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Rutgers vs UCLA, indigenous Latin American History


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I've narrowed down my decision to Rutgers vs UCLA, which is becoming one of the most difficult decisions of my life, especially after attending Rutgers' visit day recently (I'm currently an MA student at UCLA). Rutgers is home to a historian who is not only a leading expert in a Mexican indigenous language that I study, she is also an expert on this one particular obscure text that I am currently researching, and the broader genre that it's a part of. I'm 99% sure it will be part of my dissertation research, since I'm already doing my MA thesis on it, and I've spent countless hours on it. I was able to geek out with her over all kinds of little linguistic details over the visit day, which was so much fun! I've never been able to do that with anybody else, since we're one of like, maybe 6 people in the world that have looked at that text in depth. How I would love to do that on a regular basis! UCLA, however, is home to another historian who is not as skilled in that language, but is still very good with it (way better than me, certainly!), and is a huge figure in Mexican indigenous studies, though I doubt he'll have as much time to devote to me as the Rutgers prof, as even he himself admitted (though I should point out that he has still made every effort to devote as much time as possible to me during my time as an MA student at UCLA, he's a great guy). UCLA has many other professors too that are involved with Latin America, and they're hiring a new prof who specializes in Mexican indigenous history, with a 20th century focus. On the other hand, Rutgers is part of a consortium with the local Ivies that would allow me to take courses there and meet with other Latin Americanists. I know Columbia has one of the greats in my little sub-field. And the Rutgers professor is also just a little bit more chummy and friendly with me on a personal level (I met her family on visit day), and she was like that even before I applied to Rutgers, I've been in contact with her for a year or so and visited her before.


Still, I have had other people tell me that I have a fantastic, enviable relationship with the UCLA prof; one fellow grad student confessed that he was jealous of how much the UCLA prof has taken a liking to me. It took me a long time earn his respect like that, and I feel I might be throwing it away by going to Rutgers. He recently said that he would allow me to contribute to a translation project with two other leading experts who will be visiting UCLA just to work on it, which shows he respects my abilities a great deal. That could possibly open doors for me, though I don't know how much they'll let me be involved with the project. Still, that won't be my dissertation, and the Rutgers prof could better help me to translate the text that I will study for my dissertation.


The Rutgers professor told me that she would still be able to correspond with me and help me on my diss. project, although nowhere near as much as if I were to attend Rutgers. So the UCLA prof thinks I should just stay at UCLA and correspond with the POI at Rutgers, but I feel that there's no way of telling how much and often she will be able to help me. On the personal level, my family lives in San Diego, but my fiancée will be finishing grad school herself soon, and most of the jobs in her field are on the east coast. The weather in LA is way better, yeah, but LA kinda scares me, to be honest, and I'm a little tired of Southern California after living here in my life. New Brunswick seems like an extremely dull place, but it's close and connected to lots of interesting places that would give me a taste of something very different.


It boils down to higher-ranking university (UCLA) with more professors in closely related fields vs a university that isn't too bad ranking wise (Rutgers history is #20) that has THE leading expert in the very specific niche of indigenous historical literature I want to specialize in, and is in a consortium with Ivies. Oh yeah, money-wise, Rutgers is offering me 3k more per year, though I'm a candidate for a fellowship at UCLA that would make my funding there equal to what Rutgers is offering, at least for 2 years. The bad news: they won't decide who wins the fellowship until the decision deadline, April 15th. For the record, most in my field have been telling me to choose Rutgers, on account of the prof there being the best tutor in that indigenous language that I could have. But becoming a great, employable historian takes more than just language skills. 


Please help! I'd appreciate any input. 


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If I were you, I'd go to Rutgers. You already have firm relationships established at UCLA, so going to Rutgers would give you the opportunity to broaden your network (plus you'll also be close to New York and the universities there, too) and to develop a stronger connection to someone who is the top expert in your field. Just my two cents, for whatever that's worth! 

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16 hours ago, Ahtlatl said:

Still, I have had other people tell me that I have a fantastic, enviable relationship with the UCLA prof; one fellow grad student confessed that he was jealous of how much the UCLA prof has taken a liking to me. It took me a long time earn his respect like that, and I feel I might be throwing it away by going to Rutgers.

Rutgers, hands down. If the UCLA prof would seriously throw away a relationship that you've built because you decide to expand your network by attending Rutgers for your PhD, then they're being ridiculous and showing their own pettiness. You have to do what is best for you in terms of your career and that points to Rutgers. FWIW, I did my MA and PhD at two different departments, in part because the PhD program offered me the chance to work with THE person to work with for my interests. I don't regret that, ever. My advisor helped me become the scholar that I am and, when I've needed them, I've been able to go back to my MA advisor for advice, feedback, etc.

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How are each professor's placement rates in particular? If the Rutgers' one's placement is better than, equal to, or close to equal to the UCLA guy's, I would go there. If the UCLA one's placement is way better...then yes, I'd probably choose UCLA.

As to your other concern, has the UCLA one said anything in particular that makes you think he'd stop helping you if you chose to expand your network? It's nice that he wants you to choose UCLA! But that doesn't count. As long as he still supports you, even if he is involved less closely from across the country than he would be if you were his advisee, that's fine. You don't need to be "loyal" to him just because you already got your master's there—and in fact, there's a strong argument that switching would contribute to your intellectual development just because it gives you a different group of people to think with. Most academics really do understand that, so as long as you don't have evidence to the contrary, I think you'll be fine choosing the other. Plus, I do think vibing well with your main advisor—both in terms of intellect and personality—is worth a lot. 

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