(Another) Preparing for the academic job market workshop

Below are some of my notes from a workshop on the subject of preparing for the academic job market. Dr. Elizabeth Jameson led the workshop, which took place on February 18th at the Center for Great Plains Studies. This is the second formal workshop I’ve attended on preparing for the academic job market, but I learn something new each time. It’s encouraging to see that conversations about the difficulties of the current job market are becoming more commonplace in academia, and that the newest generation of humanities graduate students are being prepared–from the very beginning of their academic careers–to consider the different trajectories their training can take them. I found the advice related to networking and organizing to be the most useful and inspiring.

Preparing for the academic job market:

  • Dr. Jameson entered the academic job market for the first time in 1975
    • 10 jobs in social history at that time
    • states she was “very, very lucky” to “score” one of the jobs, considered it “miraculous”
    • (Jameson says she did not have her dissertation or degree completed yet when she “scored” her first academic job –> different job market)
  • when Jameson left her first academic job, and lost funding for her second, she freelanced “in the wilderness” for a while (adjuncted for a time, low-pay, tenuous situation)
    • but kept working w/in women’s history & studies –> published two books (but still hadn’t completed her dissertation, into the 80’s)
    • eventually able to re-enter academia: tenure-track, “invited to apply for 3 chairs”
      • very successful, finished her dissertation, recognized for her experience
  • academic job ads now: “want you to teach everything AND do Digital Humanities” (a little tongue-in-cheek about the “walk on water” tone of some job ads today)
    • Dr. Katrina Jagodinsky: read the job ads early in your academic career and figure out how you steer your training to fit within the categories they are looking for
    • recognize that your entry job = “not necessarily where you’ll stay” (in job or intellectually)
      • & there is “a lot out there, beyond academia”
  • advisers and mentors = critical throughout the process (of your entire career, not just for your first job)
    • you will need letters of recommendation even 10 or 20 years on –> constantly cultivate an array of mentors and letter-writers
      • have multiple mentors, some outside your institution of training or employment
    • if you are “stubborn, flexible, and creative” you can make it into a career you like over time
      • be prepared to retool & look for ways to do so
  • networking, publishing:
    • if you have 1 or 2 potential articles, “get them out there”
    • early in your academic training, attend events like the Pacific Coast branch of the AHA – receive friendly feedback on your early work
      • then move into national conferences
      • e-mail folks ahead of conferences you are attending to ask for lunch/coffee dates to talk about your research –> be bold
    • “get involved in the movements that excite you”
    • take long enough on your dissertation that it is “close to publication,” so your adviser can attest to this, so presses can “start cruising you”
  • academic job interviews:
    • prepare 1, 5, and 20-minute descriptions of your dissertation
    • pay attention to the mission statements of the institutions AND departments you are applying to –> be able to articulate how you will contribute to their mission
    • do mock interviews
    • have drafts of your cover letter reviewed
      • find something to make you stand out in your cover letter
    • workshop your job talk AND a sample lecture
    • get on the AHA/OAH program the year you interview and invite your interviewers to your panel
    • ask for copies of teaching recommendations from anyone who has observed your teaching
      • include these in your teaching portfolio (this is in addition to, and separate from, your letters of recommendation)
    • constantly cultivate letter-writers and be sure they are tailoring their letters to the job
      • Jagodinsky: can include more than 3 letters of recommendation, provided: (1) each writer knows who else is writing and what (generally) they will talk about; (2) if are sure the additional letter(s) will be of high quality; (3) it won’t look like “fluff” or padding
  • get something good on your c.v. every year –> show you are “a professional and engaged historian,” even (or especially) if you are freelancing and hoping to return to T-T job market
  • organize: YOU will be the generation that has to defend the professoriate from serious efforts to de-skill, to turn academia into a factory system
    • “don’t settle”
      • “but be strategic” –> when you get “higher,” protect those who are still struggling and vulnerable
        • Jagodinsky: “don’t get caught up” in negativity and high competition among your fellow graduate students –> they will be your colleagues someday, don’t let harsh job market destroy valuable networks & relationships
          • tell close colleagues when you are applying for the same jobs & recognize that “one of you is mustard and the other is chocolate” –> both “make life great, but you don’t know if the search committee is having wine or hot dogs” so you shouldn’t beat yourself up over their decision, don’t lose confidence

“Teaching Gender and Sexuality” workshop notes

“Teaching Gender and Sexuality” Workshop

with Professors Rose Holz, Margaret Jacobs, and Laura Muñoz

What challenges have you had in teaching these subjects and how have you dealt with these challenges?

Holz: don’t really think of challenges as such – teach matter of fact-ly; no need to tip-toe: just put it in there

  • let them start reading it and find out about it on their own
  • true, there will always be some disgruntled students but no need to be limited by this

Munoz: make it part of the knowing of, history of, intellectual exercise, the more students will grab on to it

  • be aware that you are a transmitter, a model of how you approach these kinds of conversations → without it being heightened, fearful
  • + often uses humor to deflect some of the fear of talking about these things

Jacobs: different if the course is specifically geared toward these topics versus working with these topics in a general course, basic history survey

  • demographics will be different depending on the course
  • being upfront with students about the reasons you are taking a certain approach
  • + students also come to classes with certain narratives already in their head (about what women’s and gender history is, what the story contains, how you will treat it)
  • likes to use humor as well to deflect any student discomfort, defensiveness

Munoz: agrees with telling students about your training and how it will impact the way they will approach the course

  • your training will come out naturally in the way you organize lectures anyway

Questions opened to attendees:

What about large courses and how to counter narratives students bring in with them (and particularly resistance to having these narratives complicated)?

