Well…clearly I haven’t been writing

I thought that by putting in deadlines in my previous post that I would be able to hold myself accountable to blog. Clearly that was not as successful as I hoped.

Blogging like any other type of writing takes time and this semester has been rather busy. I chaired a search committee the 2016-2017 academic year and search duties came into full swing this earlier in the second semester of the year. And, I underwent my third year review in February. I also coordinated the Kutsche Office of Local History Annual Local History Roundtable in March, where we had Bich Minh (Beth) Nguyen serve as the keynote speaker. My good friend and colleague Adrienne Winans, assistant professor at Utah Valley University, and I also announced our call for papers for a special issue of Feminist Teacher. This is really only a snapshot of what kept me from writing. It doesn’t account for the fact that I have been trying to carve out time with my family and for self care.

I do want to keep my commitment to blogging about my experience compiling my third year review binder and lessons learned from my first months in my new position. My experience at HILT 2016 will be in a condensed post where I also discuss facilitating a workshop at DH@Guelph in May.

Hello, again.

Welcome to 2017.

2016 did not see me blogging. At least, I was not blogging on my personal blog. In fact, in the one instance that I did blog, it was on adoption-related issues and appeared on The Lost Daughters where I am a contributor. For those of you interested in my posts concerning adoption, please note that these posts will now be featured primarily on The Lost Daughters. Once I started blogging on that platform in 2015, I shared three essays before the year ended:

As I reflect back on my lack of blogging last year, I am reminded of the challenges in public scholarship and balancing the commitments of scholarship, teaching, and service along with maintaining or attempting to maintain a balance of my personal and professional lives. In February, I signed an advanced contract for my first book project. The end of my second year resulted in a new administrative appointment to become the director of the Kutsche Office of Local History, which seeks to give voice to diverse communities through history via projects and partnerships with entities on-campus and in the broader West Michigan community. These two events resulted in a busy summer of manuscript revisions and transitioning into my new appointment, which officially started in August. Additionally, I continued to work on various pieces of academic scholarship throughout the year.

The everyday academic tasks related to my professional life were also shaped by my preparation for my third year review for contract renewal. With a binder due in January 2017—six days before my revised book manuscript—I used summer 2016 to plan and begin preparing my materials in advance. Having completed the Personnel Portfolio Workshop offered by the university in Summer 2015, I had a solid working draft of my integrative statement. This statement is meant to tell a narrative of my teaching, scholarship, and service—providing an overview of what I have accomplished in years one and two as well as the first half of year three. In February, I will post a more in depth essay exploring my tips for creating a stress-free binder for review and reflect on the things I wish I knew in advance. I spent the fall polishing my materials and binder, in order to spend winter break focusing exclusively on revisions for multiple projects in addition to preparing my book manuscript for it’s January deadline.

For those interested in what it means to be pre-tenure and in an administrative role, check back in April for a post discussing my lessons learned from my first months in my new position. I will also repost essays originally posted on Gazillion Voices as I was alerted that they are no longer available.

One of the things that I do really enjoy about this blog is that I am able to share what I’ve learned from conferences and meetings that I attend. Later this month, look out for a new post discussing my experiences at HILT in June 2016.

Hope you enjoyed this short update. And I look forward to blogging a whole lot more this year.

Controlling Our Reproductive Destiny: Rethinking Adoption as the Better Option

Originally published in Gazillion Voices magazine on June 9, 2014. The original post may be found here.

I first would like to thank Kevin Haebeom Vollmers, Shelise Gieseke, and the many others who are part of the Gazillion Voices family. I am excited to join the research team.

“Adoption across political and cultural borders may simultaneously be an act of violence and an act of love, an excruciating rupture and a generous incorporation, an appropriation of valued resources and a constitution of personal ties.”

– Pauline Turner Strong[1]

When I taught my students in Introduction to Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies in Spring 2014, we watched A Girl Like Her (2012), directed by Ann Fessler. I paired our discussion of the film with articles that examined the activism within communities of color to guarantee women’s autonomy over their bodies. For some, it was clear that reproductive justice and adoption intersect. For others, it was the first time they were seeing birth mothers as real people, out of the shadows.

Our unit on reproductive rights included a discussion of how this concept has become linked to a singular choice: abortion. Nevertheless, a more expansive definition of choice exists. Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee write: “Reproductive choice involves being able to have safe and affordable birth and parenting options; reliable, safe, and affordable birth control technologies; freedom from forced sterilization; and the availability of abortion.”[2] Even as we recognize that choice encompasses multiple options concerning parenthood and reproductive autonomy, the term remains fraught with tension when considering legacies of forced sterilization, removal of children, and promotion of dangerous contraceptives in communities of color.[3] The utilization of a reproductive justice framework is rooted in my desire for a holistic approach to understand how the concept of “choice” is not merely about access to safe and affordable abortion. As SisterSong, a women of color reproductive justice collective, notes:

 The reproductive justice framework – the right to have children, not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments – is based on the human right to make personal decisions about one’s life, and the obligation of government and society to ensure that the conditions are suitable for implementing one’s decisions is important for women of color…

 … Reproductive Justice addresses the social reality of inequality, specifically, the inequality of opportunities that we have to control our reproductive destiny. Moving beyond a demand for privacy and respect for individual decision making to include the social supports necessary for our individual decisions to be optimally realized, this framework also includes obligations from our government for protecting women’s human rights. Our options for making choices have to be safe, affordable and accessible, three minimal cornerstones of government support for all individual life decisions.[4]

While Fessler’s film and book, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade (2006), address the maternity homes of the mid-twentieth century and their impact on young, white women, her message is clear: women lacked control of their reproductive destiny. For women of color, in particular, this message continues into the twenty-first century in the US and abroad. This is not to discount the experiences of white women who also face similar economic, social, and political situations. However, I urge us to consider how the lack of reproductive choice continues to inhibit the ability of black, indigenous, Latina, and Asian women to contemplate the remote possibility that their parental rights will never be challenged, curtailed, or eliminated. These communities traditionally face population control methods that undermine autonomy of their reproductive capabilities.[5]

Which Parents can Assert Reproductive Destiny?

