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StrangeLight last won the day on February 5 2012

StrangeLight had the most liked content!

About StrangeLight

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  1. My advisor is incompetent

    going collectively to your grad director/coordinator is a good idea. if you have a departmental graduate student organization, you should consider getting them involved as well. if the coordinator says he will not help, then take it to the chair/head of your department. these meetings should solely be about the prof's firing of students and your collective fears of losing your jobs. one issue at a time. you should also talk to your grad director/coordinator separately, individually, to switch advisors. i don't know how easy this is in the sciences, since profs fund their advisees directly, but this doesn't sound like someone you should work with. however, you not wanting to work with him (or him being a bad advisor) is a separate issue from several students losing their funding under him and they should be treated as separate issues. for your own sake, you should be trying to switch advisors (in consultation with your grad coordinator) long before the students collectively approach the coordinator about these issues. if you switch first, you're free. if you talk collectively first, then the "answer" might be to talk to this prof, help him see the light, and then give him a chance to improve for about a year. you don't want to be his guinea pig for learning how to properly advise.
  2. *$&% grades (can I vent?)

    in the social sciences and humanities, you absolutely do send your transcript in when you apply for the big national fellowships. so i'd say the "no one sees your grades" and "grades don't matter" thing varies by discipline. in my own field (history), if you get a B+, that is a warning that you're really fucking up. anything below a B+ is a signal that you're going to be kicked out (eventually) unless you right the ship quickly. A- is considered "okay" for masters students, but not for PhD students. PhD students don't need As on every assignment, but they should aim for As as final grades in every course in their field. profs are more generous with their As than in the sciences, but the work does need to be good in order for the grade to match.
  3. Grad Level Courses

    it definitely depends on the size of your program. i go to small program (they like to call it "boutique grad training"). we have just under 30 professors (only about half of whom care about the grad program) and just over 40 students. while students can do many independent studies with profs and one or two other students (and do), they also have to take a certain number of seminars, and as a rule, there is only one seminar per field offered each year. so inevitably, people are in classes outside of their field. this isn't necessarily a bad thing. what's the course you'd do anything to stay out of? and why do you feel that way about it? does the professor have a reputation for being awful (in which case, maybe you should stay away)? is it a required/core course like historiography or methodology (in which case, even mentioning you don't want to do it is gonna hurt you)? another thing to consider... world history is BIG right now. even though not that many schools are hiring "world historians" yet, at least 75% of the job ads i see in my field (latin america) ask for someone that can teach a world history survey (in addition to latin american courses). by taking classes outside your regional field, you'll begin to see connections and patterns that are global and you will be better equipped to create and teach a world history class. so even if you have to take this course because there just aren't any other options, try to actually get something out of it. i know this is nosy, but i really want to know what this evil class is...
  4. What Do We Think About Dating other Grad Students?

    i'm surprised someone voted down what is a very honest and frank assessment of a long-term relationship between two academics. schools don't really "do" spousal hires like they used to. now, if your spouse gets hired, you may get a renewable non-tenure teaching position at that school if you're lucky, and only if the spouse getting the tenure-stream job is already well known and well established. usually (especially for new PhDs), IF the school can arrange a spousal hire, it's a visting assistant professorship that goes away in 1-3 years or a postdoc position that only lasts 2 years. the days of being able to get a tenure-track gig at the same institution as your spouse (also tenure-track) are long gone. one of my newly hired profs was a well established tenured prof at a research 1 school. her husband, also well established, also tenured, in the same field. she applied for a job at my institution, got it, and came. she thought she'd have a chance at bringing her husband with her (again, he's well known in his field) but they were told it was never gonna happen. it just so happens that he specializes in a very niche subfield and, for some reason, that subfield is already pretty highly represented in the 3 major universities in the city. now, they commute by plane and try to arrange their fellowship years and sabbaticals in such a way that they can actually see each other. and we're talking about award-winning scholars here, they aren't slouches. if you both want careers, you won't be able to do it in the same city anymore. if one of you is fine with teaching-heavy non-tenured positions, then you might be able to get gigs at the same school/in the same city. but it's tough. and considering that we're in grad school to begin our professional academic careers, it's worth thinking about spouse-hunting in an environment that will almost certainly force one of you to sacrifice the career ambitions or live apart on a permanent (seasonal) basis.
  5. I'm supposed to be celebrating, right?

    i realize there may not be a set list for your field, but presumably, in picking and choosing what you would read and be tested for on comps, you wrote this down somewhere, right? and did your committee ever see that list at any point? either to okay it or just to get a sense of what you know? it seems very strange to me if a program didn't do all of that.... as for the yes/no opinion questions, i got those too. i still elaborate. "yes, because...." or "no, because...." that might seem like an obvious thing to do to some people, and not to others, but when you're at a job talk and you get asked a yes or no question, you should say more than just yes or no. and usually when you're asked yes or no, the answer is "both" or "neither" or "sometimes." i don't think you need to dwell on the comps themselves, but there are lessons to learn about how to field random unexpected questions, which you will do plenty of if you present at conferences and apply for jobs.
  6. What Do We Think About Dating other Grad Students?

