Fordham GSAS: Grad. Life: May 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day: History and Thoughts

Hello Grad.Life friends!
     I hope you've had a nice Memorial Day weekend. As the original day was May 30th, back in 1868, we may consider this whole week a time to celebrate and honor our fallen heroes. So, I'd like to take today's post to thank all the people who have served our nation in the military, and to remember those who sacrificed everything to do so. It's sometimes hard to put Memorial Day in its proper context amid the talks of barbecues, beaches, boardwalks, sales, Ladderball, and outdoor concerts. On the other hand, perhaps these Memorial Day festivities ultimately grew out of wanting and needing a time carved out to stop our daily lives and celebrate and commemorate with friends and family.

So... should we graduate students feel guilty about going to parties and cook-outs on Memorial Day? Or should we think about ways that enjoying time with our loved ones on a national holiday actually is a form of honoring our fallen heroes? Curious about the history of how the holiday evolved into what it is today, I did a bit of research. Here's what I found out.

     Originally, the day was called "Decoration Day," and it was a day to decorate the graves of soldiers in the Arlington National Cemetery who died in the Civil War. It was first officially declared in 1868, by General Logan, and observed on May 30 of that year.  Traditionally, the day's commemoration involves decorating and honoring the soldiers who have fallen in the service of our country, at the site of their graves. Often, municipalities held marked these cemetery visits with parades and public speeches, which would gather the townspeople together to make the decoration ceremonies and rituals more of a public event. It is thought that the end of May was chosen for this holiday because flowers were in bloom in most regions of the US. In addition to flowers, graves were also decorated with folded flags. By 1890, all Northern states officially recognized the holiday; after WWI, it was observed nationally.

     In 1971, Congress passed a bill that ensured the day would be celebrated the last Monday in May, giving us the three day weekend that we all have come to know today. Yet, actually, the three day weekend for Memorial Day has become somewhat of a controversy among veterans and families of fallen soldiers. Some have voiced the opinion that May 30th, no matter what day of the week it falls on, should be the day of the national holiday, in order to truly honor the fallen soldiers. According to
"Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: 'Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.'"
In 2000, a resolution was passed to promote a nationwide moment of silence, or a listening of Taps, at 3pm on Memorial Day, to help bring focus to the historical meaning of the holiday. And yet, I (perhaps shamefully) never knew about this resolution until yesterday when I began to read about the history, in the waning hours of the holiday.

     Yet honestly, I feel that most national holidays are what they are today because it is a designated time when we as a nation take a day off from the hustle and bustle of typical American life. Ours is one of the most fast-paced and work-oriented cultures in the world, and deciding as a nation to take a day off from that in and of itself is a form of remembrance. Instead of going through the mundane routines of our everyday lives, a national holiday sets aside time that ties us all together, and focuses on togetherness and unity rather than our individual every-day life routines. So, IMHO, I don't think making Memorial Day into MDW is a bad thing at all. Rather, I think we should think about how giving ourselves a three-day weekend allows us to remember what is important in life -- family, friends, social interaction, play, music, human connection -- and what our soldiers are fighting for in the first place.
    Grad.Life readers, history majors, American studies scholars, sociologists, economists, and scholars of all disciplines -- what are your thoughts? Share here or on our FB page! (While you are there, "Like" our page!)
    Until next time, Liza

PS: I am happy to announce that I will be with you all summer, blogging for Grad.Life and getting us through a productive summer of scholarship and graduate life! If you'd like to see any stories or events covered here, let me know! :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

"Roulette, that's the game now..."

