April
15th 2009
Wednesday round-up: writin’ along the Colorado Trail

Posted under: jobs, publication, women's history

cowgirlbroncobestedWhile I’m busy cranking out an overdue paper, I’ll leave you with a few tasty morsels I’ve been saving up to share with you on the subject of academic publishing.  Remember:  when you get that rejection letter in the mail (and you will–we all do!), the best thing to do is to read it quickly, put it away for a week or two, then take what’s useful for your revisions and send it back on out to another journal or press.  If you’re thrown by a horse, the best revenge is to get back in the saddle again.  So–giddyap!

  • Undine asks, “Are senior scholars abandoning journal publication?”  Ze cites an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that said, “[s]enior scholars, the A-list of academic publishing, seem to submit fewer unsolicited manuscripts to traditional humanities journals than they used to. ‘The journal has become, with very few exceptions, the place where junior and mid-level scholars are placing their work,’ according to Bonnie Wheeler, president of the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. . . .”  I don’t think it’s so much the rise of the edited essay collection as it is the fact that senior scholars get invited to submit manuscripts all of the time, and if a journal asks you to submit a manuscript for a special issue, most people figure that that’s the path of least resistance.  (Mel, a commenter at Undine’s place, makes this point as well.)
  • Penn State University Press Associate Director and Editor-in-Chief Patrick H. Alexander has a thing or two to tell us about reviewing book manuscripts.  I’m so glad that Inside Higher Ed published this–it’s good to hear from an editor on this, instead of just from scholars either complaining  1) that kids these days don’t know what scholarship is, let alone how to produce it, or 2) about the savage flaying their latest book or article manuscript received by a clearly unscrupulous and sadistic “peer” reviewer.  His advice boils down to this:  remember that a manuscript review is a unique genre of academic prose all its own, and don’t be a jerk, because word gets around:  “I’ve read too many unhelpful reviews, plenty of valuable reviews, and a few stellar ones. The stellar ones remind me that the art of peer reviewing a manuscript remains one of the hallmarks of scholarship. Academics, especially humanists, often speak of themselves as being in “the guild.” If ever there was a time for a member to mentor a fellow-guild member, it’s in the peer-review evaluation. Here the craftsman or grandmaster can instruct the apprentice in the fine art of scholarship. And though the instruction may or may not result in publication, the report should emulate the twin standards of the guild: academic rigor and objectivity. Applying these standards to the peer-review process not only ensures a quality review; it keeps you in good stead with your peers. I also won’t file your name under ‘Don’t ask Professor X to review manuscripts,’ which, on the one hand, may sound like a relief, but on the other, it places you and maybe your career on the periphery of a vital scholarly circle.”
  • And finally, Sisyphus has a nice round-up of links and citations with advice about publishing that many humanities scholars (especially of the feminist variety) will find useful.  She writes, “the people who are writing advice and publishing how-to-professionalize articles and really attempting to help and mentor grad students are coming out of feminism/women’s studies. Coincidence? And also a lot from history — is this because women in history departments feel there is more need to bring women into their discipline and mentor them?”  I’ll let you all be the judge of that last question.  She’s bummed out right now about “the whole collaborative help in academia idea.”  She says that “I notice that I did a lot of work and gave a lot of good advice to people who never in turn ‘stepped up’ to help me out. And there arepeople in the department who havevery responsive advisors who really pull strings to get their students connected, but none of that info or influence ever got handed back to me. In fact most of them never even told me they were getting additional, special help or being introduced and recommended to people who were putting together an essay collection, for example.” 
  • Confidential to Sisyphus:  I would say that you’re at a most perilous time in a young scholar’s career–finishing the Ph.D. and searching for jobs–and this is when the competitiveness among your graduate school colleagues is at its height.  When friends win fellowships and jobs and you don’t, it’s really, really difficult to avoid making invidious comparisons and wondering what you did wrong.  I know it’s miserable now, but if you can hang on financially and professionally, you will feel differently about your academic environment when you find a job.  And, I think that generosity is never a bad thing–you may not get it repaid directly by the people you helped, but odds are that you’ll get some help from another generous person down the road.  What goes around, comes around, and all that–at the very least, you can take comfort in Patrick Alexander’s words that being a jerk definitely hurts people’s careers in the long run, even if it feels good in the short run.

