheaded the reflection seminar on the regional project. The Bangkok event wraps up the 3-year regional project for which Rosalie participated as Philippine working group leader and foreign participant to the site visit in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

●        Rosalie Arcala Hall just got word that two collaborative projects she was invited to join in were approved for implementation in 2012: water governance under the UP System Emerging Interdisciplinary Research Grant and S.E.R.V.E., a community service project in Panay under the US State Department Alumni Fund.

●        Janine Utell led the inaugural #yearofulysses Twitter livechat on James Joyce’s Ulysses as part of the Modernist Versions Project (led by the University of Victoria). Check out the Storify here; read a lovely piece by fellow UVenus writer Lee Skallerup on her blog College Ready Writing here.

●        Bonnie Stewart is developing and launching a new, intensive UPEI Masters in Education course entitled Building a Culture for Reading in a Digital Age.


Our Writers At Other Blogs:

●        At her blog Speculative Diction, Melonie Fullick wrote a response to the Guardian article “Academia, stressful? Not for me!”, called “Bursting a bubbleprivilege and access to the academic life”.

●        Bonnie Stewart conducted a Shakespearean post-mortem analysis on her dead blog, and offered a *brief* history of reading and culture in her longest blog post ever.


Coming Up:

●     Don’t miss the next #Femlead Twitter chat, led by Curt Rice, on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 from 2-3pm EDT.

●     Rosalie Arcala Hall will present two papers (on asymmetric warfare and women in the force) at the International Sociological Association Research Committee 01 Interim Conference in Maribor, Slovenia on 08-12 July.  Her travel is supported by the UP Visayas and UP System Research Dissemination Grants.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

What’s New at University of Venus? 16 June 2012

In Announcements on 2012/06/29 at 22:39
 What’s New at UVenus:

●        Janni Aragon at University of Venus at The Guardian with We should be paying more attention to the emotional labour of teaching.

●        If you missed the #Femlead Twitter chat, on the rewards and challenges of Ph.D.s choosing an administrative career path, led by Shannan Palma (@shannanpalma) on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT, you can read the archive of the conversation here.

What’s New With Our Writers:

●        Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe joined The Atlantic’s Yoni AppelbaumThe Newberry Library’s Christopher Cantwell, and Patheos John Fea in a roundtable discussion about “The Perils and Promise of Popular History in a Digital Age” at  The Historical Society’s 2012  conference.

●        Bonnie Stewart presented on Massive Open Online Courses and the New Game of Education at UPEI’s Graduate Research Day.

●        Janni Aragon participated in a live chat about Emotional Labour in Higher Education.  Janni also participated in a Mentoring Cafe about Working with Graduate Students at the Canadian Political Science Association Conference at Edmonton, Alberta and met with the 2013 Program Committee for the Canadian Political Science Association, which will take place at the University of Victoria where Janni will be the local site host.


Our Writers At Other Blogs:

●        Melonie Fullick wrote about writing and its strange rituals and discussed the Gates Foundation and the influence of large “venture philanthropies” on education research and policy, at her blog Speculative Diction.

●        Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe explored the connections between “May and Memory,” evaluated her life as a “Party Girl,” shared  her annual tribute to “Pomp and Circumstances,” and celebrated “Father Time.”

●        Bonnie Stewart bid farewell to six+ years of blogging at, and advocated pretty little man-dresses for Dad.

●        Janni Aragon blogged about Tips for the #CPSA and Being a Feminist.



Coming Up:

●        Don’t miss the next #Femlead Twitter chat on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed

What’s New at University of Venus? 2 June 2012

In Announcements on 2012/06/06 at 05:05
What’s New at UVenus:

●        Curt Rice at University of Venus at The Guardian with Why Women Leave Academia and Why Universities Should Be Worried.

●        If you missed the #Femlead Twitter chat, on Research and Writing as Leadership, led by Liana Silva (@literarychica) on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT, you can read the archive of the conversation here.


What’s New With Our Writers:

●        Melonie Fullick attended and presented  at Canada’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, held this year in Waterloo, Ontario. Her two presentations, for the Canadian Communications Association, were on journalism ethics (co-written and presented with Maija Saari) and media coverage of university education in Canada.

●        Sarah Emily Duff participated in a live chat on international student mobility on the Guardian Higher Education Network’s blog.

●        Afshan Jafar’s TEDx talk on “Progress and Women’s Bodies” can be found here.

●        Bonnie Stewart presented – and met Melonie & Lee in person! – at Canada’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciencesin Waterloo Ontario. She spoke to the Society for Digital Humanities on Massive Open Online Courses and their implications for higher education. She also appeared in Charlottetown on a PEI Writers’ Guild panel about writing and monetization.

●        Janni Aragon organized three professional development talks for the Academic Women’s Caucus. One talk dealt with how the University of British Columbia women faculty responded to findings that demonstrated a gender salary differential and the next two talks centred around choices and balance. Janni took notes and hopes to heed the speaker’s astute advice! Janni is also in the planning stages of organizing Mentoring Cafes for undergraduates. She’s excited and will keep readers posted.

●        Janine Utell appeared on the Guardian Higher Education Network talking about leadership in highered (highlights from a live chat held on 21 March 2012).


Our Writers At Other Blogs:

●        Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe wished everyone Happy Mother’s Day and shared the Mystery of the Bunbeg Mainer.

●        Melonie Fullick (at Speculative Diction blog)  wrote about the Canadian government’s cuts to education research, and discussed the implications of two new legal decisions for Canadian universities.

●        Bonnie Stewart shared information on living organ donation, and working from home prompted her to write Care & Feeding of Networked HumansA Primer.

●        Janni Aragon  explained why she broke up with Four Square and  weighed in with a review of the movie Battleship.


Coming Up:

●        Don’t miss the next #Femlead Twitter chat, on the rewards and challenges of Ph.D.s choosing an administrative career path, led by Shannan Palma (@shannanpalma) on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 from 2-230pm EDT.

●        Sarah Emily Duff will be attending and presenting at the Colonial Girlhood/Colonial Girls Conference at the University of Melbourne in June. Her paper discusses attitudes towards working-class girls in late-Victorian Cape Town.

●        Janine Utell will be heading up to Brown University in Providence, RI for the annual meeting of the Space Between (14-16 June), where she’ll be speaking on Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland.  And, on June 8, she’ll be doing an informal talk at Philadelphia’s Plays and Players on Tom Stoppard’s Travesties and James Joyce.


This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed