Category Archives: Grad School

Summer Teaching

This summer was a busy one. One of my activities was serving as a graduate teaching assistant for an undergraduate history course. The course was entirely online, a new teaching forum for me. I held office hours in a group chat room and all of my communication and grading with students was via email and dropbox functions. Being able to speak to multiple students at a time via group chats was helpful, and not carrying around pounds of papers to grade was also a plus. I did miss meeting my students individually. It was at times a challenge to have conversations about complex readings online, instead having those  conversations in person. But overall it was a great experience. With so much buzz about the Internet as either a revolutionary or highly problematic teaching tool, and I’m glad I was able to dive into the world of online teaching and get a sense of it for myself.

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New Book Review

Even though I’m getting my Ph.D. in history, I think I will always consider Women’s and Gender Studies my ‘home’ discipline. As such, I’m trying to keep up with that scholarly world despite my current heavy reading load in history. This past semester, one way I stayed connected to the new literature on feminist pedagogy, a particular interest of mine, was by working on a book review. I reviewed Student Activism and Curricular Change in Higher Education for Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements. Interface is an international, open-access journal for both scholars and activists with a diverse range of articles on social change and activism. My review is in the Spring 2012 issue, which is a themed issue on the Arab Spring.

To check out my review and the other excellent articles in the current issue, visit http://www.interfacejournal.net/ 

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Press for this weekend’s conference

Because I love to make finals week as crazy as possible, I will be presenting a paper at a conference this weekend. Post-conference blog post to follow.

From the Rockford Register Star (Rockford, IL):

“The Study of Sport is topic of unique symposium…”

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Doing Travel, Studying Travel: Trip to Newcastle, UK

Proper Pub Lunch in Newcastle

Last week I attended an excellent conference titled Moving Dangerously: Women and Travel, 1850-1950 at Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. The conference was full of interesting papers by students and scholars primarily in history and literature from the US, Canada, UK and Europe. It is not often that I am in a room full of people interested in the same things I am, and this diverse group did not disappoint. Presenters spoke to many of the themes that so intrigue me about this period: the body in public spaces, popular images of women’s resistance, international feminism and women navigating terrain independently of men (or “manless climbing” as one scholar of mountaineering so poignantly phrased it). The keynote speakers also left me with a lot of new questions to ask about my reading and research: How do we study geographies of rhythm, emotion and flow? Is travel during eras of imperialism always an imperialist project? How do we position the home and femininity within scholarship of travel?

As a student of U.S. history, I am frequently reminded of the importance of exploring American experiences in a transnational lens. From my experience, the move towards transnationalism often seems phrased as a necessary push, a trend we must follow to stay relevant regardless of whether it actually furthers our own research projects. I have sensed an undercurrent that for Americanists, transnationalism is a burden more than an opportunity. Studying women’s travel provides fresh ways to think about transnationalism more broadly as a lens that recognizes crossing borders of all kinds. At this conference, the projects were not transnational for the sake of it, but showed the rich source material and engaging questions that arise when we conceptualize borders as dynamic and imbedded with meaning. Simply, it didn’t necessarily make the work harder, but it did make it better (and definitely more interesting). The second keynote address on locating the home within a transnational context reaffirmed the possibilities for such an approach. Even the spaces that seem most removed from the rest of the world (like our living rooms) are in fact best understood as part of the public, the (trans)national and the global.

One of the great benefits of going to conferences is what you get to do once the conference ends. I was able to spend some time exploring Newcastle, and it was a blast. The pubs were awesome and Newcastle has a great art museum. The fun of traveling and being in a new place greatly added to the experience of the conference. The fact that the conference occurred in the last month of the semester has made this week and the next quite hellish for me, but it was actually a great time to go. The change of scenery and the new ideas from the conference has definitely helped me get through the final sprint of the semester. I hope I get more opportunities like this one as I work my way through the PhD. The opportunity to rethink my own work, ask new questions, meet likeminded scholars, and visit a new place is grad school at its best.

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Contributing to Encyclopedias

One of my main projects this month has been writing two encyclopedia entries for an upcoming publication on American women. Yes, encyclopedias still exist and they are handy to have around whether they are in print, online or both.

My task was to do something I find myself frequently doing as a grad student: reading and writing. I read everything I could find on a topic (in this case, two people) and tried to pull all of it together by writing something about it that coherently summed up my reading. Yet, this assignment had some unique benefits compared to the usual stuff I do:

1. I like having projects that are not connected to my coursework, regardless of who sets the deadlines or how much control I have over the process. It gives my workload more variety. It also helps me keep my mind on the bigger picture, beyond readings and assignments for classes.

2. I knew nothing about the two women I was assigned to write on. As I read more, and eventually everything the library could get me, I realized I had hit the jackpot: these two women were really interesting and this made them easy to write about. It didn’t feel like a chore.

3. I didn’t have the choice of who or what to write about. So, this forced me to go beyond the topics I’m usually working on and do something quite different. Understandably, this is not necessarily something that we want to sign up for and staying in our comfort zones has its benefits. But, expanding our horizons is good once and while, especially for a smaller project.

4. Being planted into new readings, biographies, primary sources, etc. definitely spurred my creativity. I am now in the planning stages of an article that was inspired by some of my readings for this project.

5. The audience for the publication is quite different that the scholarly audience I’m used to. I was forced to rethink some of my taken for granted ways of writing to ensure that the information would be useful to a high school or undergrad audience. Also, I had a pretty short word count, which also forced me to plan strategically about word choice, sentence length, and organization.

This was definitely I project I would take on again. Contributing to an encyclopedia is a really worthwhile undertaking, and it makes for a interesting yet manageable mid-semester side project.

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