Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: March 2013

Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Candy Nostalgia; and Dissertation Blues Easter Edition

Hello All! 
    Happy Easter and Easter Break for the GSAS! I hope you are enjoying your holiday and/or days off from class! I most likely will be using at least part of Good Friday as a "dissertation day," whatever that will turn out to mean, but then I will have some time to celebrate being with my family. Yay!
    This week and weekend it is also Passover, and those of my friends and colleagues who celebrate this important Jewish holiday have been sharing their traditions and customs with me as well. Although I can't reminisce about any of my own Passover memories (because I don't have any), here's a great blog post that I enjoyed reading about one writer's Passover traditions.

    Okay, so that image of the seder plate has given me some food for thought. I was trying to think about the Easter holiday traditions in my family, and all I could think about in my head were gleaming, colorful, delirious, Willy-Wonka-Factory style images of Easter candy! 

I am not sure exactly what is happening in my brain right now -- why it is making a Dr. Seuss like cartoon world out of my Easter candy memories -- but whatever that is, I am definitely getting nostalgic for Easter treats that were loaded up inside the great Easter baskets that my mom and dad used to make us. 
   Yes, I know, Easter baskets have really nothing to do with the original existence of the holiday, but I did find a couple great articles about the history of Easter candy that were actually pretty fascinating! Here's one. Anyway, knowing that candy  Easter now as an adult doesn't really do anything to take away my nostalgia for Easter candy from my childhood! So -- while I hope no one is offended by this candy-filled, non-religious, sugary post, here is a quick walk down my Easter candy memory lane!
   My favorite always used to be the small chocolate eggs hidden deep inside the basket -- yum! Little chocolate bites -- and after unwrapping those little brightly colored foil wrappers, they just metled in your mouth! Yum! 

   My sister loved Peeps -- I never was sure if it was because they were delicious, or because they were so cute!!! Btw, this reminds me of a funny story about Peeps and religious persecution on the Stephen Colbert show... click here to see "Easter Under Attack!"   

   My brother's favorites were Cadbury Eggs --- the ooey gooey white and yellow cream inside a hollow chocolate egg... mmm! They were, for him, as far as Easter candy went, the "only game in town."
If this floats your boat more than the marshmallowy cuteness of peeps, you may enjoy viewing "Easter Under Attack, Egg Edition!"
   Some honorable mentions? Take a look and walk down Easter memory lane with me and my siblings. If you didn't have the tradition of Easter baskets in your family, here is what you may have been missing: 

Malted eggs:

Reece's Pieces eggs:
but not Reece's Peanut Butter Eggs -- not the right chocolate peanut butter ratio, according to my sister's memories.

      My sister mentioned "Just Born" Jelly Beans -- I remember these! These just bursted with flavor in your mouth -- juicy, chewy -- so good. These were before Jelly Bellies gained in popularity. If you can find them now, they are worth the sugary calories!

   Lately, I have a new craving when it comes to Easter candy: buttered popcorn flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans! I love all flavors of Jelly Bellies, but sometimes I day dream about a big bowl of JUST buttered popcorn flavored ones. 

 Don't forget the awesome fake colored grass that went inside each basket! 
Okay, that is my blast from the past. I hope you and your family are enjoying your holidays and holiday traditions, whatever they may be! 
And..... drum roll, please! Here is the Easter/ April installment of "The Dissertation Blues"!

The Dissertation Blues
Easter/April Edition
by Joy Zitelli

Easter is here, but I can't hop;

for new subject matter, I should shop

Could be hiding Easter eggs...
this paper is as fun as 
the black plague!
For the Easter bunny,
I'll leave a carrot;
my nights are as
repetitive as a parrot.
I'll stir up some pastel dyes --
I can only wonder why,
seems no matter what I do--
my eggs are dissertation blue!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Profile Pages for GSAS Students!

