Kevin James Interviewed By Olivia Hayward
My name is Olivia Hayward, I’m a third year History student at [University of] Guelph and today I will be interviewing Doctor Kevin James, who is a professor of History at the University of Guelph and also the foundation chair of the Scottish Studies department… Correct?
Yes, I am the Scottish Studies Foundation Chair, and we have a Scottish Studies Center. Please feel free to call me Kevin.
Yes, Kevin. So, you got both your Bachelor’s and your Master’s [Degrees] at McGill I came to find out, which is very impressive.
Yes and I loved it there, I didn’t want to leave.
I would assume you speak some French then.
I do, I actually had a job selling shoes when I was an undergrad in the South Shore of Montréal, and I did that specifically with the goal of improving my French.
That’s very creative, that’s very smart.
It didn’t pay very much but it was well worth it, its compensation was in my improvement in French language. I’m still not fluent, but I really credit that experience with having improved my language ability.
I had ten years of public education French and it’s still not at all what it should be probably [fluency]. You also got your PhD at the University of Edinburgh.
I did yes, and that was quite an experience for me. Moving abroad and undertaking a degree, in what is a very different learning environment, a very different academic structure. The PhD there is very different from the PhD’s here in Canada and North America generally. So, I enjoyed the immersion into a different academic culture.
I would assume it was more difficult? More taxing?
It wasn’t that - it’s a lot more independent. It’s based purely on research, so there isn’t coursework, you don’t really have a class cohort like you would in a North American degree; you don’t have the same kind of qualifying examinations. So, it’s a bit sink or swim, but I was highly motivated and I had some really really strong support in my academic advisors and some friends I met there who are still friends now, so I really enjoyed it. It’s a measure of how much I enjoyed it that I’m going back all the time, and I’m going back in a few days in fact, so that’s how positive and important an impact Edinburgh had on me.
Well maybe I’ll have to think about it then, if I decide to go.
I would encourage it. My son just got accepted into Edinburgh yesterday, so were all really happy. Whether or not he goes is another question, but to get in made us very proud.
Well congratulations to him, that’s very good. You’ve been a part of the History Department, you’ve been on the faculty since the year 2000, on the dot.
Yes, a nice easy year to remember.
Very easy year to remember, and you primarily focus on researching Britain and Ireland in relation to Economy, Travel, and Hospitality History.
That’s right. I’m 50 this year, born in 1973, it being 2023. So, when I look back on my 50 years, over the past thirty years since I’ve been an academic, I see a change from the focus on economic and social history - my PhD was in the Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Edinburgh – to now there is a much greater interest in the cultural history of travel. The Business History of travel animates a lot of my scholarship right now. But I have a deep and abiding respect for the empiricists who head out into the archives and engage in kind of hard slogs, just counting things and producing economic and social histories that really do stand the test of time too. A lot of those studies they produce now or have produced in the last 50 years are still referenced and seen as authoritative. So, I think it’s been a really interesting experience for me personally to have journeyed through a variety of historical approaches, each with its own questions, methods, and sources. I’ve come to a point in my career where I can look back and really appreciate the exposure, I have had to many of them.
I hadn’t, taking your class was one of the first times I’d heard of kind of the difference, like being an economic historian, or a gender historian that kind of thing. So, it’s a very interesting and much broader category of history [Economic History] than I thought it would’ve been, because it does have a bunch of different [aspects] it has that travel, hospitality, kind of thing to it and everything that makes up that topic.
I think people often think with me that I like travel history predominately because I like travel, usually travel historians organize their conferences, and often base their research in quite pleasant places to go. I will admit.
Well, very lucky for you, can’t be too bad.
I’d say so, I’d say so. I think that this job has its down sides but I will tell you on the whole I just, every single day I am thankful that I have this job. It’s not always the perfect job for everyone, but it feels very often to be absolutely the ideal job for me. I’m grateful for students like you who I teach, my colleagues who I have the good fortune to work with, and just the wider international community of scholars that are a part of being an academic at a university. It allows you to really reach into the wider world of research and engage with people who are interested in the same topics as you all over the world.
