Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: June 2013

Sunday, June 30, 2013

iRevolution's Advice to Phds -- Check it out!

Hi guys!
I hope everyone had a productive month of June, whether or not you were taking summer courses, teaching, writing, researching, or a combo of more than one of these!

I wanted to pass along this great post I found while reading through some other graduate school blogs. This one is from iRevolution, whose writer is a Phd who believes strongly in the power of advances in media and technology to change and improve the world and the status of the individual in the world. They say, "iRevolution features short thought pieces on how innovation and technology are revolutionizing the power of the individual through radical self-sufficiency, self-determination, independence, survival and resilience." This particular piece that I'm sharing is all about getting a graduate degree in our modern, increasingly globalized society, but the blog is generally always great read if you ever have time to check it out!
This post gives seven pieces of advice for Phds and graduate students in today's world. It says things like "the blog is the new CV," and to "consider your Twitter account the new business card," and talks about packaging your skills, communication, social media presence, projects, research, expertise, career, and publications into your own personal "brand." Check out the article here.
     After reading it, I began to think a lot about creating a "brand" for yourself as an academic. What do you think about that? What would it entail? One advertising industry speaker explained the idea of branding this way: "The brand is the impression, the reputation, the ideas people have about you in their minds. Branding is the art of trying to change or enhance that." For academics and scholars, how would that work? Would it involve a logo, a product, a series of publications, user services, and public speaking events? How would you establish your brand for your academic self? Interestingly, the WhereBrands blog compares branding to teaching, saying, "The best activities of branding can be subtle and time consuming  like earning people’s trust and repeating simple, substantive truths, almost like teaching."
        But, is it wrong to consumerize our academic world and activities? In other words, is thinking about our academic careers in terms of marketing and advertising strategies helpful, or hurtful? I want to hear from you, and know what you think!
Until next time! -- Liza

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ivory Tower and Gender Roles: What is the Reality?

photo credit:

Hello Grad.Lifers!
Buzz in the graduate school world this week encircled this article that appeared on Entitled "In the Ivory Tower, Men Only,"  the article discusses anecdotal information and statistics that describe gender differences in academic career outcomes. It paints the picture that men who choose to have a family children are not penalized for it in their academic careers, while women who do pay a "baby penalty":
"Babies matter. Women pay a 'baby penalty' over the course of a career in academia—from the tentative graduate school years through the pressure cooker of tenure, the long midcareer march, and finally retirement."
Although there are plenty of women graduate students in classrooms, the article reports the following stats:

  • Female graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who have babies while students or fellows are more than twice as likely as new fathers or than childless women to turn away from an academic research career
  • 70 percent of women and more than one-half of the men consider faculty careers at research universities not friendly to family life (*according to recent Berkeley survey)
  • Women are less likely to be awarded tenure than men
  • Women professors have higher divorce rates, lower marriage rates, and fewer children than male professors
  • Among tenured faculty, 70 percent of men are married with children compared with 44 percent of women
  • Women take longer, sometimes much longer, to be promoted to full professor, the top of the academic ranks
  • Compared with men in academia, women in academia have less income to rely upon in retirement; their salaries at retirement are, on average, 29 percent lower than men's. (And, the range correlates with number of children the women have had)
There was loads of talk about the article on social media among graduate students in the GSAS. Some were outraged; others optimistically, and somewhat defiantly, expressed their desire and ambition to have it all despite the stats; some pointed out that the article itself just reinscribes gender norms and social roles in general, assuming that the natural and normal things for a woman to want include children and a husband. 
photo credit:
As this buzz was circulating, a few interesting pieces on the Today show caught my attention, because the issues converged with those brought up by the Slate article. 
     One story featured was "Why Men Still Can't Have It All," which looks at the problem of work/life balance from the perspective of a man. Originally appearing in Esquire magazine, the story asks some interesting questions; for example, if a man with children had the choice between attending more of his child's Little League games or getting a promotion at work, what would he choose? The writer suggests that the answer to that question today may be very different from the answer decades ago. See the Today show spot here, or the Esquire article here.
    Another story featured a Huffington Post blogger, Lisa Endlich Heffernan, who maintains a blog entitled "Grown and Flown." Her recent post, "Why I Regret Being a Stay-at-Home Mom," reflects on her decision to quit her banking job after her third son was born. She feels remorse at not keeping a toe in the water, or a pilot light lit under her career, instead of quitting out-right. She writes,
"I wish I had tried to keep a finger, a toe or a hand in the working world to ease an eventual return. I did not have a job well suited to part-time work, and work at home was technologically impossible at the time. But, the solution required imagination, not capitulation, and with hindsight, I would have recognized that over time, my parenting and career would both ebb and flow, but neither would -- nor should -- ever end."
Thinking about these two stories on the Today show, my question is: Considering how hard it is for all genders, in all fields, to achieve work/ life balance, maybe we should be looking at all these stats about gender and academia more holistically, thinking about the sacrifices that both men and women make in their lives along the way? Maybe men achieve more promotions in academia and other career paths, but do they have as many fun memories with their children across a lifetime? Maybe women feel more pressure to balance family and work, but will striving for a balance bring you more satisfaction in the long run than regrets? In other words, does it have to so all or nothing, for both women and men?   
     Maybe what needs fixing is not academia itself but gender roles in society at large. I don't see how academia is any different than other fields. Part of the problem brought up by my fellow GSAS students is, though, that it should be. Several students made comments that criticized academia for its hypocrisy -- touting itself as liberal and humane but falling into the same trap as all other corporate institutions across the globe. 
    At any rate, I'm curious to hear your thoughts! Let me know your ideas, thoughts, and opinions! And, happy summer!!!  Until next time, Liza :) 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Lower East Side Film Festival Going On Now!!

