Defense Presentations (Hidden Curriculum #13)

In last week’s post, I provided an overview of what the dissertation defense is, and what my experience with it was nearly two months ago. This week, I want to unpack a part of my defense that, although virtually unheard of in my department, is common in others – defense presentations.

There are three main components of my preparation for this milestone in my graduate career: the outline, the slide deck, and the presentation.

Whether you’re preparing for a defense that is imminent or you’re in the early stages of your degree, I hope this post will be helpful!

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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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BIPOC Feature: Alex-Jaden Peart

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 Mediterranean 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 brand new post written by Alex-Jaden Peart, an undergraduate fellow at the University of Pittsburgh studying the human body and its relationship with the environment in antiquity – the latest installment of this series!

Channeling my inner librarian via cardigan 
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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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Grad School Interview 101 (Hidden Curriculum #12)

You just got invited for a grad school interview – now what??

When I was applying to graduate programs, I attended two campus visits and they couldn’t have been more different from one another.

I visited Ann Arbor for a grad school interview. Black woman wearing black hat, black coat, and jeans, in front of sign that says 'Welcome to Ann Arbor'

One was an “accepted students weekend” – less of an interview, more of a get-to-know-the-program situation. The other was more of a full-blown “interview” – my days were a mix of meetings with faculty, heads of departments, and informal socializing with students.

It’s helpful to know what kind of weekend you’re getting into before you go.

In this post, I talk more specifically about preparing for an “interview” weekend, but a lot of this advice will be helpful for any kind of recruitment situation.

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Turning Your Paper into a Presentation (Hidden Curriculum #11)

I first started giving presentations at professional conferences nearly ten years ago.

Back then, I only submitted abstracts for things I’d already written, such as seminar papers. In more recent years, I’ve transformed 40+ page dissertation chapters into talks of various lengths for various contexts.

Here’s how I do it.

Black woman wearing a tan sweater and black dress stands behind a wooden podium giving a conference paper
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Google Calendar vs Notion: Which is Better for your Workflow?

It’s no secret that Notion has become a popular digital tool over the past few years – a quick search for it on Youtube yields thousands of videos. Most of them praise the app and offer detailed tutorials and aesthetic templates.

But is it better than Google Calendar? Would you use it? Should you?

In this post, we’ll compare Google Calendar and Notion. We’ll go over the strengths and weaknesses of each, so that you can make the best choice for you. After that, you’ll (hopefully) have a better handle on all the things going on in your (personal and professional) life.

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My #1 Takeaway from the Campus Interview Process

A few weeks ago, you may have seen that I shared some big news. The news? I landed a tenure-track position as an assistant professor in the Department of Classics at Randolph-Macon College – that is, of course, after preparing and submitting a slew of application materials and surviving a nerve-wracking campus interview.

Black woman with curly dark hair and glasses, wearing a black turtleneck and black cardigan, sitting in front of a wall of magazines. Hands are clasped in front of her.

Due to the timing of everything, I couldn’t benefit from what must have been an incredible series of workshops on the job search offered by the WCC.

Instead, most of what I learned about how to be successful on the job market came from two sources.

First, my incredible mentors. From drafting and revising and practicing job talks to setting up mock interviews to giving me advice on negotiating a contract, I couldn’t have done any of this without my support system.

Second, I spent a lot – and I mean a lot – of time reading posts across the internet relating to the academic job search. My Google search history can probably attest to that. I also spent an indeterminate amount of time combing through posts on Twitter, like this one:

My key takeaway from the whole experience?

Always. Ask. Questions.

It makes you seem interested in the position and the institution (even if you’re not). It’s also a great way to take a break from talking and let someone else take over.

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Round-Up: The Hidden Curriculum

Happy November! In case you missed it, in August I decided to make my blogging comeback with a round-up of resources centered around a back-to-school theme. In honor of last month’s installment bringing us to ten posts on the topic, this month’s round-up is all about the hidden curriculum.

The hidden curriculum series began nearly two years ago (the first post went live on January 28, 2021). As each post reminds us, the series was borne from the observation that there is a lot that we, as academics, are expected to know but are never taught.

Black dog with blue collar sitting at a desk with two computer monitors. White text with black border superimposed over the image in top right corner reads: I have no idea what I'm doing.

I figured it might be helpful to have all the posts in the series to date all in one place for ease of access.

In addition, you will find related posts providing general advice and resources, as well as links to other resources I’ve found useful from around the internet (mostly Twitter).

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BIPOC Feature: Kiran Mansukhani

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 Mediterranean 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 the latest installment of this series — a post written by Kiran Mansukhani, a PhD student in Classics at Brown University!

Photo included with permission of the author.
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