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March 31, 2008

the magic of RSS

RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, will make your life much easier because it will help move all the various things you need to check for this class into one place. I use an aggregator called Bloglines to read 135 blogs each day -- a number I could never keep up with if I was clicking on them individually. You can use one to manage less links than that. Like, oh, say, for instance, keeping up with a certain grad group blog. You don't need to know code or even how this works in order to set it up. Seriously.

Here's a screenshot of what a typical RSS reader interface looks like while you're using it.

Here is a pretty good one-page intro to RSS. Here is a quick little tutorial.

Here is a link to Bloglines, which will aggregate anything with a feed, not just blogs.
Here is a link to Google Reader.
NetNewsWire, a premium reader, is now offering a free lite version.
If you use Safari or Firefox, they also have built-in aggregators. Checking the Help pages will, well, help you with that.

Writing Productivity Links

For those of you looking for some motivation with your writing, here's a link to a few places that might jumpstart that seminar paper, prospectus, or letter to your grandma.

Lifehack: The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

March 29, 2008

CFP: The Obama Effect (Twin Cities Conference)

This one's local, perhaps an easy way to bulk up that CV.

Call for Papers:The Obama Effect
October 23-25, 2008, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Since he stepped into the national political spotlight at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has challenged conventional wisdom about race, politics, media, and generation. In this historic election year, it is imperative for scholars and professionals in a wide variety of disciplines to reflect upon the potential effects of Mr. Obama on: American and global public opinion; party politics; voter participation; media representations; international relations; religious discourses; and constructions of racial, sexual, and gender identities.

This conference invites papers from scholars and professionals working from different perspectives on the phenomenon of Senator Obama's political career. Our goal is to create a conference that will showcase various and interdisciplinary approaches to the "Obama Effect" to provide participants with a multi-faceted view of the past year's campaign and its potential effects on a wide range of social arenas.

Submissions from fields such as: history, media studies, journalism, communication studies, political science, philosophy, social justice, African American Studies, ethnic studies, American Studies, sociology, law are welcome. Essays from professional journalists, political consultants, community organizers, and others are also desired.

In a time of rhetorical flourishes and cantankerous punditry, we must also be cautious and circumspect in our analyses of the effects and repercussions of the 2008 campaign. We are also obliged to look back, and scrutinize recent as well as distant histories of politics, race, ethnicity, and culture, to contextualize this moment. At the same time, we should ponder what changes we might expect, and what changes may be too farfetched, in the midst of heady talk auguring Mr. Obama as an agent of radical social transformation.

Submissions should be completed papers (20-25 pages) or extended abstracts (3-5 pages) for works in progress. Works in progress submissions should provide evidence that the paper will be completed by the date of the conference. Papers that are selected for the conference will also be included in a proposal for an edited volume.

Papers should be postmarked no later than June 6th. Applicants should send three (3) paper copies of their paper or extended abstract to:

Dr. Catherine Squires

Cowles Chair for Journalism, Diversity & Equality

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Murphy Hall 111

University of Minnesota

Minneapolis, MN 55455-0418

Participants will be notified of paper's status no later than July 30th. If you have questions about the conference or the submission process, contact any of the co-organizers via email:

Dr. Heather E. Harris.

Associate Professor Business Communication

Director of Multicultural Affairs

Villa Julie College


Dr. Kimberly R. Moffitt

American Studies

University of Maryland Baltimore County


Dr. Catherine Squires


March 27, 2008

Revising "Parlor"

We will continue the discussion on revising "Parlor" at the next meeting. In the mean time, please review the proposal below. If you have suggestions, please post them in the comments below or address them to Greg. At this time, what we really need to do is rename it. Any suggestions?

"Parlor" Proposal

As a central part of the community in the Rhetoric Department, the “Parlor? (to be renamed) will acquire new life in the Department of Writing Studies. After surveying and discussing options with numerous graduate students and faculty, we propose to move the “Parlor? from once-a-month meetings on Fridays to weekly meetings on Wednesdays.

Meetings will consist of shorter, less formal research presentations and group discussions on short assigned readings. A committee of faculty and graduate students will decide the schedule of speakers and readings. Both faculty and graduate students are encouraged to present drafts of conference presentations, thesis or dissertation research, publication drafts, book chapters, etc. Readings will be short (at most two articles), and a graduate student or faculty member will facilitate these discussions.

In order to keep the “Parlor? focused on research and discussion of interest to the broadest section of the department, these sessions should be focused on the research of faculty and graduate students.

The revision of the "Parlor" has four goals:

  1. To accommodate the schedules of as many faculty and graduate students as possible.
  2. To establish “Parlor? as a regular, consistent event.
  3. To create more opportunities for student/faculty interaction.
  4. To lower (slightly) the stakes of the presentation in order to encourage broader participation.

