Archive for April, 2014

In which I talk about a departure and ponder what the heck to do with all the books

Wow. I haven’t posted since two days before Christmas. Yikes. Sorry about that; we spent Christmas in Alaska with my mother and stepfather, had a lovely time seeing them, spent a great Sunday afternoon with several of my relatives on my dad’s side (none of whom had yet met Theodore), attended Christmas services at Holy Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Anchorage, and then came back for New Year’s in Cleveland with our friends, the newly-engaged Benjamin and Emily, and Paul.

Since then, I’ve mostly been a stressed-out wreck, wondering just where in the heck we’re going to be after the summer.

See, it’s been the idea for some time that we would do our level best to make AY2013-2014 our last year in Bloomington. Both Doctors-to-be Barrett being at the dissertation stage, there’s no concrete reason to stay here; to the extent that there might be external opportunities that would be better-suited to the completion of our respective dissertations (dissertatia? dissertationes?) in terms of working environment and locale, then it would be well worthwhile to try to take advantage of said opportunities.

This meant a lot of fellowship applications in October and November. My sights were zeroed-in on Dumbarton Oaks, of course; I was there two summers ago, and I’d very much like to go back. Fellow housing is right there, a 2-3 minute walk from the compound, the Greek cathedral is a 15 minute walk away, and you’re right there in the middle of Georgetown. What would be not to like? That was just one of several applications, though; I applied for the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, too, and then I also applied for something called the Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship, which sets up advanced graduate students with yearlong Visiting Lecturer positions at Indiana University branch campuses. I thought perhaps I might be able to get a spot at IUPUI, and just relocate all the way to Indianapolis, since our lives have kind of re-centered around there lately anyway. Besides those, I applied for several non-residential fellowships; the Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, administered by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, was one, as well as several IU-internal awards — generic dissertation fellowships, and a couple of named awards that were significantly bigger, like the John Edwards Fellowship and the Herman B. Wells Fellowship. If nothing else, maybe we could take the money and go spend the year in Alaska.

The other thing that was happening was that two close friends of mine started as seminarians at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology this last fall. Holy Cross had piqued my curiosity back in 2010, when I found out that my chant teacher, Ioannis Arvanitis, was applying for the chant professor position there (and I was singularly annoyed with some friends of mine there when he was brought to campus as a finalist the following spring and nobody told me). He didn’t get it, but I was nonetheless intrigued by the possibility of spending a dissertation year there. I made some initial contact with the patristics professor there at the Byzantine Studies conference in Chicago in 2011, and visited the campus the following spring. Yes, people do come the way you’re talking about, I was told, but we’re not sure about the mechanics. Usually they come with their own funding. Hm. Well, that’s not altogether promising for a graduate student. Okay, well, maybe it’s not a realistic possibility. Still — well, who knows? When my friends got there last September, I told them, only half-joking, keep your ears to the ground. If you hear about a faculty member going on sabbatical, or a grant opportunity, or anything, let me know.

In December, one of my friends contacted me and said, hey, you realize that there’s a Fellow In Residence position outlined in the catalog? He sent me the reference in the catalog; I made some initial inquiries, and was put in touch with the Dean — who, now, is the very person I first had this conversation with in Chicago three years ago. We were going to make a visit to the campus over MLKJr weekend anyway, so we set up an in-person meeting during the trip. He was positive about the conversation, but he was nonetheless clear that it was a competitive process and subject to a faculty vote. He took my materials and said, we’ll get back to you by the end of February, I think — but if you get Dumbarton Oaks, go to Dumbarton Oaks for heavens’ sake.

Well, shortly thereafter, I started to get rejections back — the internal, generic dissertation fellowships were the first to get back to me, and those were “no”s. I got an interview for a Future Faculty Teaching Fellowship spot, but at Indiana University Columbus, which would be an hour’s commute without being worth a relocation. The interview went fine, but I think it was probably evident that I wasn’t excited about it, and ultimately that was a “no”.

Dumbarton Oaks had said that fellows would be notified in February; February came and went with no word from them or anybody else quite yet. I went back out to Holy Cross at the end of February for a conference, and the Dean made a point of telling me, hey, we hoped we’d have something to tell you by the time you got here, but we’re not going to be able to have a faculty meeting to decide until the second half of March. So, sit tight.

To say that I was tenterhooks waiting to hear where I would be in the coming year, be it Bloomington or elsewhere, was an understatement. I’ve also since realized that this is something that people tend to go through with college and grad school applications; they apply to several possibilities, wait to see what comes back, and then make the best decision they can based on the options. Well, I never did that; I only applied to one school for undergrad, and I only applied to one school for grad. This was my first time going through anything like this process.

Shortly after I got back from the conference, Dumbarton Oaks got back to me with their “no”, as did the Notre Dame folks. At the same time, the Newcombe people let me know I was a finalist, and they said I’d hear by the end of March.

The jawdropper was on Friday, 7 March, when I got the e-mail telling me I was the Wells recipient for AY2014/2015. Then, Monday, 31 March, I got a phone call from the Dean of Holy Cross, telling me that the faculty had voted to recommend me as the Fellow in Residence; the only thing left was to get the President’s office to okay it, and he didn’t anticipate that being a problem. Two days later, he called to confirm that the President had indeed approved my appointment — and that was that.

In August of 2003, I pulled into Bloomington, expecting I’d be here three years at the absolute most and then it would be back to Seattle. In August of this year, we will finally leave Bloomington, and we will do so for Boston. I am looking forward to this immensely; I’m looking forward to living in the Northeast corridor, I’m looking forward to good seafood, I’m looking forward to a 45 second walk to church — and, of course, I’m looking forward to structuring my time around writing my dissertation, something I just haven’t been able to do this year, at least not in the way that is maximally productive. I will have absolutely no excuse not to be done, that’s for sure. While I was most definitely disappointed about Dumbarton Oaks, this is probably as good of a deal as we could have possibly hoped for — and one thing that we’ll have at HCHC that we wouldn’t have had at DO is a group of people we know. That’s going to be important, particularly for Megan and Theodore.

Holy Cross was at once a somewhat after-the-fact Hail Mary pass, while also being something I had been making a nuisance of myself about for a couple of years. However it worked out, I’m not going to complain; glory to God.

I will say, though — I’m looking at our 10 large bookshelves thinking, um, yeah, so, storage. If anybody has done something like this before and has suggestions about what to do with too many damn books, I’m all ears. I’m also having to scan and return my accumulate and perpetually-renewed library books, piling up over the last 11 years. That’s going to be a project in and of itself.

I’ll also say that, while I don’t normally do this, now would be a welcome time for anybody who wants to click on the “Tip Jar” tab up above to do so, what with a move to Boston in our immediate future and all. If you’ve got any questions about any of that, drop me a line — richardbarrett (AT) johnofdamascus . org. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Okay. I have books to scan. Back in a bit with a review of Cappella Romana’s Finnish CD.


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