When considering adoption from Asia, it is far too often that birth mothers in particular are either valorized as selfless (i.e. Kim’s “altruistic” suicide in Miss Saigon) or continually rendered as prostitutes.[6] Adoptee memoirs discuss how the trope of birth mother as prostitute is discussed within the adoptive family and amongst one’s friends.[7] Mia Farrow and her supporters also utilized this simplistic caricature during the Soon-Yi Previn and Woody Allen scandal to weaken her daughter’s credibility.[8] The complex realities of birth mothers and biological parents, more generally, are rarely depicted in far less pathologizing terms in mainstream society. By rendering these individuals as deficient or defective, society undermines the possibility that these women – these allegedly “bad” mothers – from entering our imagination as potential equals to the “good” adoptive mother.[9] Rooted in notions of mothers as reproducing citizens of the nation, white mothers, under the Christian American rubric, are deemed “fit” parents not only in the context of transnational adoption, but also in existing discussions concerning the moral imperative of motherhood in domestic adoption debates.[10] Laura Briggs finds: “Stranger adoption is a national and international system whereby the children of impoverished or otherwise disenfranchised mothers are transferred to middle-class, wealthy mothers (and fathers).”[11] Notions of parental “fitness” underscore the ways in which national and racial hierarchies operate to fuel transnational and domestic, transracial adoptions.

As the narrative of birth mothers and birth fathers becomes complicated and society recognizes the complexities of “choice” in decisions to place children for adoption, it is evident that any decisions concerning adoption are constrained choices. First parents have limited options – whether it is the unwed mother living in a Florence Crittenten maternity home to the Guatemalan mother unknowingly relinquishing her parental rights to the Korean mother facing societal stigma and lacking economic support. This lack of choice was evident in recent cases of domestic adoption from Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013) to Robert Manzanares’ fight to gain legal custody of his biological daughter, who was placed for adoption without his consent.

When adoption is presented and often encouraged to adoptive parents at the expense of the reproductive rights of birth parents, we should ask ourselves why. Who decides parental fitness? How is the adoptive parent who re-homes his/her child more fit than the birth parents of lesser socio-economic means? Or, how can individuals at the center of a national racism scandal be able to continue adoption proceedings? While this is not a call to debate parental fitness of prospective and current adoptive parents, it is an appeal for members of the adoption triad and the adoption community to rethink what the end goals are with adoption as a form of family building and family destruction.

A reproductive justice framework thus offers a lens to understand how the ability to control one’s reproductive destiny is challenged in adoption practice. Maternity homes affiliated with an adoption agency raise questions concerning reproductive coercion. Reproductive justice includes an individual’s right to parent children in a safe environment without fear of consequences that could penalize their ability to parent. The work of the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUFMA) in South Korea is one organization that advocates for the rights of unwed pregnant women, mothers, and their children.

When socio-economic inequality, societal stigma, and government understandings of “good” families intersect, barriers are constructed that encourage specific types of families, while undermining the ability of other families to sustain themselves as an intact unit. In her interview with Shannon Gibney, legal scholar Dorothy Roberts comments:

My main contention with the people who support transracial adoption as a solution to the needs of Black children is that, not only are they not looking at the source of the problem and addressing that, but that they also tend to devalue the relationship that Black children have with their mothers and the rest of their family. In fact, to the point where some of them have argued that there should be easier and speedier termination of Black mothers’ rights so that these children can be adopted transracially. I just think that’s a horrific argument that completely demeans Black women and devalues their relationships with their children, and doesn’t account for the harm that children experience when they’re unnecessarily removed from their mothers; it just doesn’t show understanding for the reason for the large number of Black children in foster care. It’s a racist argument when they specifically cite termination of these Black women’s parental rights as a way to have these children adopted into white homes.[12]

Roberts’ discussion of the fast-paced termination of black mothers’ rights is similar to the above-mentioned cases involving birth fathers. Yet, this devaluing of birth parents of color is not limited to the US. Consider the language deployed to discuss birth parents of internationally adopted children. Whether it’s the Asian birth mother as prostitute or the hyperfertile, illiterate birth mother from Latin America, these individuals are considered ready or somehow more willing to sacrifice their parenthood. At the same time, agencies and orphanages have characterized these parents as either altruistic or too morally deficient to function as “good” parents.

Adoptees as Consumer Goods: Overlooking Adoptee and Birth Parent Rights

The pathologized construction of birth parents provides the groundwork that promotes adoptive parents in the US to encourage speedier timelines for transnational adoption completion. Discussing their family’s experiences, an adoptive parent notes:

We waited longer than four years. International adoptions slowed down tremendously when the Hague convention was enacted. There has also been an increased interest and demand in international adoptions, so the process became backlogged. We were waiting to adopt a healthy, young child and there is a long waiting list to do so from China.[13]

The lengthy nature of the adoption process is best illustrated when comparing the average wait times for a child by country of origin. According to Adoptive Families, 53% of parents adopting from China wait a minimum of twelve months for a child referral and then 42% of parents wait an additional three months prior to the child’s entrance into the United States.[14] In total, adoptive parents wait a minimum of fifteen months until adoption completion from China. In contrast to this lengthy process, the minimum wait for a completed adoption from Ethiopia is six months.[15] Even as the timelines for adoption from Ethiopia is markedly shorter on average, an adoptive parent of an Ethiopian child notes: “Unfortunately, we got stuck in the switch over from 1 to 2 trips in Ethiopia, as well as the annual summer court closure. So we were delayed more than we should have been in bringing our son home.”[16] The language utilized by the adoptive parents of Chinese and Ethiopian children positions these delays as personal inconveniences. In particular, when looking at the second adoptive parent quote, it is interesting that visiting Ethiopia twice is considered a hassle versus as an opportunity to learn more about the adoptee’s ethnic background. Further, phrases such as “the process became backlogged” or “unfortunately, we got stuck” demonstrates how adoptive parents locate themselves as consumers, who should receive quality service. This consumer frustration was highlighted in a 2013 article from The Chicago Tribune, which discussed the obstacles of intercountry adoptions.”[17]

Framing adoption as a set of “inconveniences” or “obstacles” to adoptive parents – the consumers within this process – ignores broader sociopolitical concerns over corruption and the black market of children. To this end, adoptive parent Margie Perscheid writes: “We promote institutionalized abandonment by establishing baby boxes and baby hatches, and by creating practices that work around existing law and common sense to allow adoption agencies to hide first parent identities and fabricate them for adoptees.” When the larger concern is which country program will get me a child faster versus which country ensures birth parents are not forcibly coerced to make a fast decision for me to obtain my child, then we have a problem. This is not to say I lack empathy for adoptive parents who hold a strong desire to adopt and form their families. Rather, I ask if a more ethical adoption practice can ever be implemented without encountering charges that these regulations produce a backlog and impediments for adoptive parents.

