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  • I just woke up from a nap after having stayed up until 3 AM grading annotated bibliographies.
  • Week seven is hell.
  • I am almost finished taking classes – forever and ever — two more weeks and one of those is the week of Thanksgiving.
  • Apparently some college freshman have never heard of apartheid. I’m adding that to my long list of things students are too young to remember.
  • Also, students only vaguely remember Hurricane Katrina.
  • Lack of sleep makes me want to eat carbs.
  • Grading makes me want a glass of wine.
  • I wrote a draft of my comps questions and sent them to my advisor, but he is sick, so there has been no word.
  • Our comps process takes six weeks. (WTF.)
  • I am so ready to be done with classes and focusing on my research.
  • I don’t have funding for my research, so I need to get moving on the fellowship applications.
  • If all goes well, I will spend April-August “in the field” and be ready to start writing in September.
  • This time next year I could be sending out job applications.
  • I really need to find a post-doc because I doubt I will be “ready” for a TT job by next winter.
  • Some kind of Oprah Christmas present special just came on the TV and the people in the audience are screaming like they won the lottery, which they kinda did. But it is still creepy. Sort of like a revival meeting, only consumerism = god.
  • My Spanish skills are finally returning to their 1992 levels. Between homework and classes I have been spending several hours a day working on this. Too bad that after this quarter is over I have no way to maintain or improve these skills since I need to focus on my comps and dissertation research.
  • I still don’t have down the names of all 66 of my students. How do other people learn their students’ names? (I think it it must be some sort of learning disability on my part.)
  • That is all for now.

There is a debate going around on the academic blog-o-sphere about faculty salaries and whether or not TT faculty have a right to complain. As far as I can tell it started over at Tenured Radical’s. When folks found out that TR makes over 107K many said she shouldn’t complain or that they themselves don’t feel the need or the right to complain. You can read a few different views: HistoriannDr Crazy, another post by TR, Squadratomagico, and undine.

Here’s the thing folks, from the mouth of someone at the bottom of the academic totem pole…(I make 12-14K depending on whether I get the privilege of teaching over the summer.) If Tenured Radical or other full professors in secure positions are willing to unionize or in any way help organize for better working conditions in academia, I welcome their help. I would be happy to discuss with them what organizing priorities the union should have. Although raises for full faculty wouldn’t be my first priority, I wouldn’t be opposed to organizing for such raises. Certainly we could all agree to organize in opposition to increasing teaching loads and larger and larger class sizes. Unions filled with grad students and adjuncts are weak compared to unions that also have tenured professors as members. There is a campaign happening now at Crunchy U. to unionize the faculty – adjuncts and TT together. It seems that many TT faculty are reticent to join, despite their Marxist leanings.

If you can’t unionize in your state, maybe it is time to start organizing to change that law. There are lots of workers out there who are in worse positions who could use your help. If you can’t unionize legally, maybe it is time to organize. Maybe we should start talking to our students about the conditions we work under. Faculty and students could be allies in organizing for improved education funding.  Civil disobedience could be considered. For that matter, you could do something to help K-12 educators who are struggling under crappy conditions. (Our new roommate is a 1st grade teacher at a low income public school.) Or doing something to help improve the working conditions for preschool teachers. Having well trained (and well paid) preschool teachers would make a huge difference in children’s lives. No one values preschool teachers, yet these are the folks that really need to understand developmental stages and how to provide kids with the foundations to do well in school.

Just don’t expect making change to be easy. I’m just saying.

Since Trillwing was kind enough to write a long update on her recent activities, I feel obligated to reciprocate!

Crunchy U. is on the quarter system, so we are almost half way through the term. My main activities this term are…Taking two different 300 level Spanish courses, being swamped with grading, and trying to prepare for my comps. I am exhausted and behind on my work as usual. The 8AM spanish classes are really messing with my sleep schedule. Since I have been working too much, eating crap, and not exercising, I have been having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.

However, none of that is important really. I have to admit that since Beorn’s diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis my attitude has been pretty crappy. His illness came along as part of a series of unlucky events in our lives and I couldn’t help but begin to wonder if we were in some way cursed. This brought up a tension within me between the part of me that believes that trying your best and being a good person will bring good things into your life and the part of me that knows that many good people are unfairly burdened with more than their fair share of misfortune. I spent a lot of time feeling angry and bitter for all the things that we have lost.

