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On 10/16/2020 at 4:04 AM, Sleepless in skellefteå said:

I just read an article about Harvard's endowment and it got me thinking in regards to funding: ''Harvard University's endowment gained 7.3% in June, improving from the previous year's 6.5% return despite pandemic-fueled market volatility. /.../ Some economists had posited that Harvard's endowment could shrink in 2020, but markets resurgence through the summer saved the fund from a yearly loss''. The article goes on to list a number of schools that have also seen positive economic results. Still, so many schools are cancelling PhD admissions in order to focus on their current students. Is it a result of other corona-related costs not related to the endowment, or uncertainty with regards to the future? 

 

https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/harvard-university-endowment-gains-beats-rival-yale-coronavirus-volatility-narvekar-2020-9-1029632478#

And to add to this, at least on the undergraduate level, where much of the endowment is focused on, many assume that the cost of instruction is directly parallel to the cost of tuition—it is not.

I haven’t looked at the figures recently, but there is a differential of about $20,000 (that is to say, it costs about 20k more than the list price) last I looked several years ago.

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Just a reminder to everyone who is applying this year. You had a difficult first half of 2020. We, faculty, did too. Grad students did too (many lost summer stipends, many doing international res

Right now and through May, universities will be deciding on their budget for next year and how to cut it as EVERYONE is anticipating losses in staff, funding, and enrollment. Simultaneously, as there

I don't know if you're looking for the MA or the PhD, but do not under any circumstances pay for the PhD.  You WILL be valued less by the faculty (and fellowship and search committees down the road) t

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Hi all,

I’m applying this year to PhD programs. I've lurked on this board since 2017, when I was working on my MA applications (just finished my MA this summer). After years of commenting very (very) sparsely, I’m hoping to join the conversation in this annual thread because I’m in need of some extra, clear-eyed support. I’m hoping I gain some valuable piece of information that sets my application apart from the rest. And in turn, maybe I can offer advice that helps someone else.

I sent my last inquiry emails to professors this past week, and just had a good dinner of spaghetti squash and a homemade tomato sauce, so today was a good day to ‘throw my hat in the ring.’ This will be my second cycle applying to PhD programs after last year’s three rejections (Stanford, Wisconsin, Illinois) and two waitlist placements (Notre Dame and Loyola-Chicago). The DGS from one of the programs that rejected me sent a personalized rejection and offered to follow-up with a phone call (which I gladly took). I also met with one of my informal advisors who (without sugar-coating the advice) impressed on me the fine line between failure and success - especially in competitive graduate admissions. From these discussions and the feedback I received from my two waitlists, I decided to push on with one or two more cycles of applications.

This year, I’m applying to Illinois to study the social and cultural history of public health in the Midwest; Northwestern and Texas to study environmental history; Vanderbilt and Boston U to study political and religious history; and the University of Chicago to study the history of economic life.

One question: Is anyone else reading this applying after their first cycle? Let’s chat about this strange process we're in for.

I’d be more than happy to exchange writing samples or statements of purpose/personal statements with anyone applying this cycle. Just send me a message if you're interested. I’ll have my SOP drafts done by next weekend.

Another question: Did anyone else on here get accepted/decide to matriculate after years of applying? Did you apply to any of the same schools? Did your research focus change between the different application cycles? How did you stay focused and keep the demons at bay?

Much appreciated.

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9 hours ago, Strider_2931 said:

This year, I’m applying to Illinois to study the social and cultural history of public health in the Midwest; Northwestern and Texas to study environmental history; Vanderbilt and Boston U to study political and religious history; and the University of Chicago to study the history of economic life.

How would you explain to faculty members at each school your range of interests as an Americanist?

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On 10/25/2020 at 1:05 PM, Strider_2931 said:

 

This year, I’m applying to Illinois to study the social and cultural history of public health in the Midwest; Northwestern and Texas to study environmental history; Vanderbilt and Boston U to study political and religious history; and the University of Chicago to study the history of economic life.

 

I mean this to be a constructive question, but I'm also a little confused so maybe you can clarify -- why are you applying with four different potential projects?