Hello Graduate students!
    Congratulations to those who graduated this past weekend at Fordham GSAS! You should be so proud of your accomplishments! As parents and grand-parents across the land have said a-many times, "No one can ever take that degree away from you." Even though it is cliche to say so, that is pretty much a true statement, right? I can't think of any theoretical apparatus or perspective that would enable someone to argue with that. In the future, your dignity, pride, self-esteem, and internal moral compass may be destroyed or trampled upon, but you will still have your degree! So go celebrate that thing you earned that cannot be taken away!
    With graduation vibes in the air, perhaps, for graduating and non-graduating graduate students alike, your thoughts have now turned to what happens after graduation. Whether you are just finishing your first academic year at the GSAS, or only have a little more graduate life to go, you should always be thinking about the next step; your time spent thinking about the practical applications of graduate school in the real world can be just as valuable as all of the time spent doing academic and scholarly work.  
     So, with this in mind, I wasn't surprised to see on Monday a feature article in the latest issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education discussing what it is like to be out on the job market looking for a tenure track position. Entitled "The Long Odds of the Faculty Job Search," the title does not sound too promising, and the graphic that accompanies the article features a photo of a job candidate, dressed in an immaculate suit yet looking vulnerable in the shadowy light, standing on roulette wheel. Yikes! Very dark.
     The article uses applicant material from two recent candidate searches conducted by universities in order to explore real-life examples of what the competition is like inside a department's search for an assistant professor. One was from the University of Ohio's English department, and one was from the University of Florida's linguistic department. The Ohio opening, which was specifically for a fiction writing teacher, drew 117 applicants, and the Florida opening drew 71 applicants. The article details the stats of the applicants, and interviews some of the search committee members as well as applicants. Check out the article here!
     Honestly, I am not sure if I am just subconsciously trying not to focus on the negatives, but didn't anyone notice the very positive and uplifting fact that creative writing positions have increased by 46% in 6 years? That is great news! It means that humanities jobs -- or at least in some areas -- are not dying out completely. But again, perhaps I am just choosing to see the glass half full these days.
    Anyway, what was your take-away from the article? Let me know your thoughts, dreams, hopes and desires. Share here, or on the blog's FB book page!  
     Hope you are enjoying your weeks between the Spring semester and summer session!! :) :) -- Liza

Thursday, May 9, 2013

PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT for the Rooftop Social: Friday, May 10th!!

Hi GSAS students! Happy End of the Semester!
      To celebrate, please join the GSA in celebrating at the Spring Semester Rooftop Social, on Friday, May 10th!
       It's on the rooftop patio of the Walsh Library, from 5pm to 8pm. Come enjoy snacks and beverages and a nice outdoor space! (If raining, it will be in the Special Collections Room, 4th floor -- with great views of the campus!)
      And, to make things even more fun this year, I've created the first annual ROOFTOP SOCIAL PHOTO-SCAVENGER HUNT! 
      Below are fifteen items that you must find with your smart phone or digital camera. Get as many as you can, and interpret them however you want -- the more creative the better! Submit your photos to the blog via Facebook, with captions, and I'll collect and post the best ones!

Rooftop Social Photo-Scavenger Hunt, 2012-2013
The challenge: Capture the following on your smartphone or digital camera:
  1. A high-five
  2. Someone you met in your very FIRST semester here at the GSAS
  3. Someone you met THIS semester
  4. Someone you've never met before tonight
  5. An introduction
  6. A View
  7. Something "great"
  8. A "first"
  9. Your favorite _____(fill in the blank)______
  10. Something "inter-departmental"
  11. Something mixed
  12. Something matched
  13. Something finished
  14. Something unfinished
  15. A farewell

Have fun -- I can't wait to see the pictures! Congrats on completing another great semester! -- Liza

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brain Initiative Will Impact Graduate Education and Research

   Last month, President Obama announced an exciting challenge for the academic, research, medical, and scientific communities: the BRAIN Initiative. BRAIN is an acronym that stands for Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, and the initiative challenges the scientific community to develop a map of the human brain. The overarching goals of the initiative is to develop, research, and invent new technologies that will enable us to better understand how we think, process and store information, perceive, communicate, remember, and make decisions, and to help understand, and develop treatments  and preventions for, debilitating brain diseases and mental health issues. Over one hundred million dollars is earmarked for grants to fund research in this endeavor for over the next ten years. President Obama said, “As humans, we can identify galaxies light years away. We can study particles smaller than an atom. But we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.”