It is difficult to explain the impact of RA to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Beorn’s case is particularly severe, but he doesn’t look that different. He doesn’t look sick except for the limp and the cane. But the reality is that he is in constant pain and simple things like going to the grocery store can be exhausting. His right knee is basically shot so walking in painful and since the knee won’t straighten it is constantly pulling his back out of alignment, causing more pain.

The point is, I felt as if I couldn’t let myself get too optimistic. I had a negative attitude and was generally pessimistic about the future. Really I just kept going because I didn’t know what else to do and knew things would just get worse if I didn’t keep going. I felt like the Red Queen. I was also just angry at people who didn’t understand, which was basically everyone I knew or met. Hanging out with other graduate students was difficult because the students in my department were leading the kind of lives that I felt I had lost. They were getting outside, enjoying all sorts of recreation. They were traveling the world having adventures.

But over the past few months my anger has been fading. A few nice things have happened recently to lessen my feeling that we are hanging off a ledge by our fingernails. Last spring I applied for and received a trip to Britain for a research related workshop. That felt amazing because it was the first time I had been to Britain and the first time I had been off the North American continent since I was a teen. Then I won a small fellowship. It is enough money to be a help, but not enough to mean I can take time off from working as a teaching assistant. The main thing though is that it will look good on my CV and makes it made me feel like I accomplished something.

This summer I spent taking yet another Spanish class and then teaching a class. I was planning to get some research done, but never managed to travel to get any new interviews in.

In early August a mentor for Big Ag. U. emailed to ask if I was interested in writing a book chapter. He knew I had some background on this particular topic and I guess the editors had been having trouble finding an author. So I agreed to do it, even though the topic isn’t really my specialty. The book was getting close to publication, so the timeline was tight. Writing the chapter and then getting all the editing and formatting done took longer than I expected and caused me a huge amount of anxiety. I just hope that when it comes out it isn’t supremely embarrassing. The topic is sort of a specialty of folks in my discipline, but the book is geared to people outside my discipline and my approach to the chapter was somewhat unconventional, so I’m a bit worried about how people will react. Also, I am concerned that I have missed citing some extremely important works or missed something obvious that would reveal my lack of knowledge.

In September I went (at my advisor’s urging) to a small regional conference and presented a paper. The paper is far from done, the historical research and the discourse analysis of online writings looks good, but I haven’t been able to do any interviewing or the online survey I am planning. Really I wasn’t very prepared, but I went into the presentation thinking I would just try to have fun with it. It turned out that I won a small award for best student paper (in one category). It was nice that people enjoyed my presentation and the money meant that I didn’t have to spend out of pocket to attend the conference.

The latest piece of good news has to do with my future presentation at the big national conference. My advisor was recommending that I present the regional paper again at the big national conference. I’m not excited about the regional paper though. There is another paper (historical) I wrote last year that is both more interesting and closer to my dissertation work and general interests. Well it took a bit of back and forth, but I managed to get the historical paper into a great session. My advisor said he liked it and the session organizer said he was “really excited” about it.

So that is the news. Now I need to get back to all the grading and Spanish homework I have been neglecting over the weekend.

Tonight I am grumpy for some reason. I think it is because I have spent the last six months teaching and struggling through language classes. I like teaching, really I do, but my department doesn’t assign me to teach within my specialty area. This spring I was assigned to teach a gen ed class that has literally been called “the impossible course” because you are expected to cover the globe in a quarter. I got very little done spring quarter. Then the first four weeks of summer I spent in an intensive grammar course for my foreign language. (Two more third year language classes for me in the fall.) The last three weeks I have been teaching the same technical course as I did last summer. Last summer it took me a ton of time and energy to prep that course. Thankfully, this summer it was basically all ready to go. I’m just not motivated to teach. Research is calling me…only it has been so long that I have lost track of what my dissertation is about and what my next steps should be.

I also have a small research project that is related to the dissertation which I am suppose to be getting done for a regional conference in September…problem…the project proposal is stuck somewhere in the office for the protection of human subjects.

