Most adults spend most of their waking hours working. Yet, we rarely have the time to consider why certain work brings us satisfaction and other work does not. Public discussion tends to focus on jobs as a measure of personal and national success or failure, but the measures embedded in these conversations are often narrow: Are jobs more or less plentiful? (the former is good, the latter is bad) and Who is getting the jobs? (one’s own kith and kin is good; “others” is bad). This conversation, led by historian Nikki Mandell, will engage participants in thinking about and discussing work more deeply. Participants will explore the quality and meanings of work in their own lives and those of people different from themselves and the connections between work as a personal endeavor and jobs as part of local and national economies.
Nikki Mandell has worked to support herself since the age of seventeen as a maid, waitress, factory worker, bookkeeper, office clerk, and university professor. She is a historian of labor, business, and women’s history, with a particular interest in labor-management relations. Her life’s journey has included work in both the private and public sectors, in small and large organizations, and in very different settings ranging from Los Angeles to the high Sierra of California to Midwestern towns large and small. Mandell recently retired from the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, where she was a professor of history.