Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taking Time...

Sunday afternoon’s commencement ceremony was the last of several events where my completion of 36 years as a School of International Service faculty member and an American University faculty administrator was acknowledged. The event did not mark a sharp bifurcation, of course. After greeting graduating students and their parents in and around our magnificent SIS building, I simply returned to 101 Anderson Hall, hung my academic robes in the closet and cooked a light dinner.

Then I returned to reading and commenting on “substantial research papers,” which have taken the place of MA theses for most of our graduate students. One paper proposes a microenterprise initiative to be established in Argentina, A second seeks to understand political violence and unrest, between nations and over time, in Africa. A third assesses human rights education in India and Bangladesh. A fourth examines “Women’s Intersecting Vulnerabilities in Post-Disaster Areas and Their Implications” focusing on a cyclone in Bangladesh an earthquake in Maharashtra, an earthquake in northern Pakistan and the South/Southeast Asian Tsunami. The authors of these papers are all international students, from Argentina, the Philippines, India and China.

The myriad of tasks that filled Monday were much the same as usual - more correcting papers, responding to emails, and meeting with a doctoral student to review her research. There was one exciting bit of personal business however, I rode my bicycle to Georgetown for a meeting that confirmed a deal I had been negotiating to buy a condominium apartment near the university. While my status at AU will be “Professor Emeritus,” living close by will enable me, when I am in the US, to retain ties with American University and, in fact, to more fully enjoy the myriad of events the campus offers to students, faculty, staff and neighbors. When one’s time is less rigorously programmed by work obligations, maintaining contact with an engaged community becomes even more important.

About 7 PM, I broke with my customary routine - which normally involves work until 10 PM or even later. I put my computer to sleep and took time for a relaxed walk about the campus. Thanks largely to the efforts of former President Benjamin Ladner, who mandated hiring of a full-time landscape architect, our campus grounds are distinctively beautiful, and especially so in the early evening twilight. On Monday evening, careful grooming, so that AU’s best face would be shown to graduates and their parents, was still evident. There were beds of blue, white, and magenta flowers everywhere. Shrubbery was meticulously trimmed and garden beds weeded. The newly mowed lawns were a vivid green. Long rays of early evening sunlight, caught the leaves of trees surrounding our campus center and made them stand out vividly.

Only a few human beings are blessed with the opportunity to live and work in such a beautiful setting, especially for more than three decades, as in my case. As I did yesterday evening, I need to take more time to appreciate this beauty, and to be thankful.


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