Have a Happy Weekend!

Posted by Natalie Strobach on January 24, 2014
The Profession / No Comments


I was a bit removed from the blogosphere this week because I was doing some of the hardest reading of my life (says the specialist in critical theory). I am taking a seminar this quarter on Self Psychology and I will sum it up by saying that Lacan was not nearly the only Psychoanalist in love with diagrams. Honestly, it’s thrilling, but it is some rather dense business.

I did have some great news this week! My paper was accepted to the Derrida Today conference in NYC this spring. That conference is a few weeks after the ACLA’s annual convention which is at NYU this year and I’m already dividing up all of the sights and family visits to make the most of the trips. What are some of your favorite Manhattan spots? I have been wanting to go to up the Statue of Liberty forever, so I bought some tickets for that right away! I then made the mistake of watching videos of the climb to the crown and, well, I’m not sure I’m going to make it that high up. 354 steps. 19 inch wide staircase. And that staircase is spiral, so it’s an extra wonky 19 inches. We shall see…we shall see…

I also updated my C.V. some 12,000 odd times this week. I went to add that one conference and then poof, my whole afternoon disappeared. I referenced The Professor Is In’s blog and found her C.V. tips quite useful. Some of them contradicted some things advisors have had me add before, so it doesn’t follow her exact specifications. If you’re just starting out with your C.V. or in need of major revisions, I definitely recommend checking our her C.V. rules.

One thing that has always been so difficult for me C.V.-wise is dealing with teaching. I love teaching and for me it is the best part of our profession. I am also proud of the teaching I’ve done. At UC Davis I had the chance to teach for about five different programs and design dozens of my own courses, so when it comes to downplaying teaching on the C.V., I feel like I’m cutting myself off at the legs. I’ve resisted moving it down for years, but Dr. Karen made one distinction that really struck me:

Principle of Peer Review.  

The organizing principle of the CV is prioritizing peer review and competitiveness. Professional appointments are extremely competitive, and go first. Publications are highly competitive, and go second, with peer reviewed publications taking place of honor. Awards and honors reveal high levels of competition, as do fellowships and grants. Invited talks suggest a higher level of individual recognition and honor than a volunteered paper to a conference—this is reflected in the order. Teaching in this context, ie, as a list of courses taught, is not competitive, and thus is de-prioritized. Extra training you seek yourself, voluntarily, is fundamentally non-competitive. Etc. Etc.

So, with that I moved conferences, publications, and awards all above teaching. Sigh. Do you folks have any thoughts on this? What did you take into account when organizing your own C.V.? I’d love to hear your comments below!



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A Very Quick Tip for Personal Statements

Posted by Natalie Strobach on July 11, 2012
Teaching / No Comments

I have been teaching for the McNair Scholars Program at UC Davis for five years (that’s every quarter and every summer without a break). I run through everything from basic essay writing to writing for the GRE to the much-feared personal statement for graduate school applications. The McNair Scholars program is a federally-funded two-year long research internship (paid!) that helps low-income, under-represented, first-generation college students prepare for doctoral study. It’s am amazing program; I myself was a McNair Scholar.

The summer after the junior year is the most intense time in the program and this week my students are scratching out their personal statements. Some will also have to write letters of intent. We try to shoot for about 500-1000 words and I try to emphasize flexibility since every program will want something slightly different. It’s probably the most difficult essay my “McNuggets” will write. I give them a heads up that they will probably cry. Hell, sometimes I cry. I’ve worked with students writing about escaping ethnic cleansing, Sierra Leone diamond minds, and unbearable poverty. They are also students who are in 15 clubs, honors programs, volunteer groups, and all while taking graduate courses as undergraduates. They are pretty much the best students you will find and they can’t really fit it in to 500-1000 words. So when we get started I share my own personal statement. (No, I’m not sharing it here! Daughter of a German immigrant, first-generation to college, etc. It still makes me cry!) You can Google myriad samples in any number of fields. They need to have a general idea of how it 1) explains how your experience made you a Comparatist/Sociologist/Immunologist (your academic history), then it 2) explains what you will continue to contribute to your field (specializations, lab work to be done, discourses to enter into, etc). Then, I tell them to list the top ten things their graduate school programs need to know about them.

This little list is key to conquering this monster of an essay. Nothing on the list is to be longer than one brief sentence (they will try to write entire paragraphs otherwise).

The next point is key–arrange the ten points in order from 1 being the most important to 10 being the least important. This step will take a ridiculously long time (20-30 minutes). I think they sense what comes next…

Cut the bottom five. Cut them and plan on not being able to mention them in your personal statement at all.
It is truly like making them cut their limbs off–I assuage their fears by assuring them that most of these things will appear in their C.V.

Getting down to the five most academically-important things about you is pretty amazing. It absolutely bars them from the parent-centered personal statement (the personal statement focused on how much they overcame–through their parent’s immigration, while never actually explaining anything they’ve done, which might just leave your graduate school wishing mom and dad had applied instead of you). It keeps them from wandering aimlessly from achievement to achievement like it’s a long-form C.V. It helps them find the next most important thing–the frame to their stories.

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