Hi GSAS Grad Students and grad.lifers all around the land! Good morning on this beautiful Monday morning!
Here's a riddle! What is something in New York City that:

--features innovative work and fresh thinkers

--is populated by smart and fun people

--is associated with the words "ultra-low-budget"

--requires hard work for disproportionately small monetary reward?

   NOOOOO, it's not graduate school, people -- I'm talking about the Lower East Side Film Festival!
The film festival, in its third year, is happening now until June 23, in the young, fun, artistic "indie" New York neighborhood known as the Lower East Side.
Photo from
    The film festival was created in 2010 by four young artists, Damon Cardasis, Roxy Hunt, Shannon Walker, and Tony Castle (pictured above). What started out with small BYOB screening events in LES storefronts has grown in the last three years, but the festival still retains its unpretentious, non-intimidating, young, neighborly, authentic vibes that welcomes low-budget films with heart -- and audiences who appreciate them.  
    Coming up -- tonight's Animation Night, Tuesday's Shorts Night, and Wednesday's documentary night!! See the full schedule here, and check out the website here for more info about the back story, judges, and featured films! For graduate students in the NYC area watching their coins but wanting to experience something fun and inspiring this summer in the city, this is an event you won't want to miss!
If you end up attending, share your stories here at Grad.Life! :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dying With Debt: Thoughts about Student Loans

   Here's a cheery blog post! In April, an article in The Chronicle explored the debt issues now faced by Baby Boomer graduate students, who enrolled in graduate school between 1987 and 2007. I've had it in my queue to write about for a few months now, but I think part of my hesitation was figuring out what I had to say about it. The article made me more than a bit sad. That sad emotion is evoked first by the haunting photo of Joan Roberts, a 63 year old double master's degree holder who now owes close to $200, 000 in debt.
photo credit: Bryan Thomas for The Chronicle
The problem doesn't just face Baby Boomers, though. All generations of graduate students are facing problems with debt. I know I will have a debt when I leave graduate school; after 8 years, it's almost impossible not to have at least a little bit. In most cities, you can't live solely on the stipend or fellowship, if you are lucky enough to have one, and even if you do, sometimes there's a time limit on when you can receive fellowship funds. So, students take out federal and private loans. At first, in the beginning, before you have to pay it back, it feels like you are getting "paid" to study -- the government will give me this money right now, investing in my brain? Okay! Only it's not an investment -- there's no risk here for the government. You must pay it back, no matter how your career turns out, no matter how much money you end up making. (And -- this is getting pretty dark -- student loans also survive bankruptcy.)  

      To help prevent these kinds of problems for coming generations, I think it is important for graduate students to think about loans for graduate school differently. I suggest that you must think about school loans in the same way one might think about a loan if starting a business. You have to be strategic, careful, committed, devoted, and ambitious. Like a young entrepreneur, you have to eat, sleep, and breathe your "business," and figure out ways to make a profit with the start-up money you were given.  The government is not a cash machine. 
    On the other hand, student loans have reasonable interest rates compared to other kinds of loans, so it may be a good calculated risk. But you must think of it as a risk, and you must plan plan plan, like a business, on how you will make good on that loan. This is especially true for grad students in the humanities, where there is no set professional track (contrasted with professional schools like law and med schools), and less and less opportunities to succeed in the traditional tenure track academic career path. Maybe in these days, when education doesn't seem to be helping graduate students to get jobs or make more money, the government should make you formulate some kind of "business plan" before you are approved for a student loan -- any thoughts on this?
      Check out the article here, and let me know what you think about these issues!
HAPPY FRIDAY! (Sorry for the doom and gloom.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Professional Feedback Model in the Gradaute School World??