Hello GSAS students,
Just wanted to help publicize a new initiative for GSAS students -- GSAS Profile Pages!
Here's what the GSAS Office of Student Development released in February:
"Fordham’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is undertaking an exciting new project that will provide each participant with an individual webpage maintained by the GSAS which will allow our students better visibility to showcase their particular scholarly interests and projects.  In addition to basic contact information, you may link to your personal CV or resume, social media sites, or links to your published works."
GSASers, this is great news! We as students all have been urging our institution and departments to help professionalize us in addition to educating us, and there has been lots of buzz in the graduate education blogging world about the need for students' attention to their online presence; here is one really great answer to the call from the GSAS.
     But the word on the street is that not everyone has taken advantage of this great new initiative!! So, the deadline has been extended: the original deadline was March 1, but you now have until THIS FRIDAY, March 29th, to upload your info!! Please take advantage of this great opportunity! Click here  to access the upload form.
Here's a link that illustrates a few sample profile pages!
Thanks all -- let's get our beautiful, lovely and amazing faces out there for the world to see!! :)
--- Liza

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Shallow or Deep?

     At a recent talk at Lincoln Center, entitled "A Shallow Nation?", faculty from across disciplines presented research framed by the question of whether or not our national culture might be characterized as "shallow" or "deep."
     To summarize, the faculty research investigated topics that ranged from voting motivation and incentive, teenage "digitalk" and texting as communication, the state and status of investigative reporting in journalism today, and shallowness or laziness in the production of academic scholarship.   Not all of the researchers concluded that our nation is trending towards the completely shallow; yet it seems as if shallowness in both civil duties and academia was suggested by the findings. See the full story about the event here.
    The whole thing got me thinking about the traits of shallowness and depth, and what it all means. Like the good old Angela Chases of the world (<-- showing my age), I always thought it was good to be "deep" and bad to be "shallow" -- that depth was a trait that we can obviously attribute to a "good" person. And, I guess you can say that, as graduate students, we are in school, arguably, to "deepen" our intellectual life and understanding of our discipline and our world. But, in the interest of deconstructing some of the assumptions I've taken for granted all my life, I decided to investigate the concepts with a little bit more.....well, depth.
   What does it mean, really, to be a "deep" person? How would you define "depth" as related to a person's character?
   In the dictionary, "deep" is defined as: "extending far from some surface or area." This definition seems pretty straight-forward, lacking any positive or negative connotations. But this definition is also probably not the one you'd immediately apply to a person's character traits. It is also defined as "difficult to penetrate or comprehend," with the nuances of "mysterious," "obscure," "grave," "of penetrating intellect," "intensely engrossed or immersed," and "characterized by profundity of feeling or quality." To me, these definitions are not unambiguously positive characteristics. In fact, would one necessarily want to be described as "difficult to penetrate or comprehend," or "obscure," or "grave"? "Intensely engrossed or immersed" -- this could be a good quality, or, in extreme situations, it could be very bad -- (like, for example, when you are intensely engrossed in your game of Angry Birds and you miss your stop on the D train.) Perhaps "characterized by profundity of feeling or quality" has positive connotations, but being profound isn't necessarily or inherently a positive thing. Something may be, for example, profoundly boring or profoundly complex, making it undesirable or inaccessible.
   There are also some other connotations of "deep" that may not conjure unambiguous positive feelings: "into the deep" could refer to outer space, or deep in the abysses of the sea, both conjuring unexplored and hard to reach places that may excite the human mind but also incite terror and fear of the unknown; when you are "in too deep," you are usually in a sticky situation that is difficult to get out of -- hitting the bottom, as in the Pearl Jam song "Deep." (<--showing my age right now). Hmm.
   And, for that matter, what defines "shallowness"? Of course, our problem becomes circular because the first definition of "shallow" is "having little depth." So, would that mean "having little difficulty penetrating or comprehending"? That actually sounds good to me! "Not obscure" -- also good. Not mysterious, grave -- good, good.
The third definition of "shallow" in Merriam Webster puts it in its own terms: "penetrating only the easily or quickly perceived." The word "only" may suggest a limitedness, but the words "easily" and "quickly"connote a more positive image than "obscure" or "difficult."
    What if we looked to pop-culture references to help define shallow and deep as character traits? To take my reference from above, Angela Chase, the pensive teenaged protagonist from the cult classic TV show My So-Called-Life, inspired a generation of "deep" girls, but, looking back, Angela was pretty miserable! The show really explored both the pain and the rewards of laying one's emotions bare to the world -- of revealing one's emotional depths.
    One of my personal favorites would have to be Shallow Hal, a movie about a man who can't see past someone's outer-appearance until he is hypnotized. Hal only finds happiness in love and fulfillment in life when he can shake his shallow behavior, which is largely depicted by his unwillingness to see or understand what we might call "inner beauty." It's one of my favorite movies, because it makes us imagine an alternative kind of world in which everyone had an inner "truth," and that truth might be easily seen and decoded by others if we could de-program ourselves from cultural ideals and norms of beauty. If only!
    So it seems the pop-cultural representations of "shallow" and "deep" tend to reinforce the positive connotations of "deep" and negative senses of "shallow." What do you think? How can we trace the origins of these connotations?    
    I'll leave you with this: To end this (somewhat) superficial (aka shallow?) exploration of shallow vs deep, let's take a cursory glance at Jackson Pollack's 1953 painting, "The Deep," which is considered by some to be one his most puzzling and important later works. Does it suggest something internally human to you, or something completely extra-terrestrial, or a bit of both?
Until next time!! -- Liza

