An Adjunct’s Balancing Act Has Its Ups and Downs

Desiree Robertson leads an extraordinarily active life. A mother, part-time adjunct professor, and full-time manager at a nonprofit group, she often feels on the verge of losing control. It’s “like those circus acts where you have the plates,” she says, “and then you’re on the ball or on the tricycle, and I think at any moment something’s going to fall.”

Ms. Robertson enjoys the work despite the toll on her time. She is inspired by her sociology students at Southwest Tennessee Community College. “I love working with college students. I love seeing their faces light up when they get it,” she says. She also enjoys providing outreach programs and services to younger students at the Memphis Grizzlies Mentoring Alliance, part of a charitable foundation sponsored by the NBA franchise.

She appreciates the linkages among the jobs. The ideas she discusses with her students in the classroom, she observes, often play out in her job with the alliance.

But the way in which Robertson has to divide her time slows her growth as a professor. “I’m not getting, I think, the full experience of being in academia like adjuncts that are on campus who don’t have to work full-time jobs,” she admits.

Video and editing by Greg Kahn; produced by Rose Engelland

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