Jacobs: example of Native American women, students often come in thinking Native American women were very oppressed

  • starts with a very general discussion of what students think women’s autonomy is → how are they autonomous? What is freedom? What are women’s roles?
    • Students come to understand the roles and status of Native American women = very different from that of European women at the time
  • Often MUCH easier for students to think about these issues within the context of the past

Munoz: need to tell students that everyone’s opinion matters and counts → over the course of the class move into interrogating students during discussion about how evidence supports their opinion(s)

How to make men feel welcome when teaching a mostly female course?

Holz: often jokes about this, lets them know they have a place in her course; has been told she’s “guy friendly”, not entirely sure what this means

Munoz: teaches at a regional university, had a particular course that was mostly white males

  • saw these students as interested in the lives of their female relatives → moves in to build personal connections to the material in this way, esp. using oral history interviews (as assignments)

Jacobs: interesting question – often only think about it when notice classroom composition “outside the norm”

  • a little discomfort is okay → learning experience to suddenly find yourself a minority in your classes
  • gets point of question re: wanting to make students feel welcome, able to participate

What happens when discussing women and gender and a “bomb gets thrown” during discussion in a large class, with very limit time? Don’t want to seem “un-gentle.”

Holz: when it’s issues of women, gender, sexuality = “way simpler” than dealing with issues of race

  • usually opens the floor to see what the rest of the course thinks, leave a heavy pause

Jacobs: often leaves space in class for correctives – so doesn’t feel so rushed

Munoz: depends on your style

  • tends to be pretty casual in her lectures
  • slows down, stops to have the conversation, since it’s important
    • interrogate the student, while emphasizing that you are open to conversation
    • forces student to “stand up to their own flippancy” when/if it comes out

Holz: admits to liking when students have a “backbone” and will question, debate

What about questions, comments that weren’t meant to be flippant or offensive?

Jacobs: classroom should “be a place of dialogue,” even when people say something offensive

Munoz: need to create a culture in the classroom where the students feel like they can share their ideas with you – even when they aren’t certain how to deal with them

Holz: emphasize to students that we need a space in which we can disagree with one another, yet still like each other

Breakout sessions
“Historicizing the Body” with Dr. Jeannette Jones

  • have students respond to a single question in advance of in-class discussion (online, Blackboard) → helps students deal with their tension, discomfort before class
    • “free-writes” for students → things that come to their mind first when see a particular image
  • Anne Fausto-Sterling, “Gender, Race, and Nation: The Comparative Anatomy of ‘Hottentot’ Women in Europe, 1815-1817” in Deviant Bodies, pp. 19-48; Janell Hobson, “Venus and the Hottentot: The Emergence of an Icon” and “The Hottentot Venus Revisited: The Politics of Reclamation” in Venus in the Dark, 19-86
    • + Punch cartoons
    • discuss values white people of the time ascribed to these “deviant” bodies → bestiality, ignorance, hyper-sexuality
  • + case studies re: deviance in female bodies
    • Jacqueline Urla and Jennifer Terry, “Introduction: Mapping Embodied Deviance,” pp. 1-18 and David G. Horn, “this Norm Which Is Note One: Reading the Female Body in Lombroso’s Anthropology,” pp. 109-128 in Deviant Bodies
    • Janell Hobson, “Re-presenting the Female Black Body” (title?) [makes arguments here about influence of the female body on fashion – e.g. the bustle]
  • using a syllabus for Women and Gender Reading Seminar (taught twice in the past)
  • studies American History, also interested in the history of science
  • “intersexed” – hermaphrodites as way to open discussion with students about biological sex as a construction
    • e.g. readings on intersexed children having gender assigned to them through surgery early in life → ideas about what it means to give the choice to the parents rather than the child + why we have this idea that one must “be one or the other”
    • Jones starts with the biological then moves forward from there into other “murky categories” that have nothing to do with biological (inheritance, voting rights, citizenship…)

How do you bring the body into a very basic, introductory history class?

  • Male and female bodies, free versus un-free bodies within the context of slavery → get students to understand the body as a site for inscribing power
  • coverture
  • Native American + white women’s bodies, differences, similarities
  • the gentleman body versus the workingman’s body → primary sources from the 18th century re: workingmen’s bodies – central to way early American and modern Americans thought about the body

history of medicine and science, “well they just didn’t know then,” couldn’t understand the way we understand the body now, how to get students to think historically about the body

  • bring in the social and cultural history of medicine and science → WHO are the people who are making these statements, who is being excluded
  • science’s understanding of certain topics change over time – “science as situated knowledge”
    • show was knowledge not superstition, was “common knowledge”


“Demystifying the Publication Process” workshop notes

Dr. Denise Cuthbert, Dean, School of Graduate Research, RMIT University, Australia
Dr. Denise Cuthbert, Dean, School of Graduate Research, RMIT University, Australia

Below are my rough notes from an excellent workshop I attended last week. The workshop, entitled “Demystifying the Publication Process,” was sponsored by UNL’s Office of Graduate Studies. Dr. Denise Cuthbert, Dean of RMIT University’s School of Graduate Research was the workshop’s leader. Few workshops I attend got me as excited to get started on a project as this workshop. I can still hear Dr. Cuthbert’s charming Australian accent, spurring us on to publish!

