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hats last won the day on January 8

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  1. Should I drop out of my PhD program?

    Other people have covered the academic part really well, so I am going to put in a serious plea for counseling. The first thing that concerns me is the catastrophizing: you doubt your reputation could recover from changing fields or programs? people do this all the time, and still become respected professors or top-flight curators. I hear you that you've gotten yourself into a sub-optimal situation, but the degree to which you're beating yourself up about it worries me: everybody makes mistakes, even major ones, and usually a whole lot more than once. So, entering your PhD program now seems to have been a mistake. But you didn't know it was a mistake when you started, so please be kinder to yourself about it. Nobody has enough 'foresight' that they can avoid ever making a mistake: it's part of being human. You're only human, too, so I hope you can forgive yourself for this one. From your post, it sounds like you're doing that thing, where you've gotten yourself trapped in a tangle of emotional thorns, or a pit of life-circumstances quicksand—because your PhD program as it stands is, in fact, not right for you—and now you're thrashing about because you're in pain and you just want to be out of the circumstances that are hurting you. As with the thorns or the quicksand metaphor, that's either dragging you down further or, at best, keeping you stuck in the quagmire of suck. As I think the other posters have made clear, you have tunnel vision about the options available to you. You have many more, much better options than you acknowledged in your first post, and you can start taking steps towards a happier, more positive life today. To recap, some of these are: to investigate switching topics within your PhD program. To take a semester or a year off and work or woof (when I had a couple friends sound like you do right now, they did the thing where you work for room and board on an organic farm or Zen retreat type place, and it helped them a lot) before you decide whether to continue with this program or to apply to different ones. To get a master's in African art history and then to apply to different PhD programs in medieval European art (which, even if you never do any research in Africa again, will still make your teaching profile more competitive than the average medievalist art historian). The lack of energy, motivation, and joy at things you used to like are textbook red flags for depression. A single post is very much not enough to suggest a diagnosis, since it might not be representative of how you feel day to day...but this post is suggestive enough that I really suggest you get screened. As a PhD student, you should have access to the campus counseling center. Please go ASAP! You do not sound like you are happy or doing well, and you deserve and can get help to do better.
  2. Fall 2018 Applicants

    @Banzailizard Either in your first email or in a follow-up if you get a positive response, you could also ask whether they think the Rutgers MA, specifically, would be useful for any applications you submit in the future. It sounds from your post on this page like you have minimal languages and are applying to a field where you really do need languages, so I would guess the answer is going to be yes, it will be helpful. But if it feels useful for you to have a more specific query, that sounds like an acceptable one.
  3. Help me decide between programs

    Are these not both plusses?? Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, but—with a possible exception for people who are aiming first and foremost at being community college professors (or high school teachers or certain state branch campus jobs? none of these are my own goal so I'm not so familiar)—maximizing teaching is not a goal for your first three years or so of graduate school. If you have low to minimal teaching in those first couple years, you can still easily (and may have to) teach A LOT later, but you'll be set up for a much more competitive research profile.
  4. Anyone hear anything from these programs? (Arch)

    @lylark I never applied to Chicago, so I didn't know they did interviews, but they are competitive as [cursing] to get into. I know it doesn't help a lot right now, but it's a great sign that they wanted to talk to you!
  5. For me, writing is the fun kind of hard.
  6. I am pro-union and pro-collective action as anything, but the UIUC administration's demands seem particularly nasty. I wouldn't shy away from a school because of a strike. For me, strikes generally are neutral to positive. However, I might shy away from this school because of the concessions the administration is demanding that have led to this strike.
  7. Would you turn down an Ivy?

    @tamaloo "We are only giving you half (or three-quarters) the stipend we normally give our PhD students" is one of those factors that are significant enough that I would really suggest that you not choose that school. Is it really that great a working culture, if they don't value your work? I hope you love the Ivy after you visit, but even more so, I hope you get accepted somewhere else so you have more choices!
  8. A game about linguistics

    It just seems like you're aiming for an extremely narrow audience, if it's true that @TakeruK knows too little about linguistics and I know too much. I've only taken two linguistics courses! Did you make this because you're teaching a linguistics 101 course? I could imagine it as an assignment the week before you start the comparative reconstruction unit, but after you've done phonology.
  9. Good deal?

