Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: September 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

Feature: The Fordham Graduate Digital Humanities Group

Good morning, happy Friday to you.
    As a blogger for the GSAS, and as a professor of an on-line English course this semester for the PCS, I have been especially aware and appreciative of how the digital age has been dynamically changing and influencing the institutions of higher education and graduate programs worldwide. In the spirit of this digital renaissance, I would like to introduce this blog's readers to the Fordham Graduate Digital Humanities Group. Officially recognized by the GSA as a Working Group, anyone in the GSAS can participate and benefit from the great work that this group does for the university!
   The GDH meets twice per month to learn and sustain a conversation about the development of digital technologies in the humanities disciplines. (Check out the Schedule page for info about future meetings and events!) The group focuses on graduate studies and professionalization issues, which is of particular interest to me personally and most Grad.Life blog readers! As the GDH's Wordpress blog says, "This group should be of special interest to students who are preparing for a professional academic career in the humanities, a career that most likely witll require digital fluency in regards to teaching, research, and publishing." This past week, the group led a workshop on digital pedagogy and discussed everything from practical issues (eg, paperless teaching, digital classroom tools) to the theoretical idea of defining the concept of "digital pedagogy." 
   Coming up for the group is a workshop open to all GSAS students entitled "You Online: Developing Your Online Academic Presence," to be held on November 7th, 2012. It will be led by Michael Mandiberg in the Flom Auditorium in the Walsh Library. The half-day event should prove to be extremely beneficial in giving GSAS students practical tools, ideas, and resources to help establish their on-line academic profiles and presences. (See this blog's post on the same topic from last semester!) 
   There's also a CFP sponsored by the GDH for the Fordham Graduate English Association Interdisciplinary Conference in March 2013. The conference is entitled "Remembering, Forgetting, Imagining: The Practices of Memory," and the GDH's CFP provokes a fascinating cross-discipline question:  "Do digital platforms change the way we remember?" Already just from this one question, I find myself excited to attend this conference and this panel presentation -- and it may become a future topic for a post on Grad.Life! For now, check out the full CFP for details about the topic and format, because the deadline in November 15 -- you have plenty of time to get some ideas together and submit an abstract! (Upcoming post on this blog will also feature more about this wonderful interdisciplinary grad conference -- watch for more info or click on the link above to the conference homepage in the meantime!)
   Make sure to check out the group's blog and Facebook page (click "Like") for more information on this important and dynamic organization in the GSAS! 
   (While you are on FB, visit Grad.Life's page and click "like," too!)
   Until next time, Liza 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall TV and Grad Students: What do we watch, and why?

Hello readers!
    Fall is in the air in NYC! It's a season of reuniting with old familiar faces, and meeting and assessing new ones -- no, not the start of a semester -- I'm talking about FALL TV!  Graduate students do not have time for a ton of TV watching, but when we do have free time, we often turn to TV -- mostly because it is less expensive, more reliable, more comforting and easier than other kinds of entertainment. We'd rather budget for Cable, Netflicks, or DVD's on the weekend than fancy dinners out in the city or getaway trips to Miami; and after all those hours hashing out theoretical arguments and scientific data, it's nice to have something easy on the brain to turn to during downtime. But, as it turns out, the appeal of TV might not only be its comforting entertainment quality but also its ability to stimulate us intellectually, after all. A recent article in The Chronicle of Education, "Storied TV: Cable is the New Novel," offers the provocation that "long-form, episodic television" may be on its way to being today's premier literary genre. The writer of the article, Thomas Doherty, calls it "ArcTv," which he defines as "the dramatic curvature of the finely crafted, adult-minded serials built around arcs of interconnected action unfolding over the life span of the series." Doherty postulates that the shows being created and consumed today -- "shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Homeland, Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, and Game of Thrones—the highest-profile entrees in a gourmet menu of premium programming—are where the talent, the prestige, and the cultural buzz now swirl."
   As a fan of TV shows like this, I'd say I think Doherty is on to something. I remember when I first started graduate school, a colleague of mine had said that if Shakespeare was alive today, he'd be writing feature films. That was back in 2004. Perhaps today, 8 years later, that same colleague would say that Shakespeare would be busy writing an amazing ArcTV series. I know there has been serious buzz among GSAS students for Downtown Abbey, Mad Men, and Dexter. Some of my personal favorites of recent years have been Lost, which is not cable but still amazing for its character development and mythic story-telling, American Horror Story, which carries on the tradition of American Gothic short stories in a sexy, post-post modern way, and How to Make it America, which was cancelled by HBO before it reached its full story-arc but started out telling a cool updated version of the American Dream story in NYC.  What blows my mind about these kind of shows is the quality of writing taking place in the TV format -- somehow the arc is crafted to survive months, years, season across season -- without losing quality or creativity. That, to me, is the literary achievement of these wonderful shows. They also portray characters in stirring lights, avoiding or sometimes confronting stereotpyes of representation in ways that really good novels did, could, and do. For me, a good literary work also has to create an emotion that was not there before -- and that is certainly what these shows accomplish, as well. With long-form episodic TV, viewers latch onto the characters in ways that don't happen when watching a movie; these characters keep coming into our homes, on a regular basis. We become attached.
    What are you looking forward to this fall? More Mad Men and Dowtown Abbey? Or some new ones? Revolution seems to be one that speaks to the post-apocalyptic literary genre; Elementary is yet another re-imagining of the Sherlock Holmes archetypes and story-lines; 666 Park Avenue combines Miltonian good versus evil type questions with a seemingly anthropological view of urban Americans. Which will be your new favorite? And do you agree with Doherty's claims about Arc-Tv? Weigh in!! And be sure to "like" the blog's new Facebook page!
   Until next time, Liza 