Demystifying the Publication Process, September 4, 2014

  • Your publishing plans:
    • need to consider what your article is about in tandem with where you plan to publish it (and why)
    • should have a mindmap of the key journals in your field
      • which are prestigious, which will reach local/national/regional audience, which are more theoretical, etc.
      • go to the editorial page and/or website of journals to help map out your field
        • particular approaches, research will be good for one journal and not another
    • too late to begin thinking about all of the above after your paper is finished
  • Workshop goals:
    • learn more about the academic publishing system & how to target the right journals
      • big reason articles get rejected
    • talk about a range of writing techniques to help you refine your abstract (important writing tool) and get your paper to draft form
    • how to handle the submission and peer review process
  • publication = “the ultimate destination of all of your work” “It’s really not research until it’s published.”
    • “Research seeks to advance the stock of human knowledge and academic publishing is the key way in which knowledge is disseminated and shared amongst researchers. This occurs primarily through peer refereed scholarly journals, books and conferences.”
    • key feature of academic articles:
      • contain original research/findings or reviews
      • are blind peer-reviewed or validated
    • Cuthbert believes reach of journals = better than edited volumes, book chapters due to the digital reach of journals, potential and ability for “generating citations” of your work
  • Why publish during the doctorate?
    • Major change over time, within the last 30 years – changes in the purpose of the doctorate
      • leave grad school only with completed dissertation = no longer enough
      • 2-3 published papers whether published or “in the pipeline”
  • Academic publishing – Why is it so hard?
    • Kamler and Thomson (2006):
      • writing is a social practice → solitary nature of writing = deceptive. “We write ourselves, but we write for others.”
        • goes back to point of WHO are we writing for?
  • have an outlook that emphasizes writing for publication
    • to publish, you need to have something to say, but how will you know?
    • Discuss with your supervisor how to position your research
  • What makes a good paper? LESS is MORE
    • don’t make it more than it should be → keep it small, contained, focused, targeted
      • can briefly describe the larger project, but make clear which one to two major ideas/theses you’ll be focusing on
    • one great idea/significant finding/compelling argument = one good paper
      • see journals in your field, will see these examples
    • don’t make the mistake of attempting to put too much in a paper
    • a publication plan for a given paper should slice of ‘bits’ of the research and craft them into publishable papers
    • you cannot fit a whole thesis into a paper
  • “Fit the article to the journal, not the other way around.”
  • “Plan your publications before you start your research and experiments.”
  • Be prepared to go through many drafts as you exercise the “less is more” principle.
  • Making abstracts concrete:
    • through the writing process, the abstract is a living document
      • a very disciplined form of writing
    • concise “road map” of paper you intend to write/are writing – but modifiable as the writing process shows a better way through
    • a good abstract can keep you “honest” as a writer
    • on completion of paper, abstract needs to be revised and finalized to accurately reflect the paper now completed
    • good abstracts do not undersell or oversell the paper they describe
    • good abstracts will invite appropriate audience(s) to read paper
  • Responding to readers’ reports:
    • stay calm! → “blind review process = a brutally honest process”
      • also need to understand the “economy” of the reviewer process → reviewers not paid for their work – taking papers on a volunteer basis, on top of all their other work and duties
    • Accept – rarely happens that a paper is accepted outright (only twice in Cuthbert’s personal experience)
      • minor revisions
      • major revisions
    • reject (for that particular journal = the end, move on to another journal)
    • highlight main criticisms (major vs. minor)
    • criticisms versus suggestions for improvement
    • scope of journal, IF etc.
    • re-read the next day (not the same day you get the paper back)
    • send to co-authors (assign tasks with deadline)
    • track changes
    • usually several weeks to revise – thinking time!
  • building your C.V.
    • aim for both breadth and depth
      • get some runs on the board – not all need to be high-ranking
      • don’t ignore quality though
      • conferences
      • book chapters – can open a wider range of publication options (but often less accessible for citation purposes)
      • look for opportunities to publish different kinds of articles – i.e. review, methodological, results, etc.
    • consider time to publication (often longer than journals estimate; usually about a year)
    • cast a wide net
  • Finding the right journal
    • about 25,000+ peer reviewed English-language academic journals
    • different categories:
      • peer reviewed/non peer reviewed
      • subscription/open access
      • disciplinary/cross disciplinary audiences
      • special issues/standard issues
      • influential/not so influential
    • What are the journals that you’re currently reading, that you keep coming back to?
    • What are the key journals in your field?
      • Impact factor
      • average number of citations to articles per journal
      • journal rankings
    • particularly when you start out, consider not aiming too high and risking disappointment → take advice
  • look at the journal for:
    • aims
    • scope
    • nature of contribution sought
    • intended readership
    • editorial board members
  • also ask your supervisor(s) where they publish and why
  • Write early, write often:
    • from day one
    • “identify do-able chunks of writing that could form the basis of an article, say 700, 1000, 1500 and up to 3000 words on a specific topic or theme”
    • build up a body of writing by accretion – i.e. small bits at a time, one article after another
    • “Treat writing as research planning and development: Don’t turn what should be molehills into mountains.”
      • treat writing as exploratory, contingent, provisional → should always be able/open to revising, re-packaging for another process
      • every article is just another idea – not the whole thesis
    • get over perfectionism and masterpiece syndrome
      • good writing = heavily vetted writing
      • “there’s no such thing as perfect”
      • this is an attempt to give an account – the very best attempt one can give at a particular time, but an attempt nonetheless
  • Thinking things through:
    • many criticisms have merit, ask: Did the reviewer make a good point? Did you write clearly?
      • Sometimes reviewers miss the point, don’t appear to have read the paper carefully → if you really disagree with a criticism of the paper, you can argue your case—politely and respectfully—to the managing editor (be judicious, be polite)
    • keep a detailed list of all the revisions made, which reader (A, B, C) recommended → use when sending paper back to managing editor to explain what you’ve done
    • consider more experiments, major rewrite versus submitting paper elsewhere
    • bear in mind, overwhelming majority of the papers submitted through the peer review process are improved as a result of the process
  • What makes a good abstract?
    • “abstracts” key, salient features of the paper: it does not retell the paper in miniature
      • the what, why, how and so what statement of the research paper
    • What is the paper about? From what larger project does this paper arise?
    • Why is the research reported here necessary and important? So what? Why the paper addresses a significant gap in knowledge.
    • How was the research reported in the paper conducted?
    • Generally this statement is between 150-250 words
    • every word counts
    • consider vocabulary of abstract and keywords: accuracy and web searchability are key considerations (in BOTH abstract and the title of the paper)
      • you want people to find your paper
      • Cuthbert in favor of “non-poetic” paper titles – keywords, searchability over poeticism
  • examined abstracts submitted by workshop participants