    you know it's possible to meet and date someone that isn't in your department, though, right? like... you can refuse to date within your department and not be alone forever. you act like it's all or nothing.
  7. What Do We Think About Dating other Grad Students?

    i absolutely abstain from dating within my department. i've seen a lot of my friends do it and they end up living out their relationship in the grad lounge. even when things are going well, somehow everyone else is made a part of their drama. when things aren't going well, it gets awkward. couples decided they wanted to TA together, then broke up, but still had to work with each other. others can't be in the same room as each other. it turns a work environment into junior high. now, if the people in question could keep their relationship outside the department walls, then that would be fine, but in my experience, they haven't. it's sort of a pain in the ass for everyone else to not be able to go into their workplace without getting sucked into someone else's personal life. in my experience, all of the intra-departmental relationships i've seen have had one person straight out of undergrad who coupled up within a month of arriving at grad school. maybe if people were older/more mature/not so quick to jump into "serious" work romances, it would be different. in general, i don't date grad students at all, even if they're in other fields or other schools. it's not a hard and fast rule (i did see someone who was a PhD student in a different field, but i wouldn't really call what we did "dating"), but i really value being in relationships with non-academics. i'm not from an ivy tower background and i really crave the ability to have deep, meaningful, intimate conversations and connections that aren't about work, books, papers, the stress of grad school, etc. i hate talking shop during my (rather fleeting) free time. i do enough of that when i'm actually working or hanging out with my grad school friends. right now i'm in an LTR with a non-academic and in addition to all the other awesome things about him, i like that he helps keep my world a little more broad and open. i know if i dated someone in my department that doing work or complaining about doing work would become my whole life.
  8. Comprehensive exam post-mortem?

    some people lose confidence through the process of comps, others gain it. depends on how you do on them. take solace in the fact that everyone usually sucks at one part of the grad school process. no one does great at everything, and comps are one of the least consequential things to do poorly on. on the job market, no one ever asks you how you did on your comps. they assume you passed and that's enough. even when people do well on them, no one knows other than the profs that examined them. but... your prof will probably tell you that your comps weren't very good, that there were huge gaps in your knowledge (or what you demonstrated to be your knowledge during the oral), that you should present yourself better (and not get angry or defensive when the ship is sinking), that you need to work on your comportment and recall of your field before you're ready to handle a job talk Q&A. that's all true, though, isn't it? i've known other grad students that passed their comps by the skin of their teeth, and their professors met with them afterwards and told them that they need to do better and will be more demanding of their dissertation prospectuses. so that's probably what's ahead of you. but if you can demonstrate in your prospectus that you really do know your stuff (and if you can handle the oral defense of the prospectus better than you did during the comps), then that will erase any bad taste the comps left in their mouths. you'll be fine. comps are not supposed to erode your confidence, but they often do. it's not unusual to feel this way after comps, but that's not their purpose. it sucks but you'll survive.
  9. I'm supposed to be celebrating, right?

    hmm... thesquirrel, i imagine your professor wants to talk to you about your conduct/attitude during the oral defense, and maybe even to (re)instill some sense of confidence in you, but not to harp on about your performance. you passed, right? if it was a problem, you wouldn't have passed. but getting angry at one of your questioners is a bad, bad way to behave under pressure. what happens when you get pressed on a question like that during a job interview? eventually, you'll need to learn how to deflect questions that you don't know the answer to in a way that doesn't seem defensive. the article that you hadn't read... had you not read it because it wasn't on your comps list, or had it been on your list but you never actually read it? because that, too, will make a big difference. reasonable profs (and i know not all of them are reasonable) will not expect you to know the argument for something you haven't read. if it had been on your list, "i can't remember" is always better than "i never read it," even if that's a lie. no one will think you're a bad teacher or a bad researcher because you didn't do well on your comps. they will wonder how well you actually know your field, and that's a legitimate question, but if your written work moving forward (i.e. your dissertation) demonstrates knowledge of your field, then that's fine. they will also wonder if you can handle the pressure of job talks, which is also a legitimate question. the line of questioning you think was vindictive or uncalled for (on war and politics) actually seems like a perfectly legitimate comps question to me. during moments of high stress, we read way too much into other people's words, tone, behaviour, etc. i bet you none of your profs was actually looking to make a fool out of you. but, in any case, it's over and you passed. you should look forward, not backward.
  10. Grad school ruins your eyes?