Accommodation Suggestions:

  1. Schedule no one to teach during these hours.
  2. Schedule P&A instructors to teach during these hours.
  3. Rotate the schedule: if you are scheduled to teach during these hours one semester, you will not be scheduled during them the next.

Graduate Assembly Proposal

Below is a draft of the proposal to create the Graduate Assembly. In the end, this will find it's way into the Department Constitution. If you have feedback on the way the Assembly will be structured or run, please contact Greg or post comments. We'll discuss this formally at the next Assembly meeting in April.

Graduate Assembly

The graduate students of Writing Studies propose the creation of a governing body of graduate students: The Graduate Student Assembly. The body's charge is to serve as a forum for graduate student concerns and procedures, which may include making and voting on proposals, planning events, as well as electing representatives to the Graduate committee, Department Assembly, Faculty meetings, Hiring committees, and other ad hoc departmental committees. The Graduate Representative, elected by the assembly to serve on the Graduate Committee for a one-year term, will chair meetings and request agenda items. Other administrative positions will be created as needed. Proposals from the Graduate Assembly will be brought to committees by elected representatives who are charged with informing the rest of the graduate students about policy changes. The Graduate Assembly will meet at least twice a semester.

Graduate Assembly Minutes

Graduate Student Assembly
March 26, 2008: 12:15-2:15
Location: Nicholson 135


Bernadette Longo and Greg Schneider welcomed the students and faculty in attendance and handed out the agenda.

Faculty Reports

Department Chair

Bernadette reported on the results of the voting for the Department Chair for the next three years. Don Ross, Laura Gurak, and Bernadette were on the ballot, which asked faculty to vote by ranking the candidates by first choice, second, and third. Don and Laura tied for first place, but Don had more second place choices. His name was put forward to the CLA Dean who will make the final decision. Discussion took place. Concerns regarding Don’s commitment to our graduate programs were

New Faculty Hires

Bernadette informed the group that the department is working on several new faculty hire possibilities. CLA recently announced that they were committed to hiring six new faculty that will be labeled as interdisciplinary hires. Four of these spots have been filled, but the faculty will be applying for the remaining two. One will be under a visual and digital literacy heading and the other under a health and society description. In addition, the department is seeking to replace faculty who are moving to another department (3) and to replace Vickie Mikelonois’ spot. There will at least 1 or 2 search committees and one graduate student will serve on each committee.

Graduate Curriculum

Bernadette discussed the graduate curriculum. She assured everyone that nothing in the current curriculum is changing at this point. The graduate programs operate through the Graduate School and a change in departments (name or otherwise) need not change that graduate program. She said discussion has taken place supporting the idea of adding more graduate faculty from other departments. This might support more research opportunities for our students. There will naturally be more research opportunities in the new Writing Studies department in the areas of composition and writing pedagogy.

Faculty Leaving

Art Walzer reported on faculty who are leaving the department . He and Alan Gross will go to Communication Studies and Dan Philippon will go to English. He assured everyone that he will continue to advise and be on the committees, as can Alan and Dan because they will continue to be RSTC graduate faculty. The change will be that as of fall semester they will not be able to vote in the governance of the program.

Exam changes

John reported on the work of the committee to change graduate student exams. The committee consisted of John, Bernadette, Greg, and Liz. T. The committee consisted of John, Bernadette, Greg, and Liz. They looked at other programs both within and outside the U and came up with the following suggestions:

  • Three sets of book lists; one for Rhetorical Theory; one for S&TC; and one in the student’s outside area. All should be approximately 25 books long.
  • The written exams will all be open-book, and 24 hours long. The exams will be offered at three set times per year. Mary suggested that an additional set time be added to include the oral exam as well.
  • There will be one “window? each semester, including the summer.

John will submit these proposals to the departmental faculty. Once approved, they can be implemented.

Students may stay with the plan they came in under or opt for the new structure.

Undergraduate Curriculum

Lee-Ann Kastman Breuch gave an update on the undergraduate degree. She said that the undergraduate committee has decided to stay with the B.S. degree for now and to bring the number of required credits in line with most of the other CLA majors (mid-30’s). There will be some changes in the required and elective courses. In the near future the committee will work on a new B.A. in Writing Studies which will probably begin as a minor and, over time, develop into a full B.A., depending on the response and other changes in the department.

First Year Writing (FYW)

Tom Reynolds reported on the First Year Writing Program. He thanked everyone for their hard work and cooperation. He also discussed training opportunities for beginning and returning graduate students. The FYW program employs students in our department as well as English, American Studies, and C&I.

