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pudewen last won the day on September 29 2016

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About pudewen

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    East Asian History

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  1. Finding Graduate Placements

    Going to UCLA to do a PhD in Chinese History is definitely not going to be the thing that prevents you from getting a job. (Also, FYI, funding at UCLA is a lot better than it was even 10 years ago, so you'll be much better supported than a fair number of the PhD students who finished in the past decade, which is a big help, though as the example of the CalTech asst prof shows, the claim about no students of your prospective advisor getting jobs in the past 10 years is not true. BTW, said CalTech asst prof did really well in the job market, even aside from the job she ended up taking).
  2. Do an M.A. Learn French (at the very least, possibly one or more African languages as well, though that depends on what exactly you're doing, possibly Portuguese, Dutch/Afrikaans, German, etc depending on exactly what countries you want to work on. This could be instead of French, but working on West Africa without French seems unlikely to be feasible). Your background at the moment is unlikely to get you into a PhD program good enough to get you a job post-grad school, but assuming you can afford it/find funding, an M.A. program should be doable and give you the chance to be a strong candidate.
  3. Fall 2018 Applicants

    At some places, it is possible to get a History PhD in an EALC department. I'm in an EALC department. My PhD will be in "History and East Asian Languages," and I think there is basically no evidence that this does any harm to anyone's job prospects. And even at places that don't do this, it's quite common for East Asian historians to be effectively in both departments while getting a degree in History (I think this is the case at both Columbia and Princeton, for instance). If there is a Koreanist you want to work with who isn't in a history department, I recommend writing to them, telling them you'd like to do a history PhD, but still have them as your advisor, and see what they say. You may find that the admissions process for East Asian history already involves East Asian historians who are not located in the history department. Don't give up on a place that would be a good fit just because of where your potential advisor is technically located. I would be wary of working with either Armstrong or Cumings as a primary advisor - I'm not going to discuss this publicly, but most people in the Korea field are probably well aware of the (very different) reasons why.
  4. Fall 2017 applicants

    Very exciting to be going to Hopkins! It was one of the places I considered many years ago - didn't end up going, but Bill and Tobie seemed absolutely wonderful as advisors, and it's a really terrific program.
  5. Decisions 2017

    I want to give a somewhat different perspective from the previous two posters. I think it depends what "area" you're talking about. It's perhaps true that degrees in things like "American Studies" are going to be harder to turn into history jobs than ones in history. But I think if you work on either East Asia or the Middle East, degrees in things like "East Asian (or Near Eastern) Languages and Civilizations" are actually fairly common for historians. I thankfully didn't end up really having to worry about this myself, despite being based in an EALC department, because my degree is still going to be in "History and East Asian Languages," but I think what I've seen suggests that even if I were getting a PhD in EALC, it would have very little effect on my job prospects. If the school where you'd be in an area studies program is otherwise preferable, and your field is one in which rigorous language training in non-Western languages is a necessity (so not US/Europe/Latin America), I think you shouldn't let the name on the degree stop you.
  6. Fall 2017 applicants

    Though I respect TMP's opinion a lot, I want to offer a bit of a counterpoint to this. My experience in my PhD program has been very much the opposite - my fellow students have been substantially more important to my education, training, and professional development than any faculty member, including my advisor. Now, to be fair, this may just be the result of less than stellar mentorship and over-committed faculty members. And I'm not saying that faculty aren't important, they obviously are (even if you're at a place where you're lucky to have two conversations a semester about your dissertation with your advisor). But I chose a program with a bigger, better group of grad students in my field over a program where I would have had more committed and dedicated advisors, and I don't think I made the wrong decision. There were other advantages to the program I chose (more resources, better libraries, training in rare languages important to my research interests), but much of the work that I've done here of which I'm proudest would not have been possible without my grad student colleagues. My committee members will do what's necessary to help me get a job (my advisor's students have a very good track record employment-wise), and I got a very good classroom education my first couple years, and those really are non-negotiable. But I'm not sure I agree with TMP that having a great advisor rather than a good (or even just decent) one is necessarily more important than your fellow students (at least at a program where there are more than a handful of people in your field).
  7. Fall 2017 applicants

    Unless something has changed in the time since I was admitted, HEAL generally does not conduct interviews.
  8. How Best to Pursue a Ph.D. in Chinese History

