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Category: Academia

Depression and Graduate School

Is depression in graduate school common? Yes. I’ve recounted my struggles with depression while in graduate school in an essay, Depression and Graduate School. If you’re dealing with chronic unhappiness, consider seeking out professional help. If you’re a graduate student there are likely free or low cost resources on campus. If you’re having suicidal thoughts or considering harming yourself, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

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The Office Space Myth

During the first weekend of the Humanities Without Walls pre-doctoral workshop, I caught the last half of Office Space on television. The fear of becoming a corporate drone is one many academics likely identify with. But the choice is not between Initech and academia. (Even if it were a choice between only those two options, academia has its own litany of issues — just check out the academic equivalent of Office Space, Tenure). One of the most important things that the HWW workshop achieved was demonstrating the wide array of culturally and intellectually vibrant positions accessible to doctoral students. The…

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It’s a Process

Somewhat recently, I had a professor tell me to think of the (academic) job market as a three to five year process. I continued smiling but immediately thought about how terrible the (academic) job market is. In part, because it actually is a multi-year process. You dip your toe in as an ABD and apply for a few good fits. The next year, you apply for everything out of complete panic. Maybe you get a postdoc or Visiting Assistant Professorship and keep applying. After that, maybe you’re part of the lucky half that gets a tenure-track job. Otherwise, you keep…

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It’s what you do that matters

Earlier in the week during the Humanities Without Walls workshop, we spent a whole day learning how to “pitch” ourselves. This kind of self-promotion often makes academics uneasy as “selling” yourself can feel awfully close to selling out. The fact is (as many people pointed out) academics constantly pitch themselves and their work in application letters, dissertation proposals, grant applications, and many other situations. There is a big difference between academic and non-academic pitching, however. When pitching in academia, it’s who you are and where you are from. When pitching outside of academia, it’s what you do. For the world…

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Brian Without Walls

For the next three weeks, I’m participating in the Humanities Without Walls Pre-Doctoral Workshop on alternative academic careers. We just completed day two and I wanted to blog a few of my initial thoughts: I’ve noticed that the “without walls” metaphor is a great one for this workshop. Not only are we discussing doing the humanities in “the public” (outside the physical spaces of the academy), I find the workshop to be without the constraints (“walls”) of academia’s ideology. Most academic discussions of the job market focus on a duality. Are you in or out? Are you going to stay…


Forever Student Syndrome

Graduate student life has many upsides. You largely make your own schedule. You can do most of your work from any location. And you still get student discounts at the movies. But you do not want to be a graduate student forever. The life of the mind is an alluring idea, but at some point you will want a job you can explain to your relatives, livable salary, and a retirement account. With little oversight, no standard timetable and vague requirements, even students who want to finish their degrees in a timely fashion have difficulty completing their programs on-time. I…

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Cost of #AHA2015

I’ll be up front about the fact that I stole the idea for a survey on the costs of the 2015 AHA annual meeting as well as the questions from Rebecca Schuman’s survey for the 2015 MLA Conference. Unfortunately, my influence on social media and in the AHA are quite small, so I got a total of 28 useable entries and the MLA’s survey had many more than that after only two days. Nevertheless, I think the responses do indicate trends that probably would have held up in a larger survey and show the significant financial strain put on job…

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What the AHA Needs Now

History needs a Brian Croxall. I’m not actually referring to Brian himself, but the fact that History needs someone who truly understands the life in which most graduate students and recent PhDs find themselves. He’s “a former adjunct who now works off the tenure track” that was also just elected to an at large seat on MLA’s Executive Council. I think it’s a great move for the MLA who, from my perspective over in a history, have done more to deal with issues of the job market and adjunctification than the AHA (though I’m sure others may not feel the…

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What I Wish I Had Known

The Ten Commandments of Graduate School over at the Tenured Radical got me thinking I should actually post my beginning of the school year thoughts. This Friday our department will be welcoming the new class of students at a Grad Student Retreat. As a bit of an ice-breaker returning students attending will talk about “Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started Graduate School.” My first impulse was to go dark and sarcastic (as it always is) and say something along the lines of “I wish I had known to drop out immediately.” That’s not really true so despite…

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The Ivoriest Tower

The AHA published another defense of their misguided statement on embargoing dissertations, this one written by former President William Cronon. This new post underscores the real heart of the criticism and controversy over the AHA’s statement. Cronon defends the text of the statement and the embargo policy, but the real outrage isn’t related to the AHA’s text, but rather the statement’s subtext. The AHA took the time to issue a statement on an issue pertaining to tenure track faculty at research universities (the people who need monographs published by university presses to gain tenure). In a vacuum, there is nothing…