Graduate Proposals

Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) and Cooperatives

Matt Williams and Paul Anheier shared their thoughts on ways to work together to support the graduate student’s teaching efforts. A lengthy discussion took place. Concerns were expressed about overlapping events, and the time needed to attend these meetings. It was determined that Paul and Matt should keep moving forward on organizing this.


Marnie Henderson talked about the need to include as many students as possible in the governance and committee work of the department. She stressed the need for fair, open committee member selection for the graduate students. She distributed a handout that summarized the opportunities for graduate student representation. The question of a grievance committee was raised. John said that the committee has not been called to work on an issue this school year, but if it is a graduate student will be asked to participate.

Kim Schultz raised the question about tech fees. Do we still get them from CLA like we did from CFANS? She will look into it.

Matt Kaplan talked about the various committees he’s on and noted that he would be happy to share information about the things he’s learning as well as to relay graduate student’s concerns to the committees.

Kim raised the issue of the failings of the Thin Client computer system in 201. Because the server goes down frequently they are not meeting the needs of the graduate students who use them. Previous complaints to the departmental administration has not resulted in any action. John said that the students need to let the faculty know about this.

P&A courses

Erin expressed frustration at the variety of courses that P& A instructors are teaching for the department, when an advanced graduate student might be qualified and eager to teach some of these courses. At this time, the process is not clear and it should be. Erin, Liz, and Kim Thomas will draft a proposal for the April meeting.

Curriculum and Discipline

Kenny talked about the need to revise the graduate curriculum to better prepare students for the job market and the field. This includes developing a basic tech comm course akin to the history of rhetoric courses. Curriculum decisions will be on the agenda in April and revisions will begin in earnest in the fall.


Greg introduced changes to the "Parlor". Scheduling and content were discussed. John Logie mentioned that the most important step would be to clear a time where no one would teach. Greg will pursue this with Barb Jensen. A preference for biweekly over weekly meetings was raised discussed. This item will be on the agenda for the April meeting.

Other Business

The Assembly discussed the chair decision. No action will be taken at this time.

March 19, 2008

The Professor as Open Book

Because I (for one) am not yet done with the many-sided debate on the professor-of-higher-education-as Facebooker/Friendster/MySpacer/blogger and the New York Times doesn't seem to be done either; see today's article "The Professor as Open Book."

First Annual Lego Drive

As many of you know teaching technical/professional writing (WRIT 3562W) means a project on instructions. In order to teach this skill students are often given Legos and asked to construct an object and then instructions for creating that object. In the past, teachers have gone to the toy store and invested in a personal supply of Legos or borrowed Legos from another instructor, but now there will be communal Legos! I am organizing the first ever LEGO DRIVE!

There will be a bin in 201 Wesbrook and in the Saint Paul office. Please donate any old or unused legos or other building-type toys (ex: tinker toys, blocks, duplo blocks, connects...etc). The toys will be weighed at the end of month with the hope that the department will "match" our collection in weight. This is a department-wide event so bug your advisers for their legos or P&A's you work with. The department-wide Lego Drive email will go out on Monday.

March 18, 2008

Tenure, The Movie

Tenure, the Movie
From Inside Higher Ed

"Higher education has provided plenty of plots for film, with student oriented movies the most likely to pack in audiences. Campus hijinks have always been popular (think “Animal House“). Getting into college featured prominently in “Risky Business? and “Orange County.? Faculty stories also get told of course, with many an academic novel having been dramatized. But tales of infidelity, failure, and visions of political correctness tend to dominate — such as the stories in the films “Wonder Boys,? “We Don’t Live Here Anymore? or “The Human Stain.?

But what about tenure? It’s about to have its 15 minutes of Hollywood fame. Blowtorch Entertainment will next month begin filming on “Tenure,? which is about a college professor coming up for tenure (Luke Wilson) and facing off against a female rival who recently arrived at (fictional) Grey College. (The part of the institution will be played by Bryn Mawr College, where the movie will be shot.) David Koechner will play the professorial sidekick to the Wilson character, and the production company is planning kickoff events next year to promote the film in college towns.

Brendan McDonald, the producer, said that he viewed academe as “one of the interesting worlds to explore? and said that he viewed the project as “lampooning the tenure process.?

Read More

March 14, 2008

Some Friday Fun from The Chronicle: The Academic Zodiac

"We all know that the most difficult part of academic life is the uncertainty. Depending on the field, the outcome of many years of study is often determined by the arbitrary whims of Fortuna more than by our own accomplishments or desires.

The wheel spins one way, and you are tenured at Yale. The wheel spins another way, and you are writhing on the ground, covered in boils, an adjunct at a branch campus of an underfunded state university.

Nevertheless, many ways exist to maximize your chances for success in the academic cosmos, or outside of it, if necessary.