Basically I’m busy beating myself up for not getting enough research done. At the same time I would really like to have a few weeks vacation. Instead, I agreed to write a book chapter that has to be done by the end of the month. Publications are good, so I can’t really be picky, but I now have three different projects to deal with between now and October (when classes start.)

I have also been thinking a lot about my research and trying to imagine what my next research project would be after my dissertation is complete. Now it may seem premature considering that my comps aren’t done and I still need my committee to approve my final dissertation proposal, but I have been doing research related to my dissertation project all along, so I feel like I have already learned some things I like and don’t like about this project. Reading Notorious PhD’s series on the fox and the hedghog in research has gotten me thinking. I’m definitely more of a fox. My research interests are all over the place. But the question that keeps bouncing around inside my head right now is how much I want to subscribe to one particular line of social theory. I know what I like, what research resonates with me, but some days I’m feeling postmodern and other days a bit of traditional western Marxism seems more appropriate. Also, how much can I let current fashions social theory dictate the direction of my research? Hopefully all will become clear through the initiation process that is called comprehensive exams. Duh, duh, duh….Epiphanies will abound.

P.S. I don’t know if I will ever get back in the habit of blogging here on a regular basis.

This term I am in a seminar with an unusual twist. We are using about half the class time for a sort of writing workshop. Each week we turn in a bit of our term paper and get feedback. I should be very excited about this because I have been in grad school a very long time and have rarely gotten any feedback on my writing. The professor for this seminar is a very well know, senior scholar in our discipline so it’s exciting to get help from him. His logic is that normally we would all write our term papers during the final week or two of the quarter anyway, so we might as well just spend some time each week on our writing and get some actual feedback so that the final paper might be publishable. He also laid out which sections we were to turn in each week: abstract, outline, introduction, literature review, and so on.

This all sounds great so far, except I’m finding in practice it’s not. Here’s the thing, that’s not how I write my term papers. It’s true that I don’t get started on the actual writing of the paper until the end of the quarter, but I spend my spare moments all quarter researching, finding “data”, and reading through articles to build my literature review. By the end of the quarter I usually have a good idea of how my paper will be structured. Sometimes I write it from the beginning straight through, but often I start writing and then discover that the point I’m making needs to be moved later. My original intro is usually crap because I have to write some overly general rubbish in order to get to the heart of my argument. I don’t write a complete outline first, although I do write down some sections headings and points I need to make. So getting feedback on pieces of my paper before I have finished doing the research I need to come to a conclusion and make a solid argument is somewhat pointless. It’s also somewhat embarrassing because  it makes me look like I don’t know how to make an argument.

I’m only writing this now because I don’t know how to proceed with the next section of my paper which I’m suppose to be turning in today. My paper is tangentially related to my dissertation, but is something that I haven’t researched at all before this quarter. This specific topic hasn’t been written about much in the academic literature. Historical information about rural parts of this country is not easily available outside of local historical societies, and the one I need happens to be closed for remodeling until next spring. Arg!

Staycations seem to have become popular these days, but of course I’m just happy to have any time off, whether or not I get to do anything special. When I was a kid we always went camping or to a camping near the beach. (A friend of the family owned the cabin.) I never thought of those times as vacations exactly. I was a kid. Many kids at my school went to Europe or a tropical island for vacations.

My summer school is finally over. Thank the deities! I passed my Spanish class and now have six weeks or so to get some research done and relax a bit before the fall term starts. Living as we have been for the last year, with Beorn not working, makes taking any time off very challenging. Summers have been the worst for us in the last few years because we haven’t gotten financial aid. This year, even with some summer financial aid and two paychecks for summer teaching, not getting money in August will be challenging.

I enjoy having free time to putter around the house and “get things done.” (Ever seen the TV series Dead Like Me? In one episode a character reveals that she records herself doing stuff around the house and broadcasts it on the web. The show is called “Getting Things Done with Delores Herbig.”) There are a number of things I need to catch up on around here. Here is my list of things to do when you have time off, but no money to speak of.

1. Work on your vegetable garden. This week my mom visited and helped me get caught up on weeding me vegetable garden. I have a yardshare garden of about 600 sq ft that has been terribly neglected. When I got the space it was terribly overrun with bindweed.

