This summer, I am assisting as an editorial intern for a collection of scholarly articles focusing on teaching sustainability and environmentalism. I am primarily focusing on two chapters by science professors at Barnard which will be written in interview format with me as the interviewer. The first chapter, by professor of astronomy Laura Kay, details her experiences with including climate change in an introductory astronomy curriculum and the impact she hopes these discussions will have on her students’ worldviews. The second chapter, by professor of geology Sedelia Rodriguez, focuses on the environmental impact of volcanoes and discussion strategies for getting students to engage with course material in meaningful and creative ways. In both cases, we are starting the articles with a more broad discussion of how the field of astronomy and volcanoes relate to climate change and sustainability, respectively. We are then connecting these discussions to the professor’s experiences designing curriculums for undergrads that incorporate issues of sustainability.
Two weeks ago, I met individually with Professor Kay and Professor Rodriguez. These first meetings served as brainstorming sessions, allowing us to get a sense of what each other expected from the article. These preliminary meetings before the interview were very necessary. Professor Rodriguez and I especially benefited from the chance to brainstorm and structure the interview. We discussed incorporating more discussions of teaching practices into the article, and I think that I helped Professor Rodriguez successfully connect several seemingly separate ideas she wants to incorporate into the article.
As the interviewer, my work will strongly influence the structure and focus of each article. In addition to brainstorming interview questions, I am also responsible for transcribing the interview and doing much of the transcript editing. Over the course of the meetings, I realized what strengths I bring to the table. I am not familiar or experienced with either of the professor’s scientific fields; I have taken only one astronomy class and the most I know about volcanoes comes from discussions about igneous rocks in 8th grade. However, I do know a lot about educational strategies from my education coursework and fieldwork experiences, and I am fairly knowledgeable about sustainability and social justice work. Additionally, I know what it’s like be an undergrad student in a science classroom, and I think that my experience will allow for an interesting perspective in these scholarly articles about undergraduate teaching.
This Wednesday, I conducted and recorded my interview with Professor Kay. I came prepared with an interview outline and a list of questions. My role was simple: I asked the questions and listened to Professor Kay’s careful and well-spoken answers, making sure that my phone’s recording app caught every word. I have now began the more difficult part of the process: transcribing. Copying down the words from the recording is simple, but each sentence written requires me to make small decisions. The way one speaks differs significantly from how one writes, so I am continually make small edits to grammar, word choice, and sentence structure. Then, the edits to content will begin, with Professor Kay and I deciding which parts of the interview are superfluous and which can be expanded upon.
I already feel that I have learned so much from my first couple weeks on this project. I am learning how to balance the roles of leader and follower. I organize the meetings with the professors and have an agenda for what I hope to accomplish with each meeting, and I provide feedback about their ideas and offer suggestions about the direction of the articles. Yet, I am constantly aware that these professors are much more experienced writers and researchers that I am and are experts in their respective fields. Their expertise can be intimidating, but the professors treat me as a valued contributor, and I am learning to offer my opinions with confidence.