Wednesday, January 23, 2019

What is #gradschoolguru

I am starting a new series of blog posts under the label #gradschoolguru. These posts will provide information based on my experiences (and those of people around me) to help graduate students navigate the precarious position in which academia has placed us. Like with breadmaking and the other endeavors I've discussed on this blog, I am not some kind of an expert on graduate school (for that you would need to turn to someone like Dr. Joan Bolker or Dr. Karen Kelsky). However, I have made a lot of mistakes (and learned from them), so I would like to share my experiences with others who can learn from my mistakes (and occasional victories) as well.

I have been extremely quiet on this blog for a while. My life has changed in so many ways since I started writing back in my senior year of college. I changed departments, disciplines, marital status, hair style, all sorts of things. There are a few things that haven't changed: (1) I still love to bake, (2) I'm still in academia (studying ancient philosophy), and (3) I want to share things I've learned about baking and academia with those who are interested.

In that vein, I am starting a new series of blog posts under the label #gradschoolguru. When I entered graduate school, although I did not know it, I was bound to fail. I could write graduate level papers and I conducted research that interested my professors, but I could not manage my time, I was in a very bad place mentally, and I had all sorts of misconceived notions about what it means to succeed and what it meant to be an academic. I got lucky-- many people intervened in my inevitable downward spiral and helped me claw my way toward becoming a successful graduate student.

Unfortunately, not every grad student will get as lucky as I have. Not every grad student has mentors that will believe in them and encourage them (even with they screw up). Not every grad student will have friends outside their department who will direct them to other resources on campus. And not every grad student will have the amazing campus resources that I have available. However, I can tell you about my experiences, how I changed my trajectory, and provide some advice that helped me along the way.

I'm labeling these posts #gradschoolguru. I came up with the name because of the alliteration (tacky, I know, but true). However, I think that the title works really well. The term "guru" originally came from the Sanskrit word for "heavy" or "grave" (from the same Indo-European root as the Latin "gravis") ("guru" OED). It has come to mean "expert" or "authority" in English. In religious traditions like Hinduism and Buddhism, it refers to a spiritual teacher. I want to inflect a little of these meanings. Graduate school is something that requires expertise, but it also requires a sort of spiritual (in the broadest sense of this term) fortitude to make it through. In these blog posts, I will do my best to impart both practical advice and some spiritual (in the broad sense) wisdom that I have gained.

And, just for the sake of old times, here is a picture of the ciabatta that I baked earlier this week:
Ciabatta with 30% Whole Wheat Flour, January 2019

Works Cited
"guru." Oxford Dictionary of English. Ed. Stevenson, Angus. : Oxford University Press, January 01, 2010. Oxford Reference. Date Accessed 23 Jan. 2019

Monday, February 1, 2016

Changing of the Winds

I haven't posted since before the summer started. It's been a long time and there have been a number of changes in my life over the past few months. A massive one is that I've changed disciplines from classics to philosophy, taking and MA in classics and essentially starting over from square one on the way to getting a philosophy degree.

This was a particularly difficult decision. There were many different considerations on either side of the question. I will not go over them here. The main thing, is that I wanted to teach the actual philosophy in Plato, rather than only getting to teach the Apology or the Symposium as a second year Greek text. With the ever shrinking classics departments, very few positions exist for ancient philosophers and many of those have gone, in recent years, to people who work on ancient science.

I'll have some updates on my adventures in the new department and working as a research assistant for one of the big deal professors in my department. Stay tuned.

And the best part is, I just got an email that my MA diploma is ready for pickup!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Summer Funding

As I mentioned yesterday, I'm starting a series of posts based on the survival skills that I've learned in graduate school so far. Today I'm going to introduce one secret about graduate school that I wish I had learned: even if you think you have summer funding, you always need to be looking for more summer funding.

For background, last year, I wasn't eligible for summer teaching because I was on a fellowship during the year. So, I received a fellowship during the summer from my department, and I applied for a fellowship from an external source which I was fortunate enough to receive. As such, I was able to travel to Greece for the first time and it was an absolutely amazing summer.

This year, I have been TAing. I planned to stay here at my apartment for the summer so I would have access to the university library while Egnatius and I were studying for our various comprehensive exams. I was told that there was usually enough summer teaching to go around. Unfortunately, it does not look like that is going to be the case this year (although it is difficult to tell). As such, I'm kind of stuck. I applied for two other fellowships as a backup plan-- one was denied because I was not ABD (a stipulation I did not notice on the website) and the other was denied because it was the external fellowship I received last year and they rarely grant the fellowship multiple years in a row in order to spread out the funding. While waiting around to hear about those fellowships, I lingered hoping that one of them or TAing would come through. Afterward, a lot of grants and fellowships I found subsequently had deadlines that had already passed. At the moment I'm stuck with applying for two highly prestigious research fellowships that I'm unlikely to get due to the extremely stiff competition (especially of people who are further along in their PhD programs) and office jobs on campus, which are definitely not my first choice.

