Dispatches from Graduate School – Part 31

Cali Pitchel McCullough is a Ph.D student in American history at Arizona State University. For earlier posts in this series click here. –JF
(Cross-posted by permission of John Fea’s blog *The Way of Improvement Leads Home*)

I’m feeling ambivalent about the summer break. I need relief from the academic schedule, but something false is implied in this notion of a summer recess. I turn my last final into Blackboard at 5:00 PM, and the stack of blue books sitting on my desk continues to dwindle. The end is nigh. Yet, in nine days I must complete my first-year portfolio, which includes a compilation of my best work from the first two semesters, a reflection essay, and a tentative proposal and outline of my secondary field.

After I complete my portfolio, the real toil of the summer begins. Not only must I read as much as possible from the 100+ book Qualifying Exam list, I need to make significant headway on my secondary field (a formal proposal, a bibliography, and an historiography of the fifty most important titles from the field), and I need to write a proposal and competency goals for my Advanced Research Skill (ASU’s requirement in lieu of a language)—all of which could easily become my full-time summer job.

Summer break for a PhD student is a Catch 22. If I want to feel comfortable going into the fall semester, I should accomplish the aforementioned tasks. If I want to feel sane and rested going into the fall semester, I should relax and spend adequate time doing the things I love with the people I love. I suppose the best option is to find balance—a middle ground between productivity and rest.

Explore posts in the same categories: Grad School, Grad School Reading, Life of the Mind

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