    I don't have a great sense of what it takes to get funding for an MA, since I didn't do one, and though there's an MA program here, I don't know who has funding (with the exception that, at our MA program, one group of people that very commonly receives funding is students from China who want to do a PhD, but who the admissions committee thinks need to spend some time in an English-language academic environment first, which obviously isn't a category that applies to you). Assuming that funded MA admissions are somewhat less competitive than PhD admissions, I'd expect your odds would be pretty good after a year at ICLP. In terms of how common having an MA prior to entering a top PhD program is - in my department, at least, I'd say that it is extremely common; the vast majority (north of 80%, I'd guess) of PhD students in Chinese history (and Chinese studies/East Asian history/East Asian studies more broadly) had an MA at the time they entered. As I said above, I'm an exception to this, but my undergrad thesis was principally based on an untranslated Chinese source from approximately the period I work on, and I had two extremely well respected historians of China vouching for my abilities. But it's not like that made me a shoo-in; I was rejected by more places that I was admitted. This process is tough and competitive and there are some very impressive people applying; one of my colleagues not only had excellent Mandarin at the time of application but had completed a Master's degree in Xinjiang with a thesis written in Uyghur; another had two MA degrees and multiple publications; another is a published professional translator of Chinese literature. And a whole bunch of people are Chinese nationals with degrees from the top universities there who have also completed degrees at excellent MA programs in the US. I was a lot less impressive than that, but I was also lucky in all sorts of ways. If you would only do ICLP if you can be certain of getting a funded graduate admission, I'm sorry to tell you that there are no certainties. And there won't be once you're admitted (you know what's worse than the graduate school application process? the job application process). But if a PhD is something you're set on pursuing, you'll have to do some of the things that maximize your likelihood of getting in, and if you don't get in anyway, then you'll have to find a way to do more of those things. There are all sorts of ways to get funding to do things that will help you get in to a PhD program: apply for grants that let you spend time doing research or studying in China at the same time as you apply to graduate school (the Fulbright is a great, though very competitive option, but there are lots of others. Look at Confucius Institute scholarships, for instance), look for a job in China or Taiwan, make sure you're applying to MA programs at schools that are recipients of FLAS grants for East Asia (you can find the list here: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/iegps/nrcflasgrantees2014-17.pdf) which will maximize the chances that they have funding to offer you (particularly desirable are places that both receive FLAS money and where the university fully funds all PhD students; this maximizes the odds that MA students are getting that money).
  9. How Best to Pursue a Ph.D. in Chinese History

    Nothing is absolute in this process - if your SoP interests a potential advisor enough, you could well be admitted to a good PhD program applying right now, with the expectation that you'll put a lot of work into improving your Chinese in your first couple years. Similarly, you could certainly be admitted after a year at ICLP with your thesis unchanged from the form you submit it in, or with nothing changed beyond some retranslations of quotes. So I want to be clear that I'm not saying that you won't get in if you don't either revise your thesis substantially or produce a new writing sample. That said, in terms of maximizing the chances that you get in, you would be well-served to have a writing sample that works with sources that haven't been previously translated because it will likely be a better piece of scholarship - more similar to work that you would be expected to produce as a PhD student. So if you do decide that you want to try to go straight into a PhD, I'd recommend that you consider revising your thesis by incorporating sources that are important to your topic but that you did not use because your Chinese was not good enough. I recognize, of course, that the timeline of applications makes this difficult if you want to apply while you're at ICLP, rather than taking a year off, but you will have at least a few months (more if you start in the summer) of further intensive training at the time you apply. If this lets you work in even one substantial and important additional text, that will be to your benefit. Similarly, there's no reason the recommendations you list would prevent you from getting in, but if there's anyway for you to work with another historian of China (even if not a middle period historian) who is capable of critically evaluating your work, that will likely be beneficial. It's also possible (and perhaps even a good idea) to apply to both PhD and MA programs simultaneously; if you don't get in to the former, you can spend some time at one of the latter to put yourself in a stronger position to try again later.
  10. How Best to Pursue a Ph.D. in Chinese History

