Tuesday June 6, 2006
Academia in a Nutshell
This last weekend was the retirement party for one of the pillars of our department, though "retirement" may be a little strong—it sounds like he's planning to remain fairly active as an emeritus professor, which is good news because he's on my committee. I waffled about whether to attend or not—I was (and still am) up to my eyeballs in a language modeling project—but finally decided to put in an appearance. When I got there, about an hour late, I immediately ran into a group of four other grad students with a worrisome scheming look in their eyes. They were planning something.
The following exchange occurred:
Them: [noticing me] ...Oh, hey, look who's here. He'd be perfect. Let's get him to do it!
Me: Uh, do what now?
Them: We need someone to say a few words and present the student association's gift.
Me: Why me?
Them: Well, he's on your committee...
Me: How long do I have to prepare for this?
Them: Oh, it'll be soon.
Sigh. There's nothing I love more than being volunteered (note: transitive verb) for impromptu public speaking in front of my entire department. Unshaved. In a t-shirt. And, it occured to be afterward, volunteered by a group of students that included both in outgoing and incoming presidents of the student association. Way to step up to the plate, guys!
It went fine. I kept it short, thanked him for his help and inspiration, made a little joke ("I haven't verified this with the administration, but I hear that when he retires, everybody else in the department moves up a notch"), handed him the gift, and fled the stage. I guess I survived a little trial by fire—can I put this on my CV?—and learned a lesson about academia: if you show up, you might get volunteered for something. Of course, if you don't show up, you're sure to get volunteered for something, so you have to weigh your options carefully.
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