Sunday, August 21, 2011

summer vacation

from the Life Magazine archive at Google
The fall semester starts at FIU tomorrow morning. At 10am I get to enjoy the wonderful annual ritual of welcoming incoming students to FIU, many of whom will be sitting in a university classroom for the first time.

This is a good time, then, to disabuse non-academics of the common misconception that college faculty “have the summer off,” and non-Floridians of the notion that life here is a blur of beaches and mojitos.

The educational mission of universities like FIU includes the production of new knowledge through research and discourse. Yes, we spend a lot of time teaching (and much more time preparing to teach or evaluating and mentoring students), but the research component of academic labor is essential to the growth of our understanding of the world around us. FIU and other research-intensive universities evaluate junior faculty on the quality of their research through the tenure review process, and continue to evaluate senior faculty through the promotion process.

So how did I spend my summer vacation?

The view of the Tuscan landscape from
one of the archives where I worked this summer.
It started with a five-week fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, where I dug through seven archives around Italy as part of my ongoing study of Italian colonial urbanism and architecture in East Africa. I wrote a chapter on the subject for an edited volume being published in Italy, and received invitations to give papers on the topic at two conferences in the coming year. I finished a chapter (on a completely different subject) for another book I’m helping a friend edit. I revised two articles that will appear in peer-reviewed journals this winter, and began curating two exhibitions that will open at FIU this year.

But the big news for the summer was that my book manuscript won the James Ackerman Prize, conferred by the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza. Professor Ackerman is one the great living scholars of Renaissance architecture, and he endowed the prize as a way of recognizing young architectural historians. The prize includes publication of the book by the Centro and the Venetian publishing house, Marsilio Editori. This is a great honor, and an extraordinarily humbling one. Of course, the fun of summer “vacation” doesn’t stop just because classes are starting. With my tenure dossier due in April, the next four months are packed with writing and editing deadlines, in between the obligations of three (and a half) classes and 160 (or so) students.

And then there’s the matter of this house that needs to be completed.

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