My Year at Yale: a Debriefing

From fall 2020 through summer 2021 I was the CEAS Postdoctoral Associate and Lecturer in the Environmental Humanities at Yale University.

After a long year adjuncting at a struggling college that has since failed and while contemplating an unpaid career as a Microsoft Flight Simulator pilot, I learned that my application to a postdoc position at Yale was successful, which meant I got to continue my research while wearing a Yale hoodie without irony. That’s not all: as the CEAS Postdoctoral Associate in the Environmental Humanities, I had the opportunity to teach an undergrad seminar on the Environmental History of East Asia, I helped to lead a graduate seminar, I joined the Environmental Humanities Steering Committee, and I forged ahead with my book project and several articles. I also joined the wonderful, one-of-a-kind Program in Agrarian Studies as an affiliate fellow.

Postdocs often feel disconnected from the rest of the university, or so I hear, but that wasn’t my experience. The Council on East Asian Studies and the Environmental Humanities Program did an incredible job of making me feel like a part of the community during my time here. My students were the best I’ve had yet, and reading their well-researched papers was an absolute pleasure. I’m convinced that this combination of research, light teaching, and some committee work is exactly the right way to structure a postdoc; it was certainly helpful in job interviews.

The pandemic meant that I spent less time on campus than I would have liked, but then I’m reminded of the false (yet inspiring) notion that the Chinese word for “crisis” combines the words for “danger” and “opportunity”: specifically, virtual events and teaching created opportunities for long-distance conversations and made Yale programming more accessible to the world. People Zoomed in to the Agrarian Studies Colloquium from abroad on a regular basis (including several who beamed in from India). In the spring semester, my co-instructor and I were able to arrange 10(!) excellent guest speakers for a graduate seminar that met five times. These are things you can’t do with entirely in-person programming.

This week I’ve been making daily trips to Sterling Memorial Library for archival research. As the alumnus of a state school with aggressively plain architecture, I am enjoying my gothic surroundings (even if they were built with oil money).

I got a lot done this year with support from CEAS and Environmental Humanities: I made serious progress on my book, I published one article that I’m particularly fond of, and I submitted another. So, thank you!

Interior of Sterling Memorial Library.
A picture I took yesterday to prove that I was indeed in Sterling Memorial Library.

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