Fall Quarter Snapshots
In this Snapshots series, members of the Division community offer insights into their experiences during the Fall Quarter. Students, faculty, alumni, and staff are invited to submit a post here.
Oct 29, 2020
SSD Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Programs
This Autumn Quarter marks the start of my tenth school year working in the SSD. Normally I’d have spent the first days of the quarter welcoming students to campus on the quad and holding open houses for my undergraduate programs. This year, though, I spent the first day sitting at a makeshift desk in my dining room— a credenza full of records, books, and art supplies—hosting office hours over Zoom and plotting out ways to create engaging online programming for the academic year. Like many of my colleagues, it’s certainly not the school year I would have imagined seven months ago!
While I certainly miss campus and often find myself pining for an office door that closes, the transition to working remotely has been more or less smooth for me. In fact, I’ve found that the shift in schedule has allowed me to establish a quieter, more balanced daily rhythm. My typical commute is something of a time vampire—it lasts about 3 hours each day and doesn’t leave much wiggle room for relaxation. Now, instead of running for the train first thing in the morning, I sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a book while my cat, Queso, purrs contentedly in my lap. In the evenings, I take long walks with my partner through neighborhood alleyways and down quiet side streets I never knew existed. Having the time to enjoy these small moments has helped me to move through emotions related to the current crisis while keeping my spirits high and my stir-craziness relatively low.
Though I deeply crave the day when the world looks more familiar (visits with my niece and nephew, in-person meetings with students, excursions to the library, etc.), I’m doing my best to move in that direction intentionally, at a speed that will allow me to maintain this new, coveted routine. When the more familiar days do arrive, however, I think I’ll need somebody to explain the change of season to the cat.
Oct 26, 2020
Senior Director of Human Resources
As I head into my 10th year in SSD, I cannot help but think about all of the amazing people I have had the pleasure to work with in the Division. It would be hard to picture myself anywhere else. I have always admired the “team” effort in SSD, and I believe it is what has helped us to have a seamless transition to remote work.
While I would have never predicted seven months of being away from campus, there are many things to appreciate about this time. Through the weekly SSD Staff Virtual Coffee Breaks I have come to know many more faces in SSD. Our weekly time together is fun, light-hearted, and has helped to fill the “connection” void. I miss campus a lot, so much so that I asked my husband (who is an essential worker on campus) to take some pictures on his walks.
Working remotely has also given me a greater sense of work-life balance as my time, normally spent on commuting, is used for new hobbies like hiking at Indiana Dunes National Park, spending time boating on Lake Michigan, trying new dinner recipes and finally having time to tackle home projects.
I actually feel a greater sense of team and support now more than ever. I am in awe at how quickly and well we made the transition and just the overall feeling of collegiality amongst everyone.
Stay safe and healthy my friends! I look forward to the day we can return to the office, see each other in person, and enjoy our beautiful campus.
PS...my photo shows what the Chicago Skyline looks like from the beach at Dunes National Park in Indiana.
Oct 21, 2020
Kelly Therese Pollock
Dean of Students
As I write this, I’m sitting ten feet away from one of my sons, who is on a third-grade Zoom call, and I can hear my other son down the hall on his first-grade Zoom call. In March this was a whole new world to get used to, but at this point it’s become part of the rhythm of my day. My kids (and my husband) work best with routines and set locations where they do their work, so I am the one who moves around the house during the day, finding whatever cozy nook is quietest at that moment for my meeting, carefully pointing the webcam to avoid the mess and the kids and the cats (although the kids and the cats do sometimes make their way onto the calls anyway).
There is a lot that has been difficult about the past seven months for so many, and I feel for our students who are facing such challenges. For me, though, I have really cherished this time with my family while my kids are still young enough to enjoy being with their parents. It’s often not easy, but getting to sit down to lunch with my family during a weekday is a real treat.
I do miss the social aspects of being on campus. The work of my office moved to virtual format more or less seamlessly. A lot of what we do was already over email and online databases and Box, and that hasn’t changed, and Zoom meetings aren’t that different from in-person meetings. What we don’t have any longer, though, is the impromptu conversations in the office or walking across campus. While is some ways that makes the work day a lot more efficient, I think we really lose something when we don’t have those regular personal connections. I look forward to when we can return to campus and to the social gatherings we used to have.
Oct 16, 2020
Associate Director, Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS)
One of my coworkers, who began her job at CLAS last September, noted that she has now been working from home for almost as long as she worked in the office. She had two normal quarters at CLAS, barely enough time to even meet all of the people who comprise the Latin American and Caribbean Studies community on campus. What makes me sad about this is that she’s missing out on one of my favorite things about working at CLAS.
I’ve been working in higher education—specifically in Latin American Studies—for more than 20 years, at different institutions. What struck me when I first arrived at UChicago seven years ago, and what continues to impress me now, is the deep connection among the Latin Americanists on campus. Across three institutions, CLAS is the place where I have felt the strongest sense of community, and it is a close and intellectually stimulating community that reaches across programs, disciplines, and rank.
Throughout the six months of our forced separation, I have focused on how to maintain our sense of connectedness in these disconnected times. I haven’t found the perfect solution, but we are doing our best. Zoom office hours. Online events. New multimedia materials. One of my favorite projects is a new interview series with doctoral students, where we talk not only about their research but also about more informal topics such as why they were drawn to Latin American Studies and what course most inspired them. It is during these interviews, conducted via Zoom, that I have felt most connected to students. At this point, I would love to interview every one of our students, just to share stories and a few laughs.
I know that things will be different in a post-COVID world, but I hope that the CLAS community remains vibrant, inclusive, and energetic. I look forward to having in-person events again. I can’t wait to eavesdrop (while I work) on the discussions of the two graduate workshops that meet in our space. I will happily drop everything to chat with faculty members and students who drop by my office just to say hi. And I look forward to watching my coworker engage with our students and faculty in all of these ways, so that she can enjoy one of the primary benefits of working at CLAS.