Isn’t it cute? Any yet it’s evil. I can’t believe how much bindweed I have pulled this year and it is still winning!

2. Do some “spring” cleaning. I’m also spending time going through all the boxes in our closets. I gathered some old clothes to give to Good Will. Later in the week I will probably spend an afternoon at a few thrift stores looking for some clothing for the fall. My sewing machine and serger also haven’t gotten any use this year. The serger I bought for $5 at a garage sale last fall and I’m eager to try out sewing with it. I have a large tub full of various fabrics so I have lots of free material to experiment with.

3. Cook for the freezer or preserve some summer fruits and vegetables. Most likely, I will do some major cooking for the freezer. Having some already prepared food in the freezer makes it easier to avoid being tempted to buy food out when I’m tired or busy. We have also been freezing fresh fruits. While my mom was here we visited a pick-your-own blueberry farm and brought home several pounds of blueberries. I also froze quite a few strawberries and cherries while they were in season and so cheap.

4. Go to the library. When I was a kid we went to the public library a lot. As a grad student I don’t have much time for leisure reading, but I’m taking advantage now.

5. Play on your computer. Lots of people who are truly poor don’t have computers, which is another reason to go to the library, but I need a computer for work, so that’s a lot of recreation available to me. I can even catch up on my blog reading!

6. Go to a park. My mom and I visited the local arboretum and went for a little hike. Beorn’s mom went fishing at the county park while she was here.

7. Go swimming. Beorn and I have been swimming at the pool here at our complex, but there are lots of public pools and even rivers around here. I prefer to swim in natural water. It’s more interesting and there’s less chlorine. If you live near an ocean, even better. Swimming is the best exercise for people with rheumatoid arthritis because there is no stress on the joints.

8. Go to a museum or a concert. Most university towns have some sort of museums and concert series. As a grad student I get free entry into the museum and can get inexpensive concert tickets. Most museums have a free day at least once a month.

Now all of you academics will probably be wondering why I’m not spending all this time working on my research. But I will be spending a significant amount of time on it and I don’t think it’s healthy to drive yourself work once you have reached a certain point of exhaustion. In order to have good ideas I need time to refresh my brain.

Anyone else have ideas about what to do with “time off” when you don’t have a lot of money?

This summer, for the first time since I started grad school, in fact, for the first time ever, I’m “doing” summer school. This has kept me very busy! My department here at Crunchy U. offers summer classes, so for the first time I got the chance to teach my own class. Unfortunately it was the class from hell. I don’t want to tell the entire story, but there were a bunch of students in the class who weren’t ready for that class and my TA was no help. I think I worked 60-80 hours a week for the 4 weeks. On the up side, colleges and universities everywhere need people to teach this particular class and since it’s technology related, there are a limited number of people willing and able to teach it, so it will be good for my CV.

As soon as that was over, I started a Spanish class. I’m required to have two years of a language for my PhD. Unforunately, it’s been more than 10 years since I took any language classes, so those classes don’t count. Because I have limited time (I’m hoping to graduate before I’m 40) I decided to hop right in to second year Spanish. Since I had been teaching during the first four weeks of the summer, I had to start with the second quarter of second year Spanish. Make sense? Needless to say, there are huge gaps in my memory. My pronunciation is terrible now. I think it’s my age. Also, I can’t spell, even in Spanish! My previous college courses in Spanish were focused on speaking, now I’m expected to write, and I’m discovering a little of what it’s like to be illiterate. I have been making progress over the last three week though. Next week is the end of the class, so I will finally have some time off, and a chance to do a little more of my research.

Last week I took a couple of days off and travelled to my research site to do a couple of interviews. I need to get at least 15 or so interviews done by the end of September when school starts, so that I have some priliminary results to work with over the next year. I feel luck about the topic I’m working on and the location. Friends at Crunchy U. know people in the area, so I have been able to find places to stay and make connections locally.

The point of telling you all about my summer is to say that I’m burnt out! I need at least two weeks of lazing around doing nothing before I will be motivated to do anything again. I know many academics seem to be able to work long hours day after day, without a break, but I have become overly grumpy. Overwork is not good.

Now I’m getting off the computer and going to make some gazpacho and pizza. On Saturdays we have friends over for dinner and games.

