Raise your hand if you’ve ever had technical difficulties while giving a presentation.
How about if you’ve ever been given the five-minute warning from a session presider? Or if you’ve ever been asked a question in the Q&A that you didn’t have the answer to?
The unfortunate reality is that the possibilities for things to go wrong during a conference presentation are endless. I’m sure any seasoned veteran can confirm that they’ve experienced at least one or two over the years. I’ve been there, too. You know what we all have in common?
We got through it. And you will too. Your chances of getting through it are exponentially better if you do the following seven things.
A few months ago, I described what scholars of the ancient world needed to sacrifice to make the field more inclusive and equitable. One of those things was feeling the need to be an expert in everything.
It’s not easy for any of us to admit when we don’t know the answer to something. Part of this hesitation, I think, stems from the high-pressure, high-stakes structure of our graduate education.
For those of you who are new here, 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 month I’m talking the dissertation prospectus: what it is and how to write it.
Congratulations, you’re a PhD candidate! You might be either celebrating the fact that you are done with exams and coursework or tentatively wondering, “Now what?” (Or both.)
While you are definitely free from the constraints of courses and teaching, there still remains one final hurdle before you’re really free (aka ABD): the dissertation prospectus. In this post, I offer some general guidance for navigating this onerous and often inadequately explained requirement.
As with everything, the timeline for writing and submitting the dissertation prospectus may vary somewhat from department to department. However, in general, there are certain steps that you usually must follow before officially changing your email signature to include “ABD” (all but dissertation).
These steps are, roughly:
Assemble dissertation committee, including deciding on a chair or co-chairs, and submit through appropriate channels
Consult with committee members about dissertation topic and possible approaches
Draft dissertation prospectus
Defend prospectus (aka meet with your committee members to discuss your draft)
Complete revisions and submit prospectus to department for final approval
This post focuses primarily on writing the prospectus. If you want to know more about how to approach other steps in this process – such as how to choose who’s on your committee or how to prepare for and what to expect at a defense – let me know!
If there’s anything you know about me, it’s that I’m always thinking about teaching. It’s a wonder that this entire blog isn’t dedicated to the subject.
But since it’s August (!) and a new school year is suddenly right around the corner (!!) I figured now was the perfect time to share some thoughts about teaching.
Over the last year there have been tons of resources created and shared relating to pedagogy, including this recent workshop organized by the Women’s Classical Caucus. Many of these aimed to remedy the fact that pedagogical training is severely lacking in Classics, and provide support to instructors at all levels and stages in their teaching careers.
What all of these workshops and resources have taught me, at least, is just how much I was missing when I first started teaching. Here are just a few things I wish I’d known way back then.
The hidden curriculum series is back! For those of you who are new here, 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. Since I signed up for a Dissertation ECoach last term, I thought I’d share a few tips that I found most helpful from it.
Dissertation ECoach – What is it?
The Dissertation ECoach is an interactive digital messaging tool that draws on dissertation writing strategies to affect graduate students’ writing practice. It was developed by several teaching and writing centers at the University of Michigan, and ran weekly for the duration of the Winter term (Jan-Apr).
Through the ECoach portal, graduate students who are starting to write their dissertation receive personalized messages that influence a positive writing process. The personalized feedback that students receive helps them engage with more effective writing practices.
This morning I participated in a plenary session for a workshop on anti-racist and decolonial curricula in archaeology hosted by the Columbia Center for Archaeology. In my talk, I framed the topic of anti-racist curricula in terms of mentorship, and the ways in which good mentorship could help alleviate the pressures placed on first-gen, marginalized, and underrepresented students in Classical Studies and archaeology by the hidden curriculum.
The Hidden Curriculum
The hidden curriculum is a set of skills or norms that individuals are expected to know, particularly in academia, without being formally taught them.
On this blog, I have taken a particular interest in the hidden curriculum, and have made several blog posts illuminating different aspects of it.
Skills and norms which are part of the hidden curriculum include:
What to wear and how to act when attending a conference
How to interview for a (usually academic) job
These range from seemingly simple skills to more complex ones. However, our assumptions about individuals’ knowledge of these skills and norms disproportionately harm students from marginalized backgrounds. These students feel they must put in twice the work to keep up with their peers.
Here are some ways that we can better support students throughout their academic careers.
It should be unsurprising to anyone who knows me when I say that fieldwork plays a big role in my success as an academic. This is because I’m an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Greece. My fieldwork requires me to travel abroad for several weeks to months at a time each year, usually in the summer.
I am very sad that I haven’t gone to Greece in nearly two years. The reluctance of some of my colleagues to cancel field projects and research trips in light of the ever-changing COVID situation has also been surprising.
I get it, I do. The last year was a total setback for many archaeological projects, including my own. My dissertation has taken a new path thanks to the fact that I couldn’t do fieldwork last summer, despite my best laid plans.
But is getting that dissertation done or that excavation going more important than the lives of the people who live in your destination country?
The answer should be simple: no, it’s not.
The challenges to admitting this are many. It’s no secret that many programs and departments have grappled with how to deal with funding and time to degree for those of us whose research got derailed by the pandemic.
Some places, such as at Michigan, have found ways to support students needing extra time to finish, which lessens the burden on students scrambling to secure support elsewhere. However, I know this isn’t the case everywhere.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.