    What say you, readers?

    29 Comments »

    29 Responses to “Wednesday round-up: writin’ along the Colorado Trail”

    1. The History Enthusiast on 15 Apr 2009 at 9:00 am #

      Great post (as usual)! Does anyone have any advice for tangible, concrete ways that young scholars can avoid making comparisons with other, seemingly more successful colleagues?

      I’d like to think I’m a nice person, but the competitiveness has definitely increased in my neck of the woods, and I’m totally turning into a jealous person. I have yet to win a fellowship for either the school year or the summer break, and it is getting hard to stay positive. I know I SHOULD be positive, but I’m not sure how to take practical steps toward changing my outlook.

    2. Tenured Radical on 15 Apr 2009 at 9:31 am #

      Part of the reason submitting articles to journals is down, from my perspective, is the hideously long turn around time. When solicited for an article, or submitting to a special issue, the scholar has an editor making a personal commitment, and there is a real schedule. When you go in over the transom, your work can get kicked around for a while (up to six months for readings at various stages) and then held up even further as the journal editors rightly try to put together a group of random pieces that are a good fit with each other.

      And by the way, readers of this blog should consider themselves personally solicited for this upcoming cluster edited by moi for the Journal of Women’s History: go to this link for details.

      Miss Historiann, this means you too, no matter how late that paper is.

    3. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 10:25 am #

      THE: I think you just have to stay in the game, and keep submitting applications for jobs and fellowships. It’s been a rather embarassing 10 years since I’ve had my one and only major fellowship–and I had the pleasure of being rejected for both fellowships I applied for this year! (Damn!)

      Friends and acquaintances I know who are successful at winning grants and fellowships 1) apply for everything, all of the time (so they too get rejections most of the time), and 2) they always have a project proposal in the can ready to send around. You can’t win fellowships you don’t apply to. This is my new mantra that I’m trying to put into practice in my “mid-career” life now.

      TR, you make a great point about the turnaround time for “over the transom” articles. What’s interesting to me is that it seems to be the bigger, better funded journals (i.e. not those run on volunteer labor, by everyone from the editor on down except for perhaps a few underpaid grad students) that have the LOOOOONGEST turnaround times. Is this anyone else’s perception too, or is it just my narrow little world?

      Maybe having a salary and a staff means that there are more cooks seasoning the soup, as it were? With a crowded office that wants to be in on every decision, bigger journals may be slower, in contrast to the volunteer associate editor who will read through and either spike a submission or send it out to readers this weekend because that’s all the time she has to make the decision.

    4. Notorious Ph.D. on 15 Apr 2009 at 10:39 am #

      THE: Historiann’s advice is good. Also, I’d recommend sending the proposal out to people who you know will give you good, honest advice. I’ve seen some good people make some very elementary mistakes that have been enough to torpedo proposals. Talk to people who have had the grants you want.

      Finally, don’t discount the role that luck plays. Three years ago, I applied for six fellowships and got six rejections. A year later — with almost *exactly the same proposal* — I got all three fellowships I applied for (including one that had rejected me the previous year).

    5. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 10:45 am #

      Notorious is right–it’s also random luck, but if she hadn’t had the moxie to reapply the second year, she would never have had her fellowship year. It’s important to try to make your proposal better, but it’s also important in some ways not to internalize the judgment of the fellowship committee. (After all, they receive many, many more worthy proposals than they can possibly fund, so at some point their decisions are made on the basis of caprice, because how can they otherwise make distinctions between equally worthy dissertations or book projects?)

      Next year will be our year, THE–I can feel it!!!

    6. John S. on 15 Apr 2009 at 10:46 am #

      Great post! I would add these two cents:
      1) On senior scholars and journals, I think some of the answer may lie in the incentives departments and schools give to senior scholars. My university may be instructive in this respect. By and large, we only care about books when it comes to making various leaps (from Assistant to Associate, Associate to Full, and different categories within Full Professor). I think there is some pressure to produce a refereed article or so when you’re an Assistant Professor, just to established your “name” when you’re earlier on in your career. But after you have a book (let alone two), I am not sure people worry about this; their scholarly reputation is better established. And our university isn’t going to honor a refereed article with a promotion.

