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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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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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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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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5 Questions to Consider Before Joining a Diversity Committee

Diversity committee seems to be the buzz word for academia in 2020. If you are a graduate student of color, you have probably encountered one in your department or institution. 

I have always been acutely aware of the lack of diversity in our field
Photo courtesy of the British School at Athens Ceramic Petrology Course in 2019

If you’re like me, you may have been recruited to join a newly-minted committee early on in the scramble to create these committees in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. While we have been quick to take action in some areas, like hosting a series on webinars on anti-racist pedagogy, the gears have slowed down a bit over the last few months due to the chaos of a full pandemic semester. 

Anxieties surrounding joining a diversity committee as a person of color are not uncommon, and while I am proud of the things we have accomplished, there are things that I wish I had asked before joining. 

If you’re a person of color on the fence about joining a diversity committee, here are a few questions you should consider before making a decision.

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