“Preparing for the [Academic] Job Market” workshop notes

Dr. James Coltrain, UNL
Dr. James Coltrain, UNL

Below are my rough notes from a whirlwind workshop on the subject of preparing for the academic job market. Dr. James Coltrain led the workshop, which took place on August 21st at the 2014 History Department Graduate Student Retreat.

Preparing for the [academic] job market:

  • every aspect of getting a job will be a grind”
  • being a good job candidate = not same as being a good grad student
  • To be a good job candidate:
    • for an elite position, at a Research I university have:
      • publications (ideally 2-3 peer-reviewed article in your field; any other kinds of publications = a good idea; chapter in edited edition; anything shows through an editorial process)
      • major conference presentations (as many as you can – esp. the big ones like the AHA, OAH; you need people in your field who can advocate for you)
      • a fellowship or two (money to go to a library = very good; apply early – in the Fall; EVEN if it’s only a week’s stay at a library it will help your C.V.)
      • teaching experience (do everything you can to teach your own class + develop the major courses you know you’ll be expected to teach)
      • for digital jobs: do something with strong disciplinary purpose (significant historical questions) AND be knowledgeable about a particular kind of technology (esp. good if its innovative)
      • show impact on your field: If you nail your dissertation, what would the textbook companies be OBLIGATED to change (a chapter, even a sentence)?
  • Where should you look for job listings?
    • Hnet.org
    • academic jobs wiki (google this, disciplinary areas divided by subfield)
    • AHA – “last generation”
    • Chronicle of Higher Education
    • follow a bunch of people on Twitter, institutes – see what pops up
  • Your cover letter – no more than 2 pages; single-spaced
    • must be PERFECT → okay if you spend a month on it
    • VERY direct intro – you, what you’re applying for, your research
    • how your research changes your field, your major field → explain in way that non-experts can understand
    • methodology, which archives you used, travel you’ve done, previous discourse you’re engaging with
    • your WIDER research, how you fit into a school, a mode of analysis, pitch your NEXT project → your next book, connected in some way to your current book (not committed to this, so BE BOLD)
    • brag → don’t just repeat your c.v. – substantive things that don’t come across in your c.v. (communicate its importance); remember: people evaluating you are NOT in your area
    • everything else, especially TEACHING and SERVICE (up to two paragraphs); good place for school specific arguments (particular center you’d be excited to work in; you have a relationship to the place – but don’t go overboard)
    • change this cover letter for different DISCIPLINES you are applying for & for different LEVELS of universities (research, community colleges)
      • work influenced by debates in other fields, taught classes in other areas, etc.
      • cover letter for teaching institution versus R-1 institution → ALWAYS start with your dissertation, adapt your paragraphs after that (emphasize teaching experience and philosophy)
  • Your C.V. – every important thing you’ve done in different categories
    • emphasize professional-level stuff over grad-level stuff (prioritize/list them in this order)
    • 3-4 sentence abstract of your dissertation on your C.V. = good sometimes
    • 2-3 pages of GREAT stuff is better than padding it
  • 3 letters of recommendation
    • 1st person = your advisor → CUSTOMIZED letter; CRITICAL (hopefully “says it all”)
    • 2nd person = could be a committee member, someone who knows your RESEARCH very well 
    • 3rd person = lots of options: someone you taught for that knows you very well, someone at another school IF you know them WELL; want someone with a NATIONAL profile whenever possible
    • NO LAST MINUTE stuff on requests for letters → send a spreadsheet with deadlines, start as early as possible
      • about a month’s notice = the “sweet spot”
    • Interfolio = good; generic letter of recommendation that YOU write for the advisor to give them an idea of what you think you need
      • don’t be afraid to GET ON your letter writers if they’re not keeping up with deadlines – “it’s part of their job” to write letters for you
  • Some things often (but not always) asked for in job applications:
    • writing sample
      • dissertation chapter OR peer-reviewed published article → whichever is BETTER
      • stay within the page limit
    • teaching evaluations → pick the best, most informative ones
    • teaching portfolio – including syllabi (classes taught, planned), evaluations, teaching philosophy
      • come back to those books from your comps for the basic courses you know you will be asked to teach (show your historiography)
      • what you do, why you do it, assignments given (avoid buzzwords without examples)
    • research statement – same as you would do in your cover letter
      • your dissertation, methods
      • final 3rd = future project
    • diversity statement: have someone who actually IS from a diverse background read it
      • how you approach your subject with diversity in mind (pedagogy, research, community)
        • e.g. content of what you teach; can mention your background (but don’t assume that has significance)
  • do as much as you can during the SUMMER
    • different applications will ask for different things, so you’ll constantly be tweaking your application materials
  • significant, polished segment of your dissertation ready to go (in the summer if applying for fall jobs)
    • don’t be shy → go for it if you’re interested
  • Stages of the interview:
    • job posting come out June – January
      • most to Dec. 15th
    • get 70-100 applicants – few cuts may happen early on
      • e.g. send more writing samples (as much of your dissertation as you have)
      • e.g. Skype interviews – look at the CAMERA, wear what you wear to teach in, be in a quiet, well-lit space
      • e.g. phone interview – dress up for your phone interview (state of mind for your interview), have the internet/notes up
      • e.g. conference interview – not all have a conference interview (cuts made to 15-20 or 7-8) → it’s an accomplishment to get there, take it as a good sign
        • be prepared to be at the AHA → think about your finances (ask the department, the center you’re involved in to support your need to be there)
        • make sure you have enough turn-around time (1 hour or so) between interviews
        • ask for names of committee members → do research on them
        • be relaxed for the interview
          • as nice as you can look without being too formal (NOT about style here, about professionalism)
        • get to hotel early, get to the room 5 minutes early
        • bring a clipboard with paper to write on
          • small amount of notes = okay
    • 1st question is ALWAYS – tell me about your research (3 minutes, just like your cover letter – research, methods)