It really does, thank you that was very nice. I don’t think I realised that until I came on campus, how much just being here kind of allows you to have a lot more offered to you as opposed to just being on-line.
And you can connect with the world too. On-line allows you to connect with the world, but even through scholarship and scholarly networks you can connect with the world, by reading scholars whose work may inform your own, practising their craft in other countries, publishing in other countries, and working in other countries. It can really, really, really make you feel like you’re a part of a cohort of people who are engaged in the same kinds of scholarship, asking the same kinds of questions, and in fact supporting each other regardless of where they live.
Yah, exactly. Well on the topic of online [learning], I’ll get into my first question.
Where were you, if you can recall, when Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and closures/lockdown began on March 13th, 2020.
I remember very vividly, because I was conducting research in New York City which at the time was considered to be one of the epicenters of Covid. We were basically told to come home, so I was researching in the New York Public Library, they were beginning to put all the materials away. It was clear they were going to begin what became a long period of shut down. My family was elsewhere in the city of New York entertaining themselves, because they didn’t come with me, but I had spent the days in the achieves then I’d meet up with them for dinner. It was becoming increasingly clear that you know, even before we were more or less called home, that things were going wrong. The talk of the coronavirus, the way which the streets were starting to empty, a lot of the stores were empty. I’d have to say we were probably risk takers, because we were in, not a new city to us, but an exciting city, so we were trying to take advantage of all the opportunities. But I think in the background of our mind was the question as to when the lockdown or shutdown was going to start and how long would it last. I wasn’t really considering the implications for my research or my career at that point, because it seemed like perhaps, we’d be back on the other side. I know the children liked it because they had a longer March break, we thought we’d be back on the other side of March break, little did we know.
Exactly, we thought two weeks and that would be it, we’d be back, in addition to our March break of course and then it was much longer than two weeks.
Much, much longer than two weeks, with far greater implications for you as a learner, and for me as a teacher, all of us.
Okay so, what courses were you teaching at that time?
At that time, I was teaching a course at the University of Guelph-Humber, and it was actually a really fun course that I was enjoying immensely, but it was also shutting down. I had to really make a change in the structure of the assessment, and make the decision in consultation with the people there. They had a group work project, that was based on travel, because it was history of travel, and it was a simple group work project. They were asked to go somewhere, didn’t have to be anywhere - it could be travelling to a park, or travelling to a place they hadn’t been as a group. One of the students messaged me and said, “I’m really worried, I don’t really want to go anywhere at this stage, and I don’t really want to be exposed to even the other people I’m in the group with if I’m sick or if their sick.” It was the first time someone was raising with me, as a student, a really valid concern about this course assessment. So, you know we changed it, and I consulted with the administration at Guelph-Humber and said, ‘what do we do?’. This was unprecedented for me, I didn’t know how you changed a course assessment, I didn’t know again, the severity of the circumstances as we later discovered. So, I gave them the option of imagining travel. That ended up being surprisingly apt, because I think a lot of us ended up imagining travel for a lot longer than we anticipated.
I mean I still am. That’s a very creative idea, to change it up and just imagine yourself travelling instead of actually [travelling].
But I think you know, we all relied on it in the end. I can’t claim credit for it, it just seemed like, what do you do when someone has a very reasonable concern? Maybe it started me thinking about how I was going to cope with the lack of travel. One other thing, that was very significant was I had planned very significant travels. I had purchased tickets - I was meant to go to Switzerland I had a ticket, but that came to an end. I was meant to go to Victoria and that came to an end, we had tickets as a family holiday in France and Portugal that summer , that ended up not happening. So, as a historian of travel it was kind of interesting to see the opportunities for travel become so completely closed off, not just research purposes and conferences or research communication, but for pleasure.
Exactly, no I’m sure that made your job much more difficult. You said you were in the New York Public Library when you heard about Covid and the shutdown and everything. What exactly were researching at that time?