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On 10/25/2020 at 6:02 AM, Sigaba said:

How would you explain to faculty members at each school your range of interests as an Americanist?

I would explain my interests thematically as cultural history. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to delve too much into theories of cultural history. I'm not even sure if the descriptor 'cultural historian' is still used on a day-to-day basis at the R1 level. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to developing the theoretical underpinnings of this interest in 'cultural history'. I wrote my MA thesis on the Social Gospel as an intellectual tradition grounded in American culture of the late 19th/early 20th cent. My thesis was a close reading of a prominent liberal Protestant minister's unpublished sermons on public health and the conservation movement in this period. I drew from environmental and public health historiography, as well as histories of the Social Gospel in the US. I argued that this minister's sermons show a more complex understanding of Progressive social and environmental reform compared to previous research based predominantly on published works.

My aim is to begin my SOPs by briefly discussing the sermons I studied as important historical documents and cultural artifacts. And to expand from there into discussing, for example: how it would be important to research the way missionaries exchanged public health information, and how that information was picked up domestically and used for what we would call secular public health purposes (at Illinois); or, how Social Gospel ideas about labor reform were refracted in overseas territories in the context of American imperialism (at Vanderbilt).    

 

13 hours ago, OHSP said:

I mean this to be a constructive question, but I'm also a little confused so maybe you can clarify -- why are you applying with four different potential projects?

I'm trying to use my thesis research into religious history as a springboard for the four projects. Last year, I applied emphasizing religious history, and it is my judgement that hurt rather than helped my applications. I do not want to be a religious historian, but maybe I came off that way. At the same time, I think that, given the exceptions, modern American environmental, political, and historians of capitalism, for the most part do not contextualize their histories vis-a-vis religion. I get why this is the case (for one, religious history is its own field), but I also believe it's a fair task to pursue contributions to these subfields from a perspective adjacent to religion. All of my projects connect to the history of the liberal Protestant/Social Gospel intellectual and cultural tradition in the US. This was the majority of my historiographical contribution in my master's thesis. I am going to try to do the tough work in my SOP to make sense out of where I have come from in terms of research interest and where I want to go in a doctoral program.

 

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40 minutes ago, Strider_2931 said:

I would explain my interests thematically as cultural history. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to delve too much into theories of cultural history. I'm not even sure if the descriptor 'cultural historian' is still used on a day-to-day basis at the R1 level. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to developing the theoretical underpinnings of this interest in 'cultural history'. I wrote my MA thesis on the Social Gospel as an intellectual tradition grounded in American culture of the late 19th/early 20th cent. My thesis was a close reading of a prominent liberal Protestant minister's unpublished sermons on public health and the conservation movement in this period. I drew from environmental and public health historiography, as well as histories of the Social Gospel in the US. I argued that this minister's sermons show a more complex understanding of Progressive social and environmental reform compared to previous research based predominantly on published works.

My aim is to begin my SOPs by briefly discussing the sermons I studied as important historical documents and cultural artifacts. And to expand from there into discussing, for example: how it would be important to research the way missionaries exchanged public health information, and how that information was picked up domestically and used for what we would call secular public health purposes (at Illinois); or, how Social Gospel ideas about labor reform were refracted in overseas territories in the context of American imperialism (at Vanderbilt).    

 

I'm trying to use my thesis research into religious history as a springboard for the four projects. Last year, I applied emphasizing religious history, and it is my judgement that hurt rather than helped my applications. I do not want to be a religious historian, but maybe I came off that way. At the same time, I think that, given the exceptions, modern American environmental, political, and historians of capitalism, for the most part do not contextualize their histories vis-a-vis religion. I get why this is the case (for one, religious history is its own field), but I also believe it's a fair task to pursue contributions to these subfields from a perspective adjacent to religion. All of my projects connect to the history of the liberal Protestant/Social Gospel intellectual and cultural tradition in the US. This was the majority of my historiographical contribution in my master's thesis. I am going to try to do the tough work in my SOP to make sense out of where I have come from in terms of research interest and where I want to go in a doctoral program.

