The Productivity Systems that Keep Me on Track

Over the last seven years of my life (aka The PhD Years), I don’t think I developed any long-lasting systems of productivity. I tried a lot of things, but nothing ever stuck for long.

Now that I’m a professor, I feel like systems are the only way I get anything done these days. They’re also how I make sure that most things don’t slip through the cracks.

In this week’s post, I summarize some of the most useful systems I’ve developed over the first semester of my first year on the tenure track. Although I use them in my life as a professor, many can also be useful for students and other academics.

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Rubrics: The Ultimate Tool for Efficient and Equitable Grading

A month ago, I participated in the Presenting the Past Colloquium organized by Peopling the Past. The colloquium was held in Vancouver, British Columbia from March 23-25, 2023. The day before the colloquium started, I was also asked to organize a workshop on some topic related to pedagogy for the Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Studies (AMNE) department at the University of British Columbia. The topic I chose was rubrics.

Black hand holding pamphlet that reads "Presenting the Past: Responsible Engagement & Mediterranean History" in front of an urban landscape.

In all honesty, I’ve never been the instructor of record for a course before. Therefore, I rarely had any agency over the grading scheme used in those courses.

As a graduate student I was a teaching assistant for five courses and only two incorporated rubrics. In this week’s post, I want to reflect on my experience with rubrics; how rubrics fit into my overall teaching philosophy; and some of the major takeaways from the workshop I facilitated at UBC.

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How I Survived My Defense (and You Can Too!)

There are a lot of examinations while earning a PhD. Many line up with major milestones of the degree. In general, these are: comprehensive exams, preliminary exams, and a thesis defense.

Of those, the defense was the most emotionally and mentally challenging.

The reasons why are summarized nicely in a blog post by Albert Kuo. Giving a public presentation, not wanting to disappoint anyone (especially your dissertation chair), and the unknowns of the closed-door session are all extremely anxiety-inducing.

In this week’s post, I’m revisiting that harrowing time in the hopes that it will help others going into this process for the first time. 

Laptop open with text on the screen next to a second monitor and in front of a window.
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6 Things I Learned While Finishing My Dissertation

Do you ever look back on your grad school journey and wonder how the heck you made it so far? Well, now that I’ve successfully defended my dissertation, that’s where I’m at.

I’m not sure how I made it through the last seven years. I do, however, have a better sense of what it took to finish the dissertation. In this post, I am sharing 6 things I learned in the last few months of writing my dissertation.

Black woman with curly black hair and wearing a black turtleneck and sweater sitting in front of an open laptop
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Why I’m Not Traveling Abroad This Summer

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.

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