When I asked my students what their first impressions were of me as a college professor, I was met with a couple interesting reactions. At first, most students were surprised to see how young I was and assumed that my thinking may also “new” and “fresh.” Secondly, the female students seemed to be impressed with my wardrobe, commenting that they were surprised to have a “fashionable” professor “in high heels” instead of being an older, “fifty-ish” professor “wearing a suit and tie” or dressed down.
I think in some way, my appearance is an extension of my pedagogy because I love the class material to be fresh and relevant to me and my students. One way I accomplished that was including a supplementary text from Peggy McIntosh that fit nicely with the issues of difference and conformity found in Richard Rodriguez’s essay “The Achievement of Desire.” I also included current news articles from the campus newspaper to that supplementary material to offer a pragmatic application of McIntosh, Rodriguez and even Freire readings.
I tend to think outside the box a little more readily than most professors is because of my age and experience in academia. I see such academicians as Dr. Cornell West, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, President Barack H. Obama, and Tavis Smiley as my intellectual role models and I aspire to create work that straddles the line between academia and the real world because I exist in both worlds.
These figures seem to balance both arenas very easily without losing their integrity or poise and I challenge myself to follow their examples. Dr. Cornell West, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, and President Obama are academicians who are professors in their discipline at their perspective universities but are often asked to comment and participate in current events panels concerning issues of race, gender, vernacular, social and economic justice, music and the arts. By being a part of such discussions as reader or viewer of such conversations, I feel that they create a window of their discipline to the general public to observe. They can show how their work is relevant to society at large through their commentary. I am also impressed by Dr. Dyson’s ability to “switch” between the vernacular of academia and that of the hip hop culture as eloquently as Shakespeare without misunderstandings in meaning.
Who are your role models? Why do you admire them? How does your life pattern this admiration?