Category Archives: Community

TOMORROW! Queer Encoding: Encoding Diverse Identities

When: Friday, April 28 at 10:30 AM – 5.00 PM
Location: NYU Center for the Humanities, 20 Cooper Square, Fifth Floor
More info & RSVP

Come and hear leading practitioners in the field talk about how we might work creatively with textual mark-up languages to be more inclusive, and see strategies in action in the Project Hack.

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Keynote speakers:

Julia Flanders (Digital Scholarship Group, Northeastern University), ‘Encoding Identity’

Marcus Bingenheimer, (Department of Religion, Temple University), ‘Using TEI to Encode the History of Chinese Buddhism’

Project Hack:
Katherine Briant and Stephen Powell (Fordham University, MA Center for Medieval Studies), Queerness of Space Time and Text in the Independent Crusaders Mapping Project

Sohini Chattopadhyay and Benjamin Hiebert (Columbia University), Queer Encoding Challenges in The Making and Knowing Project (http://www.makingandknowing.org/)

Cherrie Kwok and Nicole Cote (New York University), Queer Encoding and Identity Formation in the Nineteenth-Century Manuscript Diary

Moderators: Marion Thain (New York University) and Peter Logan (Temple University)

Co-Sponsors: NYU Digital Humanities; Digital Scholarship Center, Temple University; Fordham Digital Humanities Group, and Office of Research.

More info & RSVP

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Channeling Our Creative Powers

Malkah Bressler is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Fordham University and a participant in the “Living Humanities” PhD in the 21st Century” Project. She participated in the MLA’s 2015-2016 inaugural Connected Academics Proseminar. The following post is a reflection on the planning theme of the fifth meeting of the project, “Mentor the Whole Person: Career-Wise Counsel, Promising Partnerships. For a fuller overview of the meeting, see the companion post by Samantha Sabalis.

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When I was writing my BA thesis, I told my advisor that I was considering a PhD in English Literature. Without missing a beat, Lisa said “well, you certainly have the creativity.” It struck me as odd that my advisor valued creativity first before intellectual engagement and writing acumen. Creativity appeared to belong to the realm of creative writing and poetry and not to the analysis of books and poems. As I pursued my graduate education, however, both my MA and doctoral studies have revealed that Lisa is right; it is our uniqueness of thought and our ability to connect disparate texts and theories that attracts us to the academic life. As I write my dissertation, it is those moments when I “realize” something, when I make a connection, that fill me with a rush of joyful exuberance.

That “spark” of realization is, I think, the major impetus that propels us to dedicated six to ten years of our lives to the study of the humanities. The creativity we enjoy even extends to our teaching practice, crafting an argument, and creating elegant prose. Creativity is at the heart of everything we do except for one, very important factor of the graduate education: the inescapable job search. Why does our profession, at the moment when a student is deemed ready for the degree, contract and direct that student to the most expected and uncreative outcome?

Although it has never been the case that all people with PhDs assume a professorship, the narrative that doctoral candidates apply for and enter in to tenure track jobs has been ingrained into the collective psyche of the academy as well as that of non-academics. Anne Krook rightly observes that the more time a student has spent in graduate school, the more fixed this outcome appears. Isn’t it strange? The more a student hones her ability to think creatively, the more she cleaves to a specific and expected path.

These days, we have realized that not every graduate student will or wants to become a professor, and we are developing methods to help graduate students find meaningful professions. Krook and many others have offered useful tasks that students, faculties, departments, and graduate schools can do to refocus their vision of post-graduate life. Suggestions include inviting those who have left academia to talk about their jobs, educating graduate students on the current state of the academic job market, offering graduate students the opportunity to conduct projects and internships that will build new skills, and of course, changing the mindset of students and faculty who are not wholly in favor of these new measures. As my colleague Samantha Sabalis mentions in her companion blog piece, several graduate departments at Fordham have already implemented programs and have created resources to help graduate students. At both the micro and the macro levels, there is a collective effort.

But I think we are missing the linchpin to this entire issue: although all of these fixes help, the only way to ensure lasting success is for us to constantly apply our creativity. As Katina Rogers argues “I think that the discipline of the humanities should be disentangled—or, unbound—from the rigid academic pathway leading to the single goal of the tenure track job.” The “unboundedness” that Rogers identifies is an invitation for us to take our creative powers and use them to help graduate students discover various professions and the manifold ways in which a student can find meaningful employment.

Allow me to offer an example.

Not all graduate students want to teach; many value the doctoral education for the training in writing and researching. Obviously, these students need something different than exposure to non-academic teaching opportunities, but students are easily discouraged by not knowing how to begin. I think that this moment is an invitation to think creatively. A student might start by side-stepping the issue. For example, the student might ask herself “what topics do I enjoy researching?” When I asked myself this question, I realized that I enjoy writing about the connections between the environment and culture, and then I conducted a Google search for like-minded publications and organizations.

