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Canned Food History with Anna Zeide + Some Oklahoma Thoughts

Four years ago when we were both graduate students, Anna Zeide and I exchanged emails based on our mutual interest in food history, a common ground easy for us to discover despite being on campuses across the country from one another because we both had research blogs. So that’s one moral of this story, one I’ve said many times before: if you’re an academic, buy your domain name and share a bit about yourself and your work. Making new, smart friends is another amazing benefit of being a public scholar.

Fast forward to January of this year when I saw an announcement that Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry was soon to be published—and by none other than Anna Zeide. A quick search through my email confirmed, yes! I know this fabulous person! And a Google search revealed that Anna is now Clinical Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma State University, just about an hour’s drive from the University of Tulsa where I’m thrilled to be joining the faculty this fall in Media Studies. I’m already dreaming of our potential collaborations.

I share this story because you never know how a random email can blossom into something big and beautiful—to start, a fun conversation with Anna on Nursing Clio about her fab new book.

I’ve also been thinking lately about all that had to happen for me to end up in Oklahoma in the first place as an undergraduate. My college search was perhaps foolishly guided by my desire to minor in ballet. I’d decided to go to college instead of joining a company, but I still wanted to dance and in some official capacity.

I’d identified the University of Oregon as where I wanted to go. I was admitted early. My family and I traveled to campus for “Duck Preview.” It was the first time we’d flown on a plane together since moving to the United States from Australia when I was four years old. It was a big deal. The dorm rooms were shockingly tiny, but everything else had us hooked. This was where I was going for college. We were going to be Ducks, even though my mom worried what derogatory rhymes the opposing team might chant.

Then, months passed without the scholarship letter we were depending on. Despite college savings, paying out of state tuition would be impossible. And 18-year-old me really wanted to get out of Montana.

Then, a miracle of sorts happened.

A postcard arrived in the mail…from the University of Oklahoma.

I’m sure we still have it somewhere. An unassuming little card that changed my life. It said it wasn’t too late. If I marked the University of Oklahoma first on my National Merit ranking, I was guaranteed four years of support.

I’d never thought of Oklahoma, beyond the musical, which I’d seen dozens of times. (The Dream Ballet is incredible, until it’s terrifying). My Montana friends, as in love with mountains as I was (and am), gave me confused looks. “Oklahoma? But it’s flat there.” Nevertheless, the university website boasted one of the top ballet programs in the country, a stellar honors college, and an expansive set of majors and minors to choose from. The scholarship ended up coming through from Oregon, but by then, I’d fallen for OU. I took the risk and said yes. Without having ever set foot on the campus, in the state, heck, even in the region.

Things worked out. I was fortunate to have a truly transformative college experience, one that fuels my desire to work in higher education for the rest of my life. After those four years in Oklahoma, I spent four years in the San Francisco Bay Area, two years in Boston, and five years in Providence. Now, by the strange magic that is the academic job market, I’m returning to Oklahoma.

So, yes, when the PR team at the University of Tulsa asked me what brought me to TU, I had to say, I think part of it might be fate!

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