My thoughts. And ramblings. Uncensored.
So, why exactly did I leave the Bay Area… for Albuquerque of all places?
I’ve been asking myself that very question ever since I got here. Why did I take this job? Why am I here?
I’ve worked with this particular program for many years now. In 2005, I was first introduced to the American Economics Association’s Summer Training Program in Economics (AEASTP) as a student participant, held at the time at Duke University. Briefly, the goal of the program is to increase the number of minorities who go on to receive PhDs in Economics. In 2010, I was one of the TAs in the AEASTP at UC Santa Barbara for 3 weeks. (Read: mini-vacation). So when I was offered the opportunity to work with the AEASTP here at the University of New Mexico’s Albuquerque campus in 2012, I jumped at the chance. Although it meant leaving the Bay Area for a summer, it also meant a fairly easy job with a lot of time to work on my research.
Or so I thought. This year’s program is a reinvention of the past programs that I’ve been a part of. And, as I discovered on my arrival, we have a lower budget, fewer students, and some unexpected gaps to fill. There are also a few minor annoyances here and there (like getting an ID card, getting paid, living in a dorm room again (kinda getting too old for this), etc.)
More significantly, my position of “Teaching Assistant” was not clearly defined prior to my arrival. So I had no idea what class(es) I would be TAing for, etc. I eventually found out that they were looking for someone to teach labor economics, for one week of a four-week team-taught course. (Read: 10 hours of a 40 hour course.) So, naturally, since labor is one of my fields, I’ve been magically elevated from TA to “co-instructor” even though I’m now going to be lecturing, writing and grading problem sets, guiding students with their research projects, AND still doing the TA part as well (helping solve those same problem sets, chaperoning them on field trips, getting to know them and provide advice about graduate school, etc.)
Although I’m only teaching for one week, still that’s 25 percent of a labor econ course. So there is a lot of prep work ahead of me. That said it will be a good opportunity to improve my teaching skills, and to refresh my memory on the actual material. Not to mention that it will force me to think through the models that I will teach, as I am opting for a very structural approach. We’re doing labor supply, labor demand, Becker’s model of discrimination, and the Rosen-Roback model of space, wages, and prices. Why? Because this is where I can grow the most in my own research. The good thing is that I’ll get support and guidance from the staff on crafting my mini-course, and they’ll back me up when it comes time to go on the job market. Also, all of the staff seems really eager to help us graduate students in any way that they can with our research or whatever. The networking that I will get to do this summer, I think, will more than make up for those other annoyances.
The first week has been cool. Got here on Tuesday, settled in. On Wednesday had a ton of organizational meetings, but went out for some really good food after. Thursday was a little more chill, and we met again to get on the same page as instructors. More of the same on Friday, plus the ever-important trip to Wal-Mart and a barbeque at the Faculty/Staff Club here. Today (Saturday), I slept in and then attended a big festival in Downtown Albuquerque celebrating the Centennial of New Mexico. Also checked out a brewery in town, which had pretty good beer.
The students arrive tomorrow, and soon I’d better get cracking on those lectures. I miss the Bay Area, but I’ll be back in 6 weeks. In the mean time, stay tuned to my Facebook news feed, tumblr, and Google Photos accounts for pictures and highlights. Wish me luck!
Getting to Albuquerque, Lost Baggage Edition
Don’t fly United Airlines. Not even the new United Airlines. I thought things would change after their merger with Continental, but, this was not to be.
So what happened? Well, I was pretty tired on Tuesday morning. So instead of waking up at 7:30 am, as planned, I woke up at 10:30 am. I planned to catch the 11:30 BART train to San Francisco Airport (SFO) but ended up barely catching the 12:18 train. So I got to the airport around 1:15 pm for a flight that was departing at 2pm.