I was researching ships, peoples’ experience on cruise ships in the late 19th and early 20th century, their diaries, ship diaries. Then they were moving documents into vaults, or into storage and I said to them ‘Does it look bad for you?’ and I remember one of the people working there said “Oh yes, I don’t think we’re going to be open tomorrow” but they hadn’t officially told us yet. So, I, I kind of scrambled to take as many pictures of the documents as I could, because they were wonderful, wonderful sources. Then I packed up and I left, and I don’t think I visited an archive again for oh I don’t know how many months, certainly a year and a half probably longer.
Oh, my goodness. So, you were researching cruise ships just as a travel history?
Yes, it’s kind of ironic too right because cruise ships were seen as one of the most problematic parts of the pandemic.
Yes, there were people that got stuck on them for a week or two at a time or something when they announced the lockdowns.
Yes, they didn’t want them to find a port either right, they kept them at sea. I was interested, just completely coincidently, in researching peoples’ bodily experience of cruise ship travel. How they described nausea, how they described interacting with other people, as the ship pitched back and forth, or if it didn’t pitch back and forth, if the ship was on smooth course to their destination. I was just interested in how they described their sensations of travel, that kind of ended up being quite interesting because people were experiencing stasis, or they weren’t able to move from their rooms in a lot of cruise ships at the same time. So, all kinds of ironies and coincidences that just centered on the fact that what interested me and still animates my research is mobility, when we were all becoming immobile. There was opportunity to travel as things opened up over time. You could travel within the province, or you could travel to parts of the country and then you could cross some borders and not others. But it made me more and more aware of just how dependant we are on certain conditions to travel. When almost my whole life, travel had all just seemed natural, it almost seemed like a right to travel internationally, even within your own country.
It seemed like a very taken for granted but also, something you didn’t realise was so available to you, then to have it just taken away with a record scratch stop was very, obviously jarring and a large pivot for people that rely on travel, like yourself.
Yes, and who just want it. We all to some extent rely on it, I mean I could arguably rely on it for the purposes of my research, and the purpose of my profession but so do many people for the purposes of pleasure, and many, many people for the purposes of their profession and occupation. It’s really quite amazing when the number of people I encountered in the business world, in public service, in the philanthropic sector, all of whom were severely impacted by the limitations on travel. But also, we all understood why, we didn’t chafe under - it wasn’t an unfair imposition on us. But I think we were aware just how much it was impacting our plans more than our activities in some respects because once we discovered media like the teleconferencing media, once we embraced a lot of the alternative means of communication to face to face, I think we really did discover the possibilities that were out there. We carried those on, I would describe this as the “post-covid era” but the era we’re living in now where face-to-face is possible, but very often as people listening to this may not know, but we’re not face-to-face. We are in a manner.
I’m looking at you in a manner of speaking, but you are not at all right in front of me.
No, but the fact we’ve continued this - that we’ve embraced it as an option - for me this speaks to the creativity and the adaptability of people, when they face circumstances that are beyond their control that compel them to be a bit more innovative in how they work.
Exactly, on that subject you mentioned that you were at Guelph-Humber when Covid started and you pivoted to having them imagine they were travelling. How did you find online learning the following fall when it was all online?
The first experience of online learning for me was really a challenge. I think I mitigated it well, and it’s not because I had any special ability to do it. When the Practicing Historian was all on-line, I met on an individual basis with students. So, it was a large class like 60 students, but I had little appointments with each student, and I just found that the most gratifying experience because it’s not something you can actually accomplish very often in a face-to-face class. But I think the students wanted it and I really wanted it, and it gave me a sense that I was bridging the inevitable limitations of lecturing on-line. At the same time, it led me to consider modes of delivery and media for delivery that I never would’ve contemplated before. Like good films, we have this extraordinary, extraordinary film archive that’s available to students and to faculty at the University of Guelph. I started to employ it in research, asking students to critically engage with films and you’ve done this in my class, some of the films we’ve looked at since we’ve come back to the classroom were holdovers from that era of pure on-line teaching. So, between the flexibility of offering those kinds of resources for learning, the ability to record some lectures so that students could access them on their own time, because students were struggling as faculty were with new demands made on them, in new environments in which they were living, perhaps at home perhaps with friends, perhaps in a residence hall if they were a student who couldn’t access other options. So, we were all really struggling to adapt I think, and I do think we did think creatively and flexibly about how we could make life better for each other, and I kind of find that to be a really positive outcome of the covid experience. I found that I really valued students’ investment in their education when it was frankly much harder for them, and much less predictable. Because it wasn’t clear when things would begin and end, which classes would be online and which wouldn’t, what their summer work would look like, where’d they’d be living, and I think that you know I have huge respect for the students who navigated those uncertainties and those challenges.