Just drinking a glass of red wine and trying to figure out what to do with myself now that my quarter is officially over. I just spent the last five days writing two ten page papers. The good news is my writing is getting faster. The bad news is I’m not sure faster is producing better quality. Both papers focused on themes I’m developing for my dissertation, so it wasn’t like I was creating them from scratch. I had been researching them for weeks. On the other hand, getting the actual writing done was left until the last week. I hate it when I procrastinate. I need to impress my professors with my insightful writing, not turn in stuff with typos or organizational problems.

Also, teaching, what’s up with that? I’m great at helping students with their work. That’s important, I feel good about it. On the other hand I suck at recording grades. I only had 40 or so students this quarter and yet I couldn’t keep track of all their paperwork. It’s true, they turned in a lab every week, so that’s a lot of paper, but still! I can’t believe how many time students have pointed out that I haven’t managed to get their grade into blackboard. One or two mistakes, ok, but this is getting close to double digits!

This brings me to my own academic ambitions. In my heart of hearts I would love to get a job at a SLAC (small liberal arts college) and yet, the idea of a job at a research U. where I would never having to do my own grading again is appealing. I need a research assistant to help me stay organized. In this economy I will be lucky to get any job, but a girl can dream!

Years ago I made a joke to some coworkers that I needed a wife. One of them was not amused by my comment. I was just saying that my husband was crap at keeping the house organized and I’m no good at that type of thing either. I would really value having someone around who could help me stay organized. If only I could afford to pay such a person well!

Related book:

Waring, Marilyn. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth. 2nd ed. University of Toronto Press, 1999.

Waring, a MP from New Zealand, outlines how the accounting systems of nations (like GNP) systematically discount the work of women.

Best quote: “when a man marries his housekeeper the GDP goes down.”

Also, as heard on NPR:

Rent-a-Negro

Need to show off your multicultural-ness? This is the website for you! Buy the book today!


I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. Nothing brings on the urge to blog like having a really difficult paper to write. This quarter has turned insane. I can’t really keep up with all the reading I have to do and now I have to write a paper comparing the theories of Gramsci and Lefebvre.  Cross your fingers for me, as I have really had very little time to read deeply and reflect on their work. The good news it that I have a lead on a possible case study for my dissertation, which is what gets me excited. I’m enjoying my classes this quarter, but so far it’s been feast or famine. Fall quarter there were very few classes I was interested in, then winter there were too many to choose from. Next quarter there are a few classes that might be interesting, but I’m not sure that any of them will really help me get my research done. Also, there are quite a few departmental requirements that I need to get out of the way. I also need to pick committee members and try to test out of as many spanish language classes as possible.  I need to have three years of spanish by the time I take my comprehensive exams, hopefully a little over a year from now. I took four years a spanish in high school and then conversation classes in college. Unfortunately, those classes were so long ago that they don’t count for my PhD. Although I may use some spanish in my research, most of my work will probably take place in English, so this all seems somewhat “academic.”

Does anyone else out there ever get tired of talking about gender? I’m experiencing feminist fatigue, it’s sort of like chronic fatigue, only caused by having to explain basic concepts of how to treat women like people to someone over and over again.

Right now I have an especially bad case because our roommate, lets call him Viking Boy, is strangely obsessed with gender, as if women were some sort of strange aliens. He will regularly say things like “This is man food!” or “I don’t want any of that girlie salad!” with little or no irony. So I feel the need to try to explain to him that everyday activities like eating or (last night) pumpkin carving are not particularly gendered.

I attended a pumpkin carving party last night and carved a very scary bat into my pumpkin. 

Then again, I feel obligated to point out to other men that gender might be affecting how people interact with them. For example, the professor and two other TAs I’m working with this quarter are all men. I get 6-12 people showing up for my office hour each week and they get 1-2. Now there might be other factors involved like the fact that I chose a time the middle of a Thursday afternoon or that I have emphasized repeatedly to my students that they should ask for help. But considering that I get some of their students too and that another grad student (also a woman) has been helping another female student from the class with her homework, I think there is a good chance that gender might be influencing who students ask for help.

So now I’m wondering if there might be a link between men who can’t seem to notice when the dishes need doing and men who can’t seem to notice how gender influences their lives?

Would it help if they read Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog?