This is 44!

Estimated Reading Time: 15.5 minutes

So it's that time again. On my birthday each year, I share out about the year and think about what is ahead. This is apparently year #7 and you can see the others below.
Let's start with some of the miscellaneous details I've collected over the years here, shall we?

Home:  Cranston, RI
Relationship status:  Married (9+ years)
Cats Owned:  2 (Bear and Pumpkin)
Other Pets:  1 mud turtle (MJ, 37'ish years old)
Degrees earned: 5 (3 masters, 1 bachelor, 1 associate)
Degree working on:  PhD in Higher Education
Credits Completed Toward Dissertation: 72 out of 72.
A selfie of Lance Eaton from the neck up with a blue t-shirt and plants in the background

Reading since Sept 2022
:  302 (Latest reads can always be found on Goodreads)
  1. Director of Faculty Development & Innovation at College Unbound (full-time) 
  2. Teaching courses at North Shore Community College
  3. Consulting, Facilitator, Speaker
Weight:   244 pounds
Longest Distance Run This Year:  10 miles (8/26/2023)
Fastest Pace This Year:  8:58/mile (5K)
Runs in the last year 268
Miles run in the last year 1009.5 miles
Miles on the bicycle in the last year 894
Blog Posts in the last year:   49
Blog Pageviews 79,091
Blog Subscribers 133
Blog Visitors 58,626
Facebook Friends 793
LinkedIn Connections 1789
Twitter Followers:   1685
YouTube Channel Subscribers:   2798 on my personal channel;  302 on my work channel
Website Domains owned:  3

Favorite Blog Posts of the Year

Looking Back

It's been quite the year with lots of high notes, a few low notes, and many new experiences.  So let's get into it.

Professional Changes

This year has seen a lot of growth in my work, much of which feels like the culmination of a lot of work over the last 15 or so years and some of which feels like pure luck.  If you're a regular reader or someone I interact with regularly, then you'll have seen it but for others, well, this year, a mixture of timing, collaboration, and thoughtfulness led to me getting a variety of attention and doing a variety of work around generative artificial intelligence in education.  Here are some of the things that came from that:

Here are the various talks and workshops on generative AI that I've given over the year: 

It's also been a year where I've gotten the most amount of invitations to do talks at different institutions and organizations.  About 10-15 this year, with more showing up regularly.  I've gotten into a new practice with these.  Given my interest in open access and open education, I wanted to make sure such things are easily available for others.  I've been making my talks available in terms of the slide deck and resources while also occasionally recording them and putting them onto Youtube for others to benefit.  But now, I'm also doing a resource that ends up being for both the attendees and anyone else.  I include what I call "Annotated Slides"--a document that includes the slide image, what I said and relevant resources for each slide.  I feel like this makes it an effective resource that folks can leverage well after the talk.  

That's one of the things I dislike about the talks is that they're often one-offs and while I like to think I'm helpful and dare I say, inspiring, I'm also sure folks forget a lot of the points days later.  After all, what is a talk but a lecture and if students struggle with them, then we can expect faculty to also have some retention issues.  

My work at College Unbound has evolved a bit and I'm appreciating the direction around it.  Over the last year, as we've settled into Moodle, I've also taken on a bit of recruiting, interviewing, and onboarding faculty.  I've also been advocating and am in the process of interviewing candidates for a Learning Systems Specialist on my team while also having gotten a part-time support as well.  

I also worked to have my title changed from Director of Digital Pedagogy to Director of Faculty Development and Innovation. This felt important to me because while I and many in my area of work can see a title and make sense of it.  More often than not, faculty and students at CU didn't quite understand what my work is ("tech guy" is how it translates) so it left a lot of technical questions and not a lot of pedagogical questions in my bucket. I think it also represents a shift that is reflected in the kind of work that I'm doing in the next year.  It has been a direction I've been redirecting towards for in the last 5 years of my work--recognizing that a lot of my work is as much faculty development as instructional design (that Venn diagram is strongly overlapping).  