As I push further with this notion of creativity, I am reminded that Krook suggests that students write companion pieces to their dissertation chapters that are tailored for a non-academic audience. The goal is for students to demonstrate their ability to write in both academic and non-academic prose. But how do graduate students ensure that potential employers become aware of their abilities? Most graduate students know of the utility in maintaining a professional website that features teaching practices and dissertation updates. Why not add a section on non-academic writing?

Finding the advertisements for non-academic jobs seems painfully difficult, but the angst can be ameliorated when the student becomes imaginative. Of course networking with alumni promises the most success in terms of gaining a job, but before that, a student needs to know what to look for in a potential alumni interviewee. Recently, a friend mentioned interest in becoming an editor but was wary of publishing houses. As we considered what other organizations require editors, we both recalled a recent article in The Atlantic that was written by an employee of the Brookings Institution. It suddenly dawned upon us that organizations like the Brookings Institution, the World Bank, and the IMF employ in-house editors to review manuscripts that are later published in a variety of print and on-line publications.

Taking this creative thinking one step further, it dawned upon us how similar finding non-academic employment is to our research methodology. We begin our research by identifying a seminal scholarly text, and then we build our bibliographical arsenal by finding and reading texts that cite the initial work. We must approach the non-academic job search in a similar fashion. For example, once a student identifies a prospective employer, the student should review the biographies of employees, paying close attention to their past employment. From one website, the student will glean perhaps three or four others institutions to consider as well as an idea of whom to contact for an informational interview. We academics excel at these sorts of sleuthing exercises. It is how we find forgotten texts, it is how we find that one last article we need to read before we can finish writing, and it is how we find a dissertation or article topic that has yet to be explored.

We must unbind our creativity and let it thrive as we help students find their next career path. In doing so, we will ensure that the job search remains fluid and open, and we will avoid calcification. Embarking upon the search for non-academic professions is very much like that moment when we ask ourselves “what shall I research and write about next?” and feel a rush of excitement as we anticipate learning something new and writing something not yet said. If we keep our creativity close to mind, we will find the freedom to discover so many more opportunities and even, create new ones for our peers and students.

  • Malkah Bressler, Ph.D. Candidate in English, Fordham University

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Mentor the Whole Person Blog Post: Every Ph.D. Needs an Exit Strategy

A soon-to-be English Ph.D. comes across a recent graduate studying in the library stacks. One is finishing her dissertation and excited to be nearing the end of the process. The other? Well, the euphoria from the defense is dissipating. When you’re adjuncting at the same university for less money than you made as a graduate student and you’re diligently trying for job after job (in academia, in publishing, in writing…) with little to show for it, you can start to wonder: what can I do with a Ph.D.?

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This little graduate school morality play may seem a little bleak, but the thing is, you can actually do a lot with a Ph.D. In “Humanities Unbound,” a survey of humanities Ph.D. graduates working in “alternative academic” positions, Katina Rogers found that respondents had gone on to find careers in the fields of academic administration, government, and journalism, or worked at institutions like cultural heritage organizations, libraries, or non-profits. And while we’ve all heard horror stories about needing to take the Ph.D. off a resume to be more hirable, in fact many employers value a Ph.D. in a job candidate. Several employers interviewed as part of the Pathways Through Graduate School study by the Educational Testing Service and the Council of Graduate Schools saw candidates with graduate degrees as having not only advanced knowledge, but also the ability to lead, design projects, and problem-solve in innovative ways.

So why do so many Ph.D.s struggle to find stable work upon graduation? Some certainly take positions as adjuncts to persevere with the dream of a tenure-track academic job (a separate issue, recently devastatingly summed up by Kevin Birmingham), but many others simply don’t know what else to do. It’s possible to leave a Ph.D. with a polished dissertation, a teaching portfolio, and selection of well-crafted cover letters for academic jobs, but with no resume, no contacts outside academia, and no idea of what jobs you’re qualified for. It’s also difficult for many Ph.D.s to articulate their many skills for employers beyond the content of their dissertation and teaching. For example, few non-academic employers will value my deep knowledge of fifteenth-century religious education and how to revise comma splices, but they could certainly appreciate my grant-writing techniques, my proficiency as a researcher, and my ability to set goals and work independently to reach them.

What every Ph.D. student needs to create, preferably before the frantic last lap of the dissertation process, is an exit strategy. This plan goes beyond writing a strong resume (though that’s a great start). Students should be able to name a couple of career paths they’d like to pursue, and should have conducted research into the vocabulary and required skills for these fields. They should talk to Ph.D. alumni, explore internships, sit down with employees in these potential careers, write for audiences outside academia…the list goes on. Basically, every student should start thinking about what he or she wants do after graduation long before finishing the Ph.D., even if the main goal is an elusive tenure-track job.

