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gsc

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gsc last won the day on August 28 2017

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  1. gsc

    2019 Visit Days/Decisions

    Put another way: it's always possible to find more TA experience if you want it, but it's much harder to jettison TA commitments once they're in your funding package. Having said that I do find it a bit odd that you're not getting years 4 through 6 guaranteed at school A? You would have better funding at school A, but also less of it. At the visit day I would make sure to understand the process of allocating funding for those three years, as well as whether/how fourth through sixth year students are being funded.
  2. gsc

    Programs for Modern British History

    Exactly this. It’s likely there will only be 1 British historian where you are, so I’d recommend looking for a program with a strong modern European history field more generally that you can draw on. That goes not just for putting your committee together and getting feedback from professors (I work fairly closely with my dept’s French and German historians) but also for the department culture- a stronger field means more classes offered, more invited speakers coming through the department, more students working on similar ideas, etc. At the very least look for somewhere with at least one or two other European cultural historians. For modern Britain and cultural history I think the biggest names are likely Columbia, Berkeley, Michigan, Northwestern, and NYU. Columbia and NYU have a consortium with Cambridge where grad students from the schools can all meet and network, etc. As with anything in graduate school, though, it depends on fit, and fit depends on your thematic interests and your approach to postwar London- if you’re interested in empire, urbanization, gender, race, etc. Also all very good and strong in cultural history are Minnesota, UIUC, UCSB, Rutgers, UNC, Indiana, if you haven’t given any of those a look. There are of course others, and more than a few MA programs (though you said PhD) so I’d recommend grabbing the most recent program(s) from NACBS, the big British studies conference, and studying it to see who’s all where and what programs people are coming out of.
  3. gsc

    Applications 2019

    Ask the DGS what graduate students do for funding after the fifth year because more likely than not you'll need it. If you don't know already, also ask about funding (within the department and also the graduate school) to do preliminary research after your 1st/2nd yrs. Ask your prospective advisor to describe their advising style. Then dig a little deeper and try to get them to describe how that style works in practice. For example, hands off can mean anything from "I don't see myself as having a huge role in guiding my students through the program" to "I don't expect to meet with you every week unless you want or feel you need to." (Speaking to your prospective advisors' current students can also shed light on this.) In order to really evaluate the answers you get to this question, however, you'll also have to give some thought to what you might like in an advisor and more importantly, what you might need— which is itself a whole question of how you work, how you like to receive feedback, etc.
  4. I think everyone has offered excellent advice, but I do want to add onto/ highlight @Dark Paladin's point- you're knee deep in a thesis that's likely your first in-depth experience with historical research and writing, and you haven't heard from any PhD programs, which naturally has made you doubt yourself and what you want to do. I'm not convinced that, if and when you get into a PhD program, your opinion won't change in the light of an acceptance letter. I say this because when I applied, I was trying to write a senior thesis that I found agonizingly hard, and I wanted nothing more than to be done with it. I thought somewhat seriously at one point about withdrawing all my PhD applications and re-applying to MAs. Then, because it was too late to withdraw, I wondered if I should have applied for American history instead. Once I started getting acceptances, however, both those wishes completely left me, and they have never come back. It's hard to know what is an honest change in interests and what is application nerves, but time usually helps sort out one from the other-- so certainly give it thought now, but revisit it later once you know how everything has shaken out. Additionally, studying early modern and medieval history is a different ballgame than studying modern Europe or US. Your archives are different, your sources are different, you piece together evidence differently (as you just don't have the masses of stuff that modernists do), you ask different questions with different stakes. Do you want to address those questions? Do you find them compelling? In my case, I realized that the animating questions of US history by and large weren't the big questions I wanted to think about the most. You may find that you really are drawn to the work of early modern history, in which case, a MA may be a good place for you to make that transition. But you can have a wide variety of interests, and being interested in one thing doesn't mean you've chosen the wrong one for yourself. It means you're well rounded. Finally, regarding readiness for a PhD program. It's very good to be honest and self-aware (truly), but it's also hard to see yourself and your capabilities clearly when you're this close up to it, and under so much application stress. Quite honestly I'm not sure if one ever does feel ready. I can think of a number of times where my advisor suggested that I move onto the next stage of the program, or take a risk on some opportunity that presented itself, but I myself didn't feel ready. I would always protest that I needed more time: more time to study for comps, more time to take another class, more time to revise an article or clarify an argument, more time to figure out what I was trying to say. Then I would do some more Tina Belcher style groaning in the privacy of my apartment and try to do it anyways. And in each case, my advisor was right, and I was wrong. I was ready for it, and I could do it- I was just really nervous. Graduate school is full of moments like these where you feel on the absolute edge of what you're capable of doing. But you have to be on that edge if you want to really push yourself and grow as a scholar/ thinker/ person. So I really would try to sit on your hands for a few more weeks, even though it is incredibly difficult, and see how it all shakes out; schools won't accept students they don't think are ready, and your professors wouldn't have recommended you apply to these schools and helped you throughout the process if they didn't think you could make it.
  5. gsc