For that reason, I humbly propose the abolition of the career-services office for advanced-degree-seekers and instead plead for the restoration of the long-lost science of astrology -- recognized as legitimate by most every newspaper -- to its rightful place in academe.

Instead of asking, "What was your undergraduate major?" the academic astrologer will ask the far more important question, "What is your sign?" Once that is known, the appropriate advanced-degree program can be selected with an accuracy that is quite competitive in relation to the results of the Myers-Briggs personality-trait assessment, the Strong Interests Inventory, or the latest labor-shortage prediction.

See for yourself whether your sun sign captures your academic identity and prophesies the fields in which you surely will meet with the greatest success:"
Read on

Hahaha! Does your description ring true? Perhaps a hint of truthiness? Do comment!

March 11, 2008

A Great Dissertation Guide

While I was working on my prospectus I read a couple of "dissertation guides" and this one is really great. It is written by Sonja Foss (of "Foss, Foss and Trap" fame) and William Waters and is titled Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation (2007). This book is a great guide--it keeps things in the positive and works on keeping your confidence intact while you are going through the dissertation process. One especially good device is that it tells you approximately how many hours you should spend on each part of your dissertation. Another thing that really helps is that the folks who wrote this book are in our discipline...something that other books don't have.


Here’s a short rundown of what’s going on over there on the right-hand sidebar. All of it is just for you smart, smart people, and as always, we welcome feedback.

Meta: Pretty self-explanatory, really. All the administrative stuff: link to the department, to policies we never need, to the UThink sign-in, and to other WritLife web presences. Which reminds me: If you're not on Facebook yet, come on in and join the WritLife group! It's where we post a fair amount of resources and events, and it’s a good place to build a portable social network you can take with you when you get your dream job. (When you register, make sure you join the Minnesota network. That way we can invite you to the group.)

Flickr Badge: A random selection of photos from the Writlife Flickr Group. If you’re on Flickr, just let us know that you’d like an invitation to the group and we'll send you one. If you’re not on Flickr, think about joining. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s a great way to share photos — especially with us here.

The Stories of Us: This is a space to link to individual grad students’ spaces on the web. We’re hoping this section will be well-populated, so if you’ve got a blog or other webbish thing you’d like us to link, let us know where you are.

Academic and Productivity Blogs: Right now, this section skews heavily toward academic productivity and professionalization. (Adventures of a CC Dean and Reassigned Time skew heavily toward the latter and are often worth your time.) I’ve also included a few links to early- and early/mid-career Rhetoric scholars and one other individual grad blog. There aren’t any links to Comp blogs right now simply because I’m not sure which ones to link, so if you know of one you’d like to see there, let us know. The blogroll should reflect all aspects of our disciplinary interests.

Minnesotaness: A short list of local blogs, citizen journalism outlets, and more traditional media sources. Hopefully, this section will broaden those of us who have been here for a bit as well as provide a resource list for grads who are new to the Twin Cities.

Resources: Places around the U that can come in handy.

Enjoy! And if there are other things you’d like to see, just pipe up in the comments.

(Oh, and a note about comments: the UThink system automatically requires comment approval in order to cut down on spam. So if you see that your comment is awaiting approval, please don't rage against the hegemony of it all -- at least not for the first five minutes. One of the community tech team members will approve it as soon as we can.)

March 10, 2008

Got writing issues? You bet you do.

Yellow Notes

If there's one thing I'm proud of in my years in this department, it's not getting to this stage in my degree program, it's not publishing, and it's not realizing that I enjoy teaching. It's starting a writing group that will celebrate it's fourth anniversary this year. All told, the group has pushed through two dissertations (and another two will defend this year), three theses, two prosectuses, at least four articles or book chapters, and numerous conference presentations, job applications, and seminar papers. This is good work, and if all goes well, my mates will help carry me through to dissertation enlightenment.

But if there's one thing I regret about the group, it's that I have to keep it small. If it were feasible, I'd invite you all to a huge orgy of writing brilliance and productivity. What I realize, though, is that there's nothing stopping you from setting up your own group or participating in the groups on campus that already exist. r>

Recently, David Beard, an alumnus of both the department and my writing group, sent me a valuable article on starting and running your own group from the Chronicle of Higher Education. If you're thinking of organizing your own group, this is highly recommended.

Also, if you want to get away from the department, I would strongly suggest the interdisciplinary writing groups offered by the University's Counseling Services. You won't review writing, but you will set and meet goals and talk through all your crazy writing issues. Don't be shy: we all have them.

