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gsc last won the day on May 20

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  1. This can be a real balancing act to pull off. I’ve been ambivalent about academia since I started and tried to straddle both worlds— I’ve fit a couple internships and a very part time (quarter-time?) research assistant/ public history position into my time so far, and my advisor has been very supportive, but in general, I’ve found it difficult to acquire the non-academic work experiences and preparation that I wanted when I entered the program. In my experience, when you come into a graduate program, there are expectations and claims about how you will spend your time and what the bulk of your energy will go towards: these are dictated by your funding package, by the structure of the program itself, by your advisor and committee, and by the general culture of the program. I think you have to be very forceful, persistent, and organized if you want to override these various claims on your time to do something else (like an internship, or a part-time gig), keeping in mind, too, that some of them (like teaching) can’t really be helped. The structure of graduate education often militates against the kinds of things that grad students are often advised to do to prepare for non-academic careers. For example, during the semester, a heavy teaching load will make it difficult to squeeze in a part-time gig and do your coursework or write (which you’ll need to do to finish the program). Summers are incredibly valuable currency and there will be no end of things competing for your time during them: preliminary research to help you figure out what your dissertation should be on, time spent studying for comps, time spent preparing stuff for publication, time spent doing dissertation research, time spent writing dissertation chapters, time spent teaching (you likely won’t get paid in summers, so summer teaching is an important financial lifeline, too). And of course during all this the clock is ticking on your funding package (not to mention, you know, the rest of your life— being a grad student gets old quickly.) So you have to choose wisely, and plan ahead, and think carefully about what you want to prioritize. I ended up fitting my work experience into semesters where I was not teaching and had already finished my research, or was too early in the program to actually have diss research to do. I was fortunate to have some of these semesters built into my funding package and in other cases I made some of my own: this year I applied for a TAship with a 2-0 teaching load, which made for a busy fall semester and a spring semester free to do a 15 hr/week internship. You might see if you can create these opportunities for yourself during your program: external fellowships, alternative graduate assistantships that aren’t teaching (e.g., working in the campus writing center, or processing manuscripts at the library). (Ask prospective programs about these during accepted student days!) Also, speaking of visit days, my undergraduate advisors told me to keep mum about my ambivalence towards the academy during prospective visits. This was well-intentioned advice, and there are still advisors and whole programs out there who have not gotten on the alt-ac bandwagon. But in retrospect I might have benefitted from asking my potential advisors up front about whether or not preparing for non-academic careers was something they’d be willing to work with me on, taking the attitude that if it wasn’t, they weren’t going to be a good fit for me anyways. I think in the past five years, and especially with coronavirus, the landscape has changed enough that you can and should freely ask this question. You really, really don’t want to arrive at your program and realize that it’s not going to be supportive of what you need and want.
  2. @bakeseal - you've gotten a lot of good advice in this thread, so I will try to be brief! But I study nursing history, which is also a niche specialty, at a program without nursing historians. I find that my dissertation committee pushes me to think outside my nursing history niche— not to just laser-focus on the very specialized debates of nursing history, but to think about how nursing history can help us understand other kinds of history, e.g., British social history. I think this is what a good committee made up of cultural, science/medicine/environment, and gender (domestic economy seems very gendered to me!) historians could help you do with food history. Your thesis research and interests also makes me think you might be interested in some of Roberta Bivins' work on rickets, a disease also tied to diet— see Bivins, "The English Disease or Asian Rickets? Medical Responses to Postcolonial Immigration," Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 2007. You might also enjoy Lacey Sparks, "Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup," Journal of World History, 2017, which is about nutrition science in colonial British Africa. Neither article is by a "food historian" per se, so I think they might also give you a sense of how food can be incorporated into some of the broader scholarly fields you've mentioned here
  3. gsc

    Historical binging?

    I, Claudius -- the BBC miniseries from ~1978, with Derek Jacobi as Claudius and John Hurt as Caligula. It might be on Prime now? But totally worth getting the DVDs for if not.
  4. I attend Rutgers; feel free to PM me. I'm obviously biased, but our modern Europe field is very very strong at Rutgers (esp vs Hopkins, which I tend to think of as stronger in early modern Europe-- but someone else can correct me on this) and places pretty well. Not in the Ivies, mind you, but if you only want to teach at Ivies and elite public schools, you're going to have a hard time of it no matter what program you attend; most people on the job market don't get to be picky.
  5. Yeah, the folks I know who did museum studies (either as undergrad or grad) have mostly ended up as family programs managers, educational programs officers, special event coordinators, and various other forms of admin within the museum. Museum studies doesn't really give you much content knowledge, which is required as you go up the ranks. A subject matter MA + MLIS prepares you for subject-specialist librarian positions. Many big research libraries have European history subject librarians, ancient history librarians, etc. I know that you can get a joint history MA/MLIS at Indiana (don't know if the ancient history MA you've identified qualifies, but you could certainly do a standard history MA and try to make it more ancient/medieval focused, though again, limited without languages).
  6. gsc