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Alt-Ac Tracks

Hi Grad.Life Readers!
      Today I am featuring an article on our very own Fordham website, about what is becoming known as the "alt-ac" track. See the article here.
      The write-up, entitled "Elusive Tenure Track Inspires New Careers," discusses ways of thinking about alternatives to the traditional, tenure-track faculty jobs that have been slowly dwindling over the last few decades. "Alt-Ac" track, which is short for, obviously, "alternative academic" track, refers to any career path for Masters and Phd holders that veers away from a tenure track faculty position at a University or a college and instead turns toward a career path down the pipelines of administration, library sciences, and labs within the university setting, or think-tanks, non-profits, NGOs, museums, and even private sector jobs outside the academy.
     To me, having a name for this alternative pathway is a good start to making this choice more viable and accepted among departments and grad students themselves. Having a shared way to refer to this path will help it become a more discussed, written-about, statistics-worthy option for graduate students and departments. Coming to terms with this option, defining it and including it in our discussion about the graduate school and professionalization experience, will allow students to plan their post-grad school careers in a more productive and realistic way, and to declare early on that this is his or her chosen path, rather than being forced into it by a lack of job openings.

     But I have to say, I don't like the name much! I mean it is not terrible or anything and I'm not offended by it, but I think there may be room for improvement! The term "alt-ac" seems to implies its own marginality, as it seems to be centered around the traditional academic job. But, the traditional academic job is clearly not going to be an option for the majority of current graduate students. So, although it is good to begin to name the "alternate" path, to identify it, and discuss it proudly and productively, the term "Alt-ac" itself seems a bit marginalizing and alienating.
    In fact, for an analogy, it makes me think back to my days as an undergraduate, when the majority of students at my college were pledging a Greek sorority or fraternity. Mostly because of time and budget issues, I didn't rush or pledge a sorority, and what I noticed after a while was that a lot of the administrators referred to anyone who was not in the Greek system as "unaffiliated." We "unaffiliated" folks didn't like that description much; not that I didn't like or appreciate the Greek system -- a ton of my friends were involved, and it created a fun atmosphere on campus -- but we just wanted a label or name that didn't describe us in relationship to the fraternities and sororities. It was as if everyone's identity was organized around and defined by what Greek club he or she belonged to, and we were the cast offs. It was "affiliated" or "unaffiliated" -- we didn't like the fundamentally negative element of the term, preferring instead to be referred to as "Independent." The term "independent" erased the negative or Greek-centric connotation of "unaffiliated."

