I taught my first class at Carson Newman University today! It went well. First days of class are always fun, full of potential. Students still listen to me. Since I teach in the basement, cell service is spotty. Maybe that worked in my favor. And with an ever-expanding list of things to do, I’m glad to be at a place where people are nice. It’s a welcoming atmosphere: “We’re like family,” I keep hearing. And this family has a home: the campus seems well situated and connected to the town of Jefferson City.
As students introduced themselves, I kept wondering why Jefferson City exists. Like what industries and businesses are here? What is their relationship with the university? How much does the place and its history matter to students? I’ve seen dilapidated buildings in an old downtown area and the strip along the main highway with Walgreens, McDonald’s, and a Shell station. And I’ve seen the university-developed cafe/restaurant, conceived and managed by the students in the business department. For me these point to history, revitalization, and future survival. And in the bustle of learning my new tasks, I think of my own survival.
Every time I get one item crossed off my list of things to do, another two or three get added. I presume this will be the case for some time. But many of the tasks will help me develop my sense of this place and my connections to it. I hope that my many projects: teaching courses, chairing dissertations, and participating as a faculty member, will act as vehicles, rather than impediments, to my growing familiarity with Carson Newman University. As time goes on differentiation is inevitable. Surely at some point, some faculty member will say something bad about another (none of that so far!). The campus buildings will not seem as uniform. I will find my way over to Cherokee Lake. I’ll get to know students.
But the challenges are formidable. So much so that I’m kind of procrastinating writing this post. I’m chairing 11 dissertations! They have to have their first three chapters by like November! I’ve got three course preps that are completely new! And I have to drive about an hour and 20 minutes every day! But in a Christian college environment, in which faculty get to talk to teacher candidates in terms of answering a calling and treating all students (and people) as children of God, I feel supported and up to the tasks. I guess we’ll see how the student evaluations turn out!