An Opportunity!

Posted December 11, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
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Professors Brad Hale and Bryan Lamkin, of Azusa Pacific University, are coordinating the Undergraduate CFH Biennial Conference to be held at Pepperdine University, September 24-25, 2014.  They have asked the graduate students members of the Conference on Faith and History to serve as chairs for the breakout sessions of the undergraduate conference, held on Friday, September 25.  This is a great opportunity for graduate students–we can add a line to our CVs, and get experience chairing a session.

 

If you’re interested in participating, please email Mary Sanders (mary.sanders@okstate.edu).

Have a great end of the semester, and a blessed Christmas, everyone!

Signing On: Mary Sanders Says “Hello!”

Posted October 7, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
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Hi everyone!  I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get on the blog to introduce myself–I’ve just finished my written PhD qualifying exams, and I have some semblance of my life back now!

I am truly honored to have taken over the reigns as CFH Graduate Student Representative from Greg Jones this fall.  I’ve been involved with CFH since my undergraduate alma mater (Oklahoma Baptist University) hosted the biennial conference back in 2006, and I have found it to be an hospitable and nurturing organization.  I’ve come to look forward to the conferences and the breakfasts and panels at the AHA as a time to be professionally challenged and refreshed.

A bit more about me, by way of introduction: I have a BA in history (minor in theatre) from Oklahoma Baptist University, and an MA in history from the University of Connecticut.  I just started my fourth year in the PhD program at Oklahoma State University, and just finished the written part of my PhD exams in three fields: U.S. General, Modern U.S. Religion, and Modern Europe.  My dissertation looks at how the National Association of Evangelicals and the National Council of Churches responded to late-twentieth century terrorism.  I’m a teaching assistant for our U.S. Survey classes at OSU, and I adjuct at OBU as well.

Several people have already contacted me via email (mary.sanders@okstate.edu) with questions about CFH–please, keep them coming! I look forward to working with all of you.  Perhaps we can plan an informal CFH Grad Student get-together for any of us who will be at the AHA in January?

Mary

Signing Off: Greg Jones Bids Farewell

Posted July 8, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
Categories: Calling, CFH, Grad School, Reflecting on Faith

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Friends and Colleagues:

After three years of service as the grad rep for the Conference on Faith and History, today marks my final work in the position.  I’m passing the torch to Mary Sanders, an Oklahoma State University PhD student and enthusiastic member of the CFH.  I’m certain Mary will do a great job for us.

Just by way of update, I am still finishing my doctoral work at Kent State University.  This fall I’ll be teaching via a temporary appointment at Geneva College, my alma mater.  I’ve been working as a part time instructor there for a few years and love it.  God is very good in His provision.

I thought I’d finish off my work at the CFH with a few personal reflections.  It is not an easy position to be both a Christian and a scholar.  I’ve learned that I need to spend a lot of time focusing more on Christ and less on my career.  Here are a few points of perspective for your consideration.

First, I learned that God provides.  I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a college professor.  In fact, I started talking about it in middle school.  My parents smartly reminded me that I might consider actually attending college before I thought about teaching it.  God opened the doors for my MA and PhD programs in ways that are hard to describe. When I faced the ending of my adjunct work at Kent State, God provided the opportunity at Geneva. I’ve learned a lot lately about the foolishness of cutting pieces of scripture out of context to suit our own needs, but I have to say the “seek ye first” passage [Matt. 6:33] seems true in any context.  Seek first God’s wisdom and righteousness, before personal career, and He will bless your work (albeit not always how you envisioned).

Second, I learned that no matter the work, my family matters most.  Without getting too autobiographical, I’d just like to say that time spent with family is never lost time.  For those of us with small children bouncing around our rooms, it may be difficult to focus on that book review or last minute edit, but time spent with family is never lost.  Don’t use family as a crutch to miss out on responsibilities, but remember that family is the root of life.  When you put them in the acknowledgements of your book one day, you want to mean what you say about their support.  Don’t cut yourself off from that which brings real blessing.

Third, I learned that nothing is promised.  Not a day is promised to us.  We have to live for the moment not in a hedonistic sense, but to do our best.  I may never teach another class.  The higher education bubble may burst any day, closing our access to ever teaching or researching again.  So enjoy today.  Read what you must, but also read what drives  you.  Tomorrow is not promised so work and play as hard as you can today.  When I hear colleagues whining and complaining about how much work they have to do, I can’t help but feel for them.  This “job” is such a blessing to me.  Do I always love grading?  Of course not.  Do I always love meetings?  No way.  But do I count it a blessing to work in the conditions I do with people that I love, reading and discussing the things that matter most?  Of course.

