Friday, 22 June 2018

On Being a Pracademic

The first time I heard someone call themselves a 'pracademic', I was listening to an International Leadership Association webinar by Dr Corey Seemiller on "Mapping & Matching Leadership Competencies". Dr Seemiller said "one of the things that's really important to me, and [in] doing this work, is that I consider myself a pracademic. I don't want to learn things just to learn things and know things; I want to make them useful to people" (2015, 38:03).

I work in the 'dirty boots' brigade: the Polytech sector.  This sector is practical, hands-on and vocational. The term 'pracademic' really sparked my imagination: what term could better describe teaching and research at the intersection of theory and practice?

So what is a pracademic? Posner suggests that it is the nexus of academic-practitioner, suggesting that pracademics are boundary spanners. While it was not Posner's intention that academics would fulfil two functions, it is reasonable to assume that pracademics could deliver on both halves of the following: "Practitioners provide the 'problem stream' for academic research and serve as the de jure or de facto client for those studies [...where] academics would, in return, provide tested findings and ideas to fertilize the 'solution stream' in the broader world" (2009, p. 13).

Both client and researcher. An interesting idea.

I think this is missing a key point though: that of reflection. I think reflection is a key point of being a pracademic. Pondering on how we could make things simpler, more streamlined, easier to use, fit better with user expectations. A sound set of goals for the dirty boots brigade.

I thought initially that Dr Seemiller had coined the term herself. However, a quick hunt online disabused me of that. Michael Quinion of OED and World Wide Words fame wrote a post detailing this in 2008 (here). In it he said that "The earliest example I can find is in an advertisement for a course at a Bible college in California in 1973, which combines the study of theology with hands-on experience in a local church". One of his newsletter subscribers found and sent him the newspaper ad dating to 30 October 1973, entitled “Join the Action” for Van Nuys Christian College in the Los Angeles Valley News (partly shown in the illustration above).

The term was probably in common usage before that, but the literature is silent.  


Out of curiosity I tried to find the 1973 ad online, but was unable to get behind a paywall to see it. I emailed Michael Quinion and asked if he had a copy. He was kind enough to send me a scan of the ad itself on the page. 

If you want to see it, post your email in the comments box, and I can send you a copy of the clipping. Paying it forward for Michael Q, for the blessings he has bestowed upon etymology.


Sam

References:
  • Posner, P. L. (2009). The pracademic: An agenda for re‐engaging practitioners and academics. Public Budgeting & Finance, 29(1), 12-26. 
  • Quinion, M. (27 September 2008). Pracademic. Retrieved from http://www.worldwidewords.org/turnsofphrase/tp-pra1.htm
  • Seemiller, C. (2015). Leadership Perspectives Webinar: Mapping & Matching Leadership Competencies with Corey Seemiller. Retrieved 24 April 2015 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emxBwqyRMiw
  • “Join the Action” Van Nuys Christian College courses advertisement (30 October 1973). In the Los Angeles Valley News (Van Nuys, California), East Valley Edition, page 4-B-East, column 7, p. 66.

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