 

It's still a little unclear to me why you would apply with four different projects (which will require four different SOPs). I would highly recommend working on one solid SOP that emphasizes your research questions--this is an opportunity to show profs that you can ask incisive and interesting questions. What are your research questions, out of interest? I don't think it's necessarily that important to "position yourself" -- for sure show that you are engaged with your field and you understand how your project relates to the concerns of the field, but the cultural/religious/economic/etc labels don't matter as much as your ability to show you have a well thought out project. From what you've written above it's not clear to me what you want to do in grad school for the next 5-7 years, so you want to avoid writing like this in your SOP. I'd advise beginning with the two-three pressing questions that are driving your project--and those should a) indicate to profs in your field that you know what's happening in current debates; b) indicate to profs in and beyond your field that you know what a research question looks like; c) be compelling and interesting (and you sort of need to think about how you are going to make your SOP questions more compelling and interesting than the questions that other applicants are going to pose). 

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Hi all, current ABD student at Penn State popping in. We just heard from our department head that we will be taking on new students, but that the university is shrinking our cohort size to about 5 per year. TBH, I came in with a cohort of 7, so our program has always been on the small side. All incoming students are guaranteed 5 years of funding. 

I also imagine preference will be given to people expressing interest in the dual-title PhD program (in WGSS, AfAm Studies, and Asian Studies), because that will help with funding. I'm dual in WGSS and History, happy to answer any questions about that. 

Also, the History department (not university-wide) has been wonderful during covid. All teaching duties were moved online, we were given a relief stipend in April, and we were just informed that all funding contracts will be extended one year. Obviously it sucks that a lot of timelines are being extended because research is delayed, but in the current climate I'm happy to have a stable trajectory for the next couple of years. 

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2 hours ago, Strider_2931 said:

I would explain my interests thematically as cultural history. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to delve too much into theories of cultural history. I'm not even sure if the descriptor 'cultural historian' is still used on a day-to-day basis at the R1 level. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to developing the theoretical underpinnings of this interest in 'cultural history'. I wrote my MA thesis on the Social Gospel as an intellectual tradition grounded in American culture of the late 19th/early 20th cent. My thesis was a close reading of a prominent liberal Protestant minister's unpublished sermons on public health and the conservation movement in this period. I drew from environmental and public health historiography, as well as histories of the Social Gospel in the US. I argued that this minister's sermons show a more complex understanding of Progressive social and environmental reform compared to previous research based predominantly on published works.

My aim is to begin my SOPs by briefly discussing the sermons I studied as important historical documents and cultural artifacts. And to expand from there into discussing, for example: how it would be important to research the way missionaries exchanged public health information, and how that information was picked up domestically and used for what we would call secular public health purposes (at Illinois); or, how Social Gospel ideas about labor reform were refracted in overseas territories in the context of American imperialism (at Vanderbilt).    

 

I'm trying to use my thesis research into religious history as a springboard for the four projects. Last year, I applied emphasizing religious history, and it is my judgement that hurt rather than helped my applications. I do not want to be a religious historian, but maybe I came off that way. At the same time, I think that, given the exceptions, modern American environmental, political, and historians of capitalism, for the most part do not contextualize their histories vis-a-vis religion. I get why this is the case (for one, religious history is its own field), but I also believe it's a fair task to pursue contributions to these subfields from a perspective adjacent to religion. All of my projects connect to the history of the liberal Protestant/Social Gospel intellectual and cultural tradition in the US. This was the majority of my historiographical contribution in my master's thesis. I am going to try to do the tough work in my SOP to make sense out of where I have come from in terms of research interest and where I want to go in a doctoral program.

 

I will admit, as someone currently working on revision after revision of my SOP, I cannot imagine writing three or four different SOPs in one application season (as in, for three or four entirely different topics, rather than working with one main project + set of research questions and revising each SOP to individualize to each school). 

