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Common Ground

Dr. Jessica Bodoh-Creed: Adjunct for Now, Academic Forever




Dr. Jessica Bodoh-Creed. Photo by Skylar Sweetman.

(They drive our trains and buses, teach our children, repair our roads and protect our safety. Public employees perform these and countless other jobs, although they remain mostly off the radar of the public they serve. Our Common Ground series takes us into the lives of these men and women.)

In a large lecture hall in the Biological Sciences Building of Cal State L.A., a student in the introductory anthropology class raised his hand to inquire as to whether or not female chimpanzees demonstrated the same sexual behaviors with each other that males did. “Not that it matters…” he remarked sheepishly.  His question elicited giggles across the room while Dr. Jessica Bodoh-Creed shook her head knowledgably, visibly pleased with engagement of her students as she pointed out some key differences in male and female chimp behavior.  With captivating energy, Dr. Bodoh-Creed continued her lecture on the behavioral patterns of chimpanzees with anecdotes and media to maintain active listening among her one hundred and forty students.

Dr. Bodoh-Creed identifies in many ways – Media and Television Anthropologist, Texan, World Traveler – but in the classroom she is at the forefront a passionate educator.  A young graduate of Cal State L.A. with a PhD in the contemporary field of Media Anthropology (her dissertation entitled, When Pfizer Met McDreamy: A Classic American Love Story Between Medicine and the Media), Dr. Bodoh-Creed brings a cache of knowledge to her teaching that is vibrantly of the moment.  While she has been avidly percolating the curriculum she might one day teach for upper level media anthropology students, for the time being the classes available to her as an adjunct lecturer are limited to introductory and GE classes for her department.

As a lecturer holding a one-year contract at a public university, Bodoh-Creed has faced challenges that plight many other recent PhD graduates in her position.  Finding a full-time job in what she tersely describes as a “terrible job market” was not an issue she foresaw in the years leading up to her degree.  She recounts applying to one position last year that had two hundred and thirty applicants. “You have to imagine that in my position, after just getting my degree, not having any publications, I just don’t match up to somebody who’s already in a tenure track job.”  This job and many others she had pursued in the past two years were all granted to professors who had already held tenure.  “Lecturers didn’t even get a blip, how would they?”

Although Bodoh-Creed does not hold a tenure track position, she has taught an essentially full load of classes every term since beginning at Cal State L.A. in 2010.  There are certainly enough students and more than ample classes to merit a full-time position, but employing another tenure track position would be a far more significant financial investment on the part of the institution than employing an adjunct scholar on a yearly basis.  “We’re cheap labor and while a lot of people need those adjunct jobs, it’s just not the same kind of work as having tenure.”  For one thing, she is not eligible to act as advisor for student projects, which she has done in the past on her own time.  “If you’re tenure, then this is part of your salary.  The rest of us are doing this out of love for our students, because you care for them and want to foster their academic growth.”

While parts of her narrative mirror those of many others struggling within a plummeting academic job market, Bodoh-Creed counts her blessings and maintains positivity. “In the worst economic recession, I got really lucky in that I started with a full load of classes and have been able to keep teaching through this period of time during which so many people I know in this city and across the country haven’t.” Although her contract is brief (one year), she sustains a sense of security through the presence of the California Faculty Association on campus.  This union has been an invaluable resource in navigating her employment at the school.  “Knowing you’re within a network of people who understand where you’re coming from and are on your side is a very secure feeling, especially when you feel like you don’t have control of a situation.”  Her contract allows her access to health insurance, dental insurance, even life insurance is an option.  “If you get the contract you can get everything that you need.”

What keeps Bodoh-Creed spirited in her position is her students. She pushes them students to take hold of their education and apply it to service in the community, striving to transform each of her pupils into conscientious and critical-thinking Angelinos.  Cultivating students who are actively engaged citizens of their cultural environment is at the crux of her curriculum, and the most gratifying reward as a scholar and educator.  There may not be a tenure position available for Dr. Bodoh-Creed for some time, but her passion for teaching and love for her department at Cal State is enough to keep her in L.A.  “My husband and I love it here – it’s expensive, but LA is our home for now.”

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