Situating adoption within the rubric of reproductive justice activism provides space to discuss the tireless work of adoption triad members to support the rights of biological parents. From the work of Ohio Birthparent Group’s founder and director, Kate Livingston, to the efforts of Jane Jeong Trenka, Shannon Heit, TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea), among others, in South Korea, it is clear that we have a arrived to a new moment in adoption history. No longer clouded in secrecy, unacknowledged by mainstream society, individuals working to secure the rights of all members of the adoption triad are coming out of the shadows. For example, TRACK began Single Moms’ Day in 2011 in South Korea, “to challenge the government’s Adoption Day.”[18] TRACK notes: “We were inspired by the First Nations people in the U.S. who celebrate ‘Native American Day’ on Thanksgiving in order to challenge the dominant narrative and draw people’s attention toward a different center of gravity.” Recently, TRACK and the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association held a two-day event in May 2014 with support from KoRoot, Dandelions, InTree, Korean Single Parent Alliance, Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network, Seoul Single Parent Alliance, Seoul Single Parent Support Center, MP Nam Yoon In-soon (Democratic United Party), and MP Hyun Min-ju (Saenuri Party).

Valuing the Rights of All Parents

A reproductive justice lens disrupts narratives of adoption as a form of child rescue and humanitarian practice. It requires adoptive parents to question the ways in which their children arrived into their homes. This is not to elicit white liberal guilt; instead, it is meant to dismantle historical inaccuracies concerning adoption stories. The happy narratives of the stork or the tale that “you were born in someone else’s tummy, but were meant for our family” can no longer function in that we have pulled back the curtain. The great and powerful Oz (the adoption agency in this case) can no longer sell this chicanery of adoption as the better option.[19] The continued deception by Oz has allowed for a singular narrative that promotes adoption as best while simultaneously presenting birth parents and sending countries as pathological, negative individuals and places. The voices of birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees counter this deception as they weave a narrative that exposes the complexity of adoption.

If we recognize birth parents’ rights as human rights and in turn recognize reproductive rights as birth parents’ rights, it becomes evident that we must continue to change the conversation to meet our communities’ various needs. We need to acknowledge the multiple and intersecting power arrangements that allow for the continued decimation of communities of color at the benefit of adoptive families.[20] This existing power inequity was recognized at the end of the twentieth century as developing countries increasingly defined international adoption as “imperialistic, self-serving, and a return to a form of colonialism in which whites exploit and steal natural resources.”[21] By characterizing adoptees as “resources,” we become more aware of how adoptees represent lost members of a future generation of their birth country.

This essay aimed to encourage us to have a broader understanding of adoption and the violence it has on families. In doing so, I sought to create space to rethink how adoption is discussed as a reproductive option versus part of the wider reproductive justice framework. While I focused on the experiences of women of color, I recognize that white birth parents are still limited in freely fulfilling their reproductive destiny. Therefore, as more instances of abuse with adoptive families gain media attention, the international and domestic adoption communities must be called to act. The complacency and silence associated with adoption practice in the twentieth century cannot persist for it comes at too high of a price.

[1] Pauline Turner Strong, “To Forget Their Tongue, Their Name, and Their Whole Relation: Captivity, Extra-Tribal Adoption, and the Indian Child Welfare Act,” in Relative Values: Reconfiguring Kinship Studies, by Sarah Franklin and Susan McKinnon (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 471.

[2] Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee, Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Fifth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012), 290.

[3] Joel Sillman et al., “Women of Color and Their Struggle for Reproductive Justice,” in Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee, Fifth ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012).

[4] SisterSong, “What Is RJ?,” SisterSong: Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, 2014, accessed May 8, 2014, http://www.sistersong.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=141&Itemid=81.

[5] See: Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science, and U.S. Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Salamishah Tillet, “Forced Sterilizations and the Future of the Women’s Movement,” The Nation, July 9, 2013, accessed May 09, 2014, http://www.thenation.com/blog/175175/forced-sterilizations-and-future-womens-movement.

[6] Kim Park Nelson, “Guest Post: Assisted Suicide: Adoptee Perspectives and Miss Saigon,” Gazillion Voices, 2013, accessed May 08, 2014, http://gazillionvoices.com/guest-post-assisted-suicide-adoptee-perspectives-and-miss-saigon/#.U2kiyESCYgI.

[7] See Jane Jeong Trenka, The Language of Blood: A Memoir (St. Paul: Graywolf Press, 2003).

[8] See Mia Farrow, What Falls Away: A Memoir (New York: Doubleday, 1997).

[9] Discussing how this Madonna/whore complex impacts domestic birth mothers, Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy notes: “Why is it so hard to see a birth mother as a real, live person? Both of the views — the sinner or saint, the Madonna or whore, the selfless or the abandoner — are just so limiting and not real.  Instead, they are parts cast in this play we call “adoption.” They are roles that need to be filled so that the storyline works out, so that at some point the main characters get a happy ending. It is nothing more than a parroting of the carefully honed adoption-marketing message. It is the opening prologue that sets the tone for the adoptee’s life”; Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy, “Between the Extremes,” Gazillion Voices, December 5, 2013, accessed May 08, 2014, http://gazillionvoices.com/between-the-extremes/#.U2o7TUSCYgI.

[10] Nora Rose Moosnick, Adopting Maternity: White Women Who Adopt Transracially or Transnationally (Westport: Praeger, 2004). See also: Barbara Melosh, Strangers and Kin: The American Way of Adoption (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002).

[11] Laura Briggs, Somebody’s Children: The Politics of Transracial and Transnational Adoption (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 4.

[12] Dorothy Roberts, “On Stories That Become Policies That Become The Black Family Destroyed; An Interview with Dorothy Roberts: Part I,” interview by Shannon Gibney, Gazillion Voices (audio blog), January 8, 2014, accessed May 8, 2014, http://gazillionvoices.com/on-stories-that-become-policies-that-become-the-black-family-destroyed-an-interview-with-dorothy-roberts-part-i/#.U2o7p0SCYgI.

[13] Adoptive Families, “Latest Adoption Cost and Wait Time Data,” Adoptive Families, 2013, accessed April 07, 2013, http://www.adoptivefamilies.com/articles.php?aid=2161. The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption aims to standardize adoption practices for countries that signed the agreement. Designed to safeguard “the best interests of the child,” the Convention also seeks to create transparency concerning the adoption process from relinquishment to adoption finalization.

[14] Ibid. Yet, please note The Adoption Guide notes that when adopting from China, “for healthy children, approximately four and a half year from completion of dossier to referral. Waiting time is considerably shorter for special-needs children”; The Adoption Guide, “The Adoption Guide: Getting Started on China Adoption,” The Adoption Guide, 2013, accessed April 7, 2013, http://www.theadoptionguide.com/options/

[15] 53% of parents adopting from Ethiopia wait at a minimum of three months or less for a child referral and then 42% of parents wait an additional three months until the child enters the U.S.; Adoptive Families, “Latest Adoption Cost and Wait Time Data.”

[16] Adoptive Families, “Latest Adoption Cost and Wait Time Data.”