I have huge respect for you, that you met with students one on one, in a class of 60 that’s pretty big, I’d assume it wasn’t a first-year class.
No, it was Practising Historian. [HIST*2450]
Oh, okay so it was a second-year class. I was in first year when covid hit, that fall was my first semester of University and I really wish that maybe at least my TA’s or somebody had at least done that. Met with us one on one instead of you know, calling us out in a seminar or something to answer, or a group office hour. If you’re kind of in need of that one on one “I’m having this problem” it’s nice to have the ability to talk to the person who’s actually teaching, you.
Well I was curious about peoples’ experience of covid, I was really interested to know how many people were finding it more challenging than usual, how many people were actually finding the accommodations available through covid, whether it was recording lectures or other asynchronous learning tools, how many were finding it helpful and I was actually surprised a good solid 30% of the students with whom I spoke said they preferred the online mode at that point. It provided flexibility for them, it provided them with learning tools they hadn’t used before, and it provided them with the ability to interact with each other and with me in a new way that they found suited their learning style.
Yah it was an odd combination, because I get liking it for those reasons, it was very helpful for convenience. I was able to just stay home and do my lecture from the comfort of my bed almost every day, but the difference of being in person is its much more immersive, and you do get that, it’s a feeling you get – “you’re at University” instead of being at home.
In that semester when faculty had the choice, it was no question for me I wanted to teach back in the classroom.
I don’t blame you, yes.
Although we were masked, and although we were socially distanced, and although we couldn’t do the same kinds of activities because of the limitations, I just found it so invigorating and so energizing to be back to as close to normal as protocols would allow. I will never ever forget just the sheer happiness of being back in the classroom, even in a mask, even at a distance from students, even having reorganized the course a lot of the things we might have done had to be changed because of covid protocols. It was so, so nice to be back.
Yah I’m sure, I know it was really nice to be back as a student, so I can imagine it was lovely to be back as a teacher as well.
Well, I’m glad you had the chance to enjoy most of your degree in-class, if that’s the mode of delivery that you prefer, I’m glad you were able to do that. I feel bad for the students who didn’t have as many opportunities for in class courses as they might have liked, but I do feel that it helped me to appreciate there’s a space for online learning, and asynchronous, and synchronous online learning, and then old-fashioned classroom learning, and I’m an old-fashioned classroom learning kind of person.
Yah, I was always told I was an old soul, so I think regular classroom style for me is where I stand.
How did the pandemic and online learning affect your relationship with students? I was a student of yours, and I hope to be a student of yours again and have you as my teacher. You’re extremely personable and so enthusiastic when you teach, you just love to converse with your students and a relationship and a connection with your students, so how did the pandemic effect that?
Well, that’s a very good question Olivia, I mean first of all its very nice to have students who are as engaged and interested as you and your friends, it really was nice in the last class in which I taught you, and I hope in future classes too. It definitely created distance right, not just the obvious physical distance but with that came a sense of social distance from the daily banter - the banter before class and after class. The ability to walk outside and down the hall with students who may have a question or two, or just advice on classes to take the next semester, or the ability to keep your door open during office hours and have people pass by, maybe on the way to another faculty member, but just pop their head in to say “hi,” frankly, to have other faculty members pop their heads in to say “hi.” Those are all things I missed enormously, I think those are also productivity enhancing and they’re also professionally enhancing, and also life enhancing. So, it was not something that I was able to replicate in anything but a face-to-face environment, it’s something that I missed a lot and it’s something that I found very challenging when I taught only online. That’s why when I was given the choice to teach in a distance education format, synchronous or asynchronous, or to come back I didn’t even think about it for a millisecond.