      • theory, method that influenced your research, how it fits within your field
      • the next project
      • teaching experiences, philosophy
      • classes willing, able to teach (make sure you aren’t taking anyone else’s classes at the institution you’re applying for)
      • they’ll tell you about the department, position → you’d BETTER HAVE QUESTIONS FOR THEM
        • read everything on the department website, “stalk” your committee members
        • make YOU and THEM look good with your questions
        • don’t go off on tangents (stick to the basics – emphasizing your research/teaching in your questions)
  • 3-4 folks in the interview on campus
    • everything else in your life is on hold” → don’t be a problem for them, put everything else aside
    • will be stressful, lengthy → give recovery time to yourself between these
    • research every single person you’ll be meeting with on your campus visit
      • try to memorize some names & faces
    • get an itinerary
    • pack a carry-on if you can in case your bags get lost
      • layers, options
    • TONS of meetings – be as friendly as possible, have good posture, emphasize positive things (topics of convo reflect well on them)
    • if you have a weak spot in your candidacy – find a strength to focus on
    • lots of meals – dinners, lunches; “you are on the clock” (do not get drunk); if anyone else gets water you get water
      • do not gossip but be human → bring conversation back to you and the job if it drifts TOO far off
      • order neat, fairly moist food (you’ll be talking the most out of everyone; something easy to eat, not messy)
      • you’re always on; you’re never off”
    • the job talk → 35 minutes to 1 hour
      • questions can be very long sometimes so NEVER go over
      • practice!
      • Have great visuals BUT be prepared to have NO powerpoint
        • have handouts as your backup
      • always have a hard copy or two of your presentation
        • usb drive
        • adaptors
        • e-mail your presentations
      • probably a chapter, or a combo of 2 chapters → but hit on every important aspect of your dissertation
        • mention ALL the important work you’ve done
        • have as many people review this in advance as possible
        • bring water with you
        • clear, direct loud voice – speak slowly and DO NOT READ, make eye contact
        • speak to the person on “your team” as much as you can
        • build natural speech into your talk
        • Q & A: set up possible questions in your talk
          • end your answers with seeding another question
          • anticipate things you’ve been asked to emphasized in your application process
        • stand up for your project → defend your work
        • do the best that you can with “the jerk(s)”
          • there will be people who are aggressive → handle it as respectfully as you can and explain your perspective
        • most of the people in the audience don’t know who’s right”
          • can say something along the lines of “historians continue to debate this point…”
        • think about talking to the aggressive person right afterward → “My committee and I have talked about and debated this too…”
  • adopt a “dating” attitude toward this
    • don’t smother them, don’t creep them out
    • the thank you e-mail after your interview, to the chair of the committee, = a MUST (right after you leave) → show them you don’t take them for granted
      • exercise restraint in impulse to check in on progress
    • don’t be a problem → your personal preferences don’t matter
      • go with the flow
      • only exception = ask for a minimum of half an hour before your job talk, alone, preferably in the room you’ll be speaking in
      • don’t say a negative thing about a person, place, thing, entity the ENTIRE time you are there → you never know who you’ll be making angry (connections of connections)
    • you are nice to everyone the entire time you are there
    • If they had you, they wouldn’t need you.”
    • may not even be the committee that makes the final decision → could be a total faculty vote, higher up considerations
      • keep your distance from any personal connections you may already have at the institution
    • salary, disability, information about the town → DON’T ask until AFTER the offer
      • be light on personal information
      • don’t engage in controversies
      • job offer: be clear about expectations
        • only time you get in touch = if you’re considering another offer (to give them a timeline so you can make a decision)
        • make an effort to negotiate a salary, but realize there is not a lot of wiggle room
  • teaching colleges may ask you to do a guest lecture → they may even dictate which course you’ll lecture
    • so don’t OVER-REACH or over-sell yourself in your application on what you can teach
    • especially true at small liberal arts colleges
    • do a “super-lecture” → rich with sources, images
      • and be a politician with the “students” (who may or may not actually be teaching the course) → get to know them a tad
  • you cannot get down on yourself about rejection
    • & you cannot try to analyze the cause of that rejection
      • it’s such a HUGE combination of circumstances that inform the final decision
    • the pool is too large, the sample size is too small
    • don’t read gossip about jobs (e.g. on the job wiki listed above)
    • also DON’T complain about why you think you didn’t get a particular job
      • don’t check this more than once per week
      • don’t post on this wiki
      • don’t count yourself out → might be a failed job search, other people might have taken other jobs → be patient (this process can literally take a very long time)
  • What if I can’t get a job?
    • Major use of time and effort to get on the market
    • be realistic in both a positive and negative way
    • if your diss is done, don’t get a single conference interview → you may have learned something useful and can try again
    • there are no guarantees because it’s so competitive
    • diversify your skills while you’re here
      • e.g. alt-ac, digital → but don’t over-romanticize the opportunities here (these are still very competitive)
      • think about what else you can do and get started on it (volunteering, internship)
    • post-docs = NOT a “fallback,” still very competitive
      • know yourself” – what this does at best is to extend your shelf-life a while longer
    • know the geography of your job search and weigh your options against the post-doc (compare the resources, connections you have where you are against where you are going – what if you don’t get a job after your post-doc?)
      • consider work a post-doc requires of you too
    • you are probably qualified, but that might not be the way things shake down
      • (American Idol comparison)
    • discourages ANYONE from taking adjunct position in hopes that anyone will turn it into a permanent position
      • okay” for just a year
      • it’s a dead-end” → better investment to focus on writing, researching, speaking (not being a 2nd class citizen basically – no health insurance, pitiful pay, no security, etc.)