    The pros are pretty clear, I think— more classes in your area (which means fewer independent studies), more events/speakers/workshops relevant to your interests, more professors who aren't your advisor to run ideas by, expanded departmental/professional networks (e.g., former students of your advisor or former students of your dissertation committee members; harder to draw on this if your advisor only takes 1 student once every 5 years). On competition: a larger program with lots of students in your field will force you to keep moving. But academic careers are built on hustle and forward motion, and there are useful lessons to be learned therein. 100%. If your advisor really isn't hands-on and really want to be involved with his students, it won't matter how many students he has or doesn't. And even with an attentive, hands-on advisor, there's still a lot of work you have to do on your own.
  7. Honestly, though, modern British history has been going this way for 20 years. The imperial turn is not new; it's almost now a baseline requirement to seriously engage in British studies. And it only takes one or two trips through the British studies conference program to see this in action. Nearly all the new up-and-coming scholars have some imperial/global angle or edge to their projects, if not projects entirely about the empire. But I also think that a good advisor (certainly a hands-on advisor) won't let you design a project that's 20 years out of date using methods everyone's seen and done before. This goes for any field. It's one thing for a second or third year student to not yet know what is interesting/innovative/new in the field and what isn't. But your advisor does, and should step in before you spend five years on a project that's not going to get you anywhere professionally. Even if you really do want to study a topic that is not, in itself, On Trend, a good advisor should help you find a new angle or method for the topic that distinguishes it from the rest. And not to mention that everything in academia snowballs, so a project that's designed to be compelling from the get-go will attract funding and grants, and funding and grants attract more funding and more grants, and more funding leads to a stronger project (because more time to research or write), and a stronger project backed by lots of research and institutional funding will lead to a stronger job market application... etc, etc. Ah yes, the old "I'm a British historian and Britain had colonies in the Middle East so I'm obviously qualified for this Modern Middle East job!" switcheroo. The idea that British historians should respond to the job market crisis by applying to regional studies jobs has always struck me as somewhat neo-imperialist.
  8. I freely admit to being paranoid (especially because my laptop is now too old to automatically Dropbox sync) but I recommend not just one external drive but multiple-- I have one I keep with me and use for weekly backups, and another that I keep at my parents and back up every six months when I visit. Plus a 64 GB flash drive for saving ZIP files of my dissertation and research materials. And I manually upload stuff to Dropbox. You can never back up stuff too much. Also on the point of protecting your computer: I once watched a student knock over her paper coffee cup (sans lid) onto her laptop keyboard. She went from having a functioning laptop to a hunk of useless metal in under thirty seconds. Even thinking about it now makes me feel slightly nauseous. Keyboard covers are much less expensive than a new laptop, and if you take your laptop to study in coffee shops, crowded libraries, etc., you definitely don't want someone else knocking a drink onto it or knocking it over.
  9. gsc


    If I can put it another way: first years spend a lot of time in the department because they're in coursework, but that's emphatically not the same as knowing how the department actually works (knowledge that can really only come from experience). And in a similar vein, a first year may have taken a class or two with their advisor, but that's not the same as developing a working relationship with their advisor, either.
  10. gsc


    I'd also add that you pose these questions (and all of your questions) to students at different stages in the program. A lot of the time, the graduate students most heavily involved in "recruitment day" are first and second years, because they're around campus the most; while ABD students are harder to track down (I haven't participated in a recruitment event in four years) they'll have more "institutional knowledge" of the department and more perspective on these questions. You can ask about it. Most places will have shared office space for TAs and some may have shared office space for grad students on fellowship. At my program you can sign up for a desk-share in one of the basement cubicle dens; TAs get priority, but most people who ask for a desk get one. It's nice while you're in coursework and spend a lot of time in whatever building your department is in (waiting around for class, department talks, office hours) but since becoming ABD I've preferred the regular library (worth checking to see if the main library has graduate student only spaces).
  11. gsc