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On 10/26/2020 at 9:59 PM, OHSP said:

It's still a little unclear to me why you would apply with four different projects (which will require four different SOPs). I would highly recommend working on one solid SOP that emphasizes your research questions--this is an opportunity to show profs that you can ask incisive and interesting questions. What are your research questions, out of interest? I don't think it's necessarily that important to "position yourself" -- for sure show that you are engaged with your field and you understand how your project relates to the concerns of the field, but the cultural/religious/economic/etc labels don't matter as much as your ability to show you have a well thought out project. From what you've written above it's not clear to me what you want to do in grad school for the next 5-7 years, so you want to avoid writing like this in your SOP. I'd advise beginning with the two-three pressing questions that are driving your project--

I'll gladly share a set of my research questions: 

How did US public health journals and missionary writings about public health over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century define and imagine the Midwest? How did these publications imagine the development of healthy populations in the Midwest compared to overseas territories, the West, and the South? In contrast, how did local sites in the Midwest consider their history, their place in the nation, and their future, in the development of their sanitation and public health programs?

Truth be told, I didn't make use of research questions in my final SOPs last application cycle. This year, one of my POIs is actually requiring students interested in working with them to list five research questions in an addendum to our applications. While necessary and helpful for any research project, I wonder about the scope necessary for an SOP. This has most certainly been discussed before, and I will do my own searching of previous threads (and my own notes from previous threads). But maybe my questions can serve as a starting point for a brief exchange about high-quality research questions.

On 10/27/2020 at 12:05 PM, underthewaves said:

I will admit, as someone currently working on revision after revision of my SOP, I cannot imagine writing three or four different SOPs in one application season (as in, for three or four entirely different topics, rather than working with one main project + set of research questions and revising each SOP to individualize to each school). 

I wish you good fortune in revising your SOP. If you would like to share drafts so we each can get another set of eyes on what we've written, please reach out!

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43 minutes ago, Strider_2931 said:

I wonder about the scope necessary for an SOP.

I think that among the challenges you face is that you'll be competing for an extraordinarily limited number of positions with applicants who have fine tuned their visions of their personal professional development since they were in high school.

As things stand, it is very difficult for me understand how your research will move the needle in broader historiographical debates among Americanists who specialize in the time periods you identify. How will a study of the discourse over public health at the transnational, national and local levels help us to understand better how the midwest became the midwest?

In the grand scheme of things, are you suggesting that "section" still mattered as a category of historical analysis into the early twentieth century more/less than historians have argued recently? Are you seeking to point out that historians of the progressive era have overlooked key sources of the movement? Are you suggesting that the discourse over public health in the midwest is evidence of a project to "civilize" the interior of America much the same as missionaries sought to "civilize" a growing American empire? 

From my perspective, I think that readers of your SOP would benefit if you were to define your terms and boundaries more precisely. (I most strongly suggest that you reconsider how many things you seek to compare to each other. For now, two or three are plenty. Taking a whack at multiple regions may be a project better served by your third or fourth book.)

I think that you should not refer to cultural history until you have a better sense of what is cultural history and why it remains both relevant to current professional practices but also dangerous. 

I very respectfully disagree with @OHSP. I think that you should have a serviceable definition of yourself as an Americanist, and that definition should tie in neatly (if also provisionally) with your research interests and career goals. (Think in terms of what undergraduate and graduate courses you would teach.) This POV is based upon my blind guess that this will go down as the most competitive application season in decades -- a "buyers' market" in which departments will be able to set the bar almost as high as they like.

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14 hours ago, Strider_2931 said:

But maybe my questions can serve as a starting point for a brief exchange about high-quality research questions.

 

 

The quality of a research question depends on how well you motivate it historiographically. So, here's a question you'll get a lot in grad school: why should anyone care about how public health discourse represented the Midwest?

Edited by AfricanusCrowther
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25 minutes ago, AfricanusCrowther said:

The quality of a research question depends on how well you motivate it historiographically. So, here's a question you'll get a lot in grad school: why should anyone care about how public health discourse represented the Midwest?

"Why should trees die?" a professor often asked.

Edited by Sigaba
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On 10/29/2020 at 3:27 PM, Sigaba said:

I very respectfully disagree with @OHSP. I think that you should have a serviceable definition of yourself as an Americanist, and that definition should tie in neatly (if also provisionally) with your research interests and career goals. 

