BIPOC Features: Vanessa Stovall

One of the things that I wanted to do with Notes From the Apotheke was to amplify the voices and contributions of BIPOC scholars in ancient studies, at all levels and from all backgrounds. BIPOC in the field are invited to reflect on what brought them to studying the ancient world, as well as offer their opinions on the future of the discipline and share any work they are especially proud of or excited about.

For this month’s installment of the BIPOC Feature series, I am thoroughly excited to present Notes in a Classical Canon or, a (Re)petition to the Field, by Vanessa Stovall.

Vanessa Stovall at Euterpe Ancient Music School in Summer 2019 in Tarquinia
Photo included with permission of the author.
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Writing Personal Statements (Hidden Curriculum Series #3)

The hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. In keeping with the applications theme, this new addition to the series is on the personal statement. 

Thanks to everyone on Instagram who helped with the decision!

A note on the personal statement

This post is about writing personal statements for funding applications, not grad school applications. I realize that there also exist “statements of purpose,” which are sometimes asked for in addition to a personal statement.

https://www.greedge.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/1-1.png
Image credit: GREedge (greedge.com)

In the case of funding applications, “personal statement” and “statement of purpose” are often used interchangeably. 

Take for example these two funding opportunities from my university:

#1: The statement of purpose must be single-spaced, 12pt font, and three pages maximum including any bibliography, citations, project timetable, graphics, etc. These should be written in language for non-specialists, should describe the proposed research project and discuss its rationale, objectives, design, timetable, feasibility, and methodology, as well as the projected benefits of this trip. If the applicant will be working with an established research project, a description of the organization and the activities in which he/she will be engaged must be included. Applicants should also discuss any language skills needed to conduct the proposed research.

#2: Students’ personal statement…should address the importance of the student’s work in the beginning two or three sentences. The statement should include the theoretical framework of the dissertation, its specific aims, methodologies (how the student is conducting the research), originality, and the significance and contribution of the project to the field…The statement should be written with an interdisciplinary faculty review panel in mind; i.e., reviewers will NOT necessarily be familiar with the technical vocabulary of a specific field.

The purposes of the funding opportunities are slightly different. One specifically supports international research and the other supports work on the dissertation (writing and/or research) more broadly, with an eye toward completion. 

However, the requirements for the statements are roughly the same. 

If you’re unsure of what to include in a statement, funding institutions usually spell out what sort of information they’re looking for in a personal statement/statement of purpose.

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Ways to Support the AAPI Community

This morning on Instagram I shared a message of solidarity with the AAPI community on this day and all days, and I condemned the increasing instances of violence that they have had to endure since the pandemic began. In particular, my heart goes out to all of my AAPI friends and colleagues in light of the racist, misogynistic, and sexist murder of 6 Asian women in Atlanta

Since sharing this post, I have come across innumerable resources, mutual aid funds, and action points that I thought might be worth collecting in a single place. 

As in the case of anti-Black racism, raising awareness shouldn’t be the only thing that you do in response to anti-Asian violence fueled not only by racism, but also by misogyny and sexism. It’s only the first step. Our friends and colleagues need us to stand with them and show up for them. 

Here are some ways you can do this.

Resources to share with your AAPI friends and colleagues:

Mental Wellness Resources for AAPI (Asian American Journalists Association)

A collection of mental health resources, ways to donate and volunteer, organizations to support, petitions to sign, books to read, and more:

Resources for unlearning your anti-Asian biases and prejudices:

Check out the amazing work that the Asian and Asian-American Classical Caucus of the Society for Classical Studies is doing (and consider donating!)

Black and Asian-American Feminist Solidarities: A Reading List

Resources and general information about the ongoing anti-Asian hate crimes (from May 2020)

Up-to-date (as of 3/16/2021) reports on anti-AAPI hate (from Stop AAPI Hate)

List of things you can do (in addition to donating) to support the AAPI community (from Stop AAPI Hate)

Bystander Intervention Training to Stop Anti-Asian/American and Xenophobic Harassment (Free) (Hollaback! & AAJC) 

Mutual aid funds, organizations, and businesses to donate to:

Where to Donate to Help Asian Communities (currently includes 60+ ways to do so)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta (also includes ways to volunteer and get involved in protecting AAPI voting rights in Georgia)

Support Georgia’s Asian American Community (donations go towards helping the victims and their families impacted by the violent acts that occurred on March 16, 2021; AAAJ-Atlanta)

Red Canary Song (a grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers, organizing transnationally)

AAPI Mutual Aid Organizations by State

Support the AAPI Community Fund (GoFundMe)

The Hate Is A Virus commUNITY Action Fund 

This list is obviously not exhaustive, but I hope it can be a place to start for those who want to actively support our AAPI friends, colleagues, and communities.

Burnout is Different for BIPOC

I bet we’ve all heard at least once in the past year that “your worth isn’t tied to your productivity.” The idea is that you shouldn’t let your work consume you to the point of burnout, which negatively affects all aspects of your health. 

