Tuesdays with Barry

This morning I booked the robe rental for my graduation ceremony this coming June -- yet another sign of the finality of my time at the University of Toronto. And so begins my wistful remembering...

The university has been the site of a mental battlefield like one I've never experienced before and though apprehensive at first, the intellectual challenge is something that I've come to embrace and truly cherish. And having a professor to guide me through this time has made all the difference...

One of the most fruitful experiences of my undergraduate studies has been working with and getting to know the great Professor Barry Wellman. I first took his course, SOC356: Technology and Society, in my third year. Throughout the year we analyzed how technology plays a role in our everyday lives in the way that we communicate with our family and friends, how it has the potential to create community and what community even means in a virtual context, how it perpetuates or breaks down social inequalities, and how it affects the broader political landscape. I've always had an interest in technology but I didn't quite know how it fit with my PoliSci and Sociology major. It wasn't until Professor Wellman's class that I discovered just how beautifully and perfectly I could couple my interests like fingers interlaced. So for that alone I am thankful to him.

But Professor Wellman has done more than just open my eyes to the study of technology and society. I don't quite remember how it happened exactly but we really got to know each other throughout that year and he continued to fuel my interest in the subject. He shared and continues to share news items, articles or upcoming events that I may be interested in and happily connects me with people who may help me in this journey of mine. No other professor has shown me such unabashed generosity and kindness and for that I am forever grateful. And I know that I'm not the only one he does this for. Many of my friends have taken his class as well and we're all in agreement that Professor Wellman is one of the few professors on campus who actually takes the time to get to know your name and is genuinely interested in getting to know you.

with Professor Wellman

I was lucky enough to continue working with him in my final year. With his guidance, I conducted an independent research study on networked organizations. Even better, he recruited me to assist in the writing of two chapters from his and Lee Rainie's upcoming book -- an opportunity that undergrads only dream of! Going through draft after draft, Professor Wellman helped me develop my writing skills, which as you may be able to tell from this blog, is something that's dear to my heart. He pointed out certain aspects of my style that I never noticed before (hello, passive voice!) and he showed me how to tighten my sentences, making my arguments ooze with conviction. Seriously, how many undergrads get the opportunity to work one on one with their professor going through almost every sentence of their work and tweaking it to near perfection? I am but of the rare few and I continue to be dumbfounded by the confidence Professor Wellman had in me to take on this endeavour.

Beyond his guidance though, Professor Wellman has been a source of support and friendship for me. He's so incredibly easy to talk to and it is a joy just to hang out and, as he calls it, schmooze! He is honestly the coolest and most relevant professor I know, always in the loop and eager to learn what his students are up to. It's easy to forget about time when you're chatting with him...

With its massive size, U of T can be a cold and unfeeling place. You're lucky if you have the opportunity to actually get to know one of your professors. You're even luckier if that professor is Barry Wellman.

And with that said, I thank you once again for taking me under your wing, Professor! Even though I'm still uncertain of what exactly I want to pursue in the future, your guidance, generosity, and friendship has made all the difference. You are my advantage.

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry Adams