    If you can attend ICLP (or IUP in Beijing) for a year without taking on debt, that will do a great deal to benefit your application to a PhD program in Chinese history (and your eventual success in that program) - the only thing that would be clearly superior would be enrollment in a Master's program in Chinese history in China or Taiwan (that is, doing an academic degree in your area of specialty in Chinese), though it seems likely that your language abilities are not yet at the point where that would be feasible. (Note that I'm not saying this is necessary - I ended up in a top program without that sort of background - just that it's the sort of thing that massively strengthens one's application and that is reasonably common among successful applicants). There are two major factors that will matter most in your application - your demonstrated ability in Chinese (and, given the period you are interested in, a strong background in Classical Chinese as well as modern Mandarin would be of great benefit to you - you should be able to acquire at least some Classical background at ICLP) and your demonstrated ability to do high quality historical research using sources in Chinese (and preferably, though this is by no means an absolute requirement, Chinese-language sources from your period of interest). The latter will be demonstrated directly through your writing sample and indirectly through your statement of purpose (which will discuss your background and show your ability to formulate a compelling research question), letters of reference, publications (if any - note that this is certainly not necessary or expected), thesis awards, and (even more indirectly) grades in history courses. Doing JET is perfectly fine if it interests you (and taking a break from academia for a bit is certainly a very valid and healthy decision), but, purely from the perspective of admissions to a graduate program, it seems to me that it will provide you with very little help in either of the two factors I discussed above. Would a terminal MA program alone be sufficient to get your language skills up to snuff? Quite possibly, though it would depend on the program and the degree of language training it can provide beyond what you have currently, and, even if you pursue this path, you would ideally spend at least another summer, if not a whole year, during the MA program in China/Taiwan doing further language training, so I'd argue it's worth just doing that straight off (or after JET, if you'd like to do JET). The final question is whether, once you have completed a year at ICLP, you would be in a good position to be admitted to a PhD program directly or would need to apply to an MA first. It's hard to answer that since it would depend a lot on what your undergrad thesis looks like. Is it based primarily on Chinese-language sources (preferably from the Song-Yuan period)? If not, do you think that you would be able to revise it to give such sources a prominent role as your Chinese ability improves? After a year at ICLP+your current Chinese language background, if you also have a strong piece of original research (with which a couple of your recommenders are familiar) based mainly on Chinese-language sources from your period, you would probably be an excellent candidate for a good Chinese history PhD program. If not, you will likely need to enroll in an MA program first. Hope this helps!
  11. Is study abroad as an undergrad vital?

    I'd trust what everyone else is saying about Europe, I guess, since they presumably know the field better than I do. As an Asianist, though, TMP is right that it is extremely unlikely that someone would be admitted to a good PhD program in East Asian history without having spent substantial time in the country they want to work on. I had only spent about 7-8 months in China prior to beginning my PhD, and that was less than almost anyone else in my program (and I felt pretty sheepish about it until I finally spent a full year in China last academic year). This is in large part because nobody really believes that you can have adequate language skills without time in an immersive environment. And this isn't just "study abroad" - a number of the (non-Chinese by nationality) people studying China in my program have done Master's degrees in China or Taiwan or have done Fulbrights (so at least a full year at a Chinese university, taking some regular classes) before they enter. As for the notion that this sort of expectation is classist, for many people their experience in China began as work experience (often as an English teacher, a job that anyone with a college degree who is a native English speaker can get, often including the plane fare to get there), and there are tons of sources of money to spend time studying/doing research abroad, at least in China and Taiwan (even as a grad student, now that I'm past my guaranteed fellowship years, it's easier to find funding to spend time in China than to stay in the US and write). (Felt the need to chime in after all the comments that this is a ridiculous expectation that nobody could possibly have. In fields where the languages are seriously difficult and the cultural gap with the US somewhat larger, people think very differently about these things).
  12. Latin American History 2017

    I think you can be sincere. When you read all the posts by Americanists (and to a lesser extent Europeanists) here, you get the sense that everyone finds advisors who are a close match in place, time, and theme. That's just not the case for those of us in smaller fields. My advisor advises students with topics ranging from the medieval Silk Road, to 20th century Uyghur literature, to 17th century Chinese print culture. Now that's a broader range than even most in my field (and is in part because he is willing to advise almost any topic having to deal with the history of frontiers or ethnic identity in China), but it's quite common for faculty to advise students whose interests are fairly divergent from theirs. And this is probably particularly the case at the top programs, which are generally larger (and so can admit a wider range of students) and whose faculty often believe that they have the responsibility to train the entire range of the next generation of scholars in their field. That's not to say that you shouldn't look for connections between your work and that of potential advisors, but there's no reason to misrepresent your interests. Plus, as TMP suggested, think about faculty in fields other than Latin American history at departments to which you're applying who have thematic interests that are like yours. Then your application can say that you want to work with Latin Americanist X who will be able to give you the historiographical training in your broader field that you need (and may be helpful with contacts in research sites, knowledge about archival access, etc), but you can also work with Americanist/Europeanist/Africanist/East Asianist X who can help you with approaches to the themes you're interested in, creating comparative context, tying to a broader literature on those themes, relevant theory, etc.
  13. Latin American History 2017