I never even learned the difference, my brain could never grasped asynchronous and synchronous, my brain wasn’t able to differentiate between them. It was just online or in person.
There’s a lot of modes, I’m not the person to ask, there’s so many different kinds of terminology. I will be the first to confess I’m not as familiar with them now as I was even then in terms of their definition. All I knew too was the one I wanted and the ones that I had to do because the one I wanted wasn’t available to me, for perfectly understandable valid reasons due to public health, let me make that clear. But the one I wanted that was the one that was face-to-face, and I was willing to accept all the protocols and restrictions that were reasonable and in the interest of keeping people healthy and safe, that’s totally fine by me. It was still vastly better than the alternatives to me.
Yes, no it definitely was. What were the most challenging aspects of the pandemic for you? You are a Travel Historian, Economic Historian, you used to come into class last semester, and I don’t even know it was maybe the third week of class you came in and just casually mentioned that you were in Scotland, and in my head, I went “I saw him three days ago and he was just there and back teaching a class again.” I would assume that was probably, just the travel aspect.
Yes, the travel which I love, and the travel which again in terms of sociability, and building networks and connections, and just loving the energy of meeting with people. You know, it happens with my students, it happens with my colleagues in the University of Guelph, but it also happens at the international level, at the national level, at the regional level. When you can meet with people, when you can talk about your research synergies, when you can develop research agendas together and projects together. When you can attend workshops, seminars, symposia and conferences which really ignite new projects and ideas. The absence of that opportunity in a face-to-face environment was really hard for me. That being said I organized a completely online conference on the history of the visitors’ book in travel culture. It was just fantastic, we had scholars from the United States, Israel, United Kingdom, Switzerland, obviously from Canada. So, I thought it had worked spectacularly well, but I sat in front of a computer for hours, I think the poor scholar in Israel I don’t know what time it was by the time he went to bed. Accommodating peoples’ different schedules and time changes was really challenging, but that did lead me to think well this is possible, it’s not ideal, but it’s possible. Also, from the perspective of cost, it was extremely affordable because we did it on Zoom. From the perspective of interaction, it wasn’t that bad, we circulated papers ahead of time and then discussed them at length. From the perspective of collegiality and sociability, we weren’t able to have cups of tea and coffee and get together between, and after the event, but we did have enough time built in to chat with each other, and I thought it was very successful. So, it did make me appreciate all the more, the capacity for new ways of research dissemination, network building, and just chatting, talking, discussing about mutual interests without doing it face-to-face. But, like teaching I prefer face-to-face.
Yes, I’m sure it also taught you the great importance of appreciating what you had.
Yes, and not throwing in the towel, because to do that, to say that there were so many points where it was just completely unclear as to when we’d ever get back, it was clear we would, but you know. Some people, I remember at one conference said it would be at least 5 years because that’s the duration of a pandemic. Other people were giving me much more optimistic scenarios, so I thought it was best to at least experiment with the alternatives, to embrace them as best we could. Whether it was online discussions, or some were just circulating papers by email - that was a lot less collegial and enjoyable, but it was another way to work in an otherwise really, really hard environment. There were ways of getting around it, but that was very hard from a research point of view, and the other one was not getting to archives, but every cloud has a silver lining. I had collected so much archival material. When I was your age, I didn’t go into an archive with a camera, that wasn’t allowed. First of all, we didn’t have these things on our phones, you had to go in with a proper camera when they started allowing it which was well after my PhD, and even well after I began my job at the University of Guelph. So, the advent of the cameras in the archives meant that the greatest risk to research collection was you just take too many pictures, and you know it feels very productive to sit in front of archival material and just take pictures. But then using those images, and exploring those images, and reading them in depth, with the kind of depth I approached records within my PhD for instance. I had to stay in the archives and read them or copy things out in manuscripts, transcribe them. So, I did start to look at stuff I collected and think wow I haven’t used this, this is rich material, before I start lamenting the fact the archives are closed and I can’t access new material I want to look at, let’s look at old material that I’ve never used in projects. I found that again, it’s not the plus side or the positive side of the pandemic, but it was something that helped reorient my attention, I don’t think this would otherwise have happened.
