Adventures on the Golden Road: A Promenade Through the Roadwork

Adventures on the Golden Road: A Promenade Through the Roadwork

Caroline M. Crawford (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA) and Sharon Andrews White (University of Houston-Clear Lake, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-5065-6.ch002
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Abstract

Two mid-career university professors with quite diverse areas of specialization and expertise come together to discuss their own professional journeys that they describe as the winding golden road. Embedding their own experiences and mentoring opportunities towards sharing information and hard-learned lessons with others offers a natural pay it forward progression. The two authors take a historical look over their careers that have already spanned almost 50 years together, offers the opportunity to reflect on opportunities and ruminating over lessons learned. Professional options and opportunities that directly impacted career choices will also be discussed. With a sometimes tongue-in-cheek recognition of “do as I say and not necessarily as I do” is how these two colleagues have attempted to guide and influence talented colleagues. An analysis of the professional landscape is a priority, considering the impact of a professional career upon one's work-life balance as well as sense of wellness.
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Introduction

Easing on down the road (Smalls, 1978) in academia is an apt phrase to consider, as the ability to move forward without carrying the heavy burdens of the profession are an imperative ability for academics to cultivate. The yellow brick road is a metaphor that beautifully frames the academic pathway, as pulled from The Wizard of Oz (Baum & Denslow, 1899) as well as the later movie rendition, The Wiz (Cohen & Lumet, 2978). The grace and endurance necessary for academics to successfully progress down a professional journey that may appear to be golden, but when walking the pathway the recognition of the cracks, crevices, and bumps along the way reflect the reality of the journey, as well cited by academics over the years (Amundson, 2006; Dotan, Rahamim, & Even-Chen, 2017; Good, 2005; Hall & Newman, 2020; Lumpkin, 2009; Rush, 1995; Showalter, 2005). The professional journey through academia is indeed a golden opportunity to be of service to the profession and make a difference in the lives of students and professional colleagues along the way, but the yellow brick road is not golden, as people seem to think. Yet along the way, career-long friendships are established, ideas added to the larger professional knowledge base are realized, and lessons in the academy are well learned. This is a story about the yellow brick road of academia, shared by academics who found each other as two interesting, hardworking and strongly idealistic yet integrity-laden characters on their travels down the yellow brick road.

There are innumerable opportunities available to someone who is finishing up their terminal degree and trying to decide upon their next step forward. Over twenty years ago, each author earned a doctorate in their specialization area, one author’s specialization areas were earned in both Curriculum Theory and Instructional Design and Technology, while the other author’s specialization was in Computer Science, that led into Software Engineering and eSports. But did the authors realize that the world was wide open to possibilities? One author only knew of one professional journey into the scholarly academy of higher education’s tenure-track assistant professor rat race, but would not have had a second thought around the excitement associated with the professional journey. Yet the other author recognized that her world was wide open to whatever professional road she may have desired to travel. Looking back over long and successful careers in academia, each author may be considered mid-career in their university professor careers.

Background

At this point in each author’s career is the perfect opportunity to look back and wonder, if each of us would have chosen this same path, this same professional journey, if we had known of the innumerable options available? One author’s answer is not a straightforward “yes”; instead, her love of the academy’s service aspects is inherent to her being and, for this reason, she had embraced the professorial triad of teaching, research and service on her journey towards “passing it forward” as her own outstanding graduate studies professors had done for her. The other author recognized that she desired to focus her professional career path within the university professorial realm, deeply enjoying the depth of engagement and viability around supporting colleagues and students in their own professional journey forward. This author’s expertise associated with teaching, research and service were outstanding. While the first decades of her career have primarily focused upon service responsibilities, with curricular engagement and instructional prowess of primary focus within a primarily teaching institutional focus. Throughout this discussion, the authors will offer a discursive dance, wherein we share our individual stories as well as the ways that our own stories intertwine throughout our individual professional journeys as well as the intersections of our professional endeavors during which times we strengthened each other’s efforts through sharing our own specialization areas of knowledge and individual experiences, into forward-leaning landscapes of creatively innovative understandings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer Science: This specialization area is focused upon programming, the interaction with data sets and primarily focuses upon digital information.

Golden Road: This is an idiom, a form of expression that reflects the yellow brick road mentality that is highlighted in many societies, creative works and styles of storytelling that emphasize positivity, wealth, magical and overarchingly a special space that leads towards very good things.

Software Engineering: The primary focus of this specialization area is upon the development of software as a formal and systematic process, and is normally considered a sub-field of the computer science area.

Mid-Career: This is a style of communicating that someone has achieved a point in their career that may be considered as a recognition of achievement. This is the pivot point, during which many professionals are taking a moment to review what has already occurred, where the professional’s career currently stands, and how to progress forward in the second half of a career’s journey.

Academic Triad: The academic triad is the description that many university professors use, to describe their contractual obligation that is teaching, research and service. Depending upon the type of university in which one works, the expectations associated with each of the three elements that make up the contractual obligation may be weighted differently. Meaning, in some universities the teaching is exceedingly important, in some universities the research and publications are of vital importance, and in some universities the weight of service responsibilities is inherent.

Instructional Design and Technology: This field is a conglomeration of many different fields and is relatively young as its own specialization field. This field encompasses psychology, sociology, programming, graphic design, education, and innumerable other fields as well as undergirded by the topics of learning theories, instructional design, performance improvement, project management and also including additional areas of specialization as the professional landscape shifts and changes.

Curriculum Theory: This is a specialization area that is focused upon designing the subject matter overarching plan of focused learning. From a more in-depth understanding, this field is philosophical and educational in nature, along with underlying understandings related to psychology and sociology.

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