If the term “alt-ac” is unfamiliar to you, it won’t be for long. The 2013 Modern Language Association Conference held a special session “How did I get here? Our ‘Altac’ jobs”; searching for “alt-ac” in the Chronicle of Higher Education returns around 60 results; and, the term is quickly becoming commonplace in academic departments. Alt-ac is short for “alternative academic,” referring to careers held by scholars in the academy that are outside of the traditional tenure track, often in administration. Those in alt-ac careers are generally Ph.D.-holding staff members, who not only work in administration, but also research, write, and teach. While these “administrator scholars” are valuable assets to the university, the lack of a clear support system and lingering hierarchical tensions still needs to be addressed in order for universities, departments, and students to benefit fully from this resource. Attention has, therefore, turned to the need, at departmental- and university-levels, for further discussion of alt-ac careers and an array of related issues, including the growing use of adjuncts, digital humanities, and graduate/professional student preparation. While alt-ac careers do not “solve” the myriad hiring issues within the humanities, they are fast becoming recognized as legitimate and attractive options for those who do not see themselves in tenure-track positions, but who still have much to offer to the academy.
I was fortunate enough to conduct an e-interview with Donna Bickford, one of the leading voices in the alt-ac community, and an alum of the University of Rhode Island, having earned her Ph.D. in English. Links to her two Chronicle articles, co-written with Anne Mitchell Whisnant, can be found below, along with other pertinent writings on the present and future conditions of alt-ac careers.
Last semester, I taught the course ENG 245, Introduction to Film Decades, with the theme “Teen Films of the 1980s.” I found that our classroom conversations often led students to puzzle over what teens were “really like” back in the 1980s. I would sometimes remind them that for those of us who grew up in that era, life was not, in fact, anything like a John Hughes film.
In my quest to find a documentary about teen life in the 1980s, I stumbled upon All American High, a film by Keva Rosenfeld , which was nominated for the 1987 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Grand Jury Prize and aired on PBS in 1988. As it turns out, the film had recently been remastered and has found a new audience nearly thirty years later; it will screen in the upcoming 2014 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) as part of a program with the Austin Film Society.
So I decided to contact Keva Rosenfeld and interview him about the production and re-release of the film and its own portrait of teen life. As I discovered, the film, which was filmed about a contemporaneous moment, has now become something of a nostalgia film for the 1980s, in the Jamesonian sense. You can read the resulting interview at The Independent.
On December 6th, Tim Amidon (PhD candidate, Rhetoric and Composition) gave a Brown Bag talk in which he presented work from his dissertation, “‘You Can’t Just Learn That Knowledge—That Unspoken Knowledge’: Firefighters’ Multi-modal Literacies.”
Tim, who has been a firefighter for fifteen years, began his talk by explaining that firefighters are too often considered to be “people who do, not people who think.” The research he conducted—which included interviews and field observations—challenges that assumption, and it also challenges our understanding of literacy practices and knowledge work.