Children of faculty grow up learning some very distinctive vocabulary. Here are 10 words I learned through osmosis as a kid because of my mother’s job as a college professor– and what they meant to me at the time.
- Campus: Where Mom goes to work. I can’t remember ever not knowing the word “campus.”
- The Dean: Somebody very important but often vexing and bossy.
- Tenure: Something you “get” after a lot of stress and arguing. My mom got tenure when I was about 5 and explained to me that “tenure” meant she couldn’t be fired. Then she had to explain what “fired” meant.
- The Department Chair: I was 6 when I learned this was a person, not a communal piece of furniture.
- Semester/ Trimester/ Term: Kind of like a season, but shorter and marked by flurries of intense grading.
- Advisee: Similar to a student except more lost, disorganized, chronically late.
- Performing Arts Center: Where you take dance classes sometimes and see musicians, plays, and strange blob sculptures that are called “student art.”
- Conference: “Mom’s away at a conference again. Time to go see Terminator 2 without her!”
- PhD: If your mom is a doctor, but not that kind of doctor, she has a PhD.
- Sabbatical: That year you moved to India or Boston or Alaska for “research,” Mom didn’t teach any classes, and your parents were so excited and happy.