New Facebook Page for our Blog!

In the spirit of generating readership and celebrating Fordham's always-increasing embrace of new digital technologies, I've created a Facebook page for the Grad.Life blog! Click "like," and be instantly connected to the blog through the now ubiquitous social-network. Each time we post a new entry, we will also share it on the FB blog page!
Here is the link! Make sure to "Like" it so that you get all the updates!

Upcoming on the blog:
-- Fall TV and Graduate Students: What do we watch, and why?
-- Fordham Digital Humanities Group, Fall 2012

Watch for these posts, coming soon!  -- Liza

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Topic of the Day: The 5-Year Plan

Hello Readers!
   I hope this Tuesday finds you well! I am actually blogging today from an airplane -- whoohoo! I love in-flight wifi!!
   Since I have recently been thinking a lot about my personal future and about how amazing and crazy life's twists and turns can be, I thought today would be a good day to broach the topic of how graduate school fits into one's life as a whole -- in other words, how it fits into, or doesn't fit into, your grand plan for life. If you are not familiar with graduate school life, or maybe if you are just starting out as a degree candidate, you should know that life does not stop for graduate school. Despite enrollment, courses, classes, papers, dissertations, comps, exams, and tuition, life, indeed, keeps occurring. I have known colleagues who have fallen in love, gotten married, bought houses, had children, gotten divorced, traveled, climbed mountains, ice-skated in national competitions, played in rock and roll bands, and achieved other typical and non-typical life milestones all while working towards their degrees. Life rolls on around us, and most of us treat graduate school just as if we would treat a regular job -- we work, we play, and we live our lives. The only thing that is different than being in the non-academic working world is that there is an ending to grad school. And even then, life doesn't really change that much.
   Immediately when I decided to write about this topic, I thought of Dr. Karen's 5 Year Plan. For those of you who don't know Dr. Karen, allow me to introduce you to her website, The Professor Is In. A colleague of mine had passed her site along to me a while back, and it provides a gold-mine of  information and anecdotes and advice that will give interesting and candid perspectives about the academic world. Dr. Karen's perspective on the 5 year plan is basically that while you can't expect to control everything in life, you can however take charge of your career and make choices based on your own personal goals. She writes, "I don’t think anybody should ever be in graduate school, or on the tenure-track, without a five-year plan," and continues:
"Some of my clients are masters of the five-year plan, and even have things like getting pregnant in there. I admire that, even while I know that 'the best laid plans…' You can’t plan for everything (or, you can, but your plans may not work out). But the core point of planning is this: that you’re taking control of your process into your own hands, and not leaving it out there somewhere, in the hands of your advisor, your department, or 'fate.' You decide when you’ll write, when you’ll defend, when you’ll publish, and so on. These are all your decisions to make."
   What Dr. Karen is sure to point out, though, is that a plan in and of itself is not going to get you anywhere. You have to stick to the plan. In other words, you have to meet deadlines. In a follow-up post, Dr. Karen asserts:
"Staying on top of deadlines is exactly what allows a person to achieve  huge life goals. Yes, I’m quoting Thomas Edison:  ”success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration.”  The people who succeed in getting into the national conference are, first and foremost, the ones who actually remember to submit the proposal to the national conference, by the deadline, properly formatted. One of the most important outcomes of the 5-year plan is that you never miss a submission deadline for a conference or a funding opportunity.  As you learn of new conferences and funding opportunities, you simply add them in, without losing track of the other deadlines. You also plan out a publication schedule, and put your own deadlines for submission to journals there in the plan.  And money racks up, and publications rack up, and networks rack up, and voila, the cumulative effect 5 years later is—an epic CV that gets you an epic job offer, or tenure."