[17] Leslie Mann, “Foreign Adoption Comes with Obstacles, but Parents Advised to ‘stay the Course'” Chicago Tribune, April 1, 2013, accessed April 9, 2013, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-x-foreign-adoption-20130402,0,6301893.story.

[18] TRACK, “The 4th Annual Single Moms’ Day Is Here! – TRACK,” TRACK, April 20, 2014, accessed May 08, 2014, http://www.adoptionjustice.com/4th-annual-single-moms-day/.

[19] In her essay, “Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: Learning how to be a critical consumer of adoption research,” JaeRan Kim explores how research is placed upon a pedestal in similar ways to how Dorothy and her friends in The Wizard of Oz place the Great and Powerful Oz; JaeRan Kim, “Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain: Learning How to Be a Critical Consumer of Adoption Research,” Gazillion Voices, October 2, 2013, accessed May 08, 2014, http://gazillionvoices.com/pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain-learning-how-to-be-a-critical-consumer-of-adoption-research/#.U2qDo0SCYgI.

[20] Gretchen Scisson notes: “In adoption, there are always questions of reproductive choice and the potential for coercion…There are families being created, and families being separated – and people adapting to new, lifelong identities in these roles altered by adoption”; Gretchen Scisson, “”I Want In”: Bringing Adoption into Reproductive Justice,” Spectrum, April 30, 2014, accessed May 13, 2014, http://spectrum.yourbackline.org/adoption/i-want-in-bringing-adoption-into-reproductive-justice/.

[21] Howard Altstein and Rita J. Simon, Intercountry Adoption: A Multinational Perspective (New York: Praeger, 1991), 2.

NWSA Graduate Caucus Reception Remarks

On the evening of November 13, 2015 I gave remarks at the National Women’s Studies Association Graduate Caucus Reception. The Facebook event invite noted:

Header for the Facebook invite re: the NWSA Graduate CaucusA common refrain among graduate students, particularly those who scholarship is in Women’s and Gender Studies, is the need for more mentorship. Decrypting the unspoken language and conventions of the academy presents a structural obstacle to our achievements. As many of us are first-generation students, gender minorities, students of color, we are traditionally underrepresented and multiply marginalized with/in graduate school, and we realize a difficult journey can be made easier by someone who can show the way forward. And so we find ourselves searching for that “perfect” mentor: an advisor, faculty member, or senior scholar that can lead us to our success. When finding mentors and engaging in productive, empowering mentoring relationships proves elusive, what should we do?

For more information regarding my thoughts on mentoring and the tenure-track, please view the following posts and pages on this website:

NWSA Graduate Caucus Reception Remarks

Thank you to the Graduate Caucus co-chairs for inviting me. It’s a pleasure to be here this evening. The focus of my remarks this evening will be on mentoring, and hopefully, you will find them brief, but interesting.

Often we’re told to find multiple mentors and establish a mentoring circle since one mentor will not fit your various needs. If you have not been proactive about finding and establishing relationships with mentors, I encourage you to do so. As a graduate student, I took advantage of the Preparing Future Faculty program offered by the graduate school. I also sought out additional professional development opportunities. I hope many of you signed up for the NWSA Mentoring program offered this year. I recognize that not all disciplines and interdisciplinary fields have these built in mentoring components, which is why I encourage you to take advantage of the fact that NWSA supports graduate students and junior faculty. All too often academia may seem isolating, especially when you are the only one doing ethnic studies, for example, at an institution. As someone whose research intersects with the fields of Women’s Studies, Asian American Studies, and Adoption Studies, I am extremely grateful that I work in fields that include mentoring components into their conferences.

Photo Credit: Krista Benson
Photo Credit: Krista Benson

Remember that many mentors come from unexpected places. As you consider your mentoring needs, I suggest that you develop a list of questions concerning research, teaching, service, the job market, etc. and contemplate who would be the best person out of your network to ask. And remember, mentors come in all shapes and sizes. Don’t be shocked when some of your best mentors come from unlikely places and that those who you think will be kickass mentors end up not being interested in the job.

I should emphasize that mentors also do not solely exist in formal mentoring spaces. I have met countless mentors along the way as I transitioned from my status as a master’s student to PhD student/candidate to postdoc to tenure track faculty member. These individuals and I crossed paths at conference, via introductions through other colleagues/friends, and because I just asked for their advice.

I also continue to forge friendships with colleagues across disciplines. These relationships are critical when seeking feedback from perspectives outside of one’s own field. They bring a wealth of experience and new teaching strategies. It’s refreshing to hear about how they facilitate discussion or deploy active learning in the classroom because someone in modern languages or chemistry will use methods that may benefit me in my humanities classroom. Moreover, once you transition from graduate student to junior faculty member, forging relationships with colleagues across the university will strengthen your ability to get to know your institution.

My mentors range from senior scholars (full professors and associate professors) to junior scholars (those further along the tenure-track than myself) and peers (members of my tenure-track cohort, postdocs, and folks I knew from graduate school). It’s the last type of mentoring that I will focus more deeply on in my remarks this evening. Peer-to-peer mentoring is critical. Remember the people you’re in graduate school with in your departments, programs, and even across the university are your future colleagues. The way you treat your peers today will inform how you treat your colleagues tomorrow.

Unfortunately, the low stakes of the academy are not necessarily conducive to supporting collaboration, mentoring, and even sharing information. Yet academia should not be a bizarre version of The Hunger Games. Peer-to-peer mentoring is one of the first steps in changing this culture and creating supportive and encouraging networks. Once you realize that people are not out to get you personally, it changes how we understand how the academy works. This is not to say that the academy is perfect. Yes, sometimes spaces are toxic. But don’t let that toxicity consume you and infiltrate your interactions with other colleagues. Making that distinction is key. Don’t fall into the cyclical trap where this competitive environment looks like a version of academic Mean Girls. On Wednesdays we can wear pink, but we don’t need to all be like Regina.

Here are seven tips that I found to be helpful as I transitioned from graduate student to tenure track faculty member.