   A director of my school from a few years ago had a staff training session about something called the Professional Feedback Model. For those of you who are not familiar with what the Professional Feedback Model is, I will enlighten you, for the ultimate benefit of all man-kind! It's a 7 step exchange between two professionals or two colleagues in which one is giving feedback and one is receiving it. The purpose is to give colleagues a systematic and effective way to address problems in another colleague's performance, behavior, or actions in the work setting without creating bad feelings, longer-term conflicts, and decreased morale. Here are the seven steps in the model:
1. Point of agreement/empathy statement
Helps to set a positive tone by demonstrating your awareness of the individual’s accomplishments and/or understanding of their situation.
2. Undesirable behavior
Increases the individual’s awareness of the behaviors that offend or create conflict.
3. Rationale (detriments)
Explains how the individual’s behavior negatively impacts communication, the team members, the congregation or their relationship with God.
4. Desired behavior
Provides the individual with explicit information about your expectations and a description of an alternative, more effective or appropriate behavior.
5. Rationale (benefits)
Explains how the alternative behavior will benefit communication, the team members, or the congregation or their relationship with God.
6. Request for acknowledgement
Gauges the individual’s understanding of your concerns and promotes discussion.
7. Appreciation / Acknowledgement statement
Demonstrates a receptive attitude, your own professionalism, and your interest in wanting to improve and/or resolve the situation.
— by Julie McDonald, Ozark, Missouri; from "The Profit And Loss Of Confrontation: A Practical Model For Professional Feedback"
So in general, it goes like this: You see something sucky happening at work. You find the person who is behaving in the sucky manner. You acknowledge something positive or empathetic towards that person. Then, you point out the sucky behavior and give reasons for why that behavior sucks, point out the alternative, better, desired behavior, and the reasons that new desired behavior sucks less, and then ask for acknowledgement that the person understands. Then, the one getting feedback should acknowledge his or her understanding, in response. It is supposed to avoid things like accusations and ineffective or non-constructive criticism, and it is supposed to facilitate improvement in the work setting so that people don't constantly feel like they suck -- so they grow and get better at their jobs or tasks without feeling low or ganged-up on.

    Ever since this staff training, I have taken this model to heart in life in general, finding it a handy, intuitive, and effective way to give feedback to co-workers, co-teachers, and colleagues at graduate school. I find that many graduate students instinctively use this model when grading papers and working with underclassmen. But, I have to say, I don't find many other people using this model at the graduate level. At first, I thought maybe it was just too kind for the graduate school world -- in other words, no need for a professor or a graduate student peer to use any form of sugar-coating when giving feedback to a graduate student on his work. But, then, I thought about it -- if it is good for the rest of the working world, I'm wondering, do more of us in the graduate school  world need to be exposed to this and use it on an every day basis? How would it contribute to a change in graduate school culture?
    What do you think? Let me know when and where a graduate student, and our professors, advisors, and administrators, could have used this model to improve a situation, or how you envision it in changing the overall culture of graduate student life! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Picture Perfect Campus Vistas! And, June Edition of Dissertation Blues!

     Beautiful few days on Rose Hill! When you are stuck studying, researching, or writing in a library, it's nice to at least have these lush trees and lawns right outside!

Walsh Library Lawn, June 4, 2013

Walking to the library, June 4, 2013
Gorgeous Day on Campus, June 5, 2013
Send me your campus shots! And, enjoy this beautiful month of early sunrises and late sunsets. Finally, here's the JUNE EDITION of the Dissertation Blues!

The Dissertation Blues
June Edition
by Joy Zitelli

It is the time to honors "Fathers"....
this project is becoming a bother
I'll scurry to buy a tie;
Extra time I can't deny
for my double paternity "suit" --
with Daddy Dissertation Blue.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Gifts for Graduate Students!!

     Ever wonder what to get a graduate student for a gift?  In case you are that kind soul just Googling "What do I get a graduate student for her birthday?" or scouring graduate student blogs to find out what gift will be the perfect present for the graduate student in your life, this post is for you!!!
     I actually Googled it myself, and most of the information online was about graduation gifts, but I'm not necessarily talking about that. I'm talking about the average, run of the mill, it's-my-sister's-birthday-and she's-in-graduate-school-and-what-are-some-fun-and-thoughtful-gifts-I-could-give-her, or my-brother's-turning-25-and-is-across-the-country-getting-his-Phd-in-computer-science-at-Stanford, or my-mom-is-a graduate-student-in-history-and-I-need-to-get-her-a-Christmas-present, kind of gifts.

