A few nights ago, I ate downtown with a friend at a Thai restaurant; the third such restaurant I’ve eaten at since arriving here. Fairbanks apparently has a sizeable Thai community that operates numerous establishments in the area; for what reason, I have no idea. The weather here is the polar opposite of Bangkok! And there were no Thai restaurants in Jackson, so things have improved for us. We’ve also found a Pho restaurant (none of those in Jackson, either). I haven’t eaten out that much, as nearly everyone I know is on a student budget plus the cost of living here is quite high. Fall semester is done here and I handed in my grades today. So we have a breather of nearly a month. I’ve not seen my evaluations yet, but I was reading a piece in Slate trashing anonymous student evaluations. They cited a study showing that when the professor is a woman, she loses an entire point in ratings. From the article: They (North Carolina researchers) found a way to blind students to the actual gender of instructors by focusing on online course studies. The researchers took two online course instructors, one male and one female, and gave them two classes to teach. Each professor presented as his or her own gender to one class and the opposite to the other. The results were astonishing. Students gave professors they thought were male much higher evaluations across the board than they did professors they thought were female, regardless of what gender the professors actually were. When they told students they were men, both the male and female professors got a bump in ratings. When they told the students they were women, they took a hit in ratings. Because everything else was the same about them, this difference has to be the result of gender bias.
Given that many universities demand copies of your student evaluations when you apply for jobs, this concerns me quite a bit. Let’s hope for the best. This week on campus has been one of Christmas receptions and “finals dogs,” which are dogs from a local shelter brought in for students to cuddle and apparently get less nervous about their tests. There were four dogs and a bunny on display in the campus library. Veeka got to make a gingerbread (actually graham cracker) house and meet Santa Claus at one party for campus residents. Today is “pajama day” at her school where she will arrive in her nightgown and run around in her bedroom slippers and bathrobe all day. That’s a new one but apparently it’s done right before Christmas break.
The big news for me this week is the master’s degree I got Sunday from the University of Memphis. Were I still living in Tennessee, I would have traipsed across the stage, but with no family or friends to speak of anywhere near Tennessee, it seemed a waste to fly back there but for a few seconds onstage. But I now have my second MA which will hopefully aid my job-hunting prospects. I am so glad I went and did it, as I learned so much getting that degree and it really added to the things I can use as a professor. It was 18 months of hard work and I’m happy to say my GPA was a 3.68, the highest I’ve ever had. Not bad for cramming in 4 graduate courses a semester. Which sounds a lot easier than it was.
The next two weeks will be busy. On Sunday, we take a 12-hour train ride through the snowy wastes from Fairbanks to Anchorage, then fly to Seattle to spend Christmas with my folks. We leave Seattle Dec. 30 to return to Anchorage, spend several days there, then fly back to Fairbanks just before Veeka’s school starts. Seattle will feel like the tropics compared to what we’ve lived through since
early October. Today I splurged and got my hair done and the stylist – like everyone else here – was telling me how warm it’s been in Fairbanks, as they usually are in the -20ºF range at this time of year. And it was a balmy 17ºF instead. But January and February are yet to come. And, I’m getting used to walking Veeka to her bus in the dark, as dawn doesn’t come until 10:57 a.m. It’s not pitch black until then; it’s just kind of a foggy grey. It’s just that getting her dressed for the bus in boots, heavy mittens, snowsuit and cap takes several minutes. It’s become our morning ritual and she’s gotten pretty quick at it. This weekend is the darkest we’ll get all year. Officially, we’ll have 3 hours and 42 minutes of light, which is kind of a shame because much of our train ride will be in the dark. At least the pretty part around Denali will be during daylight.