  1. Be comfortable with sharing your writing early and often. Too frequently, the writing experience is isolating. We are concerned with perfect chapter or essay. It also creates anxiety and fuels imposter syndrome. What if someone thinks X, Y, or Z? This question holds us back. Sharing early drafts will only strengthen our work. A draft will never be exactly where you want it. Embrace the imperfections. This is what the revision process is for. This is also why feedback at all stages is important.
  2. Writing groups are critical. In graduate school my advisor convened a dissertation writing group with her advisees. This allowed us to build a culture of peer review. Since then, I have started online writing with friends at different institutions and locations. We also share our writing. And, it’s also a way to keep yourself accountable. When writing gets isolating and you’re about to shame spiral because X number of words need to get done, a writing partner is helpful. Let’s not pretend we don’t need someone from time to time to remind us that we kick ass. Because for real, sometimes we need a trusted colleague to give us a little push.
  3. External funding is not you against the world. Rather, it’s about “how does your project fit with a particular call for funding.” This also means that you’re not in competition with friends or colleagues applying for the same grant. It’s about your project, the call for papers, and whether or not you clearly make the case for the funding. It also means that just because one friend’s research interest is being funded by an organization focusing on their topic that it’s not an indictment on your field. It’s also not a competition if your research interests do not overlap. Don’t ever forget that. Yes funding is competitive, but very rarely are your topics so similar that funding bodies will compare them with one another.
  4. The job market is not for the faint of heart. It can be demoralizing. As someone with friends currently on the market who have been at various visiting positions and knowing folks who previously were visiting or on postdocs, I’m aware that the supply and demand of the market favors departments and programs. Often we’re hearing of one position garnering more than 150 applications. From there the pool is narrowed to ten or so for interviews and then down to the top three for on campus interviews. Rejection is common. Rejection is also slow. Bearing all of this in mind, keep a cheerleader in your corner to remind you of why you are qualified. If you’re also nervous about the market, ask your mentors for feedback on your materials. If you ask someone recently hired in a TT position, they will tell you that not only did they receive feedback from at least one other person, but that they also revised their materials more than once.
  5. Collegiality is key. Remember at the end of the day when one person succeeds, we all succeed. Supporting the successes of our friends and colleagues means that when we all get into our future positions we will have someone to celebrate with. Success isn’t fun if we’re alone. At the same time, you are capable of doing the same thing even as a peer. As you join the ranks of faculty and start working on your book proposal and meeting with presses, highlight the work of your colleagues. Sometimes a series may not fit with your project, but it does with a peer. When I know a friend is talking with the same acquiring editor, I also make sure to highlight their work.
  6. Building networks with one another is critical. I have seen how these initial friendship and relationships in graduate school blossom throughout one’s career. My mentors continue to see these friends from their early days at conferences. These are the names you see listed in the acknowledgements, connections forged and reconstituted as series editors on a university press series, and individuals open doors for one another’s mentees. Our sub-fields are often small worlds. Think six degrees of Kevin Bacon. We’re all interconnected. Let’s make sure the first thing a person can say about you, is oh they’re great! Not, oh they’re terrible with email.
  7. Don’t be afraid to discuss rejection. And here, I mean rejection from funding opportunities, conferences, journal articles, the job market, and even, once you get there, academic presses. Recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education published Devoney Looser’s article, “Me and my Shadow CV.” Looser writes,

Rejection is something you’re supposed to learn by experience, and then keep entirely quiet about. Among academics, the scientists seem to handle rejection best: They list on their CVs the grants they applied for but didn’t get — as if to say, ‘Hey, give me credit for sticking my neck out on this unfunded proposal. You better bet I’ll try again.’ Humanists — my people — hide our rejections from our CVs as skillfully as we can. Entirely, if possible. That’s a shame. It’s important for senior scholars to communicate to those just starting out that even successful professors face considerable rejection. The sheer scope of it over the course of a career may be stunning to a newcomer. I began to think of my history of rejection as my shadow CV — the one I’d have if I’d recorded the highs and lows of my professional life, rather than its highs alone. 

I quote Dr. Looser at length because all too often we keep quiet. If we actually discussed what we were rejected from we would see that we’re not the only ones. It’s from that openness that I learned of colleagues both junior and senior who experienced rejection in all stages of academic publishing. If I were not open about my own experiences, I would never have learned that information.

I hope that these tips are helpful as you consider what type of person you seek to be and become in graduate school and as a junior faculty member. Keeping your eye on the long game of academia is important. Don’t be short-sighted and think of what’s happening right now. Also keep in mind the fact that what’s going on today may inform your opportunities tomorrow and thereafter.

Again, the successes of your friends and colleagues are your successes. If we want to change the academy we cannot step one another to get to the top. So how do we do that?

First, we need to have open and honest conversations about the job market and professionalization. Mentor a first or second year graduate student if you’re ABD. Teach them the ropes about preparing for conference, networking, how to effectively work with faculty, etc. Offer workshops on what to expect when sitting candidacy exams. When you all get ready to apply for postdocs, fellowships, or tenure-track and visiting positions, crowd source for feedback. Ask your close friends to review your letters, CV, teaching and research statements for clarity and readability. If you know folks more senior who are in the early days of their career, ask if they would be willing to share their job materials. You won’t know they will say no until you ask.

Second, ask yourself how are you presenting yourself to your colleagues. Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics. Are you using Facebook, LinkedIn, Academia.edu, and Twitter effectively? What do people find when they Google you? While this at first may not seem related to peer-to-peer mentoring, remember that a good friend and colleague will want you to put your best foot forward. Also, remember that networking depending on your field may occur in spaces such as Facebook where the personal meets professional. Figure out how you will use social media.

Finally, remember that it’s important to tell people that they are making a great impact. If you ask my colleagues, they often will say I’m a good cheerleader. You’re here in this room today because you deserve to be here. Don’t forget that no matter how demoralizing the job market can be. Or how toxic others spaces in the academy may be – depending on where you are. Remember that there are people who believe in you. Never forget that. At the end of the day, after a bad teaching day or a bad day of writing you need to be able to rely on your close and trusted colleagues and friends to get you out of your funk and remember that you belong here.

Last month at the Minority Scholars Breakfast at the American Studies Association, Mark Anthony Neal said, “Mentors mentor because they were mentored.” I took this message to heart. And it’s not just mentoring relationships between senior and junior faculty or between faculty and graduate students. It’s also peer mentoring. A good peer mentor has already been mentored by their peers. They’ve witnessed the effectiveness. They’ve seen what happens when you get support from one another.

Perhaps at the end of the day, you walk away thinking I’m an academic Pollyanna. But please know that I’ve witnessed the gamut of successful and unsuccessful mentoring relationships. The rough starts and the fantastic ones. Cultivating a network of mentors including from yours peers will only benefit you in the long run. I am continuously amazed at the generosity of my colleagues once you demonstrate your willingness to share and build community.

Reflections on Year One

As I reflect on my first year on the tenure track last year, I realize that many of the connections I formed with colleagues across the university resulted from my involvement in events offered by the Pew Faculty and Teaching Learning Center (FTLC) and attending two Faculty/Staff Writing Retreats offered by the Fred Meijer Center for Writing & Michigan Authors. Given that it’s late August 2015 and convocation is tomorrow, I guess that this post is better late than never. We’re already rounding the corner to the beginning of year two!

