It’s been a month since my last blog post and a lot has happened to say the least. Rather than offering a day-by-day breakdown of events here, I thought that I’d provide a brief summary. In the past, I’ve organized my blog around certain themes or ideas. Today, I’ll do so around the three essential components of my academic job application: research, teaching, and service. I’ve chosen this model because the academic job market looms large in my mind at the moment. I plan to apply for jobs for the first time in September!
Over the last month, I’ve written four items worthy of note. The first is a completed version of the second chapter of my dissertation. The second is a revised version of my teaching statement. The third and fourth are two articles that I intend to submit to peer reviewed academic journals. In reading through the submission guidelines for those journals, I’ve come to learn that I have to refrain from describing the content of my articles to allow for blind review. Hopefully you’ll see my name in print before too long!
The last month also gave me several chances to present my research.
A few weeks ago, I gave a guest lecture for Karen Nakamura at Waseda University about disability and technology in contemporary Japan. I took her students on a tour of the surrounding area, during which I pointed out accessibility features (or lack thereof) and discussed how our actions can affect the built environment. The students seem to have taken an interest in my interactive lesson. According to Karen, many have used it as inspiration for their final projects, which aim to elucidate various aspects of access in Tokyo.
More recently, I lead a pedagogy workshop at Sophia University about teaching diversity in Japanese universities alongside four co-panelists, who discussed issues of race, class, and gender in a way that complemented my work on disability. Most of my contributions focused on the troubling implications of teaching without consulting persons with disabilities. I argued that a lack of disabled voices in the classroom (borne out of social, political, economic, and cultural barriers, among others) has led us to teach in a way that produces practical changes in the outside world that often create hardships for persons with disabilities. I suggested that we must develop an awareness of the ways in which our teaching affects individuals within and outside of the classroom and deliberately redesign our pedagogical practices to dismantle barriers to education, employment, and social participation for persons with disabilities.
Of course, my participation in research events was not limited to the role of facilitator. I also attended many events led by faculty operating in disciplines adjacent to my own. For instance, I went to see lectures by Amanda Seaman and Jennifer McGuire on cancer narratives and the cultural effects of several kinds of deaf education.
My teaching this month often assumed the form of academic advising. I spoke with four students who wish to enter the academy and gave them feedback on their application materials. While I won’t reveal their names here due to concerns regarding anonymity, I’ll wish them the best. In addition to my student advising, I also spoke with some of my peers and mentors like Chris Atwood, Edward Drott, Jolyon Thomas, Gregory Hannah, and Christa Bialka about career prospects and the cultivation of a professional persona. Their advice has been invaluable in developing my job application materials, and I hope that I’ve reciprocated their kindness by suggesting practical developments within the academy that may benefit their students. For instance, the creation of an Accessibility Minor (rather than a Disability Studies minor) at Villanova University that would unite students of engineering, business, law, ethics, gender and global interdisciplinary studies via collaborative research projects that tackle barriers to access for everyone.
Perhaps the most exciting aspects of my work over the last month (or at least the most noticeable to those outside academia) fell into the realm of service. Among my many encounters were meetings with domestic entrepreneurs and politicians working in the accessibility sphere. For instance, I was consulted by Kurofune Design Holdings Inc., an architecture firm that hopes to build an international residence that can accommodate persons with disabilities from different cultures. I also met with Keimi Harada (former mayor of Tokyo’s Minato Ward) and shared with him my views on access. Such meetings went a long way to furthering the domestic realization of my research. But my service activities over the last month were not limited to domestic developments.
Two weeks ago, I met with disability activists Masako Okuhira and Ming Canaday at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to discuss the creation of accessible environments in Japan, China, and the United States. I was also contacted by the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations on Disability and Accessibility, who praised my work and suggested that I become involved in a number of international initiatives, including the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES). The Special Envoy asked me to share the findings of my research with her and her peers at the UN. I can’t say how humbling it is to be consulted by leaders on accessibility from across the globe. I can only hope to live up to their expectations going forward!
And that’s about it for this month, my friends. I’m going back underground for a while as I have to prepare my job application materials, but you’ll hear from me before too long. As always, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave a comment or question if you like!