    To me, the Alt-Ac name has similar undercurrents to it; one is either academic or alternative to academic? What about referring to the pathways as taking either the "Academic" path or the "Independent" route? Maybe this takes it too far or is not the right image; what if we talked about it in terms of "academic" or "applied" pathways, in which traditional academic jobs retain the label "academic" and other applications of the degree are described as "applied academic" routes? This way, any tenure-track centric connotations are erased, and grad students can take pride in their degree no matter what path it leads them down.
   What do you all think? Let me know if you have any comments or brain storms! Until next time, Liza

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rubbing Salt in the Wound: Job Search Costs Money

    Sort of depressing article geared toward graduate students in the latest edition of The Chronicle: it's entitled "Ph.D.'s Spend Big Bucks Hunting for Academic Jobs,With No Guaranteed Results." Headline says it all!
     Reporter/contributor Stacey Patton, who roams the grad student beat for The Chronicle, reports that grad school grads are not finished shelling out money once they have the degree in hand: "An industry designed to help aspiring academics manage the job-application process and land tenure-track jobs is growing, and reaping the benefits of a tight market in many disciplines."
    So, people (not the grad grads themselves) are making money off our job market situation! Sigh... can this get any more humiliating?!
   My thoughts? Honestly, I can't help but feel discouraged by the illumination of this aspect of the job market that I have not before thought about. One of the students/ grads that Patton featured in the article  has a Phd from Oxford, two book chapters, and a book, and still can not get a tenure track job. She has now endured four cycles of the job market and has sunk $2,000 into her search. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound!

   Despite the topic, Patton's article is great -- it outlines the problems grad grads are having once on the market, the general rising costs of throwing your hat into the job market ring, and the possible ways the academy may try to curb these costs or provide more of a reality check for graduate students along the way. Check it out here, and let me know what you think!
    In the meantime, are there any positive, upbeat, inspiring topics I might cover here, instead of all the dismal doom and gloom that lies ahead for us on the job market? Reach out and let me know, and I'll be on the hunt, myself! I'm determined. :)
Hope you GSASers are enjoying Spring Break!! -- Liza Z.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Some thoughts for today, and The Dissertation Blues, March Edition

Hi All!
    A few disconnected, but all fun, thoughts for today:
    Today, March 11, would be the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams, author of A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Today, the Google Doodle honors the author, who died in 2001, with a cool interactive graphic that features some of the iconic images from Adam’s cult-classic novel.

    I honestly have always had a special place in my heart for this book since I read it in the sixth grade. (But for some reason I always have this recurring mental block remembering Mr. Adam's name and think that Ray Bradbury wrote it... total brain fail!!) So, to make up for my brain spazzes through the years, here's a cheers to Mr. Adams -- thanks, in memoriam, for a great novel, and the answer to "life, the universe, and everything" (aka, the number 42.) Check out the doodle at, today only!
    Okay! Next topic: So, Spring Break starts at Fordham University this week! But just to clarify: for grad students, spring break does not equal a trip to the Bahamas or even, for some, a trip home to see the family.  Most of us get excited for Spring Break because, with no classes to attend or to teach, it is a time to hunker down and catch up on work. Even if we do head to our hometowns, we are usually bringing at least some reading to do on our trip! (Perhaps, instead, we can hitchhike through the galaxy, or through nineteenth century America, or Elizabethan England, or turn of the century Russia, from our armchairs/ train seat/ airplane seat.)
    This year, Spring Break ends on an especially fun day: St. Patrick's Day! Here in NYC, St. Patty's day equals fun festivities for all -- not just the Irish or Irish Americans! This year, the big NYC parade will take place on Saturday, March 16th, so you even will have an extra day to take part in, and recover from, the festivities!!

    What are you doing for Spring Break? And what are your St. Patty's Day plans, here in the city and across the graduate student nation? If you have a second, let us know here at the Grad.Life blog! For this blogger, it's... you guessed it: more dissertation time!! Here's the March edition of my aunt's poem, The Dissertation Blues!

The Dissertation Blues
Part III: 
by Joy Zitelli

I'll rub up against the Blarney stone
to pay off this student loan
consult with St. Patty for some luck
My PHD will earn some bucks 
For nowI'll drink green beer
since dinnertime is drawing near
I'm craving cabbage and corned beef
to squelch my hungry tummy's grief...
Instead, I've got this vocabulary stew
to digest with 
dissertation blues.