      Thus, for some of my colleagues bucking for full professor and above, there aren’t internal benefits to journal publication, and the process has its own negatives (as Tenured Radical suggested). Considering that at my home U the administration has decided to tighten up the timeline for Associate Professor–you now have 5 years to write your second book and come up for promotion to full–it doesn’t make sense to do anything other than write that book. These things may be unique to us, but I think it worth looking at what gets people promoted at different institutions. In the end, that may determine things.

      2) I can’t wait to give the Alexander article, even though it may make me regret past behavior. I have had the opportunity to peer review a handful of articles and a book since I have been an assistant professor and worry after each review that I have just done a horrible job. Every time I do it I try to remember the best peer reviews I’ve had (try to emulate those!), the worst I’ve gotten (avoid!), and to encourage creative work while maintaining a high standard. (For the record–one article I voted to reject won a major award when the book it was taken from was published, and the book manuscript I reviewed and rejected was published in short order by another, more prestigious press. So my sense of what’s good and bad appears to be skewed.)

      To my mind, I think that writing a peer review may be one of those professional skills that too many in the profession assume “everyone” knows how to do, so they never bother to teach younger folks how to do it. (I would also put writing rec letters for grad students and other scholars in this camp as well.) I wish that there was more of an effort to show just-starting-out assistant professors how to learn this important professional skills without just throwing them out there to fend for themselves.

    7. Matt L on 15 Apr 2009 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks for the extra publishing information Historiann! Its great food for thought and motivation to submit articles. The discussion about the senior scholars staying away from the journals is interesting.

      I wonder if its field specific? In my own area of nineteenth century Eastern Ruritanian history, it seems like the senior scholars publish plenty of journal articles, and specialized monographs but nobody has written a really great synthetic work about the region since the 1970s or 1980s. This is a real bummer since the field has really developed in terms of social history, and more recently gender history. Plus after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the archives really opened up. As a result all the surveys are, well, old-fashioned in their methodology and out of date.

      Finally, hang in there Sisyphus. Historiann is right, you are at the hardest part of your career: that transition from Grad Student to colleague. A lot of what happens at this stage is beyond your control. Worse yet this situation is an occupational hazard of being in academia. We have incredible autonomy when compared to the rest of the workforce, but there are still things beyond our control, like jobs and fellowships. So when those things don’t seem to fall into place when we think they should, its doubly frustrating! After all, we have complete control over what we research, how we teach, and our schedule, so its frightening when this does not translate into control over when and where we work.

      So have the “courage of your convictions” as Julia Child used to say. Be generous when friends, acquaintances and even your enemies get jobs or fellowships. Eventually the world will turn and you will land a job or a plum fellowship too. Until then, we are all rooting for you!

    8. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 11:29 am #

      John S.–I think you’re right that History departments anyway only care about books, and that that might explain why senior historians don’t submit as many articles. But–what happens if you don’t apply for promotion to Full Prof. after 5 years? I mean, you’re tenured at that point–they can’t fire you–so what’s the penalty? Permanent Associate status?

      The model that universities in Britain moved to in the late 1990s or early 2000s augurs against publishing books and for just publishing articles, because it counts a publication as one publication, regardless of length (or so I understand. Perhaps some of my British readers can correct me on this.) So over there, article publishing is probably where it’s at.

      But back to your department, John S.: Quite frankly, that 5-year time limit seems to privilege modern western history over other fields, and Anglophone scholarship above all. Does your department just want books, or do they want GOOD books? Who has ever had a colleague in ancient or medieval history who could produce a book in less than 5 years (bearing in mind that a second book is usually the first post-dissertation project book)?

