A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online
January 24, 2012 - 6:09pm
One of the first things that I tell my first-year writing students at the beginning of the semester is that writing is hard, and that anyone who says it’s easy is a liar. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but as Trent stated in a previous post, writing can be difficult for the even best among us. Here are some more distraction-free writing tools that I’ve found helpful for composing just about anything.
January 23, 2012 - 11:04am
The 126th Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association featured nearly two dozen sessions featuring work in ‘digital history’ as well as a THATCamp that remarkably included over one hundred participants. By comparison, two years ago in San Diego the self-identified digital historians managed to fit around one table at a restaurant.
January 22, 2012 - 9:35pm
I am going to go ahead and blame the 1980s. Namely, the educational push in those days to "boost children's self-esteem." I am going out on a limb here and guess that most of our Gradhacker readers were told repeatedly and often that they were smart, talented writers, brilliant speakers, etc. Yes, school came easy to us, and for this we were praised. And then we became praise junkies: always anticipating what the teacher wanted in order to get a hit. Fast-forward to graduate school: suddenly, there is no way to anticipate what the teachers want. Because they want us to think for ourselves. And thinking for ourselves means putting out those half-baked ideas to get ripped to shreds constructively criticized. Because we've been trained like Pavlov's dogs to equate criticism as an assault on our intelligence, we freak out. So today's post is dedicated to moving beyond this destructive pattern and learning to embrace the criticism in order to grow as people and as scholars.
January 19, 2012 - 9:49pm
I was sitting down to a meeting with one of my committee members. He was telling me about a phone call he had just received from a colleague asking if he knew anything about a “Katy Meyers” because she was doing some good work online that was worth checking out. Hearing things like that is not only a great confidence booster, but it means that I’m doing something right. My name is spreading in my field, and in a positive manner associated with my academic work. I’m not going to say I’m a genius at managing my identity, but if you Google my name without any qualifiers, I dominate the first page. Creating a recognizable brand is a way of managing your academic identity. You want your brand to be just as recognizable, even if its just in your discipline.
January 18, 2012 - 9:59am
Researching and writing a dissertation can be one of the most exciting parts of graduate study; that final stage as we move from student to colleague. I behave as professionally as I can in all of my dealings with my committee members,* but recently I encountered a situation that I did now know how to handle at first. Two of my committee members completely disagree about something in the first draft of one of my chapters. After a brief moment of panic, some of which was aloud to one of my supportive peers, I realized that this particular problem has a couple of possible solutions. The easiest and perhaps most common solution when committee members disagree is to do what your committee chair wants. After all, this is the main reason that committees have chairs--someone has to make the final call when ideas conflict. In this post is advice from a professor who has served on many committees.
January 17, 2012 - 9:44pm
The semester has begun for most of us, and like many other semesters, most of us are teaching or TAing or doing something in the classroom. Teaching truly is one of the loves of my life. I find it invigorating, challenging, and, often, nerve-racking. But, I wouldn't have it any other way. I realized long ago that I belong in front of the classroom; however, I know that some of my colleagues sometimes struggle in front of a classroom. They're nervous, trembling, and unsure of themselves. While teaching surely isn't for everyone, it still is something that's expected from most graduate students, so you should be comfortable in front of a classroom. I know the title of this piece may seem shocking, but I've held to this philosophy, since I began teaching. It works for me. The most planning I do is putting together the syllabus for a class at the beginning, but I then just relax and teach. That's it.
January 15, 2012 - 5:12pm
As an undergrad I didn’t get involved in extracurricular student societies for two reasons. The first was that I felt like I didn’t have any free time to spare (a thought shared by many students, I’m sure). The second was that the idea flat out terrified me! I felt like my introverted nature would prevent me from making a difference and my ideas would never be heard. Jump to my doctoral degree and I was applying for a scholarship that required a one-page description of my leadership roles. For me, this page was virtually blank. I panicked. I realized that people would notice this obvious gap on my CV and it would affect me negatively in the future. Here is what I learned.
January 13, 2012 - 7:47am
It wasn't supposed to happen this way. I was supposed to breeze through graduate school without any changes: start in my hometown, comp in my hometown, defend in my hometown, and finish in my hometown. After that, I could move away, find the right girl, get married, get a job, and so forth. Here's what wasn't supposed to happen: I wasn't supposed to start grad school, find the right girl, comp, move to another state, get married, and then defend and finish somewhere else. I certainly wasn't supposed to have one committee member move to Texas. I definitely wasn't anticipating another one getting a research fellowship in England. I understood that my dissertation was going to be a solitary struggle in some ways, but not like this. Not me, in Virginia, with the closest committee member being my advisor, in Michigan. But, life, both mine and those of the people I'm working with, "gets in the way": our circumstances change, and we have to figure out how to adjust.
January 10, 2012 - 6:48pm
A new year brings a renewed resolve to really get things done. As graduate students, finding strategies to improve productivity are worth their weight in gold. While there are countless mobile and web applications that can improve one's workflow, I thought I would highlight a few here that have helped my workflow in my three main "resolution" areas: teaching; research and writing; and staying healthy.
January 8, 2012 - 8:56pm
I discovered “The Daily Dozens” while attending a workshop at the Winter Wheat Festival of Writing at Bowling Green State University. The Dozens are a daily writing exercise designed to kick-start ideas by doing something that we all love and are good at--making lists. A poet might use such an exercise to come up with images, or a series of conceits to hold a poem together. A fiction writer might come up with quirks for a character. An academic might use the Daily Dozens to generate thoughts on an article, solutions for an intellectual problem, or lesson ideas.