How I wish there was an in-depth recorded biographical history of all the outstanding non-tenured faculty who have taught and continue to teach at SAIC.
This is my story: with heavy doses of superlatives in lieu of emojis, too many exclamation points (I truly love those heart shaped exclamation points), inspired by Mark Jeffery’s heartfelt and generous social media posts that speak directly to so many of us. I have taught in the Department of Photography since the fall of 1997 when Barbara De Genevieve phoned with a last-minute invitation to teach a photo class that would begin in two weeks. I said yes without hesitating and then figured out a way to make it work and write my very syllabus. Who knew the magnetic draw to the collaborative and creative laboratory of the classroom would be irresistible? I continued to pick up as many classes as I could over the next nine years that would work around my full-time job as a studio manager for a productive advertising photographer with tight deadlines and wild requests: such as securing a live crocodile and taxidermy back-up within a 24 hour period to walk along State Street, that Great Street, for a Commonwealth Edison Y2K ad campaign in the midst of fear that our internet super highway would fail in the last minute of the last century.
That job experience in the high paced commercial photo industry strengthened my problem-solving skills on a daily basis that I continue to apply to present conditions in academia. After my third-year teaching at SAIC, I applied for Assistant Adjunct followed by Associate Adjunct at the five-year mark which finally came with health insurance. Then Barbara asked me to be the first Grad Coordinator for Photo. Who could say no to Barbara? Not me. With the added administrative duties along with 5 classes during the academic year plus summer classes, I decided to give up the better paying full-time job to focus my creative energies on my courses. If not for the encouragement of the full-time faculty in my department, I never would have applied for a full-time tenure track position. Thankfully the timing was right (thus the supportive suggestions to apply) because Photo was approved for a cluster hire, the best and only chance I would have to be converted from part-time to full-time when a whopping four people were hired from one search. There are a handful of us conversion hires from a short-lived initiative but there should be many more! It often has felt like this secret conversion club of colleagues are the only ones that fundamentally understand how difficult it is to make it through.
For anyone reading this, there are no words to adequately express my gratitude and appreciation for everyone who works tirelessly to make SAIC thrive: students, alumni, staff, faculty, contract hires. Yes, I drank the kool aid years ago. Our combined talents are awe-inspiring. After running a marathon through the longest tenure track process because I had the most to prove, I desperately needed a sabbatical to catch up on 7 years of no sleep. After teaching at SAIC without pause for 24 years (the first 9 with an outside full-time job, 17 years non-tenured, 8 years as graduate coordinator) I valued the almost uninterrupted opportunity to work in my studio full-time, something I could not afford to do since my time as a graduate student at SAIC 1991-1993. Sure, it was a complete bummer to earn tenure during the pandemic, to not be able to celebrate in person with friends, colleagues, loved ones; to have residencies and exhibitions postponed. Thankfully those opportunities were rescheduled and, in their place, robust supplementary programming sprung up in Zoomland until we could all be together again. The only downside of the postponements was how the revised schedules ruined my perfect attendance streak that had lasted 24 years until being interrupted by coming down with Covid from a work-related dinner and an important out of town installation. Thankfully those directly affected were very kind and understanding!
My very first (and hopefully not last) sabbatical provided valuable time and space to reflect on my relationship to SAIC. I enthusiastically renewed my commitment to this outstanding community along with its complicated networked system (no doubt riddled with unintended flaws, nobody is always happy and it is certainly an impossible task to satisfy everyone all of the time but I believe in good intentions and resist the all too easy ‘us against them’ posture in favor of appreciating the magnificent people I am fortunate to work with). Thank you for the support, generative collaboration and constantly flowing waterfall of inspiration. We are spread too thin and race from one urgent deadline to another. While we dream of and strive for a sustainable work/life balance we must continue to create more opportunities to celebrate one another! With love and respect.
-Aimée Beaubien, Associate Professor, Photography