Twenty years ago, I started my freshman year at Cumberland University. Sixteen years later, I returned to take a faculty position.

Teaching at your alma mater can be difficult. Former professors become your colleagues, and you have to overcome the reluctance to challenge or contradict your mentors. You also have to confront suspicions about academic “incest” from outsiders.

For me, the experience has been mostly positive. I chose Cumberland as my undergraduate institution because of the small classes and the old buildings. Like me, many of our students are drawn to former. (There are no data for the latter, as far as I know.) It’s good to be able to pass students in the hallway, on campus, or in town, and be able to recognize faces and (usually) remember names. While a small campus community can be like a small town when it comes to gossip, I think the closeness of the community outweighs that factor. You are also able to tell students that you have been exactly where they have been, sometimes literally in the same seat.

If I were brave, I would post my freshman year photo, suitcase and all. Notice that I didn’t, but I may or may not be on this page.

8 thoughts on “Teaching at Your Alma Mater

  1. Reblogged this on The History Channel This Is Not… and commented:
    This blog post appearing at the top of my feed is a fairly serendipitous occurrence, as I’m about to start my first year teaching at my Alma Mater in two days! While my layoff has been slightly shorter than Prof. Cheathem’s, and many of my former faculty are in new places or have since retired, many of his comments strike a chord. Teaching elsewhere for eight years was a terrific experience and helped me gain an independent sense of myself as a professional and scholar – characteristics that allow me to approach my new position with a professional confidence and an absence of selective nostalgia. Nevertheless, rejoining at my Alma Mater is an exciting development and I’m eager to get the year, and this next part of my career, underway.

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