“Teaching About Race in History: New Perspectives and Pedagogies,” workshop notes

“Teaching About Race in History: New Perspectives and Pedagogies”, 4.5.2014

Dr. Jeannette Jones:

  • early modern period = critical to understanding ideas about race
    • as developed in the 18th & 19th century, Enlightenment & European thinkers
      • + colonial America
    • race as a social construct, with a history of its own → necessary for students to understand this
    • must understand role of gender in perpetuating ideas about race (e.g. slavery perpetuated through the race & status of the mother)
  • searches for primary sources to introduce students to these ideas^
    • pay attention to accessibility of the sources here
    • when get to the 19th century, pay attention to legislation (citizenship, property rights, expansion, movements attempting to challenging ideas about race + some peoples using ideas about race to forge identity and organize resistance against repression and slavery)
      • must consider the Dred Scott decision
  • finds that most students respond well to the above^ BUT are often surprised that people haven’t always thought about race as do now
  • when arrive at post-bellum period & the early 20th century, census records = very useful sources to use in conjunction with anti-miscegenation laws
  • 20th century includes a discussion of the Civil Rights movement, LGBTQ, Black Power movement
    • e.g. [MISSING word] River Collective Statement, National Black Feminist Association + some personal narratives & excerpts about people contemplating their racial identities
    • Vine Deloria, Desert Exile
    • uses some newspaper articles too

Dr. Kenneth Winkle:

  • emphasizing U.S. History, his area of specialization
  • 3 responsibilities to our students:
    • (1) teaching diversity through course content → non-European perspectives must be incorporated as part of the foundation & structure of our classes (NOT just sporadically interjected as an “add-on”)
      • lectures, readings, discussions
      • e.g. requires three readings: 1 on African Americans, 1 on Native Americans, 1 on women (& hopefully some documents written by diverse groups of peoples)
      • choice of textbook = critical → looks for a textbook with a broad focus
        • e.g. Mary Beth Norton’s A People & A Nation
    • (2) creating & maintaining a classroom environment in which everyone feels welcome and valued
      • faculty respecting students, students respecting faculty, students respecting each other
      • must make time to listen, not just talk (lecture)
      • respond thoroughly & thoughtfully to students’ questions and comments & incorporate thoughtfully into the lecture & classroom discussion
      • insist that students do the same with one another^
      • two questions on teaching evaluation mandated by the Board of Regents: Did the instructor treat the students with fairness & respect? Did the students treat the instructor fairly and respectfully?
        • Only two questions mandated → critical to the classroom environment
        • student writing = another crucial indicator of what’s going on in the classroom, what the instructor is bringing & how the students are responding
    • (3) representing a role model for our students → be a model of fairness & respect for our students
      • one thing to say it, another to live it
      • not just about teaching diversity – being diversity
      • also need to be aware of “red-flagging” diversity → diversity of perspectives should be a seamless component of our teaching & course content
      • diversity = not something we “hired someone else to do”; something that we all address in our work
        • not A.C.E. 9 requirement – it’s a part of history & part of the professional practice of history

Dr. Gerald Steinacher:

  • agrees with previous comments, particularly regarding listening to the students
  • teaching modern Jewish History, History of the Holocaust, History of Germany to a U.S. audience in Lincoln, Nebraska
    • first time he heard of Lincoln = within the context of Nazi propaganda in the 1970s and 80’s, being printed in Lincoln and smuggled into Austria to be used to support neo-Nazi groups
  • first, must learn where the students are coming from → cannot begin teaching wherever you like, need to know where the students are beginning
    • changes what he teaches based upon what he observes, learns about his student audience
    • pay particular attention to the first year’s teaching evaluations
  • uses primary sources, but ALSO people: survivors of the Holocaust to come speak to the class → “this really makes a difference”
    • much more impact than just reading a chapter in a textbook → dispels notions of the Holocaust as “long ago and far away”
  • also puts a great deal of effort into emphasizing the connections between nationalism and racism
    • 19th century European ideas about race based on language (rather than physical markers)
      • scientific racism
      • U.S. history connected to European history (e.g. clarified via eugenics, Charles Davenport in New York → Germany, West Africa) (forced sterilization)
      • for most students, this^ is very enlightening, something they are very surprised to learn
        • after the first year of teaching, learned needed to spend a good deal of time dispelling myths about the “Elders of Zion” → examine the history of this propaganda