Yes, and they can’t see it because they can just hear our voices, but he does have a sizable book collection behind him, so I would assume you had a fair bit to read.
I was also commissioned to write some chapters for edited collections, and my initial reaction in April of 2020 was I can’t do it, I don’t have the material, I don’t have the primary source material and I don’t have the secondary source material, access to it. Low and behold I found all kinds of relevant primary source material in various folders and subfolders I had for a long time. Then I discover not only my own collection that I’d amassed of secondary source material, but all kinds of secondary source material through our library and other academic libraries in article form and in eBook form. I never liked eBooks Olivia, I despise eBooks, and I never liked reading on a monitor. But I’ll tell you I’ve come to embrace it, I haven’t come to prefer it, but I’ve come to embrace it as a part of this whole learning process.
Yes, me as well. I think there’s nothing a Historian likes more than holding actual paper in their hands, or just something physically in your hands reading it. I myself, if I look at the library and there’s something available either online scanned or the actual book is on the shelf, I’m going to the shelf to get the book because I refuse to look at my laptop screen more than I already do at school.
Well Olivia, you and I are fellow travellers in that way.
You felt wonderful about going back to work, you said that you chose that almost immediately, you knew that was your choice. Did that change when you got back? Did reality set back in?
No. no not in the least.
Still on “Cloud-9”?
I cannot say enough, just how absolutely exhilarating it was to step back onto campus, you know to observe the regulations and the protocols, and the rules, was absolutely fine by me. It was a perfectly reasonable expectation of those of us who taught, and the reward was to be able to be back in the classroom again and I will never forget when I saw the students again, I’ll never forget it.
That was basically me when they said students could come back, I was like okay I’m on my way! I was probably packed already.
Did the pandemic change your relationship with your job at all?
Uh, I saw my colleagues a lot less than I would’ve liked, part of my job, a significant part of my job as Scottish Studies Foundation Chair is community outreach, and I had a very specific idea of community outreach on the basis of almost two decades of practising it in terms of speaking in church halls, and in seniors’ centers, and community groups. Then again, the advent of zoom allowed me to connect with those groups in different ways. I did think more and more about the way we can use new technology to reach beyond the audiences we’ve historically spoken too and reach people in different locations. We can bring in people virtually who are experts in the field to participate in workshops and discussions. So, I really enjoyed that, I made connections with Scottish government representatives here in Canada, and that was a very enriching experience, all done virtually. So yes, it definitely changed the way my work, my daily routine worked, and a lot of the media through which I communicated with people, and it restricted my ability to have the kind of daily rapport which I really value with my colleagues at work. Again, every cloud has a silver lining, I was able to discover new communities, new people with shared interest, and new stakeholders in Scottish studies, whom I might not have identified if I just relied on the old way of doing things.
What you had in front of you.
I hadn’t really thought to embrace new media, new technologies, and new ideas until this came around. Now I know there will be some that are here to stay regardless of whether, we can have things in person, but there are still things I won’t be holding in person, and it’s not because people won’t come, it’s not because we can’t have a great event or a successful event in person. It’s just because we can reach more people, including more participants, and more lecturers, and more speakers by embracing it and making it more cost effective by going virtual.
A lot of people saved quite a bit of money just doing things virtually, which in my old age of not even 21 yet, I can appreciate.
Well, know I didn’t get to Switzerland, but I go to talk to a bunch of people and we still got to speak to each other, and I got most of my money back on my ticket from Air Canada. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world. That’s all I can say, it could’ve been a lot worse, I still got to have those interactions, I still got to engage with the same scholars I would’ve in Switzerland. I had to feed myself in front of the camera, but I saved money, and that money can be used for other purposes, for other travels at another point and that’s what you have to be flexible. To me the lesson of Covid is one of resilience, and also innovation, and appreciation of what we didn’t have for a period of time, and what we’ve discovered we did have and will continue to use because of Covid.
