What I’m looking forward to this fall semester

At the beginning of the summer, I wrote a post about the summer projects I was looking forward to and the goals I was hoping to meet during a time of year that is theoretically more quiet than the fall and spring but tends to fill up with other stuff anyway. Turns out my summer didn’t fill up with a bunch of extra stuff (though there was definitely some of that) so much as time just seemed to slip away. Still, I feel like I was able to make some pretty good progress on the projects I set for myself. I wish I could have done more or done what I did better, but I’m not unhappy with where I’ve ended up.

Now I’m looking toward the fall.

When I was thinking about this post, I was actually surprised to realize that apparently this blog has been around long enough that writing a pre-fall semester post has become something of a tradition, although not exactly a happy one. The last two years have been spent mostly ruminating on COVID. Last year was especially a bummer because the school year was starting off in the midst of the Delta wave, which was the first sign that the vaccines (though incredibly valuable and important) weren’t going to be quite the panacea many of us might have hoped.(1)

This year COVID is still around and it’s still a problem. I definitely don’t want to be cavalier about a pandemic that’s still causing serious illness and death among so many people. But at this point COVID has started to feel like it’s just one of the many frankly shitty things that are going on in the world right now. Like most of those things, it’s not within my power to control or fix.

So I could write a whole depressing post about all of that or about the continuing low morale I feel about the general chaos around me at work. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I’m looking forward to this fall–not as a way to ignore the crappy stuff or pretend like it doesn’t exist but to give myself a break from it.

Albany Book Festival: My institution is home to the New York State Writers Institute, which for the past few years has put on a Book Festival on our campus every fall. The slate of writers who appear at the festival is always impressive and the schedule for this September is shaping up to be no different. This year, though, I think I’ll probably be spending more time hanging out in the local writers’ room. Last year, I was trying to figure out a way to get started with the next step in my research on the role of research in creative writing, which I knew would need to involve talking to actual writers. The list of local writers appearing at the festival last year ended up being an invaluable resource. Now I’m looking forward to hopefully meeting some of the writers I’ve been talking to in person as well as meet some new ones. I’ll be interested in hearing about their creative work and hopefully a few of them might be interested in talking with me about their research.

New and improved course on the contextual nature of research: Last spring, I took over instructor duties for our UNL 207 course after the retirement of my predecessor. This was an opportunity for me to finally put into action some of my ideas about teaching students about the importance of context to the research process. Unfortunately, I had a limited amount of time to plan the course so the approach wasn’t as well-executed as I wanted it to be, though there was some stuff that definitely worked well. One of my goals for the summer was to take some time to plan things out a little more and address some of the issues I noticed on the first go-around. What I’ve come up with still feels a little rough to me and I’m a little unsatisfied with the fact that, due to the length of the course, I don’t really have time to do more than a broad overview of some of the ideas I want to present. But a broad overview is better than nothing and I’ll be interested to see what students make of it.

Submitting my sabbatical project for review, finally: Remember the sabbatical I went on…two years ago? Yeah, me neither. Anyway, the proposed project for that time was an in-depth literature review focused on creative writing pedagogy, which I planned to turn into an article that I hoped to submit to a journal in the writing studies field. It’s not that I didn’t do what I said I was going to do–I think I read something like 11 books and 30 articles about the topic during my actual sabbatical. But I ended up spending that time and much of the time that came after focusing on other projects, like writing my book. This summer I intended to buckle down, stop procrastinating, and get the article I had drafted to a point where all that was left before submitting it somewhere was some relatively minor tinkering. I think I’ve been successful in that endeavor. It might take a while to get up the nerve to actually submit the thing, but my goal is to do it sometime before the end of this calendar year. Fingers crossed!

Reviewing articles for CIL: It’s been about a year now since I first become a co-editor of Communications in Information Literacy. It’s been a great experience so far! Because the deadline for our next issue is in August, we tend to get a lot of submissions this time of year. I remember there was a flurry of them last year and already we’re seeing a bit of an uptick in submission. Keeping up with it all is a bit stressful but I always enjoy the opportunity to be among the first to see some of the new research that’s happening in our field. I’m looking forward to feeling energized and inspired by the great work that other IL scholars have been doing this last year.

So those are my plans for the fall, at least as of right now. This is always the busiest time of the year and sometimes it can be a challenge just to keep my head above water but it’s been nice having at least a bit of a break over the summer. Now it’s time to start welcoming back the students!


1. Though they might have had a better chance if more people had decided to actually get them but, well, that’s the current political reality for you.

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