You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.

That interview made me slightly nauseous. The people seemed nice enough. They asked for work samples, which is good. But they are located a long, long way away from where I live. They have a local office, but no one in my field works there. So I’m not getting my hopes up.

Also, they couldn’t get the conference call working, so I couldn’t hear one person the whole time. The other person had to repeat everything she said, it was so uncomfortable and nerve racking.

I’m mentally jumping up and down, doing the “I told you so dance.”

Ok, so I’m taking down this post because Trillwing pointed out that it was a big spoiler. 😦 But really, I was just too excited!!!

Also, I know people set up their blogs to only show part of a post and then you have to click to see the rest, but I can’t figure out how to do that. Suggestions?

In light of discussions between Trillwing and Articulate Dad, I thought I would mention recent job related developments. I got my most recent campus job because last summer I went to a summer institute run by the office I’m now working for. I guess I made a good impression, despite my self esteem problems. I at least know these people a little and can make some good guesses about the office culture.

My phone interview for an internship with a consulting firm is a different matter. I replied to an add in a way. I keep job feeds on my bloglines, but rarely see entry level jobs advertised. Last week, I saw a job advertised through a recruiting firm and looked up the consulting company and contacted their HR person. My letter didn’t mention that I knew they were advertising for someone, I just told them about myself and that I was looking an internship to allow me to get some experience in their field. I emphasized what skills I thought I could bring to the company.

Frankly I was amazed that someone called me back, because I have been sending out a lot of letters and resumes. Now my problem is that they are going to know a lot more about me than I will about them. All I know is what their website says and whatever information I can glean from them on the phone. As much as I want to find my first job, I also know that to make it worth my while I will need to work there at least six months, preferably a year. That is a lot of time to spend if the office culture is dysfunctional.

Sometimes I question the need to continue in graduate school and get a PhD. I would like to do some consulting work in any case, but the problem is how to get started. The opportunity to attend conferences and network is one thing that makes me want to stay in grad school. Unless you get into a very progressive firm, spending 40+ hours a week in an office leaves little time for networking (outside of meetings with firm clients.)

This post on Lifehacker reminded me of my history with lateness. For a long time I had the habit of being chronically late. As a kid I spent a lot of time living with my father. He is a time optimist. No matter what the task, he would underestimate the needed time. He used to drive me crazy because he would say the we needed to go somewhere and to get into the car, then he would take twenty minutes chatting with whoever was around or gathering up everything he needed. Maybe this wouldn’t have been so bad, except my dad was a political activist in a small town. Going to the grocery store involved running into several people who my dad then spent 20+ minutes chatting with. We also spent many an evening at nuclear freeze meetings.

Does anyone remember the nuclear freeze movement? One of my earliest memories is of the terrible time I had at an Abalone Alliance protest at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. It’s amazing how boring political meetings can be when you are five. I still have trouble sitting through long meetings. I after a number of frustrating meetings in which I was prone to sudden outbursts, I learned to doodle. (I only hope that most people aren’t offended.)

I also learned how embarrassed I was to be late. Now I’m a time pessimist, at least most of the time. Occasionally I still lapse into scheduling things too close together in order to be “efficient,” but I’m learning.

I’m starting a new job next quarter. So this morning I met with my new supervisor. It felt like an awkward first date. Normally I’m fairly talkative (I used to make a living talking to people) but in new job situations I’m completely tongue tied. (Especially when I’m talking to someone I want to make a good impression on.) So I think I come across as meek and shy, which is not my personality normally. I tend to remain quiet until I’m able to assess the social situation and get comfortable. So the first few days or weeks I tend to be overly cautious. I’m fine when I’m teaching or giving a presentation, but one on one interviews seem to put me off my game.

The meeting with my new boss went fine, other than the fact that I will have five different people supervising me and there are probably 20+ different projects that they might want me to be working on. It’s kind of overwhelming really, to have a job that is so broadly defined. I want to make a good impression on these people so that they will want to continue to employ me.

Then this afternoon I got a call from a firm I had submitted the resume to, looking for an internship. They were calling to set up a phone interview. So I’m nervous about that as well. I hate talking on the phone. If I could just get my foot in the door at a consulting firm I would be in a much more secure situation. I could work for a year or two then and the question of continuing graduate school would be less urgent. I could take my time and figure out my strategy.

There is more news than I can reasonably relate here. My graduate program was under review this week and I was the rebel at the program review. Everyone there wass so worried that the program will be dissolved that they weren’t willing to express any discontent. So I was the nasty, negative Nelly, even though I did my best to be mellow.

I sort of hate myself for it because one of the main defenders of the program is a grad student who I consider a friend and greatly respect. I’m not sure why she is so defensive about the program, but considering that her adviser is one of the few that really identify with this discipline, I guess I can understand her feelings. I feel that having a PhD in an “interdisciplinary” program with an adviser who doesn’t identify with your main field of study is dangerous if you hope to attain a position in academia.

Meanwhile I have been making appointments with various professors outside of my program to try to either identify possible committee members or get some advice about possible PhD programs to apply for. It’s quite clear that I am a rebel and misfit here so it won’t hurt to attempt to find another program in which I feel more at home. On the other hand, it has become fairly clear that I could get through the PhD program here with very little objection by my committee members.