    9. John S. on 15 Apr 2009 at 11:55 am #

      Good question about our U’s new policy. The new line is that if you don’t produce the second book soon enough you will start to feel it in the pocketbook–they will start deducting a certain percentage of your salary annually until you can put yourself up for full. I think this is to get people to stop hanging out at Associate and delaying putting themselves up for Full.

      This may be honored more in the breach than the observance. And of course, there are numerous examples of people in my department and others here at the U who previously made Full Prof with only a single book.

      (Of course, it is often the people who didn’t follow the now recommended path who make the most noise about people doing things the “right” way. The person in my dept who insists that you need books at each step and that only books matter was tenured before hir book was published and made Full eight years before hir second book was published. I digress). I do, however, have one friend who took a small dock because she delayed her promotion action too long. So the administration is somewhat serious.

      There are plenty of other work/life questions this new pressure raises, however. Our Academic handbook contains ample documentation about how to stop the tenure clock if you have a kid or suffer a serious illness–but nothing about how to stop the Associate clock if you’re a new parent or suffer an illness. In the case of my friend, she became ill with something that certainly would have merited an extension of her tenure clock had she been a rank lower. But I am not sure they took that into account here. And it would be exceedingly lame if trying to enforce this post-tenure clock penalized women who delayed having kids until after tenure.

      And yes, this would seem to privilege modern Anglo-phone scholarship above all else, esp. given what’s happening with scholarly presses. I mean, the market for scholarship on 13th century China just isn’t as robust as the market for 20thc US, so I imagine getting the second book out quickly may be tough for multiple reasons.

      It just goes to show you how larger institutional politics play out on the ground. I have suspected that the new hurry up policy stems at least in part from a new administrator’s desire to show that scholarly productivity increased on her watch (she “got tough” on malingering faculty) and tensions between the sciences and the humanities here. The result isn’t always good for promoting the best scholarship.

    10. Indyanna on 15 Apr 2009 at 11:59 am #

      Second Historiann on the need to keep going back up to the hoop. Always take a fellowship provider up on an offer to provide more specific feedback on a rejected application, and definitely re-apply the next year.

      I also like H’s notion of having things “in the can,” (but I’m thinking about “stub” articles more than apps) to be used on opportunistic occasions. The problem with/for a lot of “senior” scholars (depending on how-defined) is that if you become truly too too identified with a particular brand of scholarship, or level of abstraction and pronouncement quality, it’s probably hard to think about publishing anything else. Who wants to be expected to bring out another “typical Bernard Bailyn” or “typical Jack Greene,” or “typical Linda Kerber” grand essay, when what you really want to do is take that quirky-thingy out of your drawer where you left it years before because it was fun and exciting then, and you’re excited about it again now? People will say, and especially impressionable very junior people will say, “wow, [Soandso] musta lost it…” Having a brand can be a very double edged sword. Fortunately, I’m just theorizing this, as I don’t have one, that’s for sure!

    11. JJO on 15 Apr 2009 at 12:23 pm #

      I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a policy like the one John describes. It does seem problematic to say the least. I understand the impulse to keep associate faculty productive and help them along the road to full professor, but a carrot would be better than a stick in this case. I can’t imagine getting tenure only to face yet another looming, career-threatening deadline. That’s got to kill morale.

      Here, journal articles still matter — not for promotion to full (although it does require “a national reputation,” so journal articles do contribute to that, despite the second book being the most essential requirement) — but for raises (when and if they ever come back) and teaching load. Each year, productivity over the past three years is evaluated as the chair recommends and dispenses raises, and every three years we get evaluated in order to set our teaching load — those with a high level of research productivity get a 2-2, those with a moderate level 3-2, and those without significant research teach 3-3. All junior faculty automatically get a 2-2. This is a new policy, so we’ll have to see how it’s implemented (it’s a departmental committee that makes the recommendation).

      The type of quirky essay Indyanna describes is what I think of as “typical John Murrin.”

    12. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 2:08 pm #

      Aaaaandd–JJO gets the rim-shot, once again! Good one about Murrin. (Don’t kid yourself, Indyanna–you’re brand is quirky crank, isn’t it? Or is that cranky quirk?)

      Yes, my impression is that the policy John S. describes would be a morale-buster, fer sure.