    I am sensing a confusion in terms here, in what is understood by graduate insurance "not covering" vision and dental. If your school doesn't offer vision or dental insurance at all, yes, that's bad, get your check-ups now. But many schools will offer vision or dental insurance as an add-on to your health insurance policy. This is not fine if the add-on fee is $100/month, but for me it's far less, and I've found it totally manageable.
  10. 2018 Interviews and Results Thread

    @Mitchell1 I haven't heard of this offer being extended in our field; my initial reaction is yikes, no—that it's basically a soft waitlist/rejection. I can't say for sure that it hasn't been done recently, so perhaps somebody who has done it recently will appear and can speak more knowledgeably. (Beware the elder professor who says, "well, I got through my PhD in the 70s by delivering pizzas and I'm fine." Expectations have changed.) But what do you want a PhD for? Most to all of your competitors for jobs at the end of this will have been funded, which will mean a major competitive disadvantage for you. If you're living off trust fund income or have a small business that can support all of your living expenses, with little or no debt, in only two days a week, it might not be a financial disaster. It isn't a sign of faith from the department that admitted you, however. If this is the amount of support they are offering you now, I don't trust them to offer you the support you need to get a job. So, if you would like a job at the end (I ask because there are always a few posters on this board who don't), I would still not take this offer. I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Do you have a master's degree? A tuition-only master's may be workable; a PhD won't be.
  11. This is the first I have heard of such a policy, but I can see the sense in it. If professors encourage students to limit their discussion of personal experience, that seems sensible. Like you said, your program has seen a history of personal experiences derailing class from the readings! At least in my program, about a third of the first years and about one second year will usually not have done serious ethnography yet. Holding space for those students to contribute is important. But while limits on the monopolization make sense, a ban totally does not. Does this apply to every class? My first year core social theory class never really got into people's ethnographic experiences, which was fine and appropriate, but for some of the more topical classes, talking about your own research is part of the point. If it's across many classes, the difference between ethnography and anecdotes may be what they want to get at. If it really is a ban on ethnography (not anecdotes) in the majority of your classes...I can only say, 'yikes.' But perhaps there could still be a rationale I haven't considered. Have you asked your professors or older students about this?
  12. Would you turn down an Ivy?

    As others have mentioned, "Ivy" is a poor proxy for "stress-y and pressure cooker." Go visit all the departments! I think "too stress-y" is a good reason to turn down a good school, if you have more relaxed options that still graduate most of their students into the kinds of jobs you would like to do. I have been associated with both Ivy/near-Ivy and big state schools (albeit sometimes as an employee or undergraduate)...and the environment I found by far the most negative was at a big state school. At the problem place, I didn't like how only some people got all-fellowships packages, while others had to teach a tremendous amount for their funding. It added this really unpleasant competition gradient; even if all the fellowships were external, the differential results produced nasty results for camaraderie. When you feel yourself saying, "Wow, I miss that stressful New England University that has a (not unfair) reputation for having mean students and faculty, because people were so much nicer there," something is wrong. Don't underestimate the ability of departments to build their own cultures, which may be way better or way worse than the result you would get if you averaged the climate of every department at that university. Of course, know your field. The two schools you listed as pseudonyms for your non-Ivy choices don't fill me with confidence, especially as compared to Princeton, rather than a "lower" Ivy...I've never heard of a graduate field in which Temple is really the best. That said, I don't know the comparative rankings of any sciences, or most of the humanities or social sciences, either, so I hope that's not too much of a dig against the school. (If your example was, say, Cornell vs. UCSD, I would be much more enthusiastic because I can name academic fields in which they are exactly equivalent.) Try not to pick a school that doesn't graduate its students into good jobs—academic or not—over one that does, but the one that is best for your graduate field of study may very well not be the one with the lowest undergraduate acceptance rate. That said, I have turned down Ivy—in part because that department was so weird, demographically ($$$ people!)—so just like, go on your visits, try not to pre-judge, and see what you can figure out once you have more evidence about how much you like each place.
  13. A game about linguistics

