Yesterday (Aug 3, 2018) I had an opportunity to meet with and interview Dr. Hal Grotevant!!!
While ultimately this project is about capturing the voices of influential scholars, the modern history of how our current paradigms and theories have been shaped by these thinkers, there is something very special about completing this first step. Dr. Grotevant is a fantastic scholar, and a generous and supportive person to have accepted my invitation for a conversation and gone out of his way to help me with this project. Tomorrow and Monday I will be posting some images and audio from that conversation. For today, I want to comment on the process getting to this point.
To make this project happen there were all kinds of logistical details (see my post: side note: living on the road for a lot about that). There was also a social challenge: how do you get people to agree to talk to you? Not just any people, but amazing people who have devoted themselves to incredible work. Psychologists who may be juggling administrative appointments (with responsibilities to students, faculty, and institutional needs), who likely have major grants (with huge dollars at stake and multiple things to coordinate for them), not to mention the typical academic stuff: reviewing papers, writing papers, editing papers, teaching, mentoring, etc. These incredible and influential Psychologists work incredibly hard to do the things they do, with packed schedules and no need to take on additional burdens. One very famous Psychologist I contacted quickly emailed back that he while he wished me luck, he was oversaturated with such commitments and too fatigued with interviews to spend an hour with me. And I get it. Don’t we all? Why should anyone indulge the random email from a stranger begging time to indulge in a project that may or may not be any good?
Knowing that I personally would be skeptical of a strange, random request to do such a thing and also with my own personal trepidation (a fear of rejection coupled with modest social anxiety with new people) it filled me with doubts. There have been many times in which this whole project seemed like a horrible, horrible idea. Everyone could say “no” and then this sabbatical would sink like the Andrea Doria (set to cruise and falling quickly to depths, all the while taking down all aboard). The people I contact could email mean things and socially reject me (btw, many thanks to sites like RateMyProfessors for helping us professors learn to deal with mean comments from strangers). They could all ignore my emails and pretend I don’t exist.
As it happened, something wonderful is happening. Several great people have said yes. They responded to my random email with willing spirits and the kind of supportiveness one often hopes to find among colleagues. I am humbled. I am full of gratitude.
Hal Grotevant who responded quickly, generously, richly with his time and candor was amazing in this process. For those unfamiliar with his work (and with much MORE to come tomorrow and Monday), Dr. Grotevant holds the endowed appointment as the Rudd Family Foundation chair at the University of Massachusets, Amherst (flagship campus. It’s important to mention that this is the flagship campus because I passed about 400 signs with that specific distinction as I approached and drove through the flagship campus. So if you thought Lowell, Boston, or Dartmouth was the flagship, just put that out of your mind now. They are not the flagship, it is definitely Amherst. Go Minutemen and Minutewomen).
Dr. Grotevant is a scholar who has spent decades running major projects on family dynamics, with a particular emphasis on adoption. The impressive longitudinal work of Dr. Grotevant and colleagues has been used to clarify the critical issues for adopting parents/families and the adoptees entering and developing within their families. Grotevant et al. developed paradigms, theories, and practical strategies clarifying the foundational processes for children to gain self-awareness, to individuate within a family, and to progress towards a healthy sense of self. The implications of how we develop has critical implications for the institutions, therapists, support services relating to adoption. I can’t wait to share his words with you, and am so grateful to Hal for providing me this opportunity to do so!!!