When I first began teaching at Florida State College at Jacksonville in 2010, Dr. Wesley Moody was a senior historian who became both my mentor and my friend. Always in a coat and tie, with a conservative, formal approach to dealing with students and teaching, Wes is very much a professor in the classic or traditional sense. He values scholarship, seeing it as essential for high-quality instruction, and so although he has tenure, he nevertheless pushes himself to engage constantly in high levels of scholarly productivity. If one did not know him, that person would never realize just how friendly he can be. He is from north Florida, born and raised, as his southern accent makes clear, and his easy-going style when socializing can be both charming and disarming. He is a top-level historian and his work has won high praise from the likes of James McPherson, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, but he is also not above using the phrase “y’all” in a private conversation. Continue reading
So far as I know, my brother and I are the first in our family to complete our college degrees. My father had spent much of his life as an enlisted man in the U.S. Navy and then had a successful career in the restaurant business before passing away when I was nine years old. My mother was only a high school graduate, but had a love of books and a respect for education that she passed on to her children. Perhaps due to my mother’s influence, although coming from a family with no background in higher education, both my brother and I eventually completed graduate degrees. But this came only after both of us served as enlisted men in the Marine Corps and working a variety of (sometimes dreadful) jobs as civilians. In my mid 20s, I would have never suspected that I would eventually earn a doctorate from the University of Florida and become a college professor, which I see as a vocation rather than a job.
Consequently, I also never envisioned some of the unique opportunities I have had in the last few years as a result of working at FSCJ. Among those unique opportunities, moderating two recent U.S. congressional debates hosted by my college (and its Student Government Association) certainly rank high on any such list. Indeed, recently an excellent team of administrators[i] at my college put together two wonderfully organized debates for the 4th Congressional District’s Republican Primary and the 4th Congressional District General Election. During both debates, I had the opportunity to serve as a co-moderator, along with my highly talented colleague Professor Cynthia Counsil. It was fascinating to be a part of this process and so I want to reflect on those experiences here and the value of such events for the college community and our students. Continue reading
Image above: Standing on the walls of Acre (“Akko”) in northern Israel, July 2016.
Over the next week or two, I will be turning my thoughts to the coming semester, with classes starting soon. I am happy to be getting back to teaching, as I generally enjoy it very much (my occasional complaints on Facebook aside), but I am also grateful to Florida State College at Jacksonville for granting me a twelve-month sabbatical over the past year, which I have tried to make as productive as possible. While many academics are familiar with the sabbatical process, I have learned few of my friends outside academia, or even many graduate students, understand it. Since I also assume I will need to account for my time spent during the sabbatical during a future evaluation for the college, I want to reflect here on the topic, how it works, and what I was able to accomplish as a result of it. Particularly in light of some of the good spirited teasing I have received from old friends (non-academics) worried about how their tax dollars were being spent as a result.