    13. Indyanna on 15 Apr 2009 at 2:55 pm #

      Sumthin’ like that, Historiann! :} The policy that John S. describes seems just plain nuts. Aren’t second books supposed to demonstrate considerably more maturity and heft than dissertation revisions? A department that I visited in for a couple of years was explicit, in its self-study documents and elsewhere, that the purpose of tenure was to encourage and allow scholars to take risks in subsequent projects, to invest time and resources in imaginative and ambitious questions and experimental kinds of research. They were also pretty liberal in supporting leave time, but the faculty were good at getting outside funding. Do we really want or need a tier of rushed to the front second books so that people don’t “hang around” at Associate? A memorandum that I found left on the plate of a photocopier years ago–clearly produced somewhere in the law school deanery–described in detail and with many examples (forms and graphs) how many law schools had simply eliminated the whole rank of Associate Professor, on the grounds that it was a needless vestige. You apprenticed, were either “made” or unmade, and then if the former you professed. People who get to that level generally have enough inner drive to produce. But “produce” sometimes means research itself, and the fertilizer that it provides to teaching, advising, and other kinds of professional and collegial colloquy, rather than just rushed-to-the-video-store publications.

    14. John S. on 15 Apr 2009 at 3:23 pm #

      Strangely enough, I feel like I should defend my U a little. There is a way in which this wrong-headed policy is the result of good intentions. Neither the faculty nor the administration here would wants dept chairs to have anything near the power that JJO’s chair does. In my division (I’m a Social Scientist, officially), everybody has the same teaching load. You get course releases for certain duties (we give them out for being chair of the dept or chair of our grad program), but otherwise it’s 2-2 for everyone. Moreover, raises are officially given out by a university-wide personnel committee with people from different divisions and schools. The chair has some informal recommending power, but the real heavy lifting is done by an endless set of internal ad hoc review committees. (We’d get more work done if we weren’t reading each others’ files all the time, IMO.)

      This is a real plus in terms of internal departmental morale. The chair has no real power to dispense patronage to allies (though s/he also lacks the power to punish malefactors). I have even heard one chair admit how happy s/he was to be able to say “It’s out of my hands” to one squeaky wheel who wanted a favorable adjustment to hir teaching load. (Hint: it’s the same person I mentioned in a previous post!) Our grumbling gets displaced onto the College Personnel Committee when our biennial or triennial requests for small bumps in pay are denied. So the system has its benefits on the local level, so to speak.

      The problem with putting things in the hands of an inter-departmental committee, however, is the fact that productivity is relative. One friend told me of the year that the chemist on the committee wanted to deny everyone merit increases who wasn’t as productive as junior scholars in his dept–which meant multiple articles a year. (Ah, scientists!) He was eventually talked down when other committee members convinced him that maybe an article a year would be a good rate for humanists and historians–but even that rate of production seems forced to me. There are constant tales of scholars doing “softer” work having to prove that we work hard enough and produce enough scholarship.

      Ironically, our new-found emphasis on rapid productivity is the work of a literacy scholar turned administrator who is taking an even harder line on productivity for book-based disciplines than the scientists do. I suppose there is no better way to get ahead in the hierarchy than showing that you can get those frivolous humanists in line.

    15. John S. on 15 Apr 2009 at 3:25 pm #

      (I should also say that sometimes I fear the scientists’ accusations about the work of some of us humanists are true. One critical studies scholar at my U started a project entitled the Joy “rhymes with Luck” Club about representations of Asian sexuality in film. He also tried to make an “adult” film starring a 22 year old recent graduate of the U to further his research. I believe our personnel committee denied him a merit.)

    16. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 4:06 pm #

      When are the people in the History and English departments going to rise up and point out the bloody obvious: economists write “articles” that are really data reports, are 8-10 pages, and frequently have several authors? And that people in the “hard sciences” can’t manage to “write” articles without listing 10-15 co-authors? I think research productivity should be calculated on a page-per-author rate. Those 10 articles (co-authored by on average 10 people each) claimed by scientists, engineers, and economists on their annual reports would quickly turn into 1 page per person per year. Whereas (for example) Historiann’s book (267-ish pages with one author) counts for 267 pages that year. Does that mean I’m 267 times more productive than those 10-author 10-page article people? No–but isn’t it fascinating how differently the whole system of evalution looks from my perspective?