I should clarify! Your regional position matters (when you apply). Departments still group applications into regional categories, for one. I was responding to your concern about the "type" of historian you would be -- "the cultural/religious/economic/etc labels don't matter as much as your ability to show you have a well thought out project". I.e. don't spend too much energy trying to work out if you're a cultural historian. 

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On 10/28/2020 at 9:02 PM, Strider_2931 said:

How did US public health journals and missionary writings about public health over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century define and imagine the Midwest? How did these publications imagine the development of healthy populations in the Midwest compared to overseas territories, the West, and the South? In contrast, how did local sites in the Midwest consider their history, their place in the nation, and their future, in the development of their sanitation and public health programs?

Have you considered applying to HSTM (History of Science, Technology, and Medicine) programs? I can think of advising combos at Princeton that might be cool for your project.

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On 10/28/2020 at 9:02 PM, Strider_2931 said:

How did US public health journals and missionary writings about public health over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth century define and imagine the Midwest? How did these publications imagine the development of healthy populations in the Midwest compared to overseas territories, the West, and the South? In contrast, how did local sites in the Midwest consider their history, their place in the nation, and their future, in the development of their sanitation and public health programs?

You've gotten a lot of good advice and questions here, but to jump in: I think you may be missing a very valuable opportunity to talk about race here. To my ear, "development of healthy populations" strongly connotes either civilizing mission (as Sigaba already suggested), or defining some kind of healthy white heartland as a counterweight to the "sick," diseased, nonwhite South (and new sites of American imperialism, like the Philippines).

My own program is only accepting students for 2021-22 who work on race in some capacity, and I suspect others will follow, either explicitly or not. If you want to make your work seem relevant, urgent, and worth funding, I would find a way to ensure that it speaks to this particular moment—in which a national conversation about racial justice and a massive public health crisis have become entangled (and to say nothing of the ways in which current election discourse is rife with depictions of a white American heartland....)

On a slightly more nitpicky note, the actors in your research questions are abstract entities: journals, writings, publications, sites. Give us actual people doing actual things: doctors, sanitarians, nurses, social workers, missionaries, and so on.

 

Edited by gsc
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@Strider_2931 

Both @HardyBoy and @gsc are suggesting what may be turns away from your ideas. Yet, you may have an opportunity to position your research as exceptionally relevant to understanding the background of contemporaneous debates over public health (COVID-19), women's health (sexual violence against women), climate science, and medical sciences.

My exposure to the works of social historians studying modern Germany have made me very skeptical of teleological approaches to the past. And I don't believe that history has "lessons." However, as the profession remains plagued by questions about relevance, you could play a role in helping to understand how the midwest got to where it is now on issues related to health and science generally.

Just $0.02 from a person who has to wait an extra hour this morning before drinking coffee.

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Hello everyone! I've been lurking the forums for some time now and finally decided to take the plunge! If anyone thinks that I am revealing too much information about myself, please let me know and I will make deletions.

Basic Information: I'm about to graduate with a dual degree in History and a non-European language from UC Berkeley. My overall GPA is 3.694, my History GPA is 3.85, and my other major GPA is 3.88. I scored 170 on the verbal and 5.5 on the analytic writing section of the GRE. I'm a holder of advanced certifications for the languages of the countries in which I hope to specialize. If it matters to anyone, I am a naturalized US citizen from a severely underrepresented minority population. My points of concern here are my overall GPA, the fact that I only got a 3.0 during my semester in one of my countries (I was late to class all the time), and the fact that I've taken only one class in that country's language at my school (I got a B in it because I was late to class and on assignments). I have no idea how this will come across to professors who are evaluating my application. 

Schools: I am applying to ten History PhD programs, including UT Austin and UChicago. For almost every single school, I identified two faculty with whom I'd like to work, each of whom specializes in one of my two countries, two additional faculty in History whose thematic interests overlap with mine, at least two faculty outside the History Department with whom I might be able to work, libraries and library collections (should I name specific digital collections in my SoP or can I just say "the relevant digital collections?") that contain materials relevant to my proposed project, as well as research centers and institutes that cater to my fields. I've also reached out to potential advisors at these schools, and I actually reached out to advisors at my top choice at the beginning of this year.

