Surviving the World

A Photocomic Education by Dante Shepherd

Student Presentation #28 - Roots

There's less than two months of STW to go - a long time now having passed since I started it ten years ago as a grad student at Cornell, desperately trying to find some kind of creative outlet to help me stay sane during my last two years there. During the first two years of STW, I had to sneak into certain classrooms in Olin Hall whenever classes weren't going on and the doors weren't locked, which sometimes meant I only had access for about an hour each week to make seven comics. Olin 255 was near and dear to my heart - I could set my camera down on the armrest of the chair in the third row, start the ten second timer, then sprint to the front to capture the picture to make the comic. It seemed like a long way away from pretending to be a bloviating professor at a chalkboard to actually becoming one.

Justin is one of my current students at Northeastern, a senior who is without question destined for great things. A lot of this class of 2018 is - every class has some tremendous kids, but this class is truly special and I'm going to miss them greatly - but Justin is quite simply one of the best students and best people I have had the great pleasure of teaching. This past weekend he was on his final grad student visit, up to Cornell, and he came across good ol' Olin 255, got someone to let him in, and next thing I know he's kindly mocking me.

I don't want to dwell too much these last two months on old times, reminiscing. But I'm nearing the end of my sixth year already as a professor, and it really wasn't that long ago that I was a dumb grad student mucking about, and it's very weird to experience an emotional tug upon seeing a piece of slate.

Justin's going to do tremendous things. I doubt he'll take up a labcoat and chalkboard himself and start making his own comics, nor would I encourage him to - those are my roots, not his, and he's got his own future to seize. But I've taught him now for a number of years, and my teaching is rooted in the ridiculousness and stupidity of STW, and so his current roots have some association with that chalkboard up above. And if you've read this site for a while and liked it for some reason, I guess you've got some root association there, too. Nostalgia is a toxic emotion and a toxic impulse but it's always useful to remember where you came from, even tangentially.

Thanks, Justin.

(SIDE NOTE: within hours of posting this, it was announced that Justin received a prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Congratulations, Justin!)