    Applications 2019

    This may be the case for Berkeley, but I’d hesitate to apply that to all public universities. In my experience at schools w/ two funding streams, the most promising candidates are nominated for fellowships (usually for 1st/ 5th year, etc) from the graduate school, and are accepted first. This is because the graduate school has a deadline for its university-wide fellowships; often it’s very early, like at the end of January, so departments have to quickly identify the most promising candidates, accept them, and forward them on to the graduate school. The remaining candidates receive TAships or internal fellowships from the department. There’s no deadline there, so they’re accepted later on. Having said that, at my program (which is public) all admits receive identical funding, from the same funding stream, and all acceptances go out at the same time. I’m bringing this up only because I think there’s more variance among programs than common GC wisdom would sometimes suggest, and no matter how many general patterns can be drawn from everyone's collective experiences with admissions, funding, admin, finance, etc, it's still going to be a black box. Grad school is unfortunately full of black boxes, so once you've researched what's there to research/ submitted the best that you can submit, you've just got to get comfortable with the fact that some things will remain opaque to you and they have to be waited out.
  6. gsc

    Applications 2019

    I agree with TMP; a cohort of 6 seems unlikely. Programs are very sensitive to adjusting cohort sizes. In the short term, if you reduce it too drastically, you won’t be able to fill out a class or seminar, and the life of the department can suffer. In the long term, you’ll have fewer people graduating from the program. Unless you’re an Ivy or an elite public school and your school’s brand is already assured, fewer graduates means fewer people representing the program in the profession. Less representation means less name recognition and its attendant benefits.
  7. gsc

    Applications 2019

    Listen, guys, I submitted a writing sample littered with typos. That morning I had been making final, last-minute edits and in retrospect should have waited 24 hours to edit the edits. I misspelled aura as "aurea," forgot an S on a noun that needed to be plural, left in [reference needed] in orange text in the footnotes. It was bad. Luckily, I realized what had happened over Thanksgiving break, so the Monday afterwards, on December 1st, I called up the seven schools I'd submitted that version to and begged them to let me swap out the writing samples. (I did not say that I was an idiot who couldn't proofread even though that was obviously the case; I said I had submitted an older, incomplete version.) Most let me switch out the samples with no trouble, except for one school that said their online application management software didn't have that capability. Takeways: 1) Edit your edits. 2) If you've made a grievous mistake (mine was grievous— it wasn't one mistake, but easily four or five glaring ones) call the departmental administrator and ask. Even if the deadline has passed, administrators may still be lenient if the admissions committees haven't met yet. This should be obvious, but thank them profusely. 3) There were still typos and mistakes on the corrected version, as I discovered later. They're inevitable when you've worked on a piece of writing as much as you have! But I still got into grad school and you can too.
  8. gsc

