Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday, October 13, 2013

“This isn’t goodbye.”  I was slated to be the next president of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Program, the national organization of academic programs like my Master of Liberal Studies program, but yesterday at this year’s conference in Chicago, there I was resigning from the board because of my change of responsibilities at USC. 

Over the past seven years, I have come to truly enjoy my work in this association.  After every directors’ workshop, I brought home ideas, tips, and best practices to implement in my program.  Presenters at each conference bent my mind in new ways: a civil rights colleague of Martin Luther King in Memphis, the U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins in Orlando, Michael Powell of Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, the Akwaaba Quartet performing Ghanaian highlife music here in Chicago.  And I always looked forward to the conference excursions and impromptu short adventures:  water-taxi’ing over to Granville Island in Vancouver, visiting the Tiffany museum in Winter Park, seeing the salmon running in the Columbia River Gorge, and the taking the Chicago Architectural Foundation river tour have to rank among my top favorites. 

Most of all, I have appreciated the friends I have made among the other directors, especially those whom I have worked to present the West coast symposium for our collective students, and those with whom I have served on the board.  By and large, we share backgrounds in the humanities, with a few in the social sciences, and an occasional scientist in the mix (come to think of it, they’ve been physicists. . . .hmmmm).  During breakfast, lunch, or dinner conversations, early-morning or late-afternoon walks, late-night talks, and subway rides back to the airport, we’ve commiserated over institutional politics, celebrated family and professional accomplishments, mourned each other’s losses.  It happened to be during the time my USC MLS program was undergoing the AGLSP full member review process, akin to accreditation, that I mentioned to our external reviewer, the director from Stanford, how I “keep having to go back for more blood tests” because each blood test would indicate something not quite right.  Perhaps because she felt she was in at the ground level with me long before we knew it was cancer, she always takes me aside to ask me how I’m really doing. 

So there we were, after the conclusion of the business meeting, the representatives from Stanford, Duke, Skidmore College, Reed College, Widener University, hugging me one more time and insisting this wasn’t goodbye.  As happy I am with my new position and glad of it, leaving the AGLSP and leaving the responsibilities of MLS to someone else have been the hardest part of saying “yes” to the new job.  I was glad that one of them kept repeating, “This can’t be goodbye.”  

This past week in Chicago was unseasonably sunny and warm, and every local speaker took credit for arranging the uncharacteristically nice weather for us visitors.  But just as I got to O’Hare for the flight home, a thunderstorm rolled in, and we flew out in afternoon darkness and pelting rain.  Like the Chicago fall sunshine, I guess all good stints must come to an end.  But I do hope to see these colleagues again sometime, just as Chicagoans go into fall, hoping again for the return of the warmth of the sun. 

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