An even less appealing option would be to sublet my apartment and move home. Moving home might actually be nice-- I would at least have family, kitties, a dishwasher, and air conditioning (none of which are part of my apartment in grad school). Subletting, however, is a massive nightmare. I sublet last year and it was this horrible game of trying to hook someone who was going to stay for long enough in the apartment to cover my rent while I was gone. We're not allowed to rent our apartments for any more than we're paying for them, which makes it difficult, especially because the rent increases at the beginning of every July so you have to work out some detailed math to explain to the person renting. Moreover, the renter is responsible for any damage that the person subletting might inflict and the people who run campus housing won't help with disputes but they do insist on approving the person subletting and forcing everyone to go through a massive paperwork process.

So here is my advice: the second the summer is over, start looking for funding for the following summer. Some of the more prestigious and desirable fellowships have deadlines in October or November, so it's important to hunt those down. Even more importantly, keep continually searching for alternative possibilities. Bizarre things are constantly popping up all over the place, you just have to find them.

Good luck!

For those of you who are, like me, in the humanities, here are some possible summer funding links (all of these have passed as I post this, but they will be around next year):

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Survive in Graduate School: Starting with a Joke

I have now spent two long but great years in graduate school. I have learned a ton of information in my classes. But I've also learned a lot about how to survive the process of graduate school itself. I'm going to write a series of blog posts as I go through graduate school with the hope of helping anyone out there survive the process.

I thought, however, instead of starting with advice, I would start this series with a joke. Two friends of mine (also graduate students) showed me the FAQ: The Snake Fight Portion of Your Thesis Defense. Seriously, this is a great parody. Since I'm going to have to convene an orals board for my masters thesis defense this summer, I thought that this was the perfect thing to post.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Revise and Resubmit

I have not yet even sent anything in for publication. I do, however, hope to do so by the end of this year. One of the professors I became friends with this summer told me to read this: I highly recommend it. I'm hoping it will help when I get excoriated after I send in my piece on Homer (because I know it's coming).

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Homemade Vegitable Stock

Vegetable Refuse (top left), Vegetable Stock (bottom left), Chicken Marsala (right)
You can see that I took this picture myself (without help from the wonderful Servia who has a much better eye and camera than I do).

This post could also be entitled Graduate School Soup or How Not To Waste Your Vegetables.

Not wasting food is something that is generally important to me. But I'm just one person and there are a lot of things that I have to buy in greater bulk than I can eat it (especially because, one of the nice things about graduate school, is that most events have lots of food). So, how does one solve this problem? I find that vegetables are especially tricky because they go bad so fast.

I found my inspiration for making this vegetable broth from Oh My Veggie and Poor Girl Eats Well.

Freezer Bag Vegetable Stock
  • In the weeks before you make the soup, keep a large plastic ziplock in your freezer. When you have vegetable scraps put them in there.  
  • Please note: you want your vegetables scraps to be edible (i.e. not rotting and washed), and to not include things in the cabbage family which will make your broth very bitter.  You can put in things like herbs, but they will change the flavor of your broth, so keep that in mind. I suggest things like green onion ends, carrots that have dried out, etc.
  • You want to make your stock when  you have about 12 cups of vegetables in the freezer.
  • On the day you make your soup, put two tablespoons of olive oil into a broth pot and heat on medium heat.
  • Chop about half a sweet onion, and sautee it in the bottom of the broth pot.
  • When the onion is aromatic and soft, add the 12 cups of vegetables and 12 cups of water.
  • I then simmered the broth for about 3 hours until it became medium brown and stock-like.
  • If you want to make broth, you can season your stock now with salt, pepper, and whatever other herbs you like. However, you don't need to season it if you want stock.
  • When the stock is done, strain it into a bowl. 
  • Ta da! You have your very own stock.
I made a wonderful mushroom risotto with my stock. According to Egnatius, it was the best risotto I've ever made (although part of that may have been that we were gifted some wonderful shitake mushrooms). We ate it so fast that I didn't even take a picture.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Random and Fascinating Things on the Internet

As I'm sure everyone knows by now, I am a devotee of audio books, and especially of Audible. As I was browsing through Audible today looking for my monthly book (I picked Peter Brown's Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD because I'm studying for my Roman History comprehensive and one of the writers is a Late Antique scholar). However, while I was there, I found some other interesting things.

I don't know if I've mentioned Charleton Griffen before; he is one of the narrators that reads a lot of the classics including the Iliad and the Odyssey as well as Livy, Tacitus, and many others. While his readings are conveniently unabridged and great for studying for my history of literature exam, unfortunately I am not the biggest fan of his voice. He read slowly and has an accent I'm not keen on. However, I noticed when I was there that Charleton Griffen also did the reading of the 9-11 Commission. Interestingly, when I looked at that, I realized that not the commission itself, but the audio recordings of the transcripts of the interviews are actually free for all Audible members, which I think is pretty cool.

On a totally separate side note, I have recently become addicted to the History of Philosophy without Any Gaps.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Notes from My First Year as a PhD

The year isn't over yet, but I'm closing in on the finish line. It's been a long but I have really enjoyed (at least parts of) it. I've learned more than I thought possible. Most of it is academic, but I thought that I would share the nonacademic bits.

My first installment will be on recipes-- I've learned a lot about how  to preserve veggies before they go bad.  It should be debuting when I get back from this conference.