Sunday, 9 January 2011

From undergrad to Chair, Part 5

In the middle of my research grant I went to the USA on a Fulbright. There is a special Fulbright category called the Hildemann Award in Scandinavian Studies which rotates among US universities. I applied because I thought it would be a merit and also because I thought it would be an interesting professional experience. The first time I applied it was Michigan State, and I was the alternative candidate, but the next time was UMass, Amherst, and I got it. Teaching in an American university was totally different from Sweden and very confusing. Teaching three short sessions a week for a whole term was new. I wasn't used to students buying their books. I wasn't used to having just ten books on my course; I was used to discussing five books in each session. But I learned. I learned a lot, and I made some very good friends in Amherst, and I went to my first ChLA, which was in Fredricton, Canada, Lissa Paul was the organiser. I also went to Minneapolis as a guest lecturer and met my benefactor Jack Zipes. I finished the book while I was in Amherst, and then I returned to Sweden and my research grant. Just as I finished the project, my department had three lecturer positions opening. I applied and got it, in a highly tough competition. I was especially pleased by a clause from the assessors saying that the applicant's merits were so strong that gender quotas didn't have to be taken into consideration. The two other successful applicants were male. I also had enough merits to apply for Associate Professor, which in Sweden is a title as opposed to lecturer, which is a position.

Then I was encouraged to apply for a Chair in childhood studies in Linköping. I would not have applied if I hadn't been encouraged, because I wasn't particularly interested in childhood studies and definitely wasn't interested in moving to Linköping, which seemed to be part of the deal. I was shortlisted, invited to an interview and a lecture, but the University decided not to appoint, probably because they had a choice between an immigrant and a homosexual. No prejudices! (My competitor also eventually became a professor in Stockholm, and we were inaugurated at the same ceremony).

I had close collaboration with the department of Comparative Literature at Åbo Akademi in Finland where I did guest lectures and taught some intensive courses. The department head encouraged me to apply for adjunct professorship. It is a nominal position, but both an honour and a good practical arrangement for repeated visits. Then the chair of English started a huge doctoral training programme called “Children's Literature: Pure and Applied”. I was encouraged to apply for a Visiting Chair to be part of the project. I did, and I got it the day after. I wish all appointments were as easy to get!

For a year, I commuted from Stockholm to Finland. It sounds more horrible than it was, because I took a night ferry and slept well and even had some work done in the evenings. It was a good project and an excellent research community. Åbo is a little university town, like Amherst; everybody knows everybody else; you cannot pop into a tea room without meeting a colleague. The only problem was that it didn't last more than a year.

To be continued


Anonymous said...

It did last ... just in a different form. I still benefit from it every day - and in no small part due to you. Lydia

Maria Nikolajeva said...

That's kind of you, and of course it has lasted for me in this sense, and I am looking forward to my visit in March. But my Visiting Chair only lasted for a year.