The Dissertation Prospectus (Hidden Curriculum #6)

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.

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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.

Writing the dissertation prospectus doesn't have to make you feel like this guy
Writing the dissertation prospectus doesn’t have to feel like this

Prospectus Timeline

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:

  1. Assemble dissertation committee, including deciding on a chair or co-chairs, and submit through appropriate channels
  2. Consult with committee members about dissertation topic and possible approaches
  3. Draft dissertation prospectus
  4. Defend prospectus (aka meet with your committee members to discuss your draft)
  5. Complete revisions and submit prospectus to department for final approval
  6. Start dissertating!

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!

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3 Steps to Implementing Antiracist Pedagogy (ARP)

I have talked about antiracist teaching on here in the past. This week I want to delve deeper into why I think antiracist pedagogy (ARP) is important and some ways that we can implement it in our classrooms.

I’ve always been skeptical of diversity and inclusion initiatives that include offering more courses that might ‘appeal’ to people of color and draw them in. This manifests as offering or amplifying existing courses on ‘race and ethnicity,’ on ‘slavery in the ancient world,’ and on the relationship between ‘barbarians’ and Greeks and/or Romans.

In the absence of more structural reforms, I have always viewed such an approach as a trap. 

Courses on these topics are absolutely necessary (although certain choices in vocabulary are not) for exposing students to alternate perspectives, ones which both challenge and complement dominant narratives about the ancient world. Without such perspectives, our understanding of the ancient world would be incomplete.

However, when implemented poorly, these courses reflect a persistent two-part illusion. 

Plastic vases from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens
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BIPOC Features: Ashley Lance

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.

Check out this month’s feature, written by Ashley Lance, to learn more about Ashley’s experiences with talking about identity and racial categories, how her identity relates to her work, and her thoughts on the future of Classics. Check out previous posts in the series here.

Ashley Lance
Photo included with permission of author
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Small (Anti-Racist) Teaching

Something that I’ve found interesting is thinking about how common or popular techniques in academia can be applied to anti-racist pedagogy. In particular, I did this a few months ago when I talked about doing anti-racism work the SMART way. More recently, I read James Lang’s book Small Teaching

While I found the book generally helpful and well-written, I found myself asking how could small teaching contribute to anti-racist pedagogy?

Small Teaching by James Lang

Every instructor, at one point or another, is faced with deciding how to deal with difficult subject matter and moments in the classroom. Ideally, such decisions should be made before anything difficult comes up, but often this is not the case. 

For some, dealing with difficult topics and moments – including racism – in the classroom can seem like a Herculean task. Being expected to know when and how to intervene in such situations is a lot of pressure, especially when you’re faced with them for the first time. Plus, it can be emotionally and mentally draining for both you and your students, depending on your positionality in relation to the topic.

So, it should come as no surprise that often, when we’re asked to make changes to the way we teach, we don’t follow through. We are turned off by the idea of some great upheaval in the way we’ve always done things because it seems like such an onerous, time- and energy-consuming task.

I can guarantee that this is one of the driving factors in many instructors’ hesitation to actively reflect and adapt in the face of recent calls for more anti-racist curricula.

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5 Things I Wish I’d Known My First Time Teaching

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.

My first time teaching was in Fall 2017

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.

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BIPOC Features: Susan Rahyab

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.

Check out this month’s feature, written by the fabulous Susan Rahyab! Many thanks to her for taking the time to write this. Check out previous posts in the series here.

Image included with permission from author.
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5 Things We Need to Sacrifice in Classical Studies

I recently saw a Tweet that emphasized the true purpose of anti-racism work: repair, restoration, and sacrifice where necessary. 

The third element – sacrifice – particularly struck me, especially as I was trying to think of what this week’s blog post would be about. It put the ongoing debates about the vitality of the field of Classics into a new perspective.

Those who have argued for ‘burning it all down’ know what it would mean to make sacrifices for the betterment of the discipline; those who oppose and criticize the idea of reforming Classics are simply afraid of a little discomfort. They would rather see a discipline rife with problems continue to thrive than sacrifice some things in order to at least begin to solve those problems. 

This makes me think of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s concept of ‘fear of a black planet’ — the fear that by giving black people any power at all, the cultural hierarchy would be inverted and white people would be completely powerless and oppressed. (A similar concern was raised about the term ‘intersectionality‘. Do I sense a theme?)

What would the equivalent be for Classics? Fear of a BIPOC discipline?

I’d like to say that this is only characteristic of the old, white, tenured contingency of the discipline, but that just isn’t the case. We all need to make sacrifices, some much bigger than others, if we want to make progress in making Classics an anti-racist discipline.

Books that are staples in the field of Classical Studies
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BIPOC Features: Machal Gradoz

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.

This month’s installment of the BIPOC feature series is written by my good friend and colleague Machal Gradoz!

Machal doing archaeological fieldwork
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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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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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