Wherever you are in your program, or even if you’re a non-academic that surfed your way to this entry, keep working.  Keep your hand to the plow.  Keep your nose to the stone.  Work, love, play, and embrace the world that we have.  God is good and His bounty is not complete.  Seek Him.  Listen to His guidance in career, in research, in writing, and in teaching.  Faith is more than a nice set of moral standards for conducting our lives.  Faith is the lived evidence of a Living God.  Testify with your life, with your work, and with all that you are.

Thank you, again, to the CFH for inviting me to this position.  Thank  you to my fellow graduate students who have shared in CFH panel discussions or corresponded with me.  Thank you to the grad students who will carry on after me.  It is my prayer that the organization continues to grow, beaming the Light of Christ in the midst of an ever-darkening Academy.  Let us be a beacon of hope for the Kingdom of God.

Godspeed,
Greg Jones

The Pages Were Red With Ink: On Feedback

Posted June 27, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
Categories: Advice, Grad School, Graduate Students

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You’ve always been an all-star student.  In third grade, your teachers talked about you in the teacher’s lounge, “She used a word I had to look up.  I don’t even know what vacillate means and she used it in a sentence…”  You were the top of your high school class.  College felt a breeze.  When your favorite professor said you should consider grad school, you smiled and rattled off the top programs you were already contemplating.  He loved your work.  You always got As.  You were destined for greatness.Red Ink

Then you arrived at grad school… and everything seems to have changed.

You receive feedback on your first… maybe second paper… and it’s full of red ink.  There are abbreviations for errors you don’t even understand.  What have I done?  Who has failed me?  Why do I keep writing in the passive voice?

Graduate school is meant to be a humbling experience.  What most students master at the undergrad level is how to speak the language of the professor.  “Oh I know Jones… he loves when I connect the Civil War to theology and reference Mark Noll.  I do that in every paper!”  Then the students replicate the winning formula with every subsequent paper, affirming self-fulfilling prophecies.  Then when students try to do that kind of thing in graduate school, they quickly realize the goal is not to say what the professor wants to hear, but rather write something the professor him/herself has never even thought about.  The goal of graduate school is innovative, unique, and powerful thinking.  This does not happen over night.

I will not pretend to be the expert on this.  I’m still working on my doctoral work, but what I do have to say is to take heart.  A page full of red marks means that the professor believes there is hope in “fixing” your writing.  Let it influence you.  Take in the comments and learn from them.  Not all professors agree on good writing.  Every year committees argue over the Pulitzer and the Bancroft because no one can agree on the best research and writing.  Fortunately your first seminar paper in grad school is not up for a Pulitzer.  So, learn from the red ink.

I will finish with this advice.  Visit the professor not out of a concern for the grad, but to learn more about how to think.  Teachers face students all the time who are concerned with grades.  GPAs, of course, in our market economy can determine all sorts of quality of life issues.  In short, for undergrads, the difference of a few letter grades can determine a $10,000 grant or not.  That’s a huge deal.  But what professors want to hear is a genuine concern for learning.  Grad school, as expensive as it can be, should not just be about your grades.  Rather, focus on learning.  “I see your comments here about this awkward sentence.  Can you explain to me how to write it more clearly?  How can I improve the way I’m thinking about this historical time period?”  Those questions will go a long way in establishing your relationship with instructors, as well as your own intellectual progress.

Take a few red marks on the chin.  Don’t argue with the grade, but always learn from criticism.  Remember that when you get out of grad school (if you stay in the academic world), there will be editors, peer reviewers, and still more red ink to fix.  Revision is part of the writing process.  It doesn’t mean you’re not an all-star student any more; it just means you’ve made the all-star team and the coaches here intend to push you harder.

When will you be done? And other questions grad students can’t handle.

Posted June 2, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
Categories: Advice, Grad School, Graduate Students, Life of the Mind

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This is not a post for graduate students.  This is a post for everyone who loves a graduate student.  Here are some things we hate to hear and a few reasons why.  If you are a grad student and can’t bear to say these things yourself, maybe you can click “share” and let these words speak for you.eating-alone-2

1) When will you be done?
We know you mean well with this question, but graduate degrees (MAs and especially PhDs) are not defined by chronological status updates like a BA or BS.  To complete a full original research project may take years even before writing begins.  Some scholars research quickly and take years to write.  Some take years to research and write in no time.  Others take years to do it all.  Oh, and as most readers are aware, most scholars are doing all of this work in the evenings or on weekends because our days are full of teaching undergraduates.  We don’t want your sympathy, but you might consider asking, “how is your work?”  Please don’t ask, “how is school?” like we’re still in elementary school.  We know you mean well, but grad school is our job.