Enjoy everyone! Until next time, Liza 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Value of a Bachelor's Degree in the Real World

Photo illustration by Jonathan Barkat for The Chronicle
      Hi All! I hope you've been staying safe and warm in the midst of Winter Storm Saturn, especially our  graduate friends in Virginia and D.C.! Over the last few days, I've been thinking about an interesting article in the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Reporting the results of a survey issued by the Chronicle, the article describes recent concerns about the value of the Bachelor's of Arts Degree. The article points out that, while the BA is generally required to get hired in most private sector entry level jobs, the hiring companies are complaining about the lack of preparation that the BA provides for the positions being filled.
    Writer Karin Fisher outlines: "These days a bachelor's degree is practically a prerequisite for getting your résumé read—two-thirds of employers said they never waive degree requirements, or do so only for particularly outstanding candidates. But clearly the credential leaves employers wanting. While they use college as a sorting mechanism, to signal job candidates' discipline and drive, they think it is falling short in adequately preparing new hires."
    According to the survey, hiring companies complained that bachelor's-degree holders were "lacking basic workplace proficiencies, like adaptability, communication skills, and the ability to solve complex problems."
    It is not, in other words, a lack of technical skills and proficiency, that the companies are complaining about, but rather fundamental basics -- even something as simple as "knowing how to think."
image from
     What are the implications for graduate students and graduate education, do you think? On the surface, it may seem that this problem is actually good news for graduate degree holders or students. If BA holders aren't cutting the mustard, maybe MA/ Phd holders can? Maybe employers are looking for an increased maturity of intellect that comes with a few more rigorous years of graduate education?
OR -- does this survey implicate a larger problem with higher education meeting the needs of the professional world in general?
    What you do readers make of this? Does this complaint about the BA increase the value of the MA or Phd -- or does it diminish the value of higher education in general?
Let's discuss!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Upcoming Events in the GSAS for March

    Hi Readers! Happy Monday, and welcome March! Here are some upcoming events to look out for for the next few weeks in the GSAS. 

Monday, March 4th (Today), 1 to 3 pm:
What: The Heroic Imagination: How Can We Inspire Our Students for Heroic Actions? A public forum with Philip G. Zimbardo
When: March 4th, 1-3pm
Where: Flom Auditorium, Walsh Library, Rose Hill Campus
Sponsored by: Psychology Department and The Center for Teaching Excellence

Philip Zimbardo is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University, a renowned psychologist and teacher, the lead investigator on the famous Stanford Prison Experiment, and author of Psychology and Life, a very widely used introductory psychology textbook. He is a popular TED speaker (, the host of the 1990 and 2001 PBS series Discovering Psychology. 

For more information:

Wednesday, March 6th, 5:30 pm:
WhatSwanstrom-Baerwald Award Ceremony
When: Wednesday, 6 March 2013  | 5:30 p.m.
Where: Rose Hill Campus  |  Keating Hall 1st Auditorium    
Co-sponsored by: The Graduate Program in International Political Ecomony and Development (IPED) and Fordham's Office of the President and Catholic Relief Services

Thursday, March 7th, 1-2:30pm

WhatGetting Published Series: Publication Workshop led by Professor Brian Norman of Loyola of Baltimore and Greg Nicholl, acquiring editor at Johns Hopkins University Press
When: Thursday, March 7, 2013 from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM 
Where: Rose Hill, DE203
Sponsored by: The GSAS

More Info: You must register to attend. Click here:

Thursday, March 7th, 4pm

What: "Dead Woman Wanting: Toni Morrison's Beloved and the Problem of the Ugly CItizen": A lecture by Professor Brian Norman of Loyola of Baltimore 
When: Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 4pm 
Where: O'Hare Special Collections Room, Walsh Library, Rose Hill

Saturday, March 9th -- Sunday March 10: 
What33rd Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies: Putting England in its Place: Cultural Production and Cultural Relations in the High Middle Ages
When: Saturday, 9 March — Sunday, 10 March 2013
WhereLincoln Center Campus | Lowenstein | 12th-floor Lounge
Register Online

Remember to contact me here at the blog if you want any of your events posted! Have a great Monday! -- Liza