Languages: Research fluency in three non-European languages and intermediate knowledge of one more. I know some French and Russian as well, which my transcripts attest to, but I'm not sure whether it would be a good idea to list them on my applications. At present, only the non-European languages are listed, with the sole exception of the application form for one school.

Research Experience etc.: I've participated in an undergrad research conference with a paper written using non-English primary sources. My BA thesis is a close study of the principal works of two nineteenth century thinkers from my regions. My secondary source engagement in that paper is relatively weak - I have no historiographical survey section, and I leave the few interventions that I make until the conclusion. On the other hand, I translated and quoted numerous passages from the works I read and went to great pains to put the two thinkers in conversation. My intention was to make a preliminary attempt at investigating the manner in which these two regions were assimilated into the Western world order in the nineteenth century. I don't think the result is particularly insightful, which concerns me. Other than that, I worked as a research assistant for a professor in my department for a year, which entailed using materials in one of my languages and learning the basics of paleography. I spent four months studying abroad in one of my countries, and besides that have spent nine additional months in that same country. I've also visited numerous libraries and archives there, including the largest state-run archive. This information is listed in my SoP.

SoP, Research Plans:  My countries were both assimilated into the Western world order in the nineteenth century, but one later did well and the other did not. Both became modern, by any definition of the term, but only one prospered in the process. Scholarship on modernity in these countries approaches it as a perpetually mobile cultural signifier. While modernity is in one sense specific to time and place, the ubiquity of such principles as those of popular sovereignty and the separation of Church and State suggests that it also possesses a universal content consisting of a set of novel attitudes to individuals, populations, states, and belief. I'd like to do an intellectual history exploring the assimilation into modernity of my two countries in this latter sense, with potential topics including theories of sovereignty, their influence on historiography, and the relationship between religion and state. I might also want to tie these into sociopolitical conflict in my countries. In my SoP, I identify four figures, two from opposing sides of the debates from each of my countries, whose work I could use to investigate the question of theories of sovereignty. I name one relevant book by each, give my own translation of the title of the book, and give its original language title in parentheses. I also list four archives that likely contain pertinent material unavailable in the United States. 

Writing Sample: I have no idea how to edit my writing sample to make it competitive. I kept most of the introduction, smoothed out the language, corrected errors of spelling and grammar wherever I found them, and focused on showcasing the parts of my thesis where I either translate from primary sources or make arguments and/or comparisons about them, but I don't know whether or not I did all that well enough.

 

Would anyone happen to have any tips, hints, or tricks, thoughts, or advice? I'm getting help and support from the people around me, but I have no real conception of what a competitive application looks like or of what important information they might not be telling me. 

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7 hours ago, gsc said:

You've gotten a lot of good advice and questions here, but to jump in: I think you may be missing a very valuable opportunity to talk about race here.

FWIW, the only subfield I'm still seeing TT jobs listed in this year is either American History with a specialization in the African-American experience or African Diaspora. 

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I've seen conflicting advice about this-- so throwing it over here for some additional insight: Would someone with a JD-PhD have a significant hiring advantage in academia (history/political science/law school -- though, i get it, the market is dismal) over someone with just a PhD; or put differently, would it be worth getting the JD along with the PhD (time, cost etc.) if the hope was to teach in academia?  [interested in early US territorial development/conlaw/administrative law in re: natural resource/land appropriation]

--BoNuS QuEsTiOn: would applying to a joint degree JD-PhD program have the potential to hurt an application in an "all or nothing" type of way (if someone were to only get into the PhD program but the JD doesn't want them, the PhD committee consequently decides not to offer admission)? [if helpful, thinking Yale, Stanford, Penn]

 

Thanks for any advice--y'all are the best.

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11 hours ago, thisisnew said:

Would someone with a JD-PhD have a significant hiring advantage in academia (history/political science/law school -- though, i get it, the market is dismal) over someone with just a PhD; or put differently, would it be worth getting the JD along with the PhD (time, cost etc.) if the hope was to teach in academia? 