My own initial advice for anyone starting their own writing group would amount to a few things:

  • Bring together people with a work ethic similar to yours.
  • Bring together people that challenge you, even if you don't know them. You'll soon learn more about them and their hang ups than you ever imagined :) It's a wonderful process.
  • Consider inviting people from other disciplines.
  • Meet every week at the same time and place. Make it a habit. Be disciplined.
  • Set goals, set a schedule, and limit the amount of time you bitch. Believe me, the bitching will be very very enjoyable. Keep it contained.
  • Have fun. Celebrate your achievements. Drink wine. Have chocolate.

At the moment I'm a member of three different writing groups (including one of the counseling groups I mentioned above). Each does something different for my writing and thinking. But the most important thing is that I took the initiative to be responsible for my own work and to hold myself publicly accountable to progress. I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you have questions about creating your own group or want more advice gleaned from running my own group, feel free to ask.

Finally: Do you participate in your own group? Do you have advice for others who might want to begin one of their own? Please share it in the comments.

the essence of grad studentry


Constantly in motion, a wee bit blurry, yet remaining stylish at all times. (Also, locked in a red, red room with a only a computer and your wits. Oh wait, no. That's the essence of exams.)

More Thoughts on the Job Market (Salma Monani)

I too have been asked to add my thoughts to the Job Search process. Kenny has covered the basics, so I’ll add to them via my own personal experiences. Perhaps one of the most important things for me in this process was access to an excellent one credit Preparing Future Faculty class offered by the U’s own Teaching and Learning Center. If you happen to be like me, generally unorganized and also somewhat perplexed by this whole process, it’s a great resource. Here’s the link to the Academic Job Search part of the PFF website: http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/jobsearch/index.html. Even if you don’t take the class, here’s what it taught me:
1) It got me thinking about institutional fit and also gave me a sense of the current state of the job market. In essence, it made me think more realistically about what my options were and where I might be happy.
2) It forced me to pull together a CV and a cover letter for an ideal job ahead of time (so I wasn’t scrambling when it was crunch time—believe me this process can be time-consuming. Anthony attests to that!). I had to think about what this ideal job was and also familiarize myself with job sites. A few to consider are MLA (the department used to pay for this, and it’s worth seeing if they will do so again), the Chronicle for Higher Education, NCA, and H-Net.
3) It’s worth it to start looking at job postings sooner than later. That way you get a sense of what jobs there are out there and how you can tailor yourself for first choice jobs, second choice jobs, and third choice jobs. Always, always think of a back up plan. For example, I want to teach environmental humanities. The job market is next to non-existent in this area, so I need a back-up plan. Can I teach Techcomm? Or Composition? The market for these jobs is better. But, I also need my resume to show I can do this. It’s worth thinking about your opinions sooner than later as that gives you time to build up your resume.

Here are a few additional thoughts:
1) Just to test the waters, it’s worth going on the job market earlier than you think you’ll really need to. Apply selectively. Only apply to your ideal jobs. Only apply to those jobs you feel really qualified to do. Who knows you might get lucky (I did)! Even if you don’t, you might still get interview experience, and you’ll certainly have your CV and other job application materials (teaching philosophy, research statement, cover letters) crafted and ready to go for the next time around.
2) Once your applications are out, the process seems a bit like a crapshoot (if I can use the word). Often times, it’s impossible to know what a hiring department is really looking for. They might simply reject your application because they’ve already got too many people from Minnesota, or because they have a candidate in mind already. Just make sure you have your best material out there, do your homework beforehand, make use of your professional networks to stay in the loop as this might help you get a better sense of what a department might be looking for, and don’t get disheartened. There are always other jobs to apply for!

I’ll stop there but am happy to add more of my two cents worth, if any one is interested. ☺

Response to "Performance Enhanced Academics"

A couple of things struck me as I was reading Zoe’s post and the NYTimes article she discusses. I absolutely agree with her that many of these pieces seem to push this urgency of: “have *you* tried them? Everyone *else* is using them to get ahead.? After all, it can be incredibly persuasive for overworked, tired, veiled-thinking graduate students to consider enhancement drugs to grade those last papers, read a few more articles, and write all night. I think our ever-competitive academic culture can also promote self diagnosis of things like adult ADHD, as well as the medicalization of stress (which is a comment, not a judgment).


It reminds me of two things we read in Carl Elliott’s Medical Consumerism class (about which you are all used to hearing me gush). In 2005, Joshua Foer wrote an article for Slate called “The Adderall Me: My Romance with ADHD Meds.? In it, Foer does a bit of journalistic-participation research, and takes Adderall

for a week. Citing brilliants who used stimulants with legendary results (W.H. Auden, Sartre, Kerouac, Philip K. Dick), he wonders what the drug will do for him. It’s Slate, so it’s not helpful when Foer doesn’t cite his suggestion that, “According to one recent study, as many as one in five college students have taken Adderall or its chemical cousin Ritalin as study buddies.? Nevertheless, the article is amusing, and while he tries to suggest that Adderall isn’t for him, he admits that he did save one pill to write the article itself.

