I've been thinking about something that this professor said to me the other day.
He said that given a choice, he will always choose to collaborate with (and try to recruit) people who are unreasonably passionate about their work.
This professor went on to say that It is not necessary that potential colleagues share the same professional obsessions. Rather, the most important thing is to be obsessively curious about something.
The reason for this is that anyone who is absurdly inquisitive about their own work is likely to appreciate that character trait in somebody else.
What is a career in higher education if not a stubborn failure to let go of our obsessive intellectual interests?
It is very difficult to make a rational argument for an academic career. The formal educational hurdles are daunting. The academic labor market is capricious and punishing.
And yet - for many of us - it is difficult to imagine any other career than one in academia.
We love what we research and teach about to such a degree that we are willing to endure most anything in order to keep doing so.
I think that those outside of academia too often miss the true internal motivation that drives most faculty. You become a professor not out of any rational career calculus, but because you love a subject so much that you want to spend your life researching and teaching about your passion.
Increasingly, I think that this unreasonable obsession with academic inquiry is extending to our non-faculty educators.
I see this in my world of educational technology, instructional design, and digital learning. The colleagues that I want to hang out with are the biggest learning and technology nerds. The people who obsessively read everything they can about the future of both technology and education.
The folks who are fanatical students of higher education and organizational change - and who are unreasonably determined to leverage technology to increase postsecondary access, lower costs, and raise quality.
I also like hanging out with the assessment nerds, the media-educator gurus, the academic library mavens, and the student affairs wonks.
Show me a potential colleague who is passionate about their area, and I will show you someone who will tolerate my own obsessive intellectual idiosyncrasies.
What are you unreasonably passionate about?