2) When will you get a real job?
This is a difficult question that often does not get asked directly, but it’s what people mean.  When you ask when we’re getting done, you’re basically leading to this.  “So… you’re in your late 20s and you’re still in school… you have no money and no prospects… when are you going to throw in the towel and come work at the bank/bar/hotel/factory with the rest of us grown ups?”  We don’t want to hear that.  We don’t need to hear that.  We need support.  Graduate students took a leap of faith the days we applied, got accepted, and began working on this.  Our work is the life of the mind.  We know that you won’t all “get it,” but that question doesn’t really help.  By the way, if you’re really curious, our answer to this question is almost invariably, “when the market normalizes, my research is complete, Oxford publishes my manuscript, and the perfect job at the place I want has an opening and everyone on the committee thinks I’m amazing.”  In short, we have no idea and the truthful answer might be never.  Is it still worth pursuing?  Absolutely.

3) What does your spouse think of all this?
This one is sometimes in the form of a condescending statement, as in, “Oh your [significant other] must really love you to put up with ALL THIS SCHOOL.”  Again, I point to number one in reference to this being a job and not school.  But… more to the point… the sanctimonious attitude present in this all-too-common question/statement is that we, grad students, are mere leeches on our significant others, bringing down the household income to pursue some silly dream.  I didn’t buy a Corvette and go cruisin’ down the coast.  This is not a quarter-life crisis.  This is a graduate degree that is part of a larger career.  It’s personal advancement as well as, at least we hope, helping to expand the knowledge base of humanity.  You’re welcome.

The main thing we grad students need in this process is support.  We want you to care and sustain us, but this is neither a hospital stay nor boot camp.  We made the decision to get into this ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we always enjoy it OR always hate it.  We love and despise the life of the mind.  The best advice I can give is to treat graduate students like the professionals that they are.  Would you ask your dentist when he’s finally going to quit doing all the small time local patient stuff and get a degree in oral surgery?  Would you ask your lawyer why he’s working on your small time local stuff when he could be slaying corporate giants downtown?  No.  You would talk about their work with respect and dignity, with the care and precision of a semi-interested non-specialist who cares but does not condescend.  On behalf of grad students everywhere, we would love a little of the same.

Teaching “May Term”: Some Reflections

Posted May 30, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
Categories: Advice, Teaching, Tips

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teacher writing

Some call it “May Term”… some call it “J term”… if I were a poet, I could come up with a third.  Regardless of your terminology, I’m writing about the “intensive, semester in a few weeks EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME” that many schools have.  “Back in my day” as an undergrad, this was not an option.  However, I’d like to offer a few points of advice from this side of the podium on how to handle teaching an intensive semester-in-a-month class.

1) Cut back – Cut back on everything.  Your Chair will tell you not to.  Your spirit won’t want you to make the class any “easier,” but the bottom line is you have to cut some content.  Students cannot retain in five weeks what they can in fifteen.  Remember the whole “uncoverage” conversation.  I don’t care if you’re teaching World Civ or US history, something’s gotta go.

2) Don’t lament the structure; embrace it.  Initially I found myself frustrated with the smaller class size and the restricted time to develop my ideas.  “I can’t do this…” I said.  “This is too hard…” I said.  But I could do it.  Once I learned to listen to my students (I know, I sound like Mr. Myagi now), I realized they were making different sorts of connections in this format.  Unlike us, these students don’t spend three hours a day working on history.  So when they do for an intensive class, they make unique observations and connections they may not make in a standard semester.

3) Let less be more.  This point is related to the first point, but what I mean is rather than focus on “whole texts” and longer readings (that students frankly cannot finish in the format), try breaking down sources together.  Running a class like this (with three hour meeting blocks), creating a “workshop” style atmosphere can be very beneficial.  While it might seem like you’re covering less “survey” material, the hands on connection points are invaluable and, for some of us, more enjoyable.

To some these might seem like obvious ideas, but I know I had to learn them the  hard way.  Feel free to share this post with friends and colleagues who may be teaching in this format over the summer or for intensive classes next fall.

Any thoughts or ideas you might have, feel free to comment below!

Finding Conferences – H-Net is Key!

Posted May 8, 2013 by cfhgradstudents
Categories: Call for Papers (CFP), Conferences/Seminars, Getting Connected, Grad School

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At this point in our careers most grad students have something worth sharing with the larger Imageacademy.  You have a seminar paper that “ain’t so bad” and you’re ready to share it with the world.  Okay, well not THE WORLD, yet… but you want to share it with someone other than your advisor (who hates it) and your mother (who loves it).  Where, pray tell, can you find such a place?

Sometimes departments post fliers for conferences in the area, but the best way to find Calls for Papers (CFPs) is on H-Net, the list serv software from Michigan State that will fill your inbox with delightful things nearly every day.  If you haven’t yet checked out H-Net, go there now.

You can subscribe to H-lists (the H stands for Humanities, by the way) on a variety of subjects.  There are announcements for conferences, book projects, and even book reviews.  It’s a great opportunity to network with other professionals writing in a given subject within the historical profession.

Go, subscribe, and get connected!


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