5 Questions All New Faculty Should Ask

Nearly two months in and it’s finally starting to feel real – I’m a faculty member!

A few months ago, I ran a workshop on rubrics and participated in a colloquium hosted by Peopling the Past. At the colloquium, I reflected on this blog and the work that I’ve been able to do with it. I especially highlighted the hidden curriculum and BIPOC feature series.

My presentation received a generally favorable response. One person asked whether I would begin incorporating posts on the hidden curriculum aspects of being a new faculty member.

At the time, I couldn’t imagine what that would look like. I hadn’t yet started my new job, so I didn’t know yet what I didn’t know.

Although many of my questions have been answered, there are still things I figured out on my own.

This week’s post highlights some of the questions that I asked as I started my new faculty job.

Black woman standing in front of a wall, wearing a black and white blazer and black pants and holding a brown bag.
Me on my very first day of teaching as an assistant professor!
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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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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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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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Conquer the Cold Email (Hidden Curriculum #10)

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’s installment is all about sending cold emails!

Raise your hand if you absolutely loathe sending emails? Raise your other hand if you especially hate cold-emailing people you’ve never met?

If you have both of your hands in the air, I bet you probably look pretty silly.

But I can tell you that I’ve been where you are, and just the thought of sending any kind of email (especially to a large audience or to someone I don’t know) gives me a little bit of anxiety.

I can also tell you that, like most things, it gets better with practice.

In this post, I’m sharing a few tips for how to make you a cold-emailing pro.

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Research Trip 101: Permits (Hidden Curriculum #9)

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’s installment is all about research trips since I’m on my own trip right now!

Embarking on your very first research trip can feel overwhelming. It’s a long, tedious process with a lot of moving parts – no wonder I’ve gotten so many questions about it! In this post, I’m going to help you get started on that process.

In particular, I’ll show you exactly how to start applying for study permits and contacting the museums you want to visit.

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The Introvert’s Guide to Conference Presentations (Hidden Curriculum #8)

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had technical difficulties while giving a presentation.

How about if you’ve ever been given the five-minute warning from a session presider? Or if you’ve ever been asked a question in the Q&A that you didn’t have the answer to?

The unfortunate reality is that the possibilities for things to go wrong during a conference presentation are endless. I’m sure any seasoned veteran can confirm that they’ve experienced at least one or two over the years. I’ve been there, too. You know what we all have in common?

We got through it. And you will too. Your chances of getting through it are exponentially better if you do the following seven things.

Me giving a presentation at a small graduate conference in March 2019
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Abstract Writing (Hidden Curriculum #7)

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 about how to write an abstract.

One thing that I actually was taught to do that would benefit me academically is writing abstracts. Moreover, I was taught, as part of a graduate seminar on Ancient Medicine in Winter 2018, how to write an abstract before writing the paper.

Up until that point, I had only ever been confident in my ability to write abstracts based on papers I’d already written, and I’m sure most people can relate. Submitting an abstract based on a paper you haven’t written yet is scary

On the one hand, this nebulous idea that’s floating around in your head has to be coherent enough to be accepted. 

On the other hand, if it does get accepted, you’ve actually got to do the work, write the paper, and present it. Woof.

As it turns out, that lesson was extremely useful as I did go on to submit the abstract to CAMWS in 2019 and it was accepted. In the end, however, I decided to withdraw from the conference when the pandemic hit and everything went online.

Since then, I have become more and more comfortable with writing abstracts based on ideas rather than full-blown research papers and happen to be in the midst of writing one now. So, I thought it would be a good time to share what I’ve learned from the process as part of the hidden curriculum series. 

Writing an abstract doesn't have to be scary
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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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