    I'm not in Latin American History and so am unqualified to offer specific advice on advisors/schools. But I do wonder what your post-PhD goals are. If you want to stay in academia, and particularly in a research university environment, you are probably over-emphasizing fit with a particular advisor over overall program strength/prestige. Places like Indiana and Illinois are of course quite well regarded, but for better or worse, if your PhD comes from a place like FIU, you have made the (already difficult) hunt for a tenure-track job even more difficult. I get that maybe you're trying to have a range of schools to maximize the chance that you get in somewhere, but I think you should recognize that for certain career goals, attending a couple of the programs you mention is almost certainly worse than waiting a year and reapplying (and this is not meant as a criticism of the faculty or students at those places, it's just the reality of the academic job market). Funding availability is also something that you should be considering, regardless of career goals - my impression is that multiple schools on your list do not provide a long-term guaranteed funding package to most of their students. The financial security (and accompanying time and support for research) that comes from a guaranteed five-year (or even six at some places!) package should not be undervalued.
  14. American Historical Association Jobs Report

    As an East Asian historian at a very top program, I certainly wish that this were true. Certainly, graduates of my program have done better on average at getting jobs than the sort of overall numbers that we see so often. But it's far, far, from a guarantee; some years, like this one, seem to have been especially tough. No subfield is immune from the problems facing our field as a whole. Nor is any program. I'd also note that "non-US historian" is a far from monolithic category. So is "East Asian historian." Africanists are a lot better off than Europeanists. Historians of China are better off than historians of Japan. Some non-US fields are probably just as badly off as some US history-fields.
  15. UCLA PhD or Harvard MA?

    I'm a PhD student at Harvard in East Asian history (Chinese, but I did a field with DLH, who I assume is your POI, plus he's on my dissertation committee). So, look, I know how good a fit DLH would be for your described research interests, and I definitely understand why you'd prefer to work with him than with any of the Japanese historians at UCLA. And I think I share your opinions about the Chicago, HH-derived approaches to history, so I get why you're worried about working with the UCLA faculty. And I get Harvard's other advantages - particularly having more faculty and students in your field, which really helps create a vibrant and productive intellectual environment. That all said, I still think that all the advice you've gotten here is spot on. This isn't a choice between a slightly more generous offer at UCLA and a worse one at Harvard, it's not a choice between starting a PhD now at UCLA and starting one in two years at Harvard, and unless Harvard offers you funding for the Master's (which is probably unlikely, though I guess you could wait to find out), it isn't even a choice between a PhD program at UCLA and spending two years in Harvard's RSEA program debt-free before reapplying to PhD programs (probably with a substantially improved chance of getting in to Harvard if you do well there). In all those cases, I think that choosing Harvard would make a lot of sense. But if it's a choice between a fully(and seemingly excellently) funded PhD offer at UCLA, and a Master's program at Harvard that will require you to take on a bunch of debt, with no real guarantee that you'd even have better options in two years, it's really no question. Go to UCLA, don't look back. Unless you really think that the UCLA faculty won't support your research approaches (though I rather suspect that they'll turn out to be pretty flexible; I mean, unless you were really misleading in your application, they're probably already well-aware that their theoretical approaches are different from yours). In which case, you should not start grad school at all, rather than pay out the nose for Harvard (taking on debt in humanities grad school is a BAD idea). As knp said, in that case you could go teach in Japan for a couple years and improve your language skills, then reapply. I think, though, that given that given that you applied to UCLA, you must think it is a program that you'd want to attend, at least if you didn't have other options. So, in that case, recognize that an unfunded MA is not another option. Getting in to an MA program, even at Harvard, is way easier than getting in to the UCLA PhD program; it's not some sign that you could do better than UCLA (not that I even buy that, generally speaking, Harvard is "better" than UCLA for getting a PhD in history, even if it might be for your particular interests and approaches). So go to UCLA, do great work there, and take advantage of the tremendous amount of support that they're offering you.