I come from a working-class family and have made class a central part of my scholarly and social work. My parents attended rural primary schools in the early part of the last century, and were not educated beyond the ninth grade. My father left school (in 1924, Taneytown, Maryland) in order to provide financial support for his widowed mother and siblings. His working life began as the nation moved into and through the Great Depression. Over the course of his working life, he was first a laborer in sewing and shoe factories, briefly took a role in management at one of the factories (which he always said he found particularly objectionable), and then spent his last 20 years of employment as a maintenance worker and machinist for a large corporation in Phoenix. My mother also left school at the end of the ninth grade (1933, Littlestown, Pennsylvania)—she said because she didn't want to do another year of math—so that she could contribute financially to her parents, who in the heart of the Depression had lost the farm that our indentured servant ancestors had established in the mid-1700s. My mother worked alongside her parents and sisters in sewing and shoe factories until she had her first child in 1941. She spent the rest of her life providing unpaid domestic and reproductive labor for my family. My siblings and I were part of the first generation on either side of the family to complete high school and obtain college education.
A native of Arizona, my own educational journey began in Sunnyslope, Arizona with a less than pleasant and less than remarkable primary and secondary experience. As was true for most kids from Sunnyslope, there was little or no encouragement from anyone toward a college education. As is true for most of us raised by parents who lived and worked through the Depression, my siblings and I were advised to obtain a good steady job (in our family the acceptable options were Motorola, Sperry Rand, or Honeywell), a mortgage, and a spouse (not necessarily in that order). The assumption was that once all three were acquired nothing would ever change, as that path ensured the kind of security that my parents had fought hard to gain. I was never able to envision myself on that path. At the age of 25 I decided that I wanted an opportunity to alter my multi-generational class consciousness of getting by. I believed that it was possible to do work that I loved; the next step to make that happen was to go to college. I enrolled for my first college course, English 101, on Saturday mornings at the local community college.
Although I started my working life in various service positions, such as retail and private daycare, I started working in higher education at the age of 26 when I obtained an entry level administrative assistant position. Within a week of beginning my very first office job, the registrar resigned and I was asked to fill in while they conducted a search--the search was quickly called off and I was made the registrar and co-steering director for Peace Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, which provided continuing education programs for adult learners. This work stirred my interests in working with self-directed adult learners and in becoming a life-long and liberated learner.
Around the age of 30 I began a graduate program in spiritual psychology at the University of Santa Monica, where I enrolled as a certificate student since I had not yet completed my bachelor's degree. Although not required of certificate students, I completed every requirement of the Master of Arts degree at a level that merited recognition as an honors graduate student. The faculty of the program made the decision to award me the Master of Arts degree in Applied Psychology (the name of the program was changed to Spiritual Psychology the year after I graduated). I remain the only graduate of USM to be granted this honor from the university faculty since its inception in 1976. Since that time I have gone on to achieve some truly wonderful successes in my life, yet I will always see having earned my Master of Arts degree from USM as my greatest academic and professional accomplishment. I will also always chuckle a bit at how purely this accomplishment demonstrates my obsessive need as a working-class academic to overcompensate for something I see as lacking (real or imagined).
After earning my master's degree in 1992, I came to Prescott College and joined the staff of the Master of Arts program (MAP) at the end of the program's first year. During my first year with the MAP I served as a graduate advisor in our counseling and education programs, as well as in a fulltime staff role, providing admissions counseling and general administrative assistance for the program, which was new and small (MAP had 36 fulltime students when I joined the program staff). Over the years, as the program grew, I served in academic administration roles, including turns as the Director of Academic Affairs, Director of MAP, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, and three times I have served as the interim Dean. In 1997 the program was restructured to our current model, which includes a full faculty member to oversee/chair each of the degree programs. I was hired to oversee the humanities program and served as the chair for humanities for ten years in addition to my role as the program director for MAP. As of fall 2009 I serve as the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and currently Interim Dean of the Graduate Programs, a position that holds oversight for the Ph.D. and M.A. Programs. I also have the pleasure of being the champion and coordinator of the Graduate Program Council--the group of graduate faculty, program chairs, directors, coordinators, and deans who have academic oversight responsibility for existing and new graduate programs at Prescott College. And of course I still teach in our graduate programs--after all that's why I'm here. Currently I teach Modes of Inquiry, a research design course for our Ph.D. students, and Sustainable Justice, a literature course for M.A. and Ph.D. students that focuses on social and ecological justice and their intersections.
In 2008 I earned my Ph.D. with a specialization in Twentieth Century U.S. Literature and Culture through Union Institute & University. My dissertation, “Who is We?: Toward a Theory of Solidarity; Toward a Future of Sustainability,” develops a critical theory of analysis based on the principles and practice of solidarity and sustainability. Since my first community college course on that Saturday morning in 1985 I have remained enrolled in one degree program or another, and the first thing I did after I mailed my completed dissertation to my own graduate college dean was to apply to the Prescott College limited residency Bachelor of Arts Program and in 2011 I completed my BA in Arts and Letters with an emphasis in Social Change, Justice, and Sustainability. As a life-long learner I look forward to many more years of working with other passionate scholars in a variety of ways.