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At the recent meeting of the “Living Humanities” Ph.D. project on “Mentor the Whole Person: Career-Wise Counsel, Promising Partnerships,” faculty members and administrators from different departments across the humanities shared their initiatives to help students prepare for careers after graduation. These insights highlighted several avenues for improving graduates’ confidence on entering a non-academic job market. One suggestion involved expanding the role of the placement officer to include non-academic careers. In the Philosophy department, a member of faculty now works on enhancing non-academic placement, while the placement officer focuses on academic appointments. In the English department, the placement officer is now assisted by a Job Placement Committee, who can draw on a wider range of teaching (and life) experience to assist students on the job market.

Several departments are focusing on expanding their students’ teaching skills. In Philosophy, there are plans to hold a summer camp for high schoolers, so Ph.D. students will have the opportunity to work in K-12 teaching. In English, the placement officer is working to prepare students for careers at community colleges, independent high schools and beyond. Discussions with English Ph.D. alumni in the Peace Corps and the Park Service have highlighted how their employers valued their teaching experience, so focusing on this aspect of the Ph.D. could also help students answer questions about the value of their Ph.D. on the non-academic market.

Another key factor is not only normalizing non-academic jobs, but also raising their prestige among faculty members. Of course departments should still promote their graduates’ achievements on the academic job market, but they should also highlight that a tenure-track academic job is not the norm; more students will find careers outside this category than within it. One goal in the Theology department is to teach faculty to see non-academic jobs as equally attractive, so that this perception could also trickle down to students and pervade departmental culture. Departments can easily contribute to the valuing of non-academic careers by promoting students’ achievements from outside the academy as well as within it. Why not send out a congratulatory email with the list of students who received competitive internships or post links to articles students have written for non-academic publications?
Another way to demonstrate a commitment to non-academic positions as well as academic ones is to Invite alumni in exciting careers back to the department to speak to current students about their jobs and how they got them. Students can then get ideas for what to look for, and will feel encouraged to take the initiative and search for opportunities on their own.

Alumni in particular are an excellent resource, offering tangible proof of the many careers a Ph.D. can lead to. As well as showing how to market a Ph.D. for a variety of careers, alumni can also provide that oh-so-elusive quantity for many Ph.D. students – professional contacts outside academia. Many departments currently don’t track their alumni working in careers outside academia, even as they meticulously list which graduates hold postdoctoral fellowships or academic positions. But Jason Pedicone, President of the Paideia Institute and a guest speaker at the last “Living Humanities” Ph.D. meeting, emphasizes the value of talking to alumni and showcasing their career paths. The Legion Project, a Paideia initiative that tracks students who pursued advanced degrees in Classics and publicizes their current careers, not only shows what can be done with an advanced education in Classics, but also helps create a community that Ph.D. students and graduates can tap into. Such projects can also be aspirational for students. For instance, the series of Compatible Careers seminars held by Fordham’s Medieval Studies program, at which former Medieval Studies MAs discuss their current careers, not only provides insight into the range of jobs available to graduates but also shows students that getting such jobs is possible, and that their skills from graduate school have value outside the academy.

So if you’re a graduate student, whether a starry-eyed first year or a world-weary dissertator, take some time to brainstorm what you’d like to do after graduation. Research how you could prepare yourself for this coveted career, be it with an internship, an informational interview, or a plan to publish in an online magazine. If you’re a faculty member, think about reaching out to former dissertation mentees – are they all in academia, or have some found fulfilling careers elsewhere? As the soon-to-be Ph.D. at the start of this piece, I’m trying to follow my own advice – as I prepare myself for my defense, I’m also thinking about what I’ll do next.

  • Samantha Sabalis, Graduate Assistant, NEH/GSAS Grant, The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century 

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For more about the “Mentor the Whole Person” planning theme and suggestions for further reading, see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.”

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FYI Announcement- ProQuest Launches Displaced Researchers Program

Faculty or students who are affected by the recent travel ban (or know a fellow scholar who is) please note and share the following information.

ProQuest, one of the library’s biggest vendors, has initiated a program to assist displaced scholars.

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ANN ARBOR, MI, February 9, 2017 – ProQuest has launched a program to provide no-cost access to its databases for students and researchers who have been separated from their universities and libraries because of travel bans or other immigration changes. The company has an email hotline ContinueMyResearch@proquest.com where these displaced researchers can arrange for access to the materials they need to continue their work.

“ProQuest is an open and inclusive organization that takes its role in supporting research and learning very seriously,” said Kurt Sanford, ProQuest CEO. “We’re doing whatever we can to mitigate the interruptions facing our community of students and scholars around the world.”

The program resolves authentication problems displaced researchers may face when trying to access to their institution’s holdings remotely. Individuals will be provided with personal credentials, as well as direct access to ProQuest support teams for help. There is no limit to the number of databases that can be requested. Free RefWorks accounts are also available to help with long-distance collaboration and to save, manage and organize their work.

