W. Ryan Powers
Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship (2004)
This is Padding
A man, I'll call him William Ryan Powers II (no relation), wanted to buy a new pet, so he walked over to the pet store. Having grown tired of typical pets, he noticed a centipede in a little white box with holes for a home and thought, "I'd like to have that centipede as a pet." William Ryan Powers II then bought the centipede and took the little guy home with him. On the first Sunday with his new pet centipede he thought, "I want to take my centipede to church with me. We will have fun." Thereafter, William Ryan Powers II approached the little white box with holes that was the centipede's home and asked, "Centipede, would you like to go to church with me? We will have fun." But William Ryan Powers II got no answer from his new pet. So he asked once more, "Please, will you come to church with me? I would love your company." But again the centipede failed to reply. William Ryan Powers II became quite distressed considering maybe his new pet was dead, maybe he didn't like church, or worse, perhaps the centipede didn't want to be seen in public with William Ryan Powers II at all. Desperately, he asked one last time, "Centipede, will you please come to church with me?" and finally, in a tiny voice, the centipede said, "I heard you the first time. I'm putting on my shoes."
Culture studies is a new pet to me, but like the centipede's unconventionality as a pet, culture studies is a new type of pet in the academic world. It is a field often shunned, overlooked, and underappreciated. It is a field given up on as incompliant with typical academic demands, aversive to the popular current of academic thought, but in actuality it is a field that simply, without speaking in its own defense, is putting on its shoes.
In one of my first internship readings, "Collegiality, Crisis, and Culture Studies," Lauren Berlant discusses intricately the popular criticisms of the unpopular field, culture studies. She gives that field of study a voice and an identity. Dr. Kevorkian's choice to begin our semester's thought with that article led me to think of that article as pertinent to each of our causes and paths, me, Dr. Kevorkian, and the IE internship program alike.
We are each entrepreneurs of thought. We all seek individuality in a mass produced academic domain, as well as share the pursuit of creativity in order to find words for our passion, to selfishly get what we want, which unselfishly is to do our parts to promote thought, kindness, and more creativity. The most intriguing couplet of lines I found in Berlant's article exclaims, "But again, I think that the farther from tenure scholars are, the more time they should have to develop their relation to thinking and working. This is not the general view of the academy" (114). And this is where I found myself: sitting across from a man hopefully a few years away from tenure, while I am hopefully two decades or so away from tenure, and we both find it startling that we must necessarily maintain awareness of an incongruity between thinking and working, that we must develop our relation to both, paying attention to each one individually.
Berlant, through her article, served me as another mentor or buddy. She enlightened me and reminded me about the grind of academia. The farther away from pursuing knowledge for knowledge's sake one gets, the further into a career that person progresses. But once the career begins and the student enrollment expires, the freedom of thought dwindles. In order to maintain a healthy career, support yourself and perhaps family, people tend to forget their true desires easily. Conformity controls. To fit in becomes the drive rather than to catch an eye, an ear, or an engaged thinker. In the article by Richard Cherwitz and Sheran Daniel called "Rhetoric as Professional Development and Vice Versa," they note that scholars today must be more than scholars, "They must be citizen-scholars, equipped with the rhetorical resources to adapt to a variety of audiences and appreciating that the once perhaps clear lines between teaching/research, academic/non-academic, and content/form are fuzzy at best." The struggle for survival Berlant describes coincides with an exhorted appreciation in Cherwitz and Daniel's article. But how is learning to adapt to the pressure an answer to maintaining your identity? Is adaptation merely a manner of conformity?
Adaptation as Cherwitz's IE program contends, does not conform the scholar to the demands, it simply upgrades the scholar's sense of self to better deal with his role in the scholarly community. Again, Cherwitz and Daniel write, "The program thus represents less a top-down effort to re-install rhetoric as the central subject of a citizen-scholar's education or to re-invent the doctoral system, than an effort to place within the reach of graduate students an understanding of rhetoric as a tool by which they can invent, and continually re-invent their own education." Continual reinvention, to recreate and revise yourself, to update yourself is to thrive in the scholarly community. Cherwitz's prime focus, rhetoric, representing the way we represent ourselves, obviously is the tool by which we continually redefine ourselves. Therefore, the key to keeping your intellectual pursuits renewed follows by keeping that tool sharp and using that tool only to represent yourself, not what the bosses, students, co-faculty mentors expect.
In a way, the IE internship is a culture study. Just as Berlant did, participants in the program explore today's society, specifically that immediate dogged competition in the scholarly world. The program does not offer a text book to study from, notes to take, or a new vocabulary to ingrain in your mind. The program does offer a field experiment, in which you can live the professional life or something like it for a few weeks and experience first hand the demands of studying and producing, thinking and working at the same time.
My "mentor," Dr. Martin Kevorkian's work combines to separately discussed but rarely conjoined issues, race and technology. Together, we spent the session examining the field of culture studies, into which he plans to shortly release his book, examining what my future graduate program at the University of Houston can offer me, working hands on with a manuscript in route to publishing, and then just exchanging thoughts with a pseudo colleague. So I learned more about my future surroundings as well as learned how it feels to befriend a professor. I imagine I'll need to do much more of that for the sake of my wellbeing and also for my career.
Basically, I think living life is just a matter of personifying animals whenever you get the chance. Each personified animal is another life saved, I think. And to become a little figurative, personifying animals just means to take something we share space with, something we're familiar with and make it something we can use and have fun with. I saw the internship as a way to learn more from my favorite professor here at UT. I essentially pirated the program to loot Dr. Kevorkian's brain, and now, I'm gratefully returning the program to you unharmed. While I was amidst my pirating, I found a few extra treasures, which I've also stolen and will take back home with me. That loot most importantly including a sense that I'm on the right path, that my greatest skill will be my greatest weapon, that is having fun, staying true to a brotha, doing my best to relate everything I can through powerful words and innately more powerful actions to my teachers and students both.