Academia in 20/20 Vision

Happy New Year! It’s a new year with new beginnings!

I became acutely aware that many folks were reflecting on the last decade and making resolutions for 2020. I heard a saying that 2020 was all about having 20/20 vision, which ignited my interest. By not having 20/20 vision myself, how would I accomplish a new vision for 2020?

Naturally, I turned to the medical field to find the definition of 20/20 vision which by surprise, I found that it is not the best vision an individual can have. The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines 20/20 vision as a person who can see an eye chart while standing 20 feet away. An eye chart measures, “visual acuity, which is the clarity or sharpness of vision.” The top first number is the distance (i.e. feet) away from the chart a person can stand, whereas, the bottom number indicates the “distance at which a person with normal eyesight can read the same line.” For example, 20/30 vision is worse than 20/20, and 20/15 is better than 20/20. Imagine that!

I decided to share my new findings with my family members while home over the break. This is where I spiraled as an academic with a comic book obsession. My nephew and I share the same obsession. When he was younger, he would ask me, “Tia, if you had one superpower, only one, what would it be!?” I proceeded to remind my nephew of this question and that day I would pick vision to answer the question. We laughed. At times, I cannot believe my childhood is over.

I have had corrective lenses since I was in the 7th grade. I always imagined that having 20/20 vision was comparable to having a superpower, like Cyclops of X-men who generates powerful red beams of color from his eyes. However, it was a blessing and curse for Cyclops as he struggles with how to best use and control his superpowers in the X-men comic books.

Dr. Nichole Margarita GarciaDr. Nichole Margarita Garcia

I argue, we can learn a lot from comic books in academia. The three attributes I most love about comic books are character development, origin stories, and alternative modes of reality to embrace an array of emotions. All these attributes I plan to carry with me in 2020 and the next decade as I pursue research, teaching, and service in academia.

How we hold ourselves in academia contributes to our own character development as scholar-practitioners and the legacy we wish to leave. As we progress in our careers we will work with students in many capacities and hopefully cultivate their aspirations and goals so that they too develop in character.

Origin stories are among my favorites. Specifically, I am by far the biggest fan of Logan, or who we have come to know as Wolverine. Now I will not get into too much detail, but Logan is a mutant, a human who has an x-gene. His superpowers involve a rapid healing ability, enhanced strength, endurance, and speed, and we cannot forget the claws that retract from his hand. Logan is unsure of his origin story and he is on a journey to find it out, along with his audience, a comic fan like me. As academics we pursue our PhDs and enter various jobs to assist in documenting stories that have not been voiced or to fill in a “gap” in the literature. Depending on our own social positions as academics, our origin stories will differ to the masses. However, the point is there are origin stories to be told.

Finally, alternative modes of reality to embrace an array of emotions. Comic book characters experience different universes and with that comes various emotional responses. To stay consistent with X-Men, the characters are ostracized for being “mutants” rather than “human” and often are shunned. They fight evil and good in various capacities and places depending on the comic book. As academics we have critiques of the world around us and fight against evil so that we may experience the good. All with an array of emotions, at times in the comfort of our homes, and others in the public eye. There is no perfect world in the current reality or in comic books.

I leave you with a quote from The Dark Knight, a movie based on the DC comic characters the Batman and Joker, “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Hopefully, most of us will be the hero in somebody’s story in 2020, and not let academia create us into villains. What will your 20/20 vision be in academia?

Dr. Nichole Margarita Garcia is an assistant professor of Higher Education at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. You can follow her on Twitter @DrNicholeGarcia