    Applications 2019

    Funny, it was the total opposite for me. No one mentioned my SOP, and everyone mentioned my writing sample.
  9. gsc

    Emailing Graduate Students

    Right?! It’s so off putting. I’ve always gotten the impression that they think that, because they’ve been admitted to a private/Ivy/top 10 program, they come ahead of actual graduate students in ~less prestigious~ programs, and that entitles them to say or ask whatever they want. That or they figure we’re just grad students and not the faculty they’re trying to impress, so they can say whatever comes to mind and it will all be "off the record." (Word to the wise— when in doubt, it's on the record.)
  10. gsc

    Emailing Graduate Students

    I have gotten cold emails, emails through here on gradcafe, and emails from people interested in working with my advisor. In theory, I don't mind them. Like most people, I wrote to a lot of grad students myself, including ones here on this forum, so I'm happy to repay the favor. But I would offer a few caveats/ pet peeves/ things I wish people would keep in mind: 1) It takes time to write back to applicants and admitted students. Speaking for myself, I'm happy to answer as many questions as you think I can help you answer— again, I remember what it was like, and these programs are often very opaque when viewed from the outside— but I have written many emails, answering four or five questions at a time, to students who never write back again. I'm not looking for effusive gratitude, that's not why I want to help, but some acknowledgement that you at least got the email is nice. 2) This is more of an issue at the campus visit stage, but I have spoken to many a prospective student for whom my program is their "safety school," and they're not shy about saying so. Or they'll voice their concerns about the program in a way that essentially... shits on it, for lack of a better word. "I heard that your school is really bad for X, what do you think?" or "Well, I think Y just has such better funding but I'm deigning to pay your school a visit," type of comments. My school is also located in a pretty working-class town, and I've had people ask me things like like, "does Amazon deliver to this area?" (we are located smack in the middle of a major commuter line in one of the most densely populated states in the country, so yes, Amazon delivers here) and "I'm not sure the quality of life here is very good, what do you think?" (wellllll, I mean, I think my life is pretty okay) and so on. It's fine to ask questions and to voice concerns because that's what visit days are for. It's also fine to have schools you're more excited about than others. But leading or obviously negative questions like this are pretty difficult to respond to.
  11. gsc

    Applications 2019

    If the school is located near an archive that you could see yourself using, or holds a specific collection that’s relevant (e.g., you work on gender and sexuality and Indiana holds the papers of Kinsey Institute) you could mention that resource as something that further draws you to the school/ helps explain why it’s a good fit for you. But I don’t think you need to identify what archives you want to use in your dissertation (e.g., you work on gender and sexuality and you already know you’re going to use the Sophia Smith archives at Smith) - reads a little like putting the cart before the horse. They want to know you have interesting, exciting ideas and have thought through them/ will be able to execute them, but the SOP is not your dissertation proposal and doesn’t need that granular level of detail, IMO.
  12. gsc

    How to organize archival materials

    I agree. Being able to photograph at will has a lot of positives- you can get through material very quickly if you are pushed for time, and with OCR, you essentially come out with a digitized, searchable archive for your own use. But more information doesn't lead to more insight or more analysis. It's just more raw data that you, the researcher, will need to manage and work with. I definitely take more photos than I need to. In part to feel reassured- that if I need to go back and look at this particular set of letters, I can. I try to head off the inevitable avalanche of data by taking careful notes (what I actually see myself using, and what I am photographing for background information and to head off my own anxiety), labeling according to a system, highlighting the most useful documents, creating an internal index so I know what each collection of images contains, etc. The more information you gather, the more robust a system of information management you need.
  13. gsc