      So, historians and people in other humanities fields where most of our work is single-authored and book-intensive can say “bite me” whenever anyone in these other disciplines carps about “productivity.”

    17. The History Enthusiast on 15 Apr 2009 at 6:54 pm #

      Thanks so much for the advice! I’ve applied for nearly every fellowship I was eligible for (since I am teaching and writing I haven’t had time to do EVERY one). Unfortunately I have two things working against me: 1) my advisor is not at all helpful, though I’ve had colleagues read my project proposal, and 2) they recently cut funding opportunities at my grad school (yay for budget problems). That means I really only am applying for those big national ones that I’ll never get since I’m not at Harvard or Yale.

      Which leads to my next question: how can I politely ask my advisor to step it up? She hasn’t given me any feedback whatsoever on the cover letters and proposals I’ve given her to read. My other faculty mentors are on sabbatical this semester, so I don’t really know who to turn to. I understand that she is busy, but we don’t have a lot of contact anyway so it isn’t like I’m a pest. I’m her only advisee. I always give professors a lot of notice so they aren’t rushing to complete things. Any advice?

    18. Indyanna on 15 Apr 2009 at 7:01 pm #

      Maybe we could set up a feedback collective on this blog, although that could involve some degree of de-anonymization, and depending on volume, might be unmanageable. But it’s pretty outrageous if somebody has only one advisee and can’t get around to advising. Is this maybe an early-career advisor who’s still trying to figure out how to do it?

    19. ortho stice on 15 Apr 2009 at 7:20 pm #

      I agree with Indyanna: it’s outrageous that an advisor fails to give feedback on cover letters and proposals to her only advisee. If that was my advisor, I would, if possible, try to replace her.

      THE, do you have colleagues who could read and critique your proposals and letters? My colleagues and I always read each others’ proposals and cover letters. It seems helpful and useful. We’ve each won a couple grants this season.

      In my Department, our grad student group regularly holds works-in-progress events and professional workshops about writing proposals and cover letters, preparing for exams, publishing articles, and applying for conferences. If your department has a similar group, maybe you can contact them in hope of setting up a pre-review group.

    20. Historiann on 15 Apr 2009 at 8:20 pm #

      Indyanna and Ortho are right–she should be helping you out more, THE. I would suggest that you ask someone else’s advisor who tends to respond to requests like that–it could be a little tricky, but you could point out that your other advisors are on leave and that you don’t know who else to turn to.

      That said–back in the old days, I don’t think my advisor ever read over anything I wrote aside from my dissertation and a seminar paper or two. (Indyanna–what do you recall?) We grad students organized to help ourselves, as I recall. I went to grad school at a place that hosts postdoctoral fellows, and I remember bugging them for advice about a lot of niggling professional issues like this (how to compile a CV, how to compose a cover letter, etc.) They had all won postdoctoral fellowships, so it seemed like a good group of people to consult!

    21. The History Enthusiast on 15 Apr 2009 at 8:37 pm #

      To be fair, I meant that she only has one GRAD advisee. Not sure about undergrad advisees, though she has a lot of service obligations that aren’t directly in the department. And she’s tenured. Sorry about being vague.

      I have gotten some feedback from colleagues, which has definitely been helpful. The problem is that none of them have served on awards committees, naturally, so it feels like the blind leading the blind. We did have a great series last year on applying for jobs, including cover letters for job applications and I’ve applied some of that to these cover letters. Mentoring here is a bit hit-and-miss…something I’ve had to learn the hard way.

      Since all the applications for this season have been submitted, the problem is sort of moot (for the moment). My main concern is that I don’t want to piss off my advisor, but I would like to express my feeling that more assistance is needed in the future. I’m not expecting a super-detailed parsing of every paragraph or anything like that. I am an independent person, but even independent people need direction once and while.