     There were a few articles, though. On, Graduate School edition, the Ph.D.'d writer Tara Kuther explains in hers that "Graduate students are an odd lot," saying that most are "short on cash" and will basically take anything. Some of her ideas are school or scholarship related: flash drive key ring, external hard drive, staple-free stapler, power outlet manager, calendars, and a moleskin notebook.  Not bad ideas -- like Kuther says, we graduate students can't really afford anything, and so anything practical that will help us manage our lives is a pretty decent gift. The other mentions on her list were what I might call necessities: food, gas cards, and coffee and/or a coffee pot. All decent ideas, too.
   Foodstuff is actually something I was thinking about at the top of my gifts, because so often in my early graduate school days I remember having a $10 per day budget for food for most days of the week. (Grocery budget = $300 per month). That is not easy! It basically consists of stocking up on cereal, ramen noodles, frozen dinners, pasta, cans of tuna fish, boxes of rice, and peanut butter and jelly, and eating pizza slices or cheap burgers when you go out to eat, and maybe scoring some free coffee in your department or at lectures and workshops. So, nice baskets of gourmet food, or restaurant gift certificates, or even some nice local farmer's market veggies, cheeses, olives, pickles, and fruits would most likely be a welcome gift for the 20 something graduate student who has to take out loans just to eat normally.

    I really like the coffee and coffee pot idea, too. I remember in graduate school I had a hand-me-down coffee pot for my first couple of years, and then it broke, and I couldn't afford to replace it, but then my mom got me a small and cute one or two cup French Press from Target, and it worked just fine for many years!! That was a great, Mom! Gift cards to cafes (Starbucks, D & D, Tim Hortons, Panera, local cafes, anywhere with seats & wifi) are great too, because grad students often need to find a place to work, and you most often have to purchase something in order to work there. I got yelled at once in a Starbucks for working there for three hours on my laptop and only buying a bottle of water. Sigh... first world problems!
   Another couple of great articles I found on the topic were on Yahoo voices; check them out here and here. My personal favorites from these lists are:
    1.) A hand held voice recorder. You can use this for so many things -- lectures, seminars, job talk or interview preps, etc. I recorded myself a lot when I was preparing for my oral comprehensive exam, to practice making arguments out loud. Actually, I use it to help me write sometimes, too!

    2.) Bed Lounger: I love this idea! So many times in my bedroom in my little apartment that I shared with another grad student, I used my bed to do work and reading. This would have been an amazing piece of furniture to aid in my studies-in-bed!

   Here's some other potential gifts I was thinking about that graduate students simply can't put in their budgets without living above their means:
   1.) Nice shampoo, conditioner, and toiletries. Yes, folks, when faced with the choice in the supermarket between a nice dinner or nice shampoo, we most likely choose the nice dinner and grab the Vo5, Suave, White Rain, or Pert Plus shampoos, foregoing the Pantenes and Garniers, and not even glancing at the Bumble and Bumble, Aveda, or Paul Mitchell bottles. The under $2 per bottle shampoos and conditioners are just too tempting when faced with cravings for some nice homemade meal instead of a Lean Cuisine for dinner. Something to think about when shopping for your favorite graduate student!

   2.) A bottle of champagne, wine, or liquor - of course! This is difficult to budget in, but there are always times to celebrate! See my post on Champagne Vs. Prosecco for some ideas!!
   3.) Apple TV -- cable is expensive, but Internet and Laptops are almost a necessity for graduate students to have in their homes. So, a great solution may be Apple TV. All you need is a TV, internet, and a computer -- no cable bill required!!! It's a digital media receiver that hooks up to your computer and watch video from Itunes, Netflicks, Youtube, HULU, and other sites on your HDTV. So, if the grad student in your life has a TV for DVD's only and can't afford cable, this might be a perfect gift, allowing them to save money by using internet sources for their entertainment. Something to look into!

   4.) Audio Book Gift Cards -- You know how I love audio books!!! But they are expensive!! :( An Audible or Amazon gift card would work great for your favorite I-pod or I-phone toting grad student!
   5.) Record Player -- You also know how I love record players! Why is a record player is fun for grad students? While players are expensive, records are cheap and fun to browse through; buying a record in a used record store is an event in and of itself!
   6.) Rare Books from Favorite Authors -- what's better than a first edition Pride and Prejudice for your favorite Austen scholar, or a rare edition of the Invisible Man for your modern Americanist? Not too much!!!
   7.) Workout gear/ clothes/ videos/ equipment -- it's hard to budget for working out as a grad student, even though it is so important! Gear them up with fun clothes, equipment, and gym memberships, and they'll feel better about themselves, body, mind, and brain!!!
Grad.Life readers, let me know if you have any thoughts (or requests!!!) And get your favorite grad student the perfect gift today!!!
-- Liza