I know what day it is. I think.

Today is Friday. I had to check to be sure, which might tell you a bit about this week.

I also know that I’m currently in Austin, despite spending a good chunk of the morning with the vague feeling I was in Dallas. (Not for any specific reason – the only part of Dallas I’ve ever been in is the airport, but I’ve been in it twice already this week and am about to be there a third time.) It’s fairly common for me to travel for work – about once a month-ish – but less common that two conferences stack up in the same week, much less that they do so in the same state. Even with the oddities of airline flight schedules – which made them think it made sense for them to get me from Houston to Austin via Dallas – I’ve had a good balance of time on my own this week to recoup energy, so I’m not feeling quite as crispy as I can after a week of travel. I do, definitely, miss my bed, though.

Both conferences were good – both had good encounters and opportunities to promote both of the major projects I manage at work, which is mostly why I was at them and both had sessions that were interesting and provided food for thought as we continue to plan the future of our work.

Sunday night’s keynote (at the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Annual Meeting in Houston) by Dr. Stephen Klineberg, Sociology Professor and Co-Director of Kinder Institute of Urban Research, was phenomenal and gave a brief introduction to the history of US immigration policy that was new to me and filled in some pieces in our national identity that help me make sense of some of the xenophobia we’re experiencing today. Using data from a variety of projects the Kinder Institute runs, Dr. Klineberg made a very convincing case for the need to close the racial achievement gap, using Houston as a case study for where the nation as a whole is heading. (When the recording and/or slides are made available next week, I’ll post a link to them for those interested.) Edited 1/4/16: You can view the slides from Dr. Klineberg’s presentation here.

Dr. Jeremi Suri provided a different flavor of historical perspective (at the Higher Education Government Relations Conference (HEGRC) in Austin) yesterday, emphasizing the difference in founding principles between US institutions of higher education (established by pioneers and frontiersmen) and those established in European countries (traditional established by religions or monarchs). Even with my understanding of the origins of the US land-grant institutions, the framing provided by Dr. Suri added depth and insight to the identities of our colleges and universities as bastions of knowledge and seedbeds for new ideas and life-long learning. (Dr. Suri has written on this previously and you can read an article that includes much of his talk here.) Dr. Suri challenged us to remember our frontier origins and resist the urge to close off conversations on campus.

Suffice it to say, there are a lot of ideas percolating and bouncing into each other in new ways in my head, and I’m sure over the course of the next several weeks (or longer) they’ll continue to do so, spawning their own tangents and tangles. For now, though, my head feels a bit overfull, so I’m looking forward to a weekend at home to putter and tidy things before the holidays (and my family) arrive.

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