The other piece is Elliott’s book _Better than Well_, which is a commentary on Americans’ use of enhancement technologies. His discussion of Adderall and stimulants focuses on what Peter Conrad calls the “Medicalization of Underperformace? (255).

“With a diagnosis of ADHD, adults can reinterpret past failures as the consequences of illness. “I used to beat myself up,? says former Nasdaq vice-president who has been divorced twice, recently quit his job, and came to understand that he had ADHD only when his children were diagnosed with the disorder. With the diagnosis of ADHD, he says, “I know this is not a personality flaw, I am not screwed up.? This is a typical narrative for adult ADHD sufferers. It allows them to shift responsibility for their underperformance for themselves to the illness. “I had 38 years of thinking I was a bad person,? says one adult ADHD sufferer. “Now I’m rewriting the tapes of who I thought I was to who I really am? (255).

Elliott openly discusses his own family background, growing up with an M.D. father, and within a seemingly supportive, laid-back southern culture. He argues that enhancements may stifle the abstractedness of creativity.

“…My point is that the very changes that some people might think of as unqualified enhancements (i.e., becoming more attentive and mindful) are not quite as unqualified as they may initially think; and that, moreover, these enhancements may well be changes critical to a person’s identity, a person’s sense of who he or she is. This need not be individual identity. It can also be family identity (Elliott abstractedness) or even cultural identity (southern amiability). The trait in question might even affect identity in ways that we do not appreciate, like, say, professional identity. I sometimes wonder whether it is an accident that of the three abstracted Elliott brothers, two have graduate degrees in philosophy and the other is a psychiatrist (258).

You also commented that your students were aware of the consequences of enhancement drugs. I am interested to know where this shared understanding originates. It does give support (even if also anecdotal) to increased enhancement drug use in students. I wonder if some of the “don’t share your pharmaceuticals? governmental discourse is involved.

Other thoughts?

Performance Enhanced Academics

As I sit here coughing, sneezing and sniffling in a most underperforming kind of way, I'm reading: "Brain Enhancement is Wrong, Right?" in the NY Times. The article discusses the (apparent?) rise in use of cognitive performance enhancers by students and faculty but seems to rely, as has every discussion I've ever seen on this issue, on anecdotal evidence. (Benedict Carey, the article author, also references the debate in the Chronicle of Higher Ed forum. Some CHE forumites are wondering though, where exactly is the debate?

What was most interesting about this to me was how the article almost made me think I ought to be upping my caffeine intake and including off-label Adderrall to my daily regimen (rather than sticking with my performance enhancers of choice: daily trips to the gym or yoga studio, whole foods, a full nights of sleep more often than not, interdisciplinarity). Last spring when my "Writing about Issues in Science and Technology" students and I were reading Joel Garreau's Radical Evolution we had similar discussions about how the discourse of performance enhancement itself seemed to lead to perceptions that "everyone's doing it" thus, so must I do it just to keep up with the rest... Of course, neither Garreau nor Carey talk much about the tolls of these various drugs (which my students seemed to be quite aware of. Are high school anti-drug ed. programs working?) Interestingly, I had 3 students write their final papers on (that is, against) performance enhancers in sports.


March 9, 2008

Friday Night, Late


A moment from the first-ever WritLife party.

Making the Most Out of Conferences by Erin Wais-Hennen

Lots of graduate students think of conferences as extended vacations away from their office, cohorts, and possibly below freezing temperatures. In reality, every conference should be a chance to
network with others in your field, interest group, and even possible employers.

First things first--apply to present a paper at a conference and get your paper accepted. You can find out more about the deadlines and dates of thelarger annual or biannual conferences at:
Writing Studies Resources

Second, you want to get a hold of an online or paper copy of the schedule of the conference--this should have in it a list of all panels and presentations.This is your conference "golden ticket." You should take this valuable list, read through it and mark down what panels you want to see. This should help you keep a schedule of where you want to be when.

So third, here you are--going and listening to panels instead of laying out on some beach or partying it up with friends--this is good, it may be painful now, but it is time well spent. Now that you are at these panels you need to make the best of your time. Don't just sit at the panel, listen and walk away. If one of the presenters is doing work that you are interested in or says something particularly meaningful to you go up and meet them after the presentation. Say something smart to this person, ask them a question you have or make an appropriate comment on their presentation. Before or after you comment to this person introduce yourself to this person, for example "I am Erin Wais-Hennen, Dr. Berkenkotter's student at the University of Minnesota and I am also working on medical rhetoric." Now this person knows who you are, where to find you, and that you are an intelligent human being--these are all great accomplishments.