No.

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14 hours ago, thisisnew said:

I've seen conflicting advice about this-- so throwing it over here for some additional insight: Would someone with a JD-PhD have a significant hiring advantage in academia (history/political science/law school -- though, i get it, the market is dismal) over someone with just a PhD; or put differently, would it be worth getting the JD along with the PhD (time, cost etc.) if the hope was to teach in academia?  [interested in early US territorial development/conlaw/administrative law in re: natural resource/land appropriation?

You should also pose this question to people who understand the law faculty job market, which is very different from that of history. And obviously a JD opens up job opportunities beyond academia.

Edited by AfricanusCrowther
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14 hours ago, thisisnew said:

I've seen conflicting advice about this-- so throwing it over here for some additional insight: Would someone with a JD-PhD have a significant hiring advantage in academia (history/political science/law school -- though, i get it, the market is dismal) over someone with just a PhD; or put differently, would it be worth getting the JD along with the PhD (time, cost etc.) if the hope was to teach in academia?  [interested in early US territorial development/conlaw/administrative law in re: natural resource/land appropriation]

--BoNuS QuEsTiOn: would applying to a joint degree JD-PhD program have the potential to hurt an application in an "all or nothing" type of way (if someone were to only get into the PhD program but the JD doesn't want them, the PhD committee consequently decides not to offer admission)? [if helpful, thinking Yale, Stanford, Penn]

 

Thanks for any advice--y'all are the best.

To clarify: is the PhD also in law (only a handful of schools have a PhD in law) or in a separate topic? 
 

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On 11/1/2020 at 6:05 PM, Cal2020 said:

SoP, Research Plans:  My countries were both assimilated into the Western world order in the nineteenth century, but one later did well and the other did not. Both became modern, by any definition of the term, but only one prospered in the process. Scholarship on modernity in these countries approaches it as a perpetually mobile cultural signifier. While modernity is in one sense specific to time and place, the ubiquity of such principles as those of popular sovereignty and the separation of Church and State suggests that it also possesses a universal content consisting of a set of novel attitudes to individuals, populations, states, and belief. I'd like to do an intellectual history exploring the assimilation into modernity of my two countries in this latter sense, with potential topics including theories of sovereignty, their influence on historiography, and the relationship between religion and state. I might also want to tie these into sociopolitical conflict in my countries. In my SoP, I identify four figures, two from opposing sides of the debates from each of my countries, whose work I could use to investigate the question of theories of sovereignty. I name one relevant book by each, give my own translation of the title of the book, and give its original language title in parentheses. I also list four archives that likely contain pertinent material unavailable in the United States. 

AdComms are usually diverse in terms of fields so, even though I probably do not share your field, I can say this with confidence: the wording, to me, is off not in terms of grammar but in terms of how you portray the idea of modernity historically. As I would say to my graduate students, countries are not assimilated into nothing. It's not that there is a "Western world order" and countries are either "in" or "out" depending on how well they do (per your words). Further, the assumption that "Western world order" = modernity apparently underpins your project without a clear layout of how these two are connected and/or why this assumption is valid. For instance, I can contest your claim that the separation of religious institutions and state necessarily signify a valid form of assessing modernity in any country (here is not the place to do that). 

I would urge you to de-escalate the grandiose claims and replace them with clear arguments you will be able to defend in a project. For example: "In X country, the governing elites of the early 19th century assumed that Western values such as the separation of church and state would facilitate the modernization of the infrastructure network, education, and economic institutions. Yet, not all political authorities agreed on Y. For instance, [person] argued..." and so on. Like this, you are not making claims that you cannot defend in a SOP (maybe in your dissertation) nor that anyone would be expecting in a SOP. 

This brings me to my second point. The SOP is not a prospectus. You need to show that you are here to learn, that in the first two years that you take coursework, you will collaborate in conversations, you will incorporate comments, and you will expand your academic horizon. In other words, you will not be more likely admitted because you can pinpoint archives than if you show you can ask interesting, doable, historical questions.

 

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