In the life of a junior professor, promotion is often reduced to one word (“tenure”). To me, the moment is more conceptual. It’s like making partner in a law firm. Higher ups realize that you have something to contribute. Your colleagues — in this case, across the globe — have looked at your work and given their green light. The Dean and Provost want to invest in you to help do even more great things. It is a bittersweet context for this announcement, knowing that part-time, adjunct labor is at an all-time high. (My fight will always be with the underdog). But today, after three years of service at Saint Louis University, I’m thrilled to have gotten a promotion, with tenure.
No, don’t worry. I’m not going to morph into a wholly different person now. I’m not going to stop producing new things (third book just went to production!). And I’m going to continue to challenge my students by pushing them to be the best they can be. My book reviews are not suddenly going to be mean-spirited or abusive (because: “Academic freedom!”). But I am going to work hard to challenge old ways of thinking and to bring complex historical ideas to the wider public. In short, I’m going to be the same old me: generous in trying to understand others’ contributions but always questioning the way things are and interrogating the traditions we’ve been taught. Above all, I remain committed as a historian to doing something innovative, experimenting with new ideas, and pushing boundaries that might keep other people penned in.
Now some “Thank you”s: I want to give my heartfelt thanks to every single one of my colleagues here in the History Department at Saint Louis University for their support in this process. In fact, it was the senior leadership of our department who suggested to me to pursue this promotion so quickly after arriving here, and to have had them so enthusiastically cheering me on throughout the past two+ years was so meaningful to me that I am overwhelmingly in their debt. They are the model colleagues, historians and public scholars I aspire to be. I also want to thank my partner and his family (including Rod, who could not live to celebrate this occasion) and my mom, my sister and her family for following me and sustaining me on this journey. The list could go on and on. To anyone who is reading this post, thank you!