The title itself was part of a bigger struggle I had at work this year, trying to help clarify my work, the amount of work, and the absence of support I felt in my work.  It's a small organization trying to grow and also care for one another.  Yet, there are still going to be stumbling and mistakes along the way.  I got to a point this year where I had to really speak up for what felt like a disproportionate absence of support or understanding the the disproportionate work.  And since that, I'm feeling both more grounded for having spoken up and more awareness and support from leadership (it's not that I would recommend ugly crying in front of senior leadership or letting it get to that point, but sometimes, yeah, that's what's needed to know if you belong and can be appropriately cared for and responded to).  It's telling that just 2 months later, I have one person on my team and another one that we're hiring.  

In this past month, I've found myself playing a role that I hope (and seems) to be helpful.  We have a lot of new folks--folks who weren't in their roles prior to the start of the semester.  And while we are a great team overall in how we support one another, the start of the semester is always stressful and filled with lots of questions and concerns.  We want to present a collective face of support and care when our students show up and so many of us know about 1 billion different ways that can and should happen.  But the reality is that we only have capacity for a million different ways to do this (obviously, these numbers are made up).  The result is that many of us know where we aren't doing well and that builds up stress and angst.  I know because I certainly feel it at times too.  But the thing I've tried to do in many of my conversations is to both validate the desire to be all things and also help folks see that we're doing a lot while also highlighting that for most folks--it's entirely new. Ultimately, we're not going to be perfect, that feels uncomfortable because we care about our work, and we will be ok as we continue to improve our systems and supports for students and one another. 

In my area alone, there were only 2 of us in our roles at this time last year--everything else is either new in the last 11 months or new in their role.  So many folks are facing their first start of the year.  I do my best to help folks see the big picture (most of us are new), the objective view (most of what we're doing is new, even from last year), and the reality (we're actually doing well, we're just not doing perfect). I've been glad to be able to ground folks in their work, even if it is just a little bit or for a short time because seeing some look of relief from them has been helpful to me (stress can be contagious, right?) but more importantly, I appreciate that I'm in situation (both the immediate context of my work at CU and my experience in academia as a whole) that I can help others acclimate and accept the intensity that comes with the start of the semester as normal.  

In terms of my dissertation, I would love to tell you that I'm done but that's not the case.  Still--SO MUCH PROGRESS!  At this time last year, I was starting that process of interviewing.  I interviewed all my participants.  I cleaned up the transcripts.  I'm deep in the data analysis right now and can see the next turn quickly approaching.  So I hope for end of the year, beginning of next, but it feels quite real right now.  Also, my findings are so fascinating. I keep having all sorts of aha moments or insights when revisiting the data.  I've been steady with working on it through a mixture of FocusMate and a few friends whom I meet on Zoom a few times a week (Shoutouts to Rhoan, Dana, & Melba!).  There's still some work to do but the end feels in sight in a way it just hasn't in years. I loved feeling that I'm getting it (the process and the work), I'm learning new things as I review the data, and I'm still enjoying and fascinated by my topic.

Home life

We approach 2 years of living in Rhode Island and it still often feels new.  When you live in area for so much of you life (40+ years) and are involved enough to meet a good deal of people, it's pretty normal and comforting to run into people at least half the time you go out.  That was my experience living in the Greater Boston area.  That has yet to be my experience in Rhode Island and I realize while that feels like a hallmark of home, it could be a decade or more before that happens.  So, what might be other indicators of it feeling more like home.  Certainly an expansion of friends and connections and that feels like it is happening gradually.  I hope after the dissertation it can happen more. Though I say that after a weekend where when going to PVD Fest in Providence, we ran into half-a-dozen folks while there--though they were almost all work-related. 

This year also saw the first major project we did on the house--a retaining wall in the front and redoing of the front stairs.  It went largely well and the front is looking good. We need to figure out the landscape aspect (I'm pushing for pick-your-own herbs and a lending library) and we need a railing, but otherwise, it's looking good.  

We also have picked up taking improv classes the last few months.  We're currently finished but are retaking Level 2 with Providence Improv Guild--and I'll have a post about that in the near future.  But doing it as a means of spending time together with Chris, getting to know new folks, and trying on this new and challenging thing has been fun.  

