For some, especially those in London enduring a strike by workers on the Underground, the grind of commuting is a lesson in forbearance and tolerance. But for others – and this is certainly the case in academia – it represents a sort of mobile virtual office, a place where scholars can organise a lecture timetable, wrap up a grant application or even complete some dreaded marking.
These individual routines are the subject of a multi-authored blog from the University of Venus team, hosted on the InsideHigherEd website.
“Although campus is only 15 miles away, the drive can sometimes take over 90 minutes…AND, it is filled with crazy Boston drivers filled with road rage,” writes Mary Churchill, executive director and founding editor of University of Venus and associate provost and dean for innovation and partnerships at Salem State University in Massachusetts.
So, she says, “I walk a mile to my nearest subway stop, catch the subway to downtown Boston and then catch the train to Salem. On the subway, I try to catch up with Twitter, Feedly, and Facebook. Once I’m on the train, I read books on my Kindle unless I’m on the same train with a fellow dean and then we catch up.”
For Janine Utell, associate professor of English at Widener University in Pennsylvania, her journey is a crucial factor in her daily life. “I kind of refuse to have a job/home situation that would involve a horrible commute,” she writes.
“My commute consists of about a 15-minute drive each way on [Interstate 95]…I usually listen to our public radio station…I also have a few podcasts I like…and audiobooks. Often I’ll use voice memos on my iPhone to prepare notes for the day or talk my way through a writing project – the car is a pretty safe place to talk to myself.”
“As an academic I had different commutes, but now as an editor who works from home I don’t have a commute anymore,” writes Liana Silva-Ford, editor, writer and independent scholar who edits the newsletter Women in Higher Education. “My brain misses the transition time between home and work.”
Lee Skallerup Bessette, a lecturer in the English department at Morehead State University in Kentucky, also says he misses the time to reflect afforded by a commute. “When we moved…we couldn’t afford to buy a house AND another car, so we moved literally in behind the building both my husband and I work in on campus,” he writes. “I get horrible motion-sickness, so being on the bus or train meant I couldn’t do anything except let my mind wander. I’m not nostalgic for the long-ish commutes, but the space to think.”
However, Meg Palladino, creative director of the University of Venus and director of the English Language Institute at Yale University, says keeping the commute manageable was key to where she chose to work. “I made a point of living in the same town as my university so that I could ride my bike to work; it’s a 20 minute bike ride from where I live,” she writes, although she admits that sometimes life conspires to scotch such good intentions. “Since I had a baby, I have gotten lazier and busier, and I have been driving the 10 minutes to work.”
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