The two FTLC programs that were the most impactful were The Inaugural Winter Teaching Life Retreat: Applying the Wisdom of Remarkable Women Leaders (December 2014) and the Strengths Based Leadership Teaching Circle (Winter 2015). The retreat and teaching circle encourage introspection. In many ways the self-reflection was fueled by two books, which centered our discussion, How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston and Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. Being in this community also encouraged me to read Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown as this is the book women who participated in an earlier program had read the previous year.

The writing retreats allowed me to focus on book manuscript revisions. Sitting with other faculty members in relative silence allowed me to center my attention on writing. This retreat complemented the weekly, online writing group that I am in with a colleague. There is a definite value in working in conjunction with one another for accountability purposes as well as in a group where you workshop one another’s work.

This post centers on three takeaways I found after reading above-mentioned books. While I believe in the value of writing groups and writing retreats, I leave you with the words from the authors of articles in Chronicle Vitae and Inside Higher Ed:

Takeaway #1: Flexibility and Adaptability

Academia is not always predictable. While we may know the major milestones in one’s career that we ought to meet, how we get there is not necessarily a linear path. There is no “right” path in the academy. Discussing indirect routes that may lead us to new ideas, Barsh and Cranston note:

Many women set out, traveling down academic and career paths, only to discover meaningful work after more than a few turns in the road. The zigs and zags of their career may seem inefficient (surely a straight shot to your goal would seem a better choice). Things are not always what they seem. In most cases, women leaders recall that these zigs taught self-awareness and those zags led them down the path to skills and experiences that opened a door. It was not time wasted. It was their time for discovering what they loved and learning new capabilities (23).

Each academic year, I set goals for myself related to teaching, research, and service. I recalibrate these goals each semester and over the summer. This process of recalibration allows me to evaluate whether I will meet these goals and reflect on where I may need to adapt in the face of an unexpected event. Barsh and Cranston encourage the evaluation and re-evaluation of one’s ambitions and priorities, writing:

From time to time, consciously reframe: Think about your goals and whether you should change them. The formula that worked for you in the past may no longer fit the circumstances. And when you see (or feel) the signs that you are locking in, take a deep breath and head for the balcony. We don’t want you to ever change being open to change (112).

Similarly, Rath and Conchie focus on creating weekly, monthly and annual goals to ensure success. Where do you want to end up? Consider your strengths and how they will help move you from point A to point B. Clearly communicate and perhaps even over-communicate what you’re doing and why. Well-defined plans articulate your motivations to faculty, staff, and students that you work with in various capacities.

Anticipate the fact new and unexpected, yet exciting opportunities are always on the horizon. Taking advantage of these possibilities opens new doors and facilitates deeper connections within colleagues and students, for example. This does not mean I say yes to every prospect that comes knocking on my door. Rather, I consider how these various openings relate to my larger goals. In my post on the Association for Asian American Studies’ East of California Junior Faculty retreat I discussed the benefits of creating a coherent narrative that links your teaching, research, and service. How does saying yes relate to your broader goals?

Takeaway #2: Know Your Passion

Find your passion and what drives you to do the work that you do. What gives you meaning? Barsh and Cranston note: “Meaning is the motivation in your life. It’s finding what engages you, what makes your heart beat faster, what gives you energy and creates passion. Meaning enables you to push yourself to the limit of your capabilities – and beyond” (22). Figure out what sustains you in the academy.

For me, it’s supporting students of color and other marginalized communities. This is particularly salient given my location in the Midwest where often I am one of the few Asian American faculty students engage with in the Humanities. There are currently no Asian American Studies courses taught on a regular basis. In Fall 2015 I will teach a one-credit course, The Hypersexual Female Asian Body, which explores the racialized and sexualized depictions of women of Asian descent in US popular culture. I also will direct an independent study, “Introduction to Korean Adoption Studies,” with an undergraduate student.

Takeaway #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Dare Greatly

Defining what it means to dare greatly, Brown comments: “Daring greatly means finding our own path and respecting what that search looks like for other folks” (231). Daring greatly means embracing vulnerability and not allowing fear to stop one from achieving their goals. To this end, Brown notes: “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual ways, vulnerability is the path” (34). As part of this process, we also need to embrace or at least recognize that imperfection is not a negative. Brown writes: “Perfectionism is not the path that leads us to our gifts and to our sense of purpose; it’s the hazardous detour” (128). One of the areas that I find this advice to be particularly helpful is with writing. Learning to share drafts of manuscripts, articles, and chapters early with colleagues is an acquired skill. This is where writing groups and friends/colleagues are helpful. Soliciting feedback on an early, unfinished piece of work may feel daunting, but it is an invaluable process.

Concluding Thoughts

Utilizing the resources offered by my institution to first year faculty allowed me to consciously and deliberately engage my community. I strengthened existing skills and honed new ones through taking advantage of the various workshops. As I embark on year two, I keep the following questions from Barsh and Cranston in mind: “Consider the next milestone in your career. Do you know what you have to do to achieve it? Do you believe that achieving it is in your control? What are you doing to reach that goal (192)?”

Leveraging Our Voices

Earlier in June my news feed on various social media sites (okay, let’s be honest, Twitter and Facebook) was abuzz with coverage of Rachel Dolezal. Yet unlike many of feeds, folks discussing Dolezal were concerned about the misuse and misappropriation of the term transracial. One of the earliest adoptees discussing this in a public forum was Lisa Marie Rollins, founder of Adopted & Fostered Adults of the African Diaspora.

Within my circle of Facebook friends, I shared my concerns:

June 13 FB post

It was after this post that a friend, colleague, and adoptee scholar/writer alerted me to the Rollins in piece on The Lost Daughters on Sunday, June 14. By Monday, June 15 adoptees were buzzing as more information concerning Dolezal was reported in news media. I turned to my Facebook friends that include fierce adult adoptee academics, activist, performers, and writers as well as our allies. In less than six hours over twenty adoptees, adoptive parents, and allies began collaborating in a Google document to co-author the statement, “An Open Letter: Why Co-opting “Transracial” in the Case of Rachel Dolezal is Problematic.”

The statement demonstrates the power of adoption coalitions between transracial, international, domestic adoptees and the allies we have formed with adoptive parents and non-adoptees alike. Since I joined the Adoption Studies community in 2007 as I finished my MSc Gender and Social Policy degree, I have witnessed the friendships and communities forged between these various populations. From the work in Gazillion Voices to the women writing for The Lost Daughters, the diversity within the adoption community is at our fingertips.

