Where Am I Now? Touring, Teaching, and Taking Class

Hello from my whirlwind multi-city tour! This is the latest sabbatical update, you can read part one, part two, and part three at these links. For those of you following the saga of people stealing my work, these sabbatical posts seem to be some of the most egregiously plagiarized – if you see someone pretending to be me, please let me know!

At the beginning of October this tour was largely unplanned, but a last-minute job invitation inspired me to pull it all together. While I have one more city to go and am totally exhausted, I hope that this little snapshot of my sabbatical life illustrates how broadly I work, and how many ways it’s possible to have fun when the arts are your living.

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Covering Cover Letters

It’s job hunt season on the academic market right now, and so to go with my article on DEI statements, I feel like it’s finally time to write my guide to good cover letters.

I got my current job because of my cover letter, and I’ve read a whole lot of them since I started working here at the University of Alabama. A lot of people meet the basic qualifications for most of the jobs on the market, and as search committees whittle down from the hundreds qualified to the handful given a chance to speak in person about their values, and demonstrate their skills, cover letters are frequently a deciding factor.

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Where Am I Now? The Hambidge Center

Imagine a cabin in the mountains. Hundreds of acres of trails winding through woods, waterfalls, and wildflowers. Imagine waking up with the sun, drinking your coffee in a hammock on your porch, and then getting to grips with your art. Imagine dinner each night served at a communal table of artists and friends. Imagine weekends spent sampling roadside barbeque and local wine, horseback riding, trout fishing, and just taking the time to breathe the air in it’s almost edible vibrancy.

In case it wasn’t obvious: I don’t have to imagine, because for the last three weeks, I got to be there!

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Where Am I Now? Choreographing and Performing

It’s time for another sabbatical update! If you missed the first, or have questions about what a sabbatical is, you are welcome to read part one. Since then, I’ve flown to Vienna to officiate a dear friend’s wedding, and spent a grueling week by a hospital bedside watching my fiancé slowly recover from emergency surgery. In the last month, however, I’ve also done a HUGE amount of choreographing and performing.

As a professional dance geek, my writing tends to be at the forefront of my research, and my sabbatical plans were no different – work on books, chapters, and articles. But I write because I’m a dancer (more on that at the end), and when opportunities came up to showcase the physical side of how I create I jumped at them, even though they all came at pretty much exactly the same time! It was beautiful chaos, but here are the projects that I’ve worked on in the last few months:

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Why Lauren Boebert Needs Lesbian Dance Theory

Back in the 1950s, the US government made a bad decision. In fact, it made several, but that’s another blog post. In the 1950s, the US government decided that the Venn diagram of communists, artists, and LGBTQ people overlapped so much that all three groups should be considered a danger to US society. 

A Venn diagram of dancers, communists and LGBTQ people with "DANGER" in the middle.
Feel free to comment with what should be in the open sections…
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Welcome to Hattie Mae’s Jook Joint!

Legacy. Family. Tradition.

Audiences at a packed Birmingham bar got a treat last night as Alvon Reed and cast presented a sneak preview of developing musical “Hattie Mae’s Jook Joint.” This emerging show, supported by Alabama State Council for the Arts, spans three generations of Black entrepreneurs, activists and artists as they struggle to keep their jook joint alive and their community together. Last night’s event was also supported by Eighty Eight Piano Bar, who developed two unique cocktails for the occasion – Hattie’s Homebrew, which packs a smokey whiskey punch, and Booker’s Sweet Love.

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Where Am I Now? National Humanities Center

I’m on sabbatical!

This summer, and through the fall semester, my responsibilities – which are usually divided between research, teaching, and service – have been shifted to 100% research. That means no classes, no meetings, no committees, just the freedom to do my work wherever it takes me.

I’m hoping this will mean a lot more regular blogging on the headtail connection. It also means that I’ll be traveling, teaching, making dance works, and generally doing the kinds of project that fill my heart. If you’d like to see me in a city near you to speak, to teach dance, to make dance etc. get in touch! I’m pretty booked up until October, but after that, I could easily be persuaded to come your way.

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DOs and DON’Ts – Diversity Statements

Please don’t quote Martin Luther King.

If you take one thing away from this blog post, that’s probably the most important one. Don’t quote Martin Luther King in your personal diversity statement, especially not if you are white and especially not if you are white and using one of his better-known inspirational quotes about community and non-violence. Just don’t do it.

I’ve been looking at a lot of job applications this summer, and I’ve listened to a lot of people talk about diversity. It’s very common now (especially for jobs in education) to have to articulate some kind of personal position on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and just like cover letters, the majority of people don’t do it very well.

I am somewhat skeptical about the fashion for diversity, especially as it becomes easier and easier to talk the talk without any kind of substantive commitment. I think it’s tempting to get lost in the minutia of “did they use x specific language” in a way that actually upholds existing structures of privilege and discrimination. But with all that said, I think there are some fairly basic principles that I look for when I hear someone talk about diversity, which I take as indicators of their knowledge, intent, and commitment. If you are someone trying to talk about diversity as part of their professional practice, I hope the following advice helps you out.

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The Student’s Essential Guide to Tenure

Do you know what your teacher is paid to do? What kind of contract they are on?

Do you know that teachers at the same university can be paid very different amounts, and that one teacher might be working for a salary while another works for free, or below minimum wage, even if they’re teaching the same classes?

Do you know whether or not your teachers are paid for the time you spend in their office? Or the time they spend making work for student concerts?

For a lot of students, I’m well aware that the answer is no, and this post is for all of you.

Most students don’t get to learn about the differences in different types of teaching contracts unless they’re actively interested in teaching in higher education themselves, and even then they may not know what kind of contract their teacher is on. Students are led to expect the same kinds of work from all of their instructors – teaching, grading, mentoring, one-to-one help etc. but don’t often know who is being paid to meet those expectations and who isn’t. This can lead to perceptions of certain teachers as more caring, or more invested, when in reality it might just be that they’re being paid to provide you more things.

Obviously, this ignorance puts students at a disadvantage. A university with lots of different instructors might look appealing, but if none of them are being paid for class preparation, or advising, or grading, your classes might not be as rich and rewarding. A teacher who is paid to go to conferences will have an advantage when it comes to keeping at the cutting edge of their area. On certain kinds of contract, teachers are paid to do research projects – projects which often provide amazing opportunities for students.

When you look at schools, you should be looking at the kinds of contract that your teachers will be on, and thinking about how that might affect your university experience. This post is designed to help you do just that.

This post is drawn from a lot of different university policies and practices, although it is not exhaustive and will not be accurate in every situation – it is designed to be a useful general guide.

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Alabama… what’s that like?

So, Alabama… what’s that like?

I get asked this question a lot.

I’m not surprised – I’m an openly transgender professor living and working in a state that would rather its children die than be transgender, that runs political hate ads against LGBTQ+ students, and that recently banned K-12 students with queer parents from discussing those parents in class.

So what’s that like?

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