Asking for Recommendation Letters (Hidden Curriculum #2)

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!

Asking for recommendation letters can be scary but if you plan ahead, the process is smoother!
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Tips for Applying for Funding (The Hidden Curriculum Series #1)

The concept of the “hidden curriculum” isn’t new. However, it becomes more and more problematic everyday. 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 handout by Amy Pistone lays out several of these).

As a first generation, Black graduate student, I think about the things I was never taught how to do a lot. This is because they’ve come up frequently in my academic journey and because they aren’t exactly things that I could’ve learned growing up.

After several months of obsessing over funding applications, I thought that sharing some tips for applying for funding would be a good place to start. It’s actually amazing how I’ve made it this far in my academic career without ever being taught how to do this.

Here are just a few pointers for those of you embarking on the harrowing journey of completing funding applications for the first time. It might be helpful for some of the more seasoned of you, too, since I feel like I’m learning new strategies every time funding season rolls back around.

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Funding Guide for BIPOC Students in Classics

*To no one’s surprise, the list is currently pretty scarce, despite the fact that I included one grant for Canadian students to round out the resources. However, if there are any funding sources that I missed, please let me know and I will add to the list!*

My relationship with funding throughout my academic career is not entirely straightforward.

In undergrad, I was awarded scholarships to dig in Greece at the Athenian Agora for two consecutive summers. 

For two summers I received funding to work on an excavation in Athens

However, it wasn’t until I got accepted to grad school that I started looking elsewhere for funding opportunities. But little did I know that that was just the beginning of my search.

Grad school is hard enough for anyone who’s looking for funding for anything. However, it is particularly difficult for students of color. We constantly compete with those who are traditionally favored in Classical Studies and archaeology. 

In undergrad, I had no idea that grants for BIPOC students existed. In fact, many of these funding opportunities did not exist in 2016. 

I received a Frank M. Snowden Undergraduate Scholarship that year and used it to improve my Latin for grad school. I recently applied for the new William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship, but have not yet received my results.

In sum, these are rare and precious opportunities that have emerged for students of color in Classical Studies. As such, I collected them in a place where students of color can access them easily.

In my experience these sorts of grants were not (and still aren’t) widely advertised by individual departments. Go figure.

Updated: Oct. 7, 2021.

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