Last night, the Heart of It All subcohort was dissolved. Okay, not actually dissolved, but for our final course, we have changed groups and are working with folks across our cohorts. I’m excited for this next step, but cannot help but think of the ways in which group dynamics might play out. We’ve spent the last three and a half years working with the same group of folks. As I’ve shared in the past, these three folks have made my experience thus far phenomenal. We’ve met once a week since July 2011 and struggled through moves, changes in job responsibilities, issues with family, issues with each other. And more. We’ll keep meeting as we move through the next steps of our doctoral program, but for the time being, we are no longer a group of people who are together.
Our group was joined together due to similar (though not shared) timezones and group dynamics as our program director watched us interact throughout that first class together. And we became known as the Heart of It All group. From the “heartland of America,” we wanted a group name that was a play on that. Earlier this year as I was perusing the RayGun web site, I came across this and could not help but think of our group:
Later, as we continued to interact with folks from different parts of the country, it became increasingly clear that this was the perception of the Midwest from our classmates and others:
So, a couple of weeks ago, we sent this postcard to our colleagues sharing our excitement for seeing them this week. Last night we showed up at dinner wearing matching shirts with that picture on it and celebrating our home region of the country. On my drive to Colorado, I was listening to Michael Rank’s History in 5 Minutes podcast which had five consecutive episodes about the greatness of Iowa. This, combined with conversations last week at the ICQI conference about the Midwest, has increasingly made me feel proud to be a Midwesterner.
While I identify as a Minnesotan through and through, Iowa has grown on me. Ohio has grown on me. I don’t question saying hello to someone walking down the street or holding the door open if someone has full hands. I’m not suggesting the folks in other parts of the country fail to have manners and be polite, I often am hyper-cognizant of the ways in which my interactions might not be reflective of what is experienced across the country.
For those who have not visited or spent much time in the Midwest, we are much more than a “flyover” area of the country. I love that when I drove through small towns throughout Iowa, Nebraska, and Colorado on Monday, people were at the cemeteries, visiting their loved ones and honoring those who deserve our respect. I love that we know how our neighbors are doing and that it is strange to me that I have not yet gotten to know more of my neighbors. I love watching for the differentiation in planting driving across these states and caring whether the farmers are planting corn or soybeans, spraying the fields, or how many head of cattle they have. There is a community that exists throughout this.
As I continue ruminating of sense of place, the Midwest is one location I could not deny considering.