I just spent two and a half weeks in a dissertation bootcamp. We wrote individually, but within a community of practice in which we discussed strategies for sustained writing success. I’ve found that, despite all the challenges I’ve faced, as most grad students do, weird hobbies with a strong sense of community have helped keep me sane.
This summer, I’m studying abroad with funding from the German Academic Exchange Service and the Texas Language Center. (Thank you! We spent all our money on building a house.) For my dissertation, I needed to put together a workshop on drama-based instruction for doctoral students who teach German. I have some great people in my committee for both German and for drama-based pedagogy, but no one combines the two. Elmar got summer funding to put together an online course, which he could do from anywhere thanks to the wonders of technology. So here we are in OWL.
In the past 24 hours, I have learned that I will officially teach German again next year at UT, I received a DAAD German Studies Research Grant for research this summer in Germany, and I had presentation proposals accepted to the POD Conference for educational developers and the ACTFL Conference for foreign language instructors.
We’re also really close to passing the final house inspection for the certificate of occupancy. We’ve been living there since Februrary (shh! don’t tell!), and it just gets better every day.
“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.”
― Grantland Rice
When playing roller derby, my feelings of success are often not directly tied to the final score. If I played well with my team, if we communicated and implemented strategy, I feel great even when we lose. Conversely, if I couldn’t put my body where it needed to be on the track, or if I couldn’t get through the pack as a jammer, I feel like rubbish even if my team won.
Weirdly, I experienced both of these scenarios recently in my academic life.
Here are some photos of my home study space over the course of the last 3-4 weeks. On Wednesday, I finally completed a space that has both a (camping) table and chair AND a bookshelf where I’ve organized resources relevant to my doctoral exams. Before that, I was moving around between the office and guest bedroom, depending on where Elmar was installing carpet. I even used the bathroom to house my bookshelf!
I’m actually excited to take my doctoral exams. No really. I have been absolutely geeking out about aspects of my topics with committee members, other faculty and other grad students.
To some extent, I’ve been doing the things I set out to do to prepare for my exams. I still need to pump up steps 1 and 2, but I’m in a good place. It’s weird, I feel like I could study for another 8 months and still not have everything down, but that’s not the point.
The point is to socialize me into my field, to accelerate the process of exploring diverse bodies of literature and synthesizing them, and to formally assess my ability to articulate this synthesis in writing and orally. And in the process, I’ll be teaching my committee members, who are all experts in something, but not everything with regards to my interdisciplinary topic.
So here are some of the things I am doing or will do to succeed on my exams.
I am all over the place with my exam preparation. Here are the reasons:
I applied for an ed tech related job yesterday and realized I haven’t updated my blog since the summer. So here’s a quick update before I avoid social media in preparation for my doctoral exams next month.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about dissertation topics in a more concrete way. Right now I’m thinking about examining the effect of drama-based instruction techniques in undergraduate foreign language courses on students’ transcultural competence, that is, their abilities to function across cultures. Specifically, I’d like to focus on students’ abilities to recognize their perspective from within their own cultural membership and to open themselves to the perspectives of people from cultures different than their own. While this may never result in complete understanding, empathy is an important trait of social interaction.
But I’ve also been thinking of another trans lately: transgender.
First, let’s talk terminology. To be transgender means that a person’s gender identity is different than the identity assigned at birth. Sexuality and anatomy are different issues. Gender/transgender refers to culture: social behaviors, identity and perceptions.
There was a Time Magazine cover recently titled “The Transgender Tipping Point: America’s next civil rights frontier”. While the story by Katy Steinmetz was a balanced mix of background information, statistics, and stories about the experiences of a few diverse individuals, I found the most interesting quote to be a detail in parentheses: “(This article will use the names, nouns and pronouns preferred by individuals, in accordance with TIME’s style)”. That’s an important linguistic decision that shows respect and normalcy.
I too want to tell stories of three transgender women from my perspective as an outsider, a cis female. I offered to change their names to protect their privacy, but all three of these women gave me their explicit permission to use their real names. I like this, as I can write in greater detail without having to change their stories to protect their identities. Also, their willingness and relative nonchalance about being open indicates something good about the current state of US society.