When I finally got to the bag drop line, the system wouldn’t let me check my bag. Thus, I was forced to track down an agent, who told me that she would have to rebook me because I missed the 45-minute cutoff. She said that I wouldn’t be able to go until tomorrow, but then changed her mind. I put my bag on the scale. 61.0 pounds! Overweight! She yells to me that I have to unpack or else pay $100. So as I reached to grab the bag off the scale, the weight changes to 46.9 (or something like that). She says “wait”, lets the bag sit for a second, and then says its OK. She asks me if I was leaning on the bag (no)… but the bag was leaning against the wall of the scale the first time, inflating the weight. I think. Either that or God performed a miracle… just sayin’!
I made it through security and caught my flight. My bag did not make it. At Albuquerque, I inquired with the woman who works at the baggage office. She told me that my bag was in San Francisco and would most likely be on the next flight out of SFO (on Wednesday, today). But she took down my info and told me that she would call me if it turned up early. (Supposedly, she was going to call someone at SFO to re-tag the bag for a connecting flight through LAX to ABQ, but that never happened…) She also convinced me not to file a claim, since “24 hours had not passed”. (I fell for it, but you should not!) So I had to wear the same clothes and underwear two days in a row. But there is a Walgreens nearby so I was able to buy soap, toothpaste/toothbrush, and was able to at least take care of basic needs for the night.
Today I called United around noon. I was connected to a woman in a call center in India. (Yay for customer service). I asked her where my bag was (still in San Francisco). OK, when is it coming in? On the next flight that arrives at 5:30 pm. I called them again at 6, just to be sure. This time I was connected to an American. I asked him where the bag was. (Looks like it made it to ABQ.) OK, so I ask should I go pick it up or have it delivered? “Well, to be honest, your best bet is to probably pick it up… it’ll take awhile for us to deliver.” Thankfully, one of my colleagues, Robby, was kind enough to drive me BACK to the airport.
I get back to baggage claim and immediately spotted my bag in the back of a line of other orphaned bags. The lady at the baggage desk was on the phone (as always, it seems) so I just took the bag. I felt bad just taking it so I waved to her and she acknowledged me saying “I left it there because I knew you’d come back to get it!” Haha. So, I now have all of my belongings.
This was not as bad as what happened to me in Atlanta last year as I was returning from a conference. However, this incident illustrates how no one really seems to care about anything anymore, especially in the airline business.
More to come on my other activities in Albuquerque soon! :)
UC Berkeley Graduate Division Write-Ups of Teaching Awards
This was cool to see in my inbox today! :)
MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
As the spring semester drew to a close, I enjoyed several opportunities
to celebrate great teaching by graduate students.
At the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award ceremony on the
first of May at International House, we acknowledged the excellent work
of 276 GSIs, out of the more than three thousand GSIs who were eligible.
At a smaller ceremony of May 9, we congratulated, with our Teaching
Effectiveness Awards, 12 GSIs for their often-ingenious ways of helping
students grasp their subjects.
The luckiest GSIs learn the ropes of teaching from faculty experts who
generously share what they know about ways to enhance learning. We
single out a few of these special mentors each year and surprise them…
* Out of thousands of dedicated GSIs, 276 are especially outstanding
(nice photo of all of the outstanding GSIs and guests at the ceremony)
* GSI honors for a dozen new ways of helping people learn
(You can see that I’m in the group shot. Nice ceremony!)
* The key to totally surprising a mentor: no leaks
(Friend of mine, James Battle is in the background of the first shot)
Biked the Golden Gate Bridge!
Wow. It was quite the adventure. Recall that I’ve been stuck in front of my computer for days on end, and finding time to exercise is pretty close to impossible. So today, along with my brave friend Yolanney, I finally biked across the bridge.
We biked up the Embarcadero, around the Marina, and eventually made it up to the bridge. The wind was completely against us. I’m out of shape. Yolanney is not, so I just let her go ahead after a certain point. Anyway, we got some really good views. My butt is sore, and my legs will almost certainly follow suit in the morning. But it was well worth it. What a beautiful day and what a beautiful place to be!