Break-out sessions followed:

  • “Teaching About Racism in History,” with Jared Leighton and Dawne Curry
  • “Teaching About Whiteness in History,” with Jake Friefeld and Waskar Ari
  • “Teaching About the Origins of Race,” with Paul Strauss and James Coltrain

“Effective teaching statements and teaching portfolios” workshop notes

Below are my notes from another of UNL’s Office of Graduate Studies workshops, this time on the subject of creating an effective teaching statement and a teaching portfolio. The workshop was held on Thursday, February 20th.

A teaching portfolio = “a coherent set of materials including work samples and reflective commentary on them compiled by a faculty member [or graduate student] to represent his or her teaching practice as related to student learning and development.” (Hutchings, 1996)

  • a useful tool for…
    • identifying areas for improvement
    • developing your teaching methods/approach
    • documenting your teaching experience
    • preparing for academic interviews
  • focus today = preparing for the academic job interview
    • “the product of preparing a teaching portfolio may not be as useful to you in the long-run as the process

Portfolio content:

  • depends on the purpose
    • job search
    • awards application
    • promotion & tenure
  • varies across disciplines
  • linked to your goals for teaching & learning
  • three primary components:
    • roles & responsibilities
    • teaching statement
    • evidence of effective teaching

(1) Teaching responsibilities:

  • include: course number, course title, brief course description, course level (first year undergraduates/sophomores/juniors), date(s) taught, enrollment (number of students in course, maximum number allowed), description of your role in the course (recitation leader, instructor)
    • list these in reverse chronological order
      • be sure to update constantly, just as you would your C.V.
    • if haven’t taught courses, think about including very specific information on courses you would like to teach
    • a good option for your portfolio = to list these courses in table format (for easy browsing of your experience)

(2) Teaching statement:

  • need to get to the point where you can articulate “why you teach the way you teach” within a 30-second “elevator speech”
  • 1-2 page (single-spaced) statement that addresses:
    • What do you want students to do/learn? (learning objectives)
      • e.g. “I want students to become effective writers. I want them to formulate and articulate a stance through and in their writing.”
    • How do you help them learn? (methods)
      • e.g. “I use brief, in-class writing assignments to help students synthesize and critically evaluate information.”
    • How do you know if they’ve learned it? (assessment)
      • e.g. “I evaluate students’ blog posts in terms of content, synthesis, and relevance. Students are given examples of good posts and the grading criteria prior to the assignment.”
    • How do you measure your effectiveness?
      • e.g. “Every three to four weeks, I end the class by asking students to respond briefly to two questions: What’s the most important thing you learned today? and What questions still remain unanswered? Their responses help me identify what they understood from the discussion and what concepts are still unclear.”
  • NOT about telling your general “teaching philosophy” –> show, don’t just tell
    • the person(s) reading this statement are interested in what you’ve accomplished, learned, thought about more than simply what you think/believe
  • Keep in mind that a good teaching statement is:
    • concrete, personal/individualized, vivid, discipline specific, somewhat humble, all about student learning
  • Remember: Not all teaching takes place in the classroom. Think broadly about your contributions to student learning.
    • e.g. mentoring of undergraduate students can be included because it IS teaching; same for tutoring, for example

(3) Evidence of effective teaching:

  • include materials from:
    • oneself: syllabus, teaching sample, narrative reflection
    • colleagues: observation notes/summary, syllabus or material reviews/letters by recommenders
      • letters by faculty/other recommenders can be a particularly strong part of your teaching portfolio IF they are specific about your teaching
    • students: course ratings, comments, products/evidence of learning outcomes, letters, individual samples and aggregated summaries (anonymized & showing progress over the course of the semester)
      • offer raw data from course evaluations (to offer a fuller representation of your evaluations by students) BUT include samples that promote you as a teacher
  • other examples of evidence: list of courses taught, sample syllabi, sample assignments, sample quizzes/exams, teaching awards, evaluations by peers
  • when including student ratings/evaluationsbe selective:
    • choose items that link to your major claims
    • use a matrix/table to display and organize the evaluation questions you are using
    • provide mean (and median) ratings
    • include narrative commentary –> write about some of the feedback you’ve received to respond to criticism and/or illustrate ways you’ve responded to criticism and changed your teaching as a result
    • include selection of student comments that relate back to some of your major teaching goals
    • if appropriate, include complete evaluations in appendices (depends on the discipline)

Portfolio organization: (physical copy)

  • narrative description of teaching roles & responsibility
  • teaching statement
    • description of select teaching methods and strategies
    • highlighted teaching outcomes
    • insights/reflections and new goals
  • appedices (supporting data, documents, letters, etc.)
  • could maintain a physical copy to take with you to a job interview, although it will probably be infrequent that you will be asked to provide a physical copy

Qualities of a “strong” portfolio:

  • readability: format, headings, coherent, cohesive
  • storyline or “picture”: memorable fact/image, clear examples given
  • linked system of objectives, efforts, outcomes, adjustments: evidence that efforts do pay off or are changed

Revise, revise, revise:

  • remember your teaching statement = a work in progress
  • consider the suggestions of others and rewrite your statement over time
  • proofread carefully
    • remember that your statement is a writing sample –> you will be judged on the quality of your writing as much as the content

Final tips:

  • start now
  • be selective
  • don’t make any claims about your teaching you can’t document
  • don’t create your portfolio in isolation
  • consider it a work in progress
  • make cumulative tables & annual review narratives

“Project Management for Digital Humanities” workshop notes

Below are my notes from a Digital Humanities workshop I attended yesterday evening on project management. I was surprised by how specific and detailed the workshop was, and was encouraged to learn that the Digital Humanities are beginning to adapt the standards and language of business-oriented project management to suit the specific needs and aims of DH. Thank you to UNL Center for Digital Research in the Humanities’ (CDRH) Liz Lorang for putting this great workshop together.

