Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Because the American studies program here is small (about 80 majors, I think, and 7.5 FTE faculty plus a couple of lecturers), it's common to have students in my classes twice, and sometimes three times. Usually it's a coincidence, but I do have students who seek out my courses because I'm the one teaching them. That's flattering. I joke with my students that I have a "cult following" in my repeat students, and this quarter that seems to be especially accurate. I have many students repeating a course they took with me in the spring--last time it was on the 1890s, and this time it's the 1950s, so they're allowed to do that. But there are lots of other wonderful courses, and I want to encourage them to experience as many of the faculty as possible because the professors here are excellent teachers who really care about student learning. It feels kind of small liberal arts collegial even though it's an enormous university.

Anyhow, today a student whom I met yesterday in my 1950s class added my intro class. Ends up she was so impressed by the first day of the 1950s class that she's going to change her major from sociology to American studies and take as many American studies courses as she can. She told me she asked other students in the class about American studies and they all were effusive about the program, so she's very excited. She's frighteningly enthusiastic and obviously bright, and she stands out in part because she's an articulate and sharply dressed New Yorker in a sea of casual Northern Californians.

American studies is the kind of major students stumble into; very few students enter this university declaring American studies. It's really magical when a student who doesn't enjoy his or her major "clicks" with the American Studies program here. And we end up with some really engaged, bright, and delightfully quirky students. Seeing students find their academic match in American studies makes me very happy, as if I really am some kind of junior deputy cult leader.

If I stay in academia, I hope I find another compound just like this one.


Anonymous said...

I still want to come up and sit in on one of your classes!

Breena Ronan said...

If only your cult following helped with the job search! Put that on your CV.