I’m fairly confident that I could identify committee member that would sign off on almost anything I wrote. In fact, in my three years here I have never gotten more than a sentence or two in response to a paper submitted. I have no doubt that I could continue to approval for whatever work I turn in. In fact, the first professor I discussed my dissertation idea with basically claimed that there were two ways for advisers to relate to their PhD students: some advisers that read drafts of each chapter and some advisers that only read a penultimate draft of the dissertation. This was highly useful information for me, because if I was getting useful feedback on my writing in my classes I could see not asking my adviser to read several drafts of the diss, but considering the fact that I have been in grad school for three years and have yet to get any helpful editing, I just don’t feel comfortable with working for years without feedback.

My point is that I have now talked to five different professors and it’s basically a tie as to whether I should remain in my current program or apply to new programs. It may be that the votes have to do more with each person’s point in their career than anything else. It seems that the two youngest professors I talked to suggested that I might be happiest applying to new programs while the oldest two thought it wouldn’t make much difference to my career where my degree came from. The prof I’m TAing for this quarter was a sort of abstainer, admitting that while there are some good reasons to move on, the practical considerations of staying put are not to be discounted.

So far I have consulted a landscape architect, a rural sociologist, two American Studies professors, and an English professor. None of these people identify with the official field of my current program and almost all of them suggested programs in their own fields. I know this is just because they are suggesting programs that they are familiar with, but it’s really not helpful.

So I’m obsessing about what sorts of programs I should apply to and avoiding doing any grading be continually surfing grad program sites. Currently I’m considering programs in geography, landscape architecture, environmental planning, history of science, science and technology studies, history of architecture, and American studies. I could look into program in environmental anthropology, environmental sociology, art, or environmental studies, but I don’t think these are right for me. (I have to draw the line somewhere!)

On the positive side, everyone is very supportive about my dissertation idea, but on the negative side no one seems to know where it belongs. I’m taking comfort in the fact that they think it’s “cutting edge” and “innovative.”



Beorn really needs this alarm clock that runs away when you press snooze too much.

I’m watching “The Riches” while working on my final/feminist art piece. “The Riches” is a little far fetched, but I love Eddy Izzard. Since when do “executive” or “action” transvestites get to star in American TV programs? That is just too awesome for words.


I just spent six hours being a model at my friend’s licensing exam for beauty school. Wow is that a weird test. My head and neck are killing me from all the pulling on my hair. She had to do many retro things to my hair, like put it in rollers, finger waves and pin curls. I haven’t seen those since my great grandma died. It seems the state hasn’t updated the exam since about 1962. The good news is that she passed! Yay!

The recent lack of posts seems to have been caused by a massive reassessment of my “next step” in graduate school. As mentioned earlier, I found myself nonplussed by my job options with a MA, so had been considering continuing in the PhD program at Big Ag U. (Actually, I always wanted to get a PhD, but was embarrassed to say it in case I decided to quit.) But recent, encouraging discussions with faculty here have made me question the wisdom of staying in this particular program.

The central question of my dissertation is pretty well set in my mind. It’s actually the same project that I came to graduate school with, but restated in a way that makes clear the intellectual underpinnings and significance to thinking about nature/culture. During the introductory class sequence of my current program I wrote up a proposal for this topic. The professors in my introductory classes gave very minimal, but positive comments. Later that year I showed it to my current advisor, who never made any written comments on it, but offhandedly, during a meeting, mentioned it was scattered, or the argument was incomplete and didn’t explain why this question was important. I felt completely devastated and didn’t know how to proceed. She hadn’t given any comments that would direct me towards revising the proposal, so I just dropped it. I spent the next year taking classes and not coming up with an idea for a different research project.

Last spring I decided that the reason I wasn’t coming up with another proposal was that I must not be experienced enough to create my own research project. So I came back to her with the idea that I would assist her with a piece of her research. I knew that she was PI on a large project and hadn’t had the time or assistance needed to analyze the data. So this entire year I have been working with her to collect some missing data. It’s now March and we finally got a few responses, so hopefully I will be able to write my thesis and graduate by the end of the summer. This process has given me insight into her project and the process of doing this type of research. I don’t feel inspired.

It’s now also clear that she may not have understood or been interested in my proposal because it didn’t fit well within her discipline and research interests. She also doesn’t give written feedback in my experience, which just doesn’t work for me.

I could probably find another advisor within my current U, but the program is interdisciplinary and so very scattered. I would end up with a degree and possibly a well written diss, but would have little financial or networking support. Since starting the program I have worked a different job each quarter to support myself and Beorn. Each quarter I struggle to find positions and lately I have been working two jobs (30 hrs) a week to help make ends meet.

I had been thinking that I could have my coursework completed relatively soon and so be ready to start writing/collecting data. But I would have little or no support in finding research funding and no funding or networking help for attending conferences. Considering the tough academic job market, I’m starting to look favorably on applying to PhD programs with an MA and a strong, well written dissertation proposal.

Beorn will be graduating with his BS and applying to grad programs next year. I could conceivably write the diss while following Beorn to a new city and searching for work, but it doesn’t seem like a recipe for success. It sounds strange, but I think we might be better off financially if I just apply to PhD programs at the same time he does. It will add at least a year to my time in grad school, but if I get more funding and stronger support for networking (attending conferences, publishing, etc) it might be worth it.

I have been pondering all of this, feeling conflicted, and so not writing for the blog. On one hand, I’m excited that my diss idea is promising, but on the other applying to new programs, moving, finding funding and all of that is daunting.