To request access, students, faculty and other researchers can email ProQuest at ContinueMyResearch@proquest.com with the name of the university or library they have been separated from, along with the name of their research supervisor or faculty advisor. ProQuest representatives will work directly with impacted individuals or their advisors to set up online, no cost access to all databases needed to continue their studies or research.

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For more information please see the announcement on their site.

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Opening the Gates: Ensuring Access and Inclusion During the Admission Process

On Tuesday, November 15th, “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century” held its second meeting, focusing on the planning theme of “Ensure Access and Inclusion.” For this meeting, the group was split into two parts, which will be addressed in two different blog posts (see part two here). In this post, I focus on the first group’s discussion on admissions, considering how GSAS programs in the humanities can attract and admit under-represented groups during the admissions process. A subsequent post will focus on the second group’s discussion on retention, mentoring, and student support for under-represented groups once they are attending the GSAS programs in the humanities.

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So what are these “under-represented groups” at Fordham? This term includes but is not limited to prospective and current students who are members of racial and ethnic minority communities, members of faiths other than Christianity, members of LGBTQ communities, and/or members of economically and academically disadvantaged communities. Meeting participants considered how these groups are not mutually exclusive and how diversity goes beyond racial differences, often including hidden identifiers that students may not be comfortable revealing.

And how can humanities programs in the GSAS attract members from these under-represented groups? The discussion focused on three elements: advertising the programs to create a more diverse applicant pool, rethinking how we evaluate applications to potentially create a more diverse student body, and above all considering the application process from the applicant’s point of view. Group members suggested advertising Fordham’s programs to promising applicants from under-represented groups by working more intensely with institutions in the neighborhoods around our campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan and using faculty contacts to forge links with institutions catering primarily to communities not well-represented at Fordham, such as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

As well as reaching out to these communities, group members considered factors that could discourage promising students from applying to graduate school, such as the many costs that prospective students face and the uncertain payoff of a Ph.D. degree in the current academic job market. Applying for a Ph.D. is an expensive proposition, including hefty fees to prepare for and take the GRE test, but even after students are accepted they must reach further into their pockets to pay for moving expenses and the deposit on a new home. To address initial expenses, the group suggested forgiving GRE fees for admitted students and providing advance funding for the transition to start graduate school.

Mitigating these costs still leaves the price of the degree itself. The cost of attending a Ph.D. program must be balanced with the rewards at its conclusion – if students do not want traditional academic jobs or feel that the market is too competitive, they see no point to even applying. To address these perceptions of limited or lackluster job prospects, the group proposed showcasing a wider range of career paths for Ph.D. graduates on the university website that could appeal to a broader group of applicants.

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But encouraging promising students to apply is only half the battle; they must also be admitted into Fordham’s programs. The group confronted current markers of privilege in evaluating graduate applications and how to acknowledge them. For instance, they noted that committees rely heavily on the GRE General test as a marker for student potential, but higher scores on this test have been linked with higher socio-economic status. As GRE scores are used for university ratings, the group found it impractical to get rid of the test entirely. Instead, they suggested training admissions committees about its limitations as a marker of academic potential to encourage them to take a more holistic view of each student’s application. The group then considered looking at applications without any clues to the applicant’s identity. One innovative suggestion focused on a technique called Blind Hiring, pioneered in Silicon Valley, which strips all identity markers from application materials and has resulted in more diverse and talented hires.

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To read more about this planning theme (including a recommended reading list), see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.”

  • Samantha Sabalis, Graduate Assistant, NEH/GSAS Grant, The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century

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Message to the GSAS Community

Dear Members of the GSAS Community,

Now that we begin to grapple with the significance of today’s historic election results, it is vital for us to reaffirm our purpose as a community of scholars, teachers, and students. This morning, as we woke to deep divisions and yet-to-be-fathomed realignments, I recalled the words of the GSAS mission: “Guided by its Catholic and Jesuit traditions, we aspire to prepare students for teaching and leadership in a global society, by welcoming learners from diverse religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds into full participation in a scholarly endeavor.” We should be proud to belong to a community that defines itself in these diverse and inclusive terms in the service of knowledge, wisdom, and the common good.

Today I am asking all of us—professors, students, and administrators–to rededicate ourselves to the university and to our academic community because it remains a vital embodiment of that hope that only education can offer to the poor, the marginalized, the fearful, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised. Never has the power of education in creating spaces of choice, hope, and possibility been clearer. I am grateful for the depth of commitment you bring to the work of research, reading, experimentation, analysis, and teaching–to all those minute daily motions of academic freedom that end up expanding the funds of knowledge and shrinking the domains of prejudice.

Eva Badowska,
Dean, GSAS

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