Dean of Humanities, UCSC
BY suki wessling
This monthly series from Growing Up will highlight some of the moms in our community who are out there making things happen while also caring for kids at home. We’ll feature teachers, healthcare workers, business owners, coaches, and more. If you know of a mom who has made a difference, please email [email protected].
This month’s mom, Jasmine Alinder, is a mid-pandemic transplant to Santa Cruz just before the start of the school year. A dean who can’t get to know her faculty is also a mom who had to uproot her children in the strangest year of their lives. Thank you, Jasmine, for speaking with us!
Suki Wessling: How has your life as “mom” been in the last 9 months?
Jasmine Alinder: In late spring, after the first stay-at-home order went into effect and schools shut their doors, I told my two daughters that we were going to move halfway across the country from Milwaukee to Santa Cruz so that I could start a new job. My 19-year old, unexpectedly home from college, was excited. My 12-year old had no interest at all in leaving her hometown. But I really believed that the move would be good for us, all of us, and not just my career. It would also bring us closer to my family in California, and the part of the world that I think of as home.
We arrived in Santa Cruz at the beginning of August not long before the CZU fire ignited. Fortunately, our house was not under threat, but we still headed out of town, go-bags and birth certificates in the car trunk, in search of clearer, safer air. My daughter asked if this fire season was normal, and I was starting to wonder if someone had exchanged the Welcome to California sign at the state’s border with one that reads Welcome to Climate Crisis.
Being a mom has been challenging for me over the past several months because the stability and routine that my husband and I are used to being able to provide for our kids was seriously disrupted. Partly, because of pandemic and wildfires, but also because of the move. We left familiar places, dear friends, and a sense of deep comfort behind.
SW: What is it like to step into a new job at this time?
JA: My new job should be on site, in an office, populated with coworkers, on the beautiful UCSC campus. I should be meeting my colleagues in person and getting to know the institution. While I am physically in Santa Cruz, I have barely stepped foot on the campus grounds. I work from home and the majority of my experience of my new job has been virtual. There is a strange sense of dislocation.
SW: What do you feel that you’ve learned as a parent and at work during this time?
JA: As a parent, I’ve learned how difficult change can be. Transitions are tough and particularly at this moment in history, marked by wildfires and pandemic. Despite her initial misgivings, my younger daughter has embraced our new lives here. She adapted remarkably well to remote learning, and her teachers at Mission Hill Middle School have been great. She has made new friends, who she has been able to meet in person outside, masked and socially distanced, of course. She is taking dance classes at Motion Pacific. And she is spending a lot of her free time crafting.
I feel very lucky to be working with my new colleagues and am amazed at the level of care and thought that everyone is bringing to this virtual world of work. Online meetings and events are more challenging than I imagined they would be. All of the energy, eye contact, and body language that helps to inform and empower one leading a meeting, standing in front of a crowd, or teaching in a classroom is lost in the virtual world. On the upside, I’ve learned that relationships can be initiated and built in Zoom boxes, and I look forward to a time when it will be safe to take up those relationships face to face.
I believe deeply that the work that we do in the Humanities matters. Lately, I’ve been ending every day by reading Tommy Orange’s novel There, There, which is featured in this year’s “Deep Read,” a series of public events co-sponsored by The Humanities Institute at UCSC. Reading is an example of how the humanities sustains me everyday and how important storytelling is for feeling connected, particularly during a time when we have to remain apart.
Suki Wessling is a local writer and the mother of two adult children. You can read more at SukiWessling.com