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Who You Ought To Know: Trysh Travis

Trysh Travis is a celebrated author, mother and Women's Study professor at the University of Florida. She has dabbled in all things ranging from NWA's contribution to the ideas of American masculinity to Alcoholics Anonymous. LJ had the chance to sit down with Trysh and hear about her amazing life thus far. Take a seat and read over this interesting interview in which Travis talks about her triumphs and failures and the three things in her office that she can simply not live without.

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Step into Dr. Trysh Travis’ office in Ustler 305 and you’ll be greeted by nostalgic relics from American culture. A 1960s Barbie, a print of Jacob Lawrence’s painting “The Library,” a photo from HBO’s “The Wire.” Much like Travis, a tenured Women’s Studies at the University of Florida, the office is most accurately described as multifaceted. Her research is equally diverse, encompassing issues from Alcoholics Anonymous to the anti-drug practices of groups like the Black Panther Party. Travis was born in Dallas, Texas, and fled from the southern mega-state at the age of 17 to the city lights of New York. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in a self-made major of Media Studies and American Culture at New York University. In 2004, she made her way to UF, where she focuses on breaking the stigmas that are generally associated with her field. She does this by inviting students to begin using their brains in the classroom rather than passively consuming.

"Finding the pleasure in thinking is fun and empowering,” Travis said. “I want my students to get an education rather than a credential,"

The Big Three

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Item 1: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band 1975-85 Tour Poster: While traveling home from a R.E.M. concert in New York City, the Springsteen poster was swept right to Travis’s feet. It was one of many plastered across the city to advertise Springsteen’s arrival. Travis took the unexpected discovery of the poster as fate and attended the concert. In the 1990s Travis taught a class on American Masculinity and Post-War Pop Culture, and used Springsteen's "Born in the USA" as an example of white American working class masculinity. Over time, the poster has had many homes: undergrad apartments, a storage unit during her time in graduate's school and office walls. When Travis was offered tenure at UF in 2004, the poster was the first thing she removed from storage. "It is a talisman of my undergraduate life, Travis said. “A time where all I cared about was the next show that I was going to go to.”
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Item 2: 1987-88 Original Roz Chast New Yorker Cartoon ( Dunce Hat Comic): Travis takes pride in the fact that she has held on to the original copy of this comic for all of this time. The comic depicts a teacher and student in the classroom. The twist on the classroom setting is that both are wearing hats. The student is wearing a dunce hat and the teacher is wearing a hat with the word bitch. For Travis the comic serves as an example of a just and balanced world, where the power struggle between student and teacher and the imbalance of the relationship are eradicated. "At the end of the day this is what we should strive for– a balanced relationship between student and teacher. This comic reminds me to keep it real," Travis said.
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Item 3: Pile of toys (3 wooden block flowers, 2 wooden block butterfly wings, 2 NBA action figures): The art of playing is very close to Travis' heart. She uses the toys as an aid for spatial and visual learners during office hours. These "toys for teaching" allow the students to have a more analytic and playful approach toward revising a paper. Travis' aspirations are centered around students having fun while thinking. "The students that have gone through the Florida public school system have been FCAT-ed to death,” Travis said. “They have forgotten the pleasure in thinking. It is an important life skill."

Lauren P. Jadotte 2013

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