    i got reading glasses because of grad school. i've never had them before, and have near-perfect vision, with a slight astigmatism in one eye. but my eye doctor told me that as a "heavy user" of my eyes (reading 8-10 hours a day, every day), i should have some reading specs to help out. i only put them on when my eyes become tired and the page gets blurry, but i've definitely noticed some deterioration over the last 3 years. some disciplines are more reading-heavy than others, though. this won't happen to everyone.
  11. that sounds like drinking to cope, not drinking to socialize. different departments have different cultures over how much work can or can't be done. when i was in undergrad, i'd grab a pint at lunch with a friend and then we'd go to class at 2 pm. no biggie. now, in grad school, when i ask others about grabbing a pint at 6 pm with dinner, i'm told that they can't because they can't stop at just one drink and they have more work to do in the evening. two problems there... one, not being able to stop at one drink (but i think that's an american thing), and two, having more work to do at 8, 9, 10 pm. you will not go out every night while you're in grad school. you probably won't really go "out" once a week either. maybe you'd catch a movie a week or something, but you won't be hitting the club and getting hammered and recovering from your hangover on a weekly basis. and not because you'll be working from 10 pm to 2 am (hopefully not!), but because you can't afford to lose the next morning. you'll need that time to work. you will do some work every single day. i've seen people try to fight it ("i take saturdays off"), but eventually that goes away when the work piles up. your social life will reemerge when you're done your coursework and qualifying exams, though, so it's temporary.
  12. Taking an extra course for fun

    see if you can audit the class instead of taking it for a grade or a pass/fail. on a pass/fail basis, you still need to do the assignments, which can often be time consuming and right around the time of the semester where you don't have time (because everything is due at once). if you audit the class, then you get to show up and do as much or as little of the work as you like. in general, i'd say no to signing up for classes for fun because they have a lot of hidden un-fun work, but brewing or running or yoga don't really sound like they have a ton of thinking/reading/writing work to go along with them, so this is a special circumstance. if possible, though, wait until the second semester to take a class like this. don't overload yourself in the first semester in grad school because by the end of october you will feel overwhelmed. see how you do with grad-level courses first. they're a lot different from undergrad classes.
  13. Sh^t People Say About (History) Graduate School

    i just finished my third year and my mother is STILL surprised that i work during spring break. of course i work during spring break, that's when i catch up! my dad didn't finish high school or his GED and my mother never went to college, so they have no frame of reference for what i do. even when they worked (which they don't do anymore), my dad would skip off for hours to play golf (one of the perks for working for his own parents, i guess) and my mom only worked 20 hours a week. we have an extremely difficult time talking about my work so i've actually told them they can't talk to me about it anymore. they want to be supportive but they're the exact opposite. "oh my god, you have to read how many books? in how much time? how are you going to do that? i'd kill myself." "what do you mean you didn't go out on the weekend? how are you ever going to meet people?" "what, so the other students don't go out every weekend either? i thought that was just you. i don't believe that. they must be out having fun." me: "yeah, so, i talked to my advisor, and she wants one more draft, so it'll probably be done in a week or so." mom: "oh my god, this is the worst thing that could have happened. what are you going to do?!? oh fuck, this is awful. what is she, insane?" me: "calm the fuck down." mom: "yeah, ok. but really, that is terrible. what is wrong with her? why does she need another draft? i would just quit. i would kill myself." me: "yeah, let's not talk about this anymore." mom: "i'm just trying to help." me: "yeah, but you do the opposite of that."
  14. To Buy or To Borrow?

    man... some of the books that have been on my reading lists have either been over $150 or not available in the US, even online (the costa rican press doesn't seem to make it this far north). y'all will learn to love the ILL a little more, particularly when you're buying 40-45 books a semester just for classes and your stipend has disappeared. another added bonus for typed notes: those are keyword searchable, like the kindle. but they're more extensive than the notes you can take in a kindle. in seminars, when a prof asks about a book from 2 months ago, while your colleagues flip through handwritten notes or try to remember because they don't have that book with them, you can keyword search the document and have a specific answer right away. not that you always need to have an answer, or have it first, but when no one else can pull it, coming up with a precise response can kill one of those brutal moments of silence in a seminar.
  15. Fall 2013 Applicants?

    26 pages isn't that long. if most programs want a 20 page paper, cutting 6 is pretty reasonable. rather than cutting out entire paragraphs or sections, see if you can cut one sentence from each paragraph. rewrite/rephrase paragraphs to make your point in more economical language. it may sound tedious (and it is!) but if you can say something with 24 words, you can probably say it just as well with 12. one of my profs told us about a study done on the optimal length of a sentence. apparently, after 14 words, readers start losing the ability to grasp the meaning. so see where you can trim. eliminating passive voice in your writing is one great way to automatically make sentences shorter and more concise.