Project Management for Digital Humanities


  • are unique/produce a unique result
  • have a defined scope
  • have a defined start and end
  • must be completed with set resources
  • useful to drive this^ definition home → can’t successfully manage the project if don’t have a clear, defined understanding of the above

Project management = “the application of strategies and methods to complete projects effectively and successfully”

  • a successful project…is completed on time and with the agreed upon resources; produces product deliverables and meets scope and quality requirements
  • NOT about exceeding expectations →if scope of project and expectations continue to expand, may not get the original project, idea completed
  • DHers working more in teams, need to be able to run projects effectively (esp. to get and justify funding)
    • when introducing more variables into a project, need a project manager to ensure project is progressing, goals are being met
    • projects are often looking for project managers → good way for graduate students to get good experience & translate this for your own projects
      • most often, the person behind the project idea = NOT the project manager
      • skills gap between DH folks who have great project ideas but don’t have time or resources to be able to do the management portion of this
  • there are many different types of project management
    • much of the language, materials on how-to manage projects = dealing with a specific business culture → not always related to DH concerns, standards, methods
    • e.g. “lean” project management = all about maximizing efficiency, use of resources, most “bang for the buck”
    • traditional, adaptive, discovery, extreme = the 4 primary types of project management
      • DH @ UNL sees quite a bit of traditional & adaptive
  • So what’s the right method?
    • goals, project activities → if BOTH = clearly defined, traditional = the way to go
      • if NOT clearly defined, adaptive may be more the way to go
    • not all projects will be managed the same way
    • across both methods (traditional, adaptive):
      • every project should have: defined goals, deliverables, scope, start & end dates, defined team & roles, defined stakeholders, defined resources
      • AND every project must include: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring/controlling, closing
      • BUT methods look different in practice
    • sometimes funding applications (e.g.) NEH funding application becomes the “founding document” BUT, often, things will change → and IF goals, definitions change, it is best for the sake of the project to write up all of the above^ very early on
  • traditional project management in practice = initiate → plan → execute → monitor → close
  • agile/iterative project management in practice = initiate → plan → execute → monitor → [repeat: plan → execute → monitor] → close
    • e.g. Whitman Archive standards need updated → need to explore first in order to determine what need to accomplish and how long it will take (won’t be a linear process: “code sprints” = work intensely on one problem for a week, then move on to the next problem)
    • e.g. DH practicum course being offered this semester: encourage students to set 3-hour goals as a way to begin exploring problems and risks, “real world” goals for solving problems
  • the CDRH uses a “charter form” for the initiate phase → Liz to share a copy with workshop attendees

Project charter:

  • Vision (Why? What question(s) are you answering?)
  • Mission (What?)
  • Success criteria (How will we know if the project is successful?)
  • Where and how the above^ is documented varies from one project to another, depending on who you work with, how big and/or formal the project team is
  • not the role of the project manager to create these things (although will be involved in this process), but need to be sure these things are articulated as early as possible
  • if mission/success criteria changes, need to determine the impact on the project → e.g. will the deadline(s) for the project, budget, goals also change?
  • more traditional models may also specify the following in their project charter:
    • sponsor & stakeholders
    • roles
    • assumptions & constraints working under
    • standards (e.g. thematic research collection, documenting what encoding standards you are using → this can be important to state in the early stages if, for example, you are farming out some of the work and/or if some members of the team don’t have a lot of technical knowledge)
    • budget (monetary as well as time budgets can be useful)
    • schedule (short-term project: month-by-month…)
    • milestones
  • really expansive project charters don’t tend to work well for academic projects
    • risk plan (known risks, possibilities for some unknowns – want to have contingency plans)
    • communication plan (sounds great in theory, but may not pan out in academic culture → various plans for breakdowns in communication) (BUT probably works well in class projects, when at a peer-level with members of the project)
    • work breakdown structure (often assume “chart-like” form, ascending/descending tasks, how tasks relate to one another, identify critical pathways, things that must be done in order for next step to be done)

Open discussion:

  • a lot of DH management is being done by women
  • Project Management Institute = basically has a monopoly on the certification in project management professional
    • DHSI & HILT have offered project management courses in the past BUT not yet wholly geared toward DH (still using a lot of approaches and language from business)
  • various types of software for delegating responsibilities?
    • Trac = used @ the CDRH for several projects & has worked well → can set milestones & see a roadmap
      • ALSO great way to keep track of who’s working on what (especially important for large projects), keep everyone updated on progress of project, document key decisions…
    • Asana = something one of the workshop attendees has used → it was “overkill”, things pile up, is very business-oriented
    • Basecamp = another option, not much experience using it in the room (it’s not open-access)
  • communications aspect may be one of the most difficult aspects of project management, especially when the project manager isn’t necessarily on equal footing with the members of the team