      Thank you all for the advice and encouragement…I do so appreciate it!

    22. The History Enthusiast on 15 Apr 2009 at 8:38 pm #

      P.S. Sorry to take over your comments section, Historiann!

    23. Indyanna on 15 Apr 2009 at 9:33 pm #

      Historiann, I recall one year you and your pals had to chase down a proxy advisor fifty miles up the road when yours went on leave for a (half/year?). Collective peer self-help certainly is a good thing and an innovation since my day. But for that kind of seasoned been there, done that, got shot down, lived to tell/laugh about it stuff that you mention, no question, it really helps to have an academic “senior center” in your field and in your neighborhood.

    24. Historiann on 16 Apr 2009 at 5:56 am #

      THE–I think all you can do is ask plainly and directly for more help. But, that’s just not some people’s style, so you might need to cultivate another mentor. Is there someone whose work is way afield of yours, but whom you might have TA’d for who seems like a responsive, helpful person? Think about who gets the job done for students perhaps, and less about their “fit” with your particular subfield.

      As Indyanna suggests, sometimes grad students just have to do it for yourselves. My experience in grad school was absolutely shaped by grad students a year or two ahead of me who just grabbed bulls by the horns and in the case Indyanna mentions, 1) arranged for us to take a course with another professor at another university while our advisor was on leave, and in another case, 2) convinced another person in our field to teach a class, but only after promising to write the syllabus for him. I tell ya, it’s like we were raised by wolves! I’m not bragging about this, I’m just amazed at how much more (most) faculty do for their history grad students these days. And I’m sorry yours seems like a throwback to the 1980s or 1990s–but, you have to take people as you find them and get out of them what you can.

    25. Ed(itor) Linenthal dishes on the details of the Journal of American History : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 16 Apr 2009 at 8:36 am #

      [...] contacted to review anything for the JAH, know that someone is watching!  (And it turns out that Patrick Alexander’s warnings are true:  your fecklessness, laziness, and/or mendacity in reviewing books and manuscripts will go down on [...]

    26. Ruth on 16 Apr 2009 at 2:20 pm #

      THE,

      Do not despair about not geting major national fellowships because you don’t go to Harvard or Yale. I teach at a large public university (a good one, but not ranked at the very top) and we have several students get major fellowships each year. This year I served on selection committees for two graduate fellowships, one specifically in my subdiscipline, which we awarded to one candidate who was not from an Ivy, and one open to any field in the humanities, which we awarded to 11 candidates the majority of whom were not from Ivies (I don’t remember the exact number) and several of whom came from institutions that might surprise you. Certainly students from name schools get more fellowships per capita; I don’t think that’s because committees are wowed by the name, but those schools are more successful than some others in recruiting the students they want, often in mentoring them, and certainly in funding them so they’re not doing so much teaching and have time to spend on their research. Committees know this and are often very happy to see strong applications from schools besides the usual suspects.

    27. Indyanna on 16 Apr 2009 at 4:02 pm #

      I’ve served as an outside member on selection committees for external, center-based residential dissertation fellowships too, and observed the same process during other years. And believe me, the competitiveness comes and goes, ebbs and flows. It very often doesn’t at all match the imaginary prestige heirarchy that we sometimes presume. If there’s any pattern it seems to be that some programs get hot in placing dissertators in certain places for a few years in a row, then fall off and others get hot. It may be that the short term perception that “this one is ours” causes newer people their to ease off in making their own case. The half-life of institutional prescience about these matters is pretty short in transient communities. Or it may be other factors. But I wouldn’t presume anything about it.

      I loved that “raised by wolves” metaphor! Scary.

    28. Mentors and mentoring: whose responsibility? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 16 Jul 2009 at 8:37 am #

      [...] time and place, in the early and mid-1990s, at a university where (as I have said before) “we were raised by wolves,” or rather, by other graduate students, so we didn’t expect much from our advisors in [...]

    29. Honesty: honestly? : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 17 Apr 2010 at 6:15 am #

      [...] anecdote suggests a point I’ve made here before, which is that it’s as much your grad student colleagues as your grad advisers that are [...]

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