Most recently, I saw the power of what it means to build coalitions within the adoption community at the annual KAAN conference in St. Louis, MO. (Please note that I am a member of the organization’s Advisory Council and Assistant Director.) This year’s conference featured the voices of a range of adoptees – internationally adopted (Korean, Chinese) and domestically adopted (transracial and same-race placements). I had the pleasure to moderate our breakfast plenary,[1] #BlackLivesMatter and its Significance to Adoptive Families, featuring:

  • Honorable Judge Judy Preddy Draper, who was appointed Associate Circuit Judge on April 13, 2004 by Governor Bob Holden[2]
  • Shannon Gibney, educator, activist, and author of SEE NO COLOR (Release date: November 2015 by Carolrhoda Lab). She was adopted by a white family in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975 and currently lives with her husband and children in Minneapolis.
  • Robert O’Connor, founder and principle trainer at TransracialAdoptionTraining.com. Robert is an adult transracial adoptee of African-American descent.  He and his older brother experienced multiple failed adoptions and foster care prior to being transracially adopted at the age of four.  He grew up as part of one of the first generations of transracial adoptive families.
  • Susan Harris O’Connor, a nationally known solo performance artist and author of The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee. She is also a professional coach/consultant and director of quality assurance and adoption services at Children’s Services of Roxbury.  In 2014 Ms. O’Connor received the Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award from St. John’s University.

To help prepare the participants for the breakfast plenary, I asked them to reflect on the following questions:

  • Based on your experiences, why should adoptive parents recognize how racism against communities of color impact their transracially adopted children?
  • How can non-Black people of color, adoptees show solidarity in these movements? How can their white adoptive parents?
  • What do you wish your adoptive parents had known about the racism you encountered in your childhood or adulthood?

Below is an excerpt of my opening remarks prior to the plenary session:

Given our location in St. Louis, MO for this year’s KAAN, we would be remiss if we did not discuss the grand jury decisions in the deaths of Michael Brown (Ferguson, MO) and Eric Garner (Staten Island, NY), #BlackLivesMatter activism, and the police deaths of other people of color. To this end I’m thinking about the senseless deaths of young boys like Jordan Davis and Tamir Rice, who would have been thirteen yesterday. I’m also thinking of the violence enacted on the bodies of trans women of color including Michelle Vash, Lamia Beard, Tiffany Edwards, Betty Skinner, and countless others. 

We recognize the importance of discussing issues such as white privilege, racial profiling in policing, and the impact of implicit bias within our families. We also realize that transracial and international adoptive families cannot overlook the role racism and race have in the lives of adoptees.

Transracial adoptees of color are ensconced in white privilege and simultaneously exist in black and brown bodies capable of experience the violence that has taken the lives of countless Americans as a result of racism. They may live in families where extended family are complicit in racism against people of color and view them as exceptions.

We need to have real, honest conversations about the role of race and white privilege in transracially adoptive families. Adoptees of color regardless of origin share many parallel memories of dissonance and racism. The positive reactions of the audience (primarily Korean adoptees and adoptive parents of Korean children) reflected these similarities.

The fact that KAAN brings together various members of the adoption constellation and bridging the imagined divides between domestic and internationally adopted communities is what keeps me coming back to the organization. The organization continues to evolve and reflect the changing face of the adoption community. This is particularly evidenced in the creation of my position and the implementation of the Advisory Council in 2010 as well as the various keynote speakers, performers, and speakers. To give you a better understanding of the conference content, check out the Storify of tweets and Instagram photos. Please note that by mid-July, photos from #KAAN2015 should be available on Facebook.

The activism surrounding Dolezal and the misuse of the term transracial alongside my continued involvement with KAAN and its annual conference reminded me the importance of coalitions and community building. Working together to forge deep connections between us yields great change. This is why I’m excited to be working with adoptees as we turn the corner and #FlipTheScript on how popular culture discusses adoption.

[1] Lisa Marie Rollins was unable to join us due to unforeseen circumstances.

[2] Honorable Judge Draper’s remarks reflected her experiences as a bi-racial Korean-African American and in many ways echoed themes discussed by Gibney, Harris-O’Connor, and O’Connor.

Reflections on #DHSI2015 #C32

From June 15 – 19, 2015, I attended the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI) at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The workshop focused on developing professional and transferable skills that include building scholarly profiles on social media (e.g. LinkedIn, Academia.edu, ORCID), developing or improving a professional website, funding sources to support digital humanities projects, and considering how we may deploy these skills in graduate and undergraduate programs to support students’ professional development. The course summary notes: “These skills–knowledge mobilization, working collaboratively, maintaining an effective online presence, clear-language research communication, networking, project management–can help digital humanists ensure that their work has the greatest possible impact, and that they have the greatest possible opportunity to develop and deploy those skills where they wish.” Thank you to Melissa Dalgleish (@meldalgleish) and Daniel Powell (@djp2025) for a fruitful discussion, helpful tips, and advice last week.

To begin, please note that this is a lengthy post. I am hoping to provide substantive coverage of my week at DHSI. The intention of doing so is two-fold:

  1. I am aware that many graduate students and early career faculty (particularly from underrepresented communities) lack the resources or supports to attend professional development workshops such as DHSI. I was fortunate to receive a DHSI scholarship and support from my university to attend. Thank you to Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs Maria Cimitile and Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies Dean Anne Hiskes. And thank you to my department chair, Wendy Burns-Ardolino for being supportive of my work and research.
  2. I am deeply committed to sharing what I’ve learned at conferences with colleagues and friends. We don’t do enough of this in the academy.

I have used sub-headers to guide your reading. This post is broken into segments that focus on the following:

  • Constructing an online presence
  • Nuts and Bolts of Websites
  • Funding Digital Humanities (DH) Projects and Example DH Projects
  • Major Takeaways (& what I hope to do at DHSI 2016)

For a deeper understanding of what occurred within the “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” workshop, I encourage you to view the Storify feed created by Jodine Perkins. For an in depth look at what occurred on specific days, check out “The Life DHSI” by Steve Anderson. Dan Royles also created a feed documenting the work of individuals in the “Data, Math, Visualization, and Intrepretation of Networks” workshop.


Aware that one’s online presence is a construct, “Professionalizing the Early Career Digital Humanist: Strategies and Skills” sought to encourage participants to actively engage with how their image and information is being used across the web. The workshop emphasized the fact that each of us already has digital footprints from our use of Twitter and Facebook to LinkedIn and Google+ profiles. Yet many of individuals do not create a coherent link between these profiles. This could be detrimental because many first impressions between employers and colleagues may be based on what is “Google-able.”

PRO-TIP: Open an incognito tab in Google Chrome or turn on private browsing in Safari and Google yourself. What comes up first? Did you learn anything new about what people may find?

This portion of the workshop sought to ensure all participants gained confidence in exploring and deploying digital tools and developed the basic elements of a strong digital academic presence. Four questions we asked ourselves throughout the week were:

  1. What do you need to do?
  2. When do you need to do it?
  3. What are you doing it for?
  4. How much is enough?

We discussed how we could enhance existing digital profiles. For those with a limited online presence, they learned what tools would be best suited for their needs. This conversation was part of a wider discussion concerning professional websites and search engine optimization (SEO).

