In Praise of Dr. Janice Hladki

Wednesday, 15 June 2011 13:17

It occurred to me while writing my initial posts that I must be careful not to ignore the positive aspects of my graduate education. To just cite problems or characterize my experience as solitary and without mentorship would be not only misleading, but a disservice to those individuals who shaped the academic that I am today. If I am to throw stones at the walls of the tower, there are certain windows that I don’t want to hit.

One of the greatest sources of support and inspiration for me during my doctoral studies was Dr. Janice Hladki. She is, quite simply, an astounding human. I use the word “human” intentionally, because Janice demonstrates the some of the best qualities of humanity: empathy and advocacy. With her seemingly endless capacity to empathize with others and her dedication to achieving equality for all, Janice is remarkable.

I first met Janice in the first year of my PhD when I took a seminar she was teaching. From the first day, I knew that I liked her. In her introductory remarks to the course, she told us that she was just not a prof, but a person too. She carefully explained how she understood that we are bodies, and those bodies need care and consideration – an aspect of being human that academia too often ignores. If we needed extra breaks, no problem. If we had to stand up and walk around because of back pain or stomach issues, go for it!

I am still smiling about how awesome it was to hear a professor talk about the body. Not just about “the body” in theory, but about the real, tired, sore, and inconveniently acting bodies that were us, always and right now. Janice refused to elide the real body in our discussions of the theoretical body. It was intellectually – and, at times, emotionally –challenging work. The texts we studied were a departure from the other more detached and “safe” literary theories I was learning. Janice introduced me to disability studies and helped me to understand deeper aspects of feminist theory.

I ended up being Janice’s RA, off and on, for the next 4 years. She was witness to my never ending health problems. If I needed extra time for a project deadline, she understood. If we had to travel to interview study subjects, Janice made sure that I was well and safe. Unlike many RAs who get stuck with piles of photocopying and lists of sources to track down, I was being mentored in a new discipline of study. Janice consulted my opinion on evaluating works and encouraged me to become an active participant in her field work. I read feminist poststructural ethnographic theory and I learned about the world of art production. It was, hands down, the best job I have ever had with the world’s coolest boss.

One of my other motivations for writing this post of praise for Janice is that I think she needs it. Positive feedback and praise are all too rare in academia – especially for anyone daring to speak and live their politics openly and doggedly. So I am saying it again: Dr. Janice Hladki is an amazing scholar, faculty member, teacher, and friend. Thank you.

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