    Ok, well, yes, but never miss a deadline? "Simply" add them in? It sounds great in theory, but I think the biggest problem most graduate students have is that meeting deadlines is not at all simple. Life sometimes tears you away, even if your academic work is your number one priority. It is not always so black and white.
    So what are your thoughts on the 5 year plan? Though I may have some theoretical questions about how the 5 Year Plan works, most of my questions about creating a 5 Year Plan are entirely logistical -- meaning, what does the plan actually LOOK like? By this I mean literally how does it look? What format does it take? Is in in calendar form? List form? Do you try for a month-by-month set of goals, or set up it up year by year? Or something in between? Do you work on multitple goals at a time, or try to nail one thing down before moving onto the next? I'm sure different solutions work for different people, but I am wondering what would work for me, and what has worked for you? I'm curious to hear your thoughts!
    And another thought I always have when I revisit the 5 year plan post: how do you know if your goals are realistic? Is there such a thing as shooting too high? Should your goals be based on practical things such as making money and attaining a job with benefits, or should the goals be focused on advancing the scholarly conversation? How do you set yourself up for success with the 5 Year Plan?
   Please share your thoughts about how grad life fits into your big picture!
Until next time, Liza

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Is Email Old School?

Hello GSAS students and Grad.Life readers!
      The fall 2012 semester is underway, hints of fall weather are sneaking into the New York City air, and I am slowly falling into step with the subject of my newest dissertation chapter -- Grad.Life is good! I hope everyone feel the same and has been enjoying new classes, coursework, and research projects.
     This year, I hope to see the Grad.Life blog grow even more than it did last semester. The idea of having a GSAS blog that serves to jumpstart conversations and to convey information seems to be in line with what colleges & universities are doing all over the world -- using various web-based media in order to reach out to and connect with their student bodies. In fact, I just read an article in The Chronicle about the ways colleges and universities are beginning to diversify their methods of communicating with students, moving from email based communication towards a multi-pronged approach that incorporates Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. According to the article, email is becoming too antiquated for the current generation of college students.
This. makes. me. feel. old. 
    I, personally, rely on email for almost everything I do. I email myself to-do lists, shopping lists, and schedules; I backup personal and school related files on gmail; I search my inbox for pertinent information such as room numbers, meeting times, friend's addresses and phone numbers. I link myself to articles, recipes, products, stores, and menus. My Gmail account is a treasure trove of information, and I interact with it all day long, in these varied ways.
   Of course, I get a lot of use out of FB as well, mostly for social interaction between friends, family, and colleagues, and also turning to FB for information for certain events and announcements. Twitter is something I reserve for entertainment and good laughs. But email is still my primary source of information -- which includes both incoming, new information as well as stored info from the recent past. 
   Am I outdated?? Is email "OLD SCHOOL"? What about blogs? Suddenly after reading this article, they seem sort of 2004 to me -- should I be pinning my thoughts for the GSAS instead of blogging them?  Maybe some of the new GSAS students can help me out and share thoughts? Or maybe do some readers from my GSAS "generation" want to weigh in? You can use more than 140 characters in your response. :P
   Until next time -- enjoy the beautiful NYC weather -- Liza Z.