I think it’s also, I think patience would be a good word to throw in there. Because I think a lot of people learned a great lesson in just having the patience to wait for things to work themselves out kind of, not forcing or just saying screw it, forget it I don’t care anymore. But having the patience to actually wait and know that it’ll be, it’s no rush it’s not the end of the world.
I agree, I think that’s a really good point, I’m not a patient person by temperament but I do think I became more patient. My children might disagree, or my wife might disagree, because I think there were ways when we were cooped up in the house that I think I became a bit frustrated. But I think I did become more patient. I’m middle-aged now and I think about how few challenges I’ve faced in my life and career. It’s been a pretty seamless, happy career without disruption, so perhaps facing disruption and recognizing these kinds of circumstances are not unique to us, and weren’t unique to us in covid, but they aren’t unique to us historically, has helped me develop greater empathy too. So maybe that’s another positive thing that’s emerged from covid, and historians should have empathy, empathy for the people we study, for the people who have face extraordinary disruption. The generations of people not far, well people living within our world today living, or people who lived in the west, and the east and everywhere else in the world in the past few generations who suffered from huge personal disruption, and so maybe this makes us better historians for having understood what it means to not be able to live in a world in which we feel we have complete control over our circumstances.
Exactly, I think it gives you a bit more of a relatable kind of sense to when you read things about discouraging things that have to people in history. Having something like this to kind of compare it to is a bit more of a grounding, see they were people too, it’s not just somebody in a book. People that don’t read history. My roommate for example, she just thinks it’s a fun little story but I’m reading it and I’m crying my eyes out cause its actually happened to somebody and I have the ability to recognize that.
Well, I think in the future we’ll be able to relate to people, what Covid was like, my grandmother was able to tell me what The Great War was like, what the Spanish flu was like, and what the Great Depression was like, what the Second World War was like you know. These were momentous, disruptive, very tragic experiences that she lived through, until Covid I didn’t really have anything even slightly comparable to those kinds of monumental events that shook her life, and the life of the people around her, and the world. We do now have something that we share with people around the world, because it was essentially a global phenomenon, and we also have something that at a very personal level we can talk to as we age, or as I continue to age, and discuss with our grandchildren and our friends, and our younger friends in the decades ahead.
Yah, exactly. She told you all of those stories, and now people get to hear how the pandemic affected you.
I’m sure somebody will listen to this, and they’ll be able to relate to exactly what you’ve said. I mean I can relate to it, it’s something everybody lived through [Experienced].
Yes it is, I mean I think it was a very, very, very disruptive event that seemed unfair, and you know all such things seem unfair and people suffered enormously through it. People lost loved ones, people had very severe experiences of it [Covid-19]. In those contexts I feel very fortunate, so you know and my understanding of it now as we look back on it is that, there was personal growth to be experienced, there was also professional growth that I experienced, and there was new appreciations for just how great this job is, when it’s not being subject to all kinds of restrictions and controls, like I say reasonable as they are, they just really do impose new kinds of limitations on our ability to operate in a way that was familiar to us. But I don’t want to sound like I’m repeating myself too much, there were a lot of things I learned and that I’m going to continue to operationalize and use in my practise as a researcher, as a teacher, and as an administrator, that I think emerged only because we had to overcome the challenges at a professional level of Covid.
Alright well, thank you so much for joining me, and talking to me.
Thank you, Olivia.
I’ve taken so much of your time, not as much as Covid but just a little bit. Thank you very, very, very much I am so appreciative that you joined me to talk to me for this.
Olivia, it’s great to see you again. I don’t have the good fortune of teaching you this semester, but I have the good fortune of being a part of your learning in this class. [HIST*1050] It’s really, actually very I think healthy, and very illuminating for me to talk with you about Covid experience. I’d never done this before, I’ve never reflected on the implications professionally of Covid, and I actually think this is a very, very valuable idea. I want to thank you for inviting me to be a part of this reflection.