    How to organize archival materials

    How you organize your archive is really a personal thing- one person's standby is another person's headache - and there's a lot of trial and error before you come up with something that you like. It's really a topic that should be taught more in grad school, especially as technology makes it possible to acquire ever more documents and images at ever more archives and repositories, physical and digital. 1) IME, you want to do as much of the front-end work in the archives as you can. The more "work" you have to do with your photographs after you take them, the less likely it is that you'll use them. So if you have 500 individual JPEGs, each one will need a label, at a certain point you'll want to combine them into individual PDFs, label the PDFs, label the metadata, and so on. You need to do this work while it's all at least a little fresh in your head, but after you've spent 7 hours in the archives taking the pictures, spending another 7 hours managing the pictures is the literal last thing you want to do. I solve this problem in two ways. First, I take my photos using ScannerPro (works on tablets and phones, although tablet is better) which allows me to combine images into PDF files within the app itself. Instead of having 50 separate images from 1 folder, or even 1 big PDF document with 50 images inside it, I can make 10 PDFs with 3 or 4 images each. Each PDF represents a document- a two page letter, 10 page memo, etc. Second, I label each PDF as I make it; I use a wireless keyboard to type the labels faster. On my first pass through these labels are kind of general: e.g., "1953.09.14 Correspondence btwn Creelman and Tennant." When I'm working with the documents later, I update that into something a little more useful: "1953.09.14 Creelman invites Tennant to nursing committee, Tennant reply pos" which tells me a little bit more. I label all documents with the same date/month/year so that it's easy to organize them chronologically later. So instead of having 150 images at the end of the day, which are useless to me without more work, I have 40 documents that I can play with as soon as I get them off my iPad and onto Dropbox. For more useful suggestions on archive photography: 1, 2 If you aren't doing this already, make sure that every image you take has the citation information in the image. Some archives give you handy citation slips for this; for the others, just take a sheet of paper and label it with the box and folder number, and use it like a running header. 2) I think that life gets a lot easier if you can work with all of your documents within the same application, or, if you are feeling extra organized, a database. I find that putting my documents in folders straight on my hard drive, as suggested above, makes it difficult for me to see everything at once, or to make connections between documents that didn't come from the same archive. This article explains that predicament in more detail. So, software. I put every one of my PDFs into Devonthink Pro Office, which is very powerful database software for Macs only. It comes with OCR already installed, so everything gets converted into searchable PDFs and eventually tagged and annotated. See here for some evangelizing on DTPO, what it can do for you, and strategies for organizing documents within the database: 1, 2, 3, 4. But there are many kinds of software you can use- off the top of my head, there's Evernote, Zotero, Tropy, DTPO, Filemaker Pro, etc. Tropy was designed by historians and it's also free and open source, if you don't want to plunk down money for DTPO or Filemaker. The point is that as you go on more and more research trips, you create an archive about your topic. Software not only helps you organize this archive but also can help you think with and through it. Hope this helps. Happy archiving!
  14. gsc

    JD to PhD. I have no idea how to do this.

    This is really good advice. Academic history is very much its own thing and it's difficult to know what it's like without already being in it. If you're near a university with a history MA program, you might also be able to take a graduate class there as a non-degree student. I was recently in an evening seminar with several lawyers interested in transitioning to PhD programs.
  15. gsc

    Applications 2019

    You might give Rutgers a look. We accepted quite a lot of Europeanists in this 2018 cycle so I do think admissions for that field will be slim-to-none in 2019, but if you pitch yourself as either an Americanist or a women's & gender historian first (and an Italianist second) you might have better success. In regards to how you are framing your project & object of study - I'm not sure "agency" is the best word here. It's not particularly specific; it actually doesn't tell me very much about what you want to study beyond the fact that you're interested in Italy and women. So why not just say "the history of Italian women's political participation" or "Italian women's religious organizations" or "Italian women's activities outside the home," or whatever the case may be? Relatedly, Lynn Thomas has a fantastic article on the perils of the term "agency" which is a really worthwhile read for anyone doing gender history. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/1468-0424.12210
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