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.

It’s easy to say that “your worth isn’t tied to your productivity,” but much, much harder to put that idea into practice

This is especially true when we’re inundated daily with posts on social media that make us feel like we aren’t doing enough, even when we feel good about the (quality and quantity of) work we’re doing.

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Doing Anti-Racism Work the SMART Way

As I mentioned earlier this week on Instagram, despite the fact that spring is (finally!) right around the corner, we continue to be deeply entangled with our screens – from working from home, to doom-scrolling on social media, to organizing and attending virtual events as part of our anti-racism work. 

Spring is just around the corner

While so many of us have been keeping up the momentum for nearly a year, there are others who no longer have the bandwidth to continue actively being allies for their BIPOC friends and colleagues.

I get it. This work is exhausting; it takes a lot out of you. But the work is not done just because you are.

So, how might we begin our anti-racism work anew and combat the fatigue – Zoom fatigue, decision fatigue, or otherwise?

The solution: re-framing our approach to anti-racism work using a SMART goal setting framework. 

This approach has already helped me make progress on my dissertation, so why shouldn’t it be useful for making our anti-racism work more realistic and easily attainable?

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BIPOC Features: Maia Lee-Chin

One of the things that I wanted to do with Notes From the Apotheke was to amplify the voices and contributions of BIPOC scholars in ancient studies, at all levels and from all backgrounds. BIPOC in the field are invited to reflect on what brought them to studying the ancient world, as well as offer their opinions on the future of the discipline and share any work they are especially proud of or excited about.

For the very first installment of this monthly BIPOC Feature series, I am deeply grateful to Maia Lee-Chin for being willing to share her journey and insights into the field.

Maia is currently a senior undergraduate at the College of the Holy Cross
Photo included with permission from the author.
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Social media: more harm than good?

Despite my best efforts, I can’t avoid the Classics discourse. Several reactions to the recent email debacle gave me pause last night. It made me think: it’s time for some reflection, and some hard truths. It’s time for us to wake up, and act.

A few weeks ago, following a talk at the AIA-SCS annual meeting wherein an instructor talked about asking their students to justify slavery, I invited everyone to consider whether they were doing harm in their classrooms. Today, I want us to go further than that.

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Asking for Recommendation Letters (Hidden Curriculum #2)

Last month I began a series on “the hidden curriculum.” The hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This second installment features tips on how to ask for recommendation letters (or references), which can form part of all kinds of applications!

Asking for recommendation letters can be scary but if you plan ahead, the process is smoother!
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5 Grad School Interview Questions You Should Be Asking

As we enter grad school interview season, it’s time to think about some questions that you should be asking on your (virtual) visits. 

These questions are primarily ones BIPOC prospective students should have in mind. I know that in light of the recent discourse sparked by a NYT op-ed featuring Prof. Dan-el Padilla Peralta, they might be uncertain about continuing their academic journey. 

These are also questions I wish I’d asked years ago during my own grad school interviews. But I believe these are generally important questions to ask for anyone who has a serious, invested interest in reforming the field.

There are many things I wish I had asked on my grad school interview

A Change in Perspective

The recent #ClassicsTwitter discourse shows that our problems can’t (and won’t) be solved overnight. Those of us who offer critiques are painted as fatalists. We want to “burn it all down” with (they assume) no regard for the future of the field or the people within it. 

When my eyes were opened to the extent of the toxicity of Classics months ago, I swore I’d never advocate for another BIPOC student to join the field. Some have considered such a stance to be ‘exclusionary’, but I just didn’t want anyone to go through what I went through.

In the intervening months I have become a little more optimistic about the future of Classics. Despite the near-constant debates about how exactly the field should be reformed – and, no, I don’t want to talk about potential name changes – I continue to love what I study. I made this blog for other BIPOC in Classics, ancient history, and archaeology who also love what they study, even if they hate the racist, elitist underpinnings of the discipline.

I don’t want to discourage BIPOC students from continuing their studies in grad school. But I don’t want them to blindly join a program (or field) that will be detrimental to their well-being, either.

I believe now that everyone should be able to make their own, informed choice about entering or leaving the field. In that vein, here are just a few questions relating to diversity, equity, and inclusion that you should be asking during a grad school interview.

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Why We Don’t Need More Films About White Archaeologists

When I heard about the new Netflix film, “The Dig” (2021), I’ll admit I wasn’t that excited.

Maybe I’m disillusioned by all of the talks, conferences, and workshops on anti-racism, and the ongoing commentary on Classics’ white supremacist foundations. My first thought when I saw the trailer was: “Do we really need more films about white archaeologists?”

It’s 2021; we know BIPOC archaeologists exist. Where’s the representation?

The Dig was released on Netflix on January 29, 2021

Anyway, I watched it, more so that I could say that I did and so that I could write this blog post from an informed perspective. This is not a review of the film. Consider it instead a review of the great mess that is the lack of diversity in films about archaeology.

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