    There are plenty of past threads devoted to different elements of decision making, including campus visits, factors to consider, etc; I'd recommend using the search function and then asking a more specific or targeted question. For me personally, I was most focused on the strength of the funding (there have been many many discussions on this forum about what a good funding package looks like) and whether I could see myself working with the advisor (there have also been many discussions about how to assess the merits of working with different people).
  12. I can't think of a single person in my program who is finishing or has finished before sixth year and that's including folks with MAs and people who I think of as having "finished quickly." I'd plan on six years and take that into consideration when you make choices, i.e., ask about funding beyond the fifth year because it's very likely you will need it. Most schools cannot put it in writing that you'll get a sixth year of funding (hence the "five year package") but they have informal procedures— ask what grad students are doing for the sixth year? if they're getting funding from the department, in what form and how is it allotted? if you get an external fellowship, are you allowed to get that year "back" later on (e.g., if you win a prestigious fellowship that funds your 4th year, do you get that "4th year funding" back as a sixth year? etc)
  13. This was my approach too. Some things I might add, having seen it from the other side as an admit/ grad student: 1) Cut every program without a guaranteed five-year funding package, but I wouldn't start choosing between five year funding packages too early, e.g., not applying to a program because the funding "looks" to be "mostly" TA-ships or because it doesn't appear to offer summer funding and a bunch of other schools do. You won't know exactly what your departmental funding package looks like until you have an offer in hand. Also, a lot of time department pages are vaguely worded because there's a larger academic unit controlling their purse strings, and until the academic unit disburses the department's funding, the department itself isn't 100% sure what's available. 2) Note, too, the definition of "fit." If you're a 20th century French historian, a 19th century French historian can be your advisor. Also, for our hypothetical 20th century France applicant, a lot of times programs will have just 1 French historian, so if you look for 2, you'll come up very short— instead think in terms of a committee, where in addition to your advisor, there's 3-4 folks who work on your major field (modern Europe), and ideally one to three people who work in different geographic areas but in your same thematic area/s (science and technology, gender, colonialism, etc). I think the most important of these is being in a program where your major field has a robust presence; being the only person who works on [insert major field here] in your cohort, and only having 1-2 professors to take classes with or guide you, is a very lonely road. 3) Like, really don't want to live. Like, there would be nothing that could sway you to live there. Like, if this were the only program you got into, you would prefer not going to a PhD program at all. Like, if this program had amazing funding and the best advisor and you got in, you would take the program with worse funding over great funding at this location. TLDR: Don't apply to everything under the sun, but don't reject too much out of hand, either. I think if you are striking the right balance, there should be about 6 to 8 schools that are reasonable fits for you to apply to.
  14. Disclaimer that I'm not familiar with research proposals in the UK, but in terms of developing a project and research proposal, I think the key here is in this phrase: "a wider reconception of the Russian Civil War as a transnational event" Why does it matter that we see the Russian Civil War transnationally? What new understandings does it open up? How does thinking transnationally about the RCW allow you to think differently about the "big stories"— revolution, socialism, World War I, etc (or whatever the big stories of your work are; mine, for example, are decolonization, migration, gendered professionalization- you get the gist) — in ways that aren't possible otherwise? Why do we need this wider reconception, and how will your specific project let us do that? Then, your sample Q - "To what extent did Mensheviks and SRs living in Europe and North America view there work as a continuation of the revolutionary project?" I think a question like this works fine as a basic historical question and as the historical core of your project. Strong research questions identify a specific thing to be studied (in your case, Mensheviks living in Europe) and demand an argument in response (they did or did not view their work as a continuation of the revolutionary project). Of course you might drill down to the specifics in the body of the proposal, or at least gesture at them: which people? what work? how will you analyze their work in the archives? which archives? etc. But you also want to balance that specificity with the larger stakes and questions. How does this specific historical question (or any historical question you might ask about Russian emigre communities) open up space to understand the larger methodological issue re: thinking about the RCW transnationally? Why should we care about these people and their understanding of their work? How do these "small stories" open up space for the big ones? How will this show us something we didn't already know about the civil war? A strong research proposal, in any context, articulates why the project matters, and ideally, why it matters now.
  15. Seconding @psstein on Washington, but for a different reason— their British historians are both amazing, but I have heard it is a harder place to study modern European history, which will likely be your major field. I'd still apply, because again, amazing British historians, but it's worth keeping in mind that there won't be as many Europeanists there for you to be in conversation with. Judith Walkowitz is retired now which makes Hopkins a harder sell. Why not UCSB? Not familiar with the program as a whole, but Erika Rappaport does history of consumption (she just wrote a book on tea) which could fit nicely with material culture.
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