As you go through this process (over-and-over again) you begin to know people and they begin to know you. The more people who know your a smart and interesting person, the more people can ask you to be on their panels at future conferences or know you before you see them at an interview.

The fourth step is remembering the people you meet and connect with, before the next conference and contact them--set up a time to chat or talk about specific parts of their research during the coming conference.

Finally, always say thank you! Drop the people you feel you really connected with an email thanking them for their time, insight, and/or interest.

As well as there being things to do at a conference--there are also things NOT to do:

  • Gossip about your adviser, department, or graduate student colleagues
  • Talk negatively about someone else's presentation or panel
  • Stalk people
  • Wear clothes that are inappropriate
  • "hook-up" with someone also at the conference

March 8, 2008

What I did on my Traveling Scholar “Vacation?

Since I arrived in September, it’s snowed thirty-nine times in Chicago (and counting: we’ve got you beat, Twin Cities!) But hey, I didn’t become a Traveling Scholar to find warmer climes. Indeed, there aren’t any warmer climes to be had: the Traveling Scholar Program allows doctoral students to take up to a year of coursework at another CIC institution, but the CIC is comprised of the Big Ten plus the University of Chicago. Perhaps all the cold is character-forming.

Certainly, my year away has been intellectually and professionally rewarding in ways I don’t think I imagined when I first applied. Although the Traveling Scholar Program is often used by students needing hard-to-find classes in rare languages, I’ve already met about half a dozen Traveling Scholars from other institutions in my classes in history, philosophy and anthropology of science. We’re all here to take particular courses and to work with faculty specializing in areas that aren’t available at our home institutions. In addition to this, the program offers doctoral students an unmatched opportunity to network, collaborate and experience academic life in a different institutional structure. The best part is that all credits you take while away transfer back to your home institution (it’s still up to your own doctoral program to count them toward your degree). In unbelievable economics for those coming from the public schools, the program is offered at tuition parity. As I am, many students are able to fund their travels by a long-distance teaching or research appointment from their home institution.

To apply for the program, you need to demonstrate real need, i.e., that the specific courses you need aren’t available where you are. You must also obtain the approval of your adviser and chair as well as the approval of an appropriate faculty contact and program chair at the host university (and in the case of U of C at least, the appropriate dean as well.) It’s good to start your application early! Once at your host university, you’re issued a student ID, with all the standard library privileges, health and athletic center services, etc. extended to regular graduate students.

Having been a Traveling Scholar for several months now, I can say that the experience has been both richer and more difficult than I expected. It’s hard to be in two places at once and I was surprised at how much I took for granted that in RSTC I would be seeing… RSTC’ers. (How I’ve missed you guys!!!) Although as I start my third quarter here I’m beginning to recognize some familiar faces, I’m often the “new kid? in the class and always the only rhetorician-of-science-from-Minnesota in the room. (I hasten to add: everyone I’ve met has been extremely welcoming as well as interested in hearing about things from a rhetoric perspective.) Teaching on the semester system while taking classes simultaneously on the quarter system has also offered its own peculiar sort of temporal hell: none of the deadlines, breaks and finals weeks line up in both places.

Despite the challenges, I wholeheartedly recommend the program to any student, especially those planning to remain in RSTC for the M.A./Ph.D. long haul. My understanding of RSTC, and my own work in it, is far richer now that I can contextualize it in a larger scheme of ideas, disciplines and institutions.

BTW—the CIC has other great travel programs as well as funding opportunities for Big-Ten-plus-Chicago students: http://www.cic.uiuc.edu/Students.shtml

The Visit Day was too short! See you guys again soon…

Tell us where you are, eh?

If you maintain a blog or other webbish thing you’d like us to add to the “Stories of Us”section of the sidebar, just let Krista, Greg, or Marnie know. Or heck, you can just leave a comment on this post. We’ll be happy to link it up.

March 4, 2008

There will be prelims

Like many fellow Writing Studies grad students, I passed my written and oral prelims last fall. Several of us were taking them within weeks or months of one another, and I can’t recommend strongly enough that you talk to these people when your time comes. They shared articles, books, and chapters with me that really helped.

I’ll specifically focus on preparing for the exams.

First, read through Mary Wrobel’s list of questions. This list will give you an idea of the kinds of questions you’ll answer. Note that these questions are not overly difficult. Prelims are not the place to break new ground, test out new arguments, etc. Think of the kinds of questions you’ll want to answer, and provide those to your committee members. While they might not give you the exact question, you’re likely to get a variation on your exams.