    Can I ask what your goal is? Do you have any linguistics background? This is more coding than I could do, but I do have notes about its contents. First, your framing is misleading. It doesn't work to show only one potential word pair at a time. Remember, linguistics determines whether two words are actually cognate by identifying 1) corresponding meanings and 2) recurring phonetic correspondences. One instance of an apparent phonetic match (especially without considering meaning) cannot show that two words are cognate. It can't even show that when every letter is the same! For example, Malagasy and Russian are not related just because Malagasy has vorona 'bird' and Russian has vorona 'crow'. You'd need more examples of v:v in both languages to show that that sound generally corresponds. My simplest suggestion for re-framing would be to say something like, 'I have a set of cognates that have been shown through independent linguistic analysis to be cognates. This is a game to see how well your intuition matches those conclusions.' That seems like a harmless thing. If anyone walks away from this game thinking that's how cognates are established, you're feeding people an inaccurate sense of what linguistics can do, which I can't advise. Doing a kind of matching thing could be fun for people, if you're clear that they're guessing, not following a real method of analysis. Even better, although it sounds like a complicated coding project, would be to have people pick out recurring correspondences in a set of words. Like: cook (English) : kook (Dutch) and milk (E) : melk (D) shows a k : k match between those languages. If you did that—perhaps using data from some of the historical linguistics problem set type books, if they're in the public domain or this qualifies as fair use—this could be a good resource for linguistics 101 classes.
  14. Fall 2018 Applicants

    What's the ranking split? As others said, you should probably not turn down Yale in favor of a university that doesn't place students in the kinds of jobs you want. If the difference is relatively minor, what kind of difference in "level of support" are you feeling? I know some students who put a really high priority on "nice," like, does this advisor buy chocolate for their students every Halloween. Personal warm-fuzziness above the minimum level of politeness is orthogonal to talent as an advisor, though. Do you think the person from whom you feel less support is a good advisor in general? What do their other students say about working with them—are they easy to work with, do they treat their students well, do they challenge their students appropriately, do they advocate for them on the job market? If the person does all those things and seems noticeably less invested in you than in other students...does this professor take a long time to warm up to people? If they usually warm up quickly and you're noticing a distinct lack of enthusiasm, that's a red flag. Even if everyone else gives them a wonderful review and assures you that all of their behavior is normal for them, their style may still be bothering you right now. It is possible that you two will just never have compatible styles, even if both of you are perfectly nice people. First impressions are so inaccurate, so often, however, that I advise you not to go with your gut instinct immediately. Interrogate the instinct, and if it's really persistent, I would consider listening. But also, sometimes major faculty really don't work out for people...in my program, I have seen both incompatible styles where nobody is at fault, and situations where one of the parties was maybe kind of being a jerk. For either department, you can't just work with one POI. If your main POI at each department decided to move to Hawaii to start a surf shack on the beach—or turns out to be a surprise jerk—who is your second choice as main advisor? How 'deep' is the roster of faculty whom you'd consider to ask to join your committee? Academia is still based, to a very weird degree, on the apprenticeship model...but even so, you're not working with just the one person. Can you Skype both advisors? Are you going to visit weekends? In sum: Get a lot more data before you make your final decisions. You have time on your side for a little bit here, so I advise you to use it. And who knows—maybe you'll get admitted at a third school that blows the other two out of the water in prestige and support ;)—stranger things have happened!
  15. This is very common. There have been times when I cried about something trivial; I have much reduced that as I've gotten further into adulthood, and if I could get them to zero, that would be nice. (It would be nice for me; how other people take my emotions is not my first priority.) On the other hand, sometimes something hard really does happen, and I don't think I'll ever totally stop crying when it does—nor do I think I that's something to be ashamed about! I've cried in front of, oh, five? seven? professors since the start of undergrad. I wish I could tell you all of them were cool about it. Most of them have been: "cool about it" does have a range, from the tissues and cookies to the more 'well this is awkward, but also a normal part of human fallibility, so let's get past it and you'll be okay" kind of thing. Unfortunately, I think I am currently dealing with my first professor who is not cool about it, which only adds to the stress level around them. I hope I'm wrong!