    This past weekend, the National Science Foundation (NSF) gathered neuroscientists together from around the nation and globe, in Arlington, Virginia, to begin brainstorming and planning specific goals for this exciting project. Still at an early stage, the leaders of the group are just attempting to get organized and outline specific goals, including being technologically ready for the "data deluge" they expect to get from this mobilization of research.
   The initiative has received both criticism and support from the research communities, politicians and political pundits, and journalists/ commentators from around the world. The New York Times came out in support of the project; click for the original New York Times editorial., and this article on suggested that the initiative would be a scientific triumph for President Obama's administration if it is executed properly and efficiently. Huffington Post writer Daniel Burrus outlines the reasons that this project is so important for all of us, in economic, medical, and social terms.

    There are some critics, to be sure: some say there is not enough money involved to produce anything valuable, and that the project is too timid, vague, or hazy. But, thinking about the Human Genome Project generated a huge return on its investment ($140 return on every $1 invested), I can't see this as anything but a positive, exciting move. Daniel Burrus is one thousand percent correct in his illuminating  advocacy for the project.
  And, from a graduate student perspective, this is amazing news. New projects in neuroscience, neurobiology, medicine, neurochemistry, computer science, technology development, nanoscience, speech, language, and communication will all be launched -- and funded -- as a result of this initiative. What an amazing time to be in or entering one of these fields, and what a rewarding and significant global project to devote your graduate studies to!

   Let me know what your thoughts are about this exciting initiative. What would you study? How does mapping the human brain affect your area, and what do you imagine we might gain from BRAIN?
Have a great day, GSASers and Grad.Life Readers!!
--- Liza

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy May!

    Hello GSAS blog readers! Happy May! Boy did April go fast; I hope you enjoyed the blogs over the past month and the past semester.  Indeed, it is the the last couple of weeks of our semester here at the GSAS, and likewise in most graduate schools around the country. And tomorrow, May 3rd, is the GSAS Awards Ceremony to be held at 4pm in the Duane Library. Congratulations to all award recipients, fellows, and achievers of all kinds! You've really outdone yourselves this year! Don't forget to send your achievements in to the Students Achievements Submission Page by Friday, May 10th!

     Although it is spectacular outside today in the NYC area, I myself today am not feeling well... which prompted me to think about a "sick day" in the life of a graduate student. While most professionals have sick time built into their schedules -- albeit not always easily taken -- graduate students do not have this same structure. For graduate students, a sick day usually means a day when you are not well enough to do any work. And this often puts the said student behind the schedule of where she may have wanted to be in terms of coursework, seminar papers, research, teaching, grading, or dissertation writing. In the scope of a semester or an academic year, a "sick day" in might not mean too much or make too much of an impact. However, think about a sick day coming at the end of the semester when seminar papers are due!! Or when grading must be done and grades entered! The structure of our semesters have many of us relying heavily on the few 24 hour periods leading up to our end of semester due dates. A day of being sick -- I mean, literally too ill to do work -- at this time in the semester could be devastating and highly stress-producing.
   Another thing that graduates worry about in relation to being sick is money. While insurance may apply to some graduate student illnesses, often a run-of-the-mill sick visit or a trip to Duane Reade to get over-the-counter remedies means an extra wallop taken out on the meager paychecks that we receive. All this adds to the stress of getting sick.
    Yet, in the grand scheme of things, getting a cold or a 24-hour stomach bug or a migraine headache is not the end of the world, and actually may put things in perspective and make us realize how precious and fragile our health and clarity is in our lives. There are much worse things that could happen to us than a 24 hour stomach virus. Hopefully, I will be on my feet again soon, doing the usual stuff: running around the campus, grading, writing, researching digital archives, scanning, post-it-noting, copying, typing, and dropping off and picking up I.L.L. books (<--which eerily spells out the word "ill"!!!) ;)
     Whatever the case may be, I wish you health and happiness on this beautiful May spring day.
And, of course, here is the May edition of the dissertation blues:

The Dissertation Blues
May Edition

By Joy Zitelli

May is a month of memorial
this project is gonna need a tutorial
on Monday there is the town parade
as I keep up my ambitious charade
on my porch I'll fly a flag
a sort-of patriotic jet lag
colors of red and white in leiu
of dissertation blue!

Until Next time!!! -- Liza