Then, get your reading list, keeping your questions in mind. Ask people who have taken them already to see theirs. There is no need to create this completely from scratch. Also, refrain from the temptation of placing everything you have ever read or ever want to read on this list. Keep it tight, and don’t go overboard. Prelims are not the time to become an expert on Weaver if you’ve never read him. Ask your committee members to make suggestions, and then get the thing finalized. Don’t add it to it. I kept reading more and more and it was worthless in the end. Then, I gave my suggested questions to my committee members when I gave them my lists.

Then create a schedule to study for the exams. You’re reading for three, so it’s easy to muddle around for a while, reading here and there. I found it very helpful to set a schedule, a week and a half for this one, then move on to the next one, etc.

Then you have to actually read. I eventually found that the best way for me to read was to first peruse all my materials, taking general notes. Then I went through each question I gave to my examiners and made outlines for each one. I went through each source and tagged relevant pages with post-it notes with my notes like “Perelman and O-T - epideictic? or whatever was important on that page. Then, while taking the exams, I would just refer to my outline and then look for my post-its with the info I needed.

One of the most important things is not to overthink your exams. A month before taking them, I completely freaked out. It did not help. What did help was to return to my reading lists and questions, and realize these were things I knew, things I was familiar with, and things I could talk reasonably articulately about.

Greg and Krista gave a wonderful presentation last year on the entire exam process. If you weren’t able to attend, ask for the handout they prepared. Or you can find a link to it in this post on Krista’s blog.

I also want to add that I learned an incredible amount through this exam process. I really felt like a Rhetoric PhD candidate. It’s pretty grueling, more an endurance test than anything, but you learn so much from it. I read Aristotle three times during grad school, but it was only while reading for my prelims that I could make sense of it, or make an argument from it.

And, one resource I would like to help create with some fellow ABDers is a CD for our colleagues with PDFs of articles we found useful. There is no need for all of us to go through the process of locating, downloading, etc., every single article. Let’s compile our saved articles and give them to those ready to study. Of course, every reading list will be personalized, but we might have some classic articles or articles others haven’t seen but are useful to share. My husband’s PhD program does that, and it was the students who prepared the CDs for other students. Surely, we can do that too!

Notes on the Job Market.

Because people have been asking me how it went and, more importantly, what those-soon-to-be-on-the-market should be considering and looking out for as they put themselves in circulation in about 6 months from now, and because I have been asked to say a few words about it on the blog, I am writing with a few thoughts. (Is that not the most Henry-James-like opening sentence ever?).

Homework for the Summer Before:
Get your CV, writing sample, and web-presence read by August 15. Yes, you should probably have some kind of website. Even I, of minuscule technological capacity (compared to most of you all), had a website; well, actually a blog-site that I configured like a website. I have to thank Krista for this! She was the encouragement and the provider of the initial idea. It is a good idea to have one because you can put all of your material online (as PDFs), and many schools will just refer to that rather than have you send paper copies of your portfolio. Because mine is so low-tech and a bit clunky, it might not be the model for what to do, but I am including the link, just to give you some ideas.


If you have a web-presence though, keep in mind that all of the schools will see it. This can be awkward if you are marketing yourself differently to different schools – meaning, if you are going for STC jobs (in English Departments), Rhetorical History jobs (in Comm. Studies), and Women’s Studies jobs. But this might not be the case for everyone; I marketed myself mostly the same for all the jobs on my list.

You want to get your CV and teaching material up online (or at least samples of teaching material you are proud of—or, in my case, not too embarrassed by). I had a picture of me, because I thought it would seem suspicious not to, but this is something you should talk to others about.

Writing Samples & Pubs
The writing sample, in my opinion, should be taken from your dissertation project (an actual chapter or what might become an actual chapter). It should provide a solid introduction, or even a glimpse into, your project and the major areas of your research. For example, my chapter was on the visual rhetoric and embodied practices of the anatomy lab, offering a brief overview of one major argument in my dissertation. This does not tell them everything about my research but it does clue them in to issues that are important to me now and probably in the future – my interest in medicine, in visual representation, in anatomy and the body, in ethnography, in material and embodied rhetoric, etc.

I did not put the writing sample online, because if you want to get it published later some journals might consider it previously in published.

Also, I think if you are going to send something off for publication, do it before September 1, that way you can have something under review in the publication section of your CV. If you already have one or more publications, there might not be a need to push the next one out, if you don’t feel the contractions. Do you need a publication? I don’t know. I think some more research-heavy jobs would want that, but I’m not sure.

Start by Shopping and Thinking:
Also, this summer start investing in “career-wear? that is warm enough for MLA interviews (though it is in SF in 2008!) and campus visits. You will need enough professional clothes to last for about three days of MLA and 2 days of campus visits. Guys, that means more than one suite or suit-type arrangement (I got one suite and then two suit separates: dark blue, grey, and black).

Lastly, I think it is good—and fun—to start thinking now about who you