The garden this year survived more than thrived.  It produced (and continues to produce) plenty but I did not give it the care and attention I had hoped to.  Yet, I learned and that feels good.  For the first time in my gardening, my green bean game was on fire and I managed to grow another watermelon and a few pumpkins.  I'm waiting to see if my sweet potatoes were a success and my shallots also thrived.  I have hopes of being done with the dissertation by mid-winter which means I can spend more attention on the garden (And maybe even take the garden masters class next year!).  

It's also been a pretty amazing year to watch Chris become a teacher.  She started teaching in the Spring and with each class, it's pretty awesome to see her abilities and her growth. I often joke that I'm a bit jealous because of how damn good she is at it--from the very beginning. I wish I had like 25% of her skill and insight in teaching in the first 10 years of teaching, I would have been able to help so many students.  Still, it's powerful to watch and see her grow more into this role.  


I took care of myself this year but did not push myself.  I continued to run and cycle throughout the year.  In fact, I cycled to work throughout the winter because the weather never got too wet and icy. That has been hugely rewarding both in terms of just having that exercise each day when going into work but also in making Providence feel more like "my city' in a way that other cities have felt when I lived in them.  I kept steady with running (ran more miles than in some years past--thank you treadmill!) but didn't do many races or really train for much.  I'm ok with that. It's been enough to know that even during busy times in my life, my exercise routine is on auto-pilot in a way that is helpful.  That is, it's a default in my mind and has been for many years.  I still appreciate that it is because it was not for so many years as well.  

I feel like I also did well this year with figuring out and working through my binge and emotional eating.  I had a lot fewer incidences where I ate beyond capacity and discomfort.  It's taken a few years to recognize the pattern, work with a therapist, and practice the presence of mind to stop or reasonably ask what I'm doing and why.  I'm not always successful (and don't expect to be) but I'm more successful than not and I'll take that as a win.  The emotional and stress eating still needs more work and attention but I'm able to bring more awareness to it as it is happening and at least acknowledge it and why it is happening..

So this year has brought some progress and some stability or practice that I'm appreciating and sitting with while so much else is going on.  

Looking ahead

I know I've been saying it for years now, but finishing the PhD feels more possible now than ever and I'm determined to finish it before the end of the 9 year mark.  I'm on a steady plan of daily work with two friends and colleagues.  We meet 8am-9am most workday mornings and then I have another 2-hour session with another friend on Saturdays.  I'm meeting regularly with the methodologist on my committee who is validating my progress with the analysis.  It will happen this next year.  

I think in the year to come, I'll be writing more articles and pieces as well in collaboration with colleagues around a variety of topics.  I've got 2 such articles coming out in September and October as a result of collaborations over the summer.  I find the group-writing process extremely beneficial and smooth, especially if you schedule time to co-write with the other person(s).  You can really see how quickly and easily something can grow and that builds its own momentum. I'm hoping to also just be in more regular writing practice with the blog or other things.  My mind races with thoughts--I just need to catch up with them and put them down on paper.  

I aim to do more improv after this break.  I don't think I'll ever actually be good at it and yet, I think it's good practice and that teaching it might be my niche (again, see the forthcoming post about the experience).  In general, I want to get back to teaching. I got to teach a course in the spring at College Unbound and it reminded me of how much I enjoy it and how much there is to learn from students there.  

I think also trying to build out more community continues to be a goal.  We're doing it slowly and finding new ways of doing it (such as taking classes and doing community events), but it still can feel like it's just Chris & I with a handful of friends in the area but not a larger group of folks that we can or would expect to see gathered together such as at a party or gathering.  It takes time, I know, and we have begun to see that but between the move and the pandemic, it's been a while since we've felt like our home was filled with people in rich connection and conversation.  

See you next year!

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  1. Lance you are such a bright light in this world. It is always such a pleasure to learn about what you're up to and I appreciate your openness on sharing who you are. Happy birthday!

    1. awww....thank you Erin! thank you both for reading and being a (looks at calendar, does some quick and sloppy map) a decades-spanding friend :)

  2. Happy birthday from a former improv student (Dick Schaal, one of the founding members of Second City, was my teacher). :)


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