PRO-TIP: If you do not have a consistent, professional headshot for your profiles, ask your university if you can get one done. If you cannot ask your university, ask a friend. Using the same or a few of the same images will allow for consistency and coherency.

The two images below illustrate what appears when I searched for the following: GVSU Liberal Studies and Kimberly McKee GVSU.

GVSU Lib Studies Google Search results

Google Search Results for Kim McKee GVSU

The next image below shows the terms that directed individuals to my website on June 17, 2015, when interviews I completed with news outlets regarding Rachel Dolezal appeared in American media. (Please note that a separate post concerning why and how adoptees and allies including myself came together the week of June 15th will appear next week.)

Wordpress Search Terms

Knowing what terms are used to find my website gives me a better understanding of how people find me online. Again, it’s about recognizing that you have an existing digital footprint and taking control of your digital identity.

Yet what was extremely helpful for me as an advisor and colleague/friend to graduate students and early career faculty was our focus on creating professionalization plans. We kept the following questions in mind:

  • What type of advising and/or professional development opportunities do they need to successfully mark themselves as burgeoning professionals in their chosen fields?
  • How can we help them create a skills based resume on LinkedIn, for example, as well as on paper to adequately capture their capabilities?

In the case of LinkedIn, when promoting yourself for a particular job, we were encouraged to insert key skills associated with the job description under our names where one’s job title typically goes. We were also urged to change the summary description to ensure it’s tailored for the position. Because Melissa and Daniel recognize that sometimes those individuals looking at #altac careers, they also noted that we should ensure that our LinkedIn profile settings have been updated to ensure our “connections” are not receiving notifications when our profiles are updated.

When discussing Twitter, we reflected on the following questions:

  • How do we value the social media site and what is our presence?
  • Do we only tweet during conferences?
  • Is Twitter part of the broader way we network and build community?

Melissa and Daniel also noted that depending on our intellectual community connecting via Facebook may or may not be a norm. For me, I connect with individuals affiliate with Asian American Studies, Women’s Studies, and Adoption Studies via Facebook. In fact it was one method used to organize an upcoming 2015 National Women’s Studies Association roundtable and was how I received an invitation to write chapter in a forthcoming edited volume. The latter was a direct result of conversations I had with one of the co-editors at the Association for Asian American Studies conference.


The individual modules associated with professional development, more broadly (e.g. elevator pitch, tools for professionalization), built upon one another to allow workshop participants consider the development of a website to enhance their digital presence. We discussed concerns about privacy and whether sharing scholarship online may impede a contract with a university press or negatively impact a journal submission. This particular discussion also explored what it means to host one’s own domain (e.g. Reclaim Hosting) and then utilizing a plugin such as WordPress versus using WordPress directly.

As someone who came to the workshop with a working website based on the WordPress platform, I am looking into migrating my site to a new platform such as Reclaim Hosting in order to have more autonomy of my materials and files. I have yet to complete the migration process. I plan on looking into various options and making a decision within the year.

We compared two different website building platforms – WordPress versus Square Space and engaged in an active conversation about what happens when your ideal, first choice domain name is already taken. What are the costs benefits of buying .info, .net, .digital versus using .com? For me, I selected mckeekimberly.com because kimmckee.com and kimberlymckee.com were already taken.

A quick note about Square Space, many of my colleagues at the workshop who selected this option use many images, which Square Space seems more ready to handle in comparison to WordPress. This judgment is based on observing my colleague’s sites. Great examples of how images are used in Square Space from my class (#DHSI2015 #C32) are from Drew Barker, Greg Chan, and Allison Lange.

We also discussed best practices concerning what information we should include on our sites. Melissa and Daniel offered their knowledge and skills about to embed and link documents (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive files), video (e.g. YouTube), sound (e.g. SoundCloud plugin, podcasts), images (e.g. Creative Commons Flickr images, Instagram), and social media plugins (e.g. Twitter).

While website design may seem periphery to how people conceive of digital humanities, if we’re engaged in digital humanities we should have an online presence. This presence should not just merely exist on it’s own. Rather, it should demonstrate our fluency and participation with the online world. And remember, we already have digital footprints.

Even if you do not want to build your own website, making sure your presence on the social networking sites mentioned above is clear, crisp, and coherent is critical. To this end, make sure your profile on your university website tells viewers who you are and what you do. Don’t forget that your scholarly presence intersects with your work in the digital humanities.


The final portion of our workshop highlighted various funding schemes offered by Canadian and American government and non-government organizations. Below are the funding streams applicable to the American context:

As we pursue various funding schemes, it’s important that we learn how to clearly discuss one’s project to digital humanities scholars and laypersons. They suggested look at Karen Kelsky’s grant template from The Professor is In.

Melissa and Daniel also underscored the fact that many of funding organizations are deeply invested in ensuring that digital humanities projects have professional development plans for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdocs working on the project and knowledge mobilization plans concerning how we intend on disseminating our findings. Moreover, these digital projects may also have both digital and print components. How do these two aspects of the overall project interface and intersect with one another? An example of a digital project is Canada and the Spanish Civil War.

As part of the weeklong workshop, I also took part in broader institute presentations. Five minutes presentations during the final two colloquia of the DHSI discussed the use of TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), data mining, and network mapping across disciplines, including history, literature, and art history.[1] These presentations also showcased the deployment of various digital tools to strengthen humanities in the twenty-first century. For example, Lindsay Kang discussed data mining in her presentation, “Robots Reading Vogue.”


This past week was a whirlwind of activity and skills building. After engaging in discussion with colleagues, I created my Academia.edu profile. I had yet to do so as I was not entirely sure of it’s “value-add.” In fact, I am still in the process of developing it and adding a list of publications and conference presentations. It is very much a work in progress. My goal is to at least improve its readability and content during the 2015/2016 academic year. This profile along with my Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ profiles are connected to my website.

Since I had an existing website, I used the time this week to ask myself questions concerning what information I want to share with viewers:

I continue to make revisions to my website. I realize that it is text-heavy, so I am striving to include more photos to make it more eye-catching and appealing. I recognize that my website is a work-in-progress that will evolve and change based on the nature of my research, teaching, and service. In addition, as a work-in-progress it reflects the fact that my digital identity will never be a static presence.

Finally, the learning that occurred during DHSI was not limited to the workshops. Rather through conversations with colleagues attending the other workshops occurring throughout Week Three, my interest was peaked in using digital tools such as text mapping, GIS, and data visualization. I have already begun to consider what workshop(s) I would like to attend during DHSI 2016 as new research projects become further developed.

[1] The first five occurred during Weeks One and Two of the Summer Institute.