Again with Commencement ’10: Red Shoes Edition

In what ways does your institution recognize the continuing indispensability of women’s scholarship? How does it “high five” women who join its ranks?

Careful observers at our annual commencement would have noticed some of the women faculty, admins, and graduates wearing red shoes. The run-up to Commencement ’10 was marked by higher-than-usual student interest in this Garrett tradition, and on the day itself, red shoes seemed to catch the light everywhere.

But why red shoes? Preacher Mom did some original research along that line. The short version is this:

We wear red shoes to remind us of our place as courageous, outrageous women, and to celebrate the rich tradition of female scholarship at GETS.

Read the whole post. You will learn something of Georgia Hearkness, Professor of Applied Theology at G-ETS from 1939–1950, and of her grandmother Abigail (AKA “the woman in the red coat”). You will also find that Rosemary Skinner Keller, first women to serve as Academic Dean at G-ETS, was the first to remember Hearkness’s story by wearing red shoes.

Speaking personally, I am happy to say that I was raised largely by women teachers and scholars. I remember my mom (a lifelong registered nurse) staying up late nights to earn her Masters degree in Gerontology so that she could reliably make the kind of money needed to deliver us from a certain hazard besetting the family in that time and place. My next-oldest sister (now long since a career teacher) played school with me, teaching me my letters and words faster and more engagingly than any of my elementary school teachers could. My oldest sister (who went on to CalTech to become a chemical engineer) stayed up late with me nights to talk speculatively about science, relativity, elementary particles and their habits, the colonization of space, the relation of mind to brain to senses, and how we know what we think we know. (She also opened her bookshelves to me, allowing me to read constantly over my head and regardless of subject matter or age-appropriateness. Rock on, Sis.) Women teachers and scholars had defined my life and its prospects before I mastered long division or graduated to chapter books. While the patriarchy was undoubtedly well at work on me during those years, it’s still the case that women scholars were normal to me before the patriarchy could get very far in abnormalizing them.

I hear stories from time to time, mostly from women academic bloggers, about how some faculty succeed informally but consistently in “high-fiving” their women graduates, not to the exclusion of their male peers but in an above-and-beyond sort of way. What is your experience? Are faculty “putting on the red shoes” in any noticeable way for women’s scholarship and women grads? How or how not? And what do you think of such an attempt?

[Again with Commencement ’10: Red Shoes Edition was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/05/18. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]

Commencement ’10

Every year at this time I read posts like Anastasia’s, on the topic of profs who show up and profs who don’t.

Maybe there will come a time when I don’t get excited about commencement. After all, though this must be at least my sixth or seventh commencement here or there as faculty, I am early enough in my career still to be gratified by those elements of commencement that are “all about me”: my own hard-earned regalia, horsing around with other faculty, basking with admins in a general glow of checking off another reasonably successful year. There will likely come a rainy May day when these goods fail to pay off for me, and I find nothing in it for me that year.

And that will be about right.

Because, as you are already saying to yourself as you suffer through the just-allowably sophomoric, self-indulgent sentiments of my second ’graph, commencement day won’t be about me anyway, and never was, except insofar as I am or am not present to support what’s really going on there. Which is, you know, recognizing students for having done all that stuff that we believe it was so important that they do.

If I’m “over” what’s really going on there, then I’m “over” my vocation. But at least from here, that’s comfortably hard to imagine: once again, commencement was fun, and was most fun after the pre-curtain backstage fashion show and attention had turned where it belonged.

(Probably to be continued in some form.)

[Commencement ’10 was written by G. Brooke Lester for and was originally posted on 2010/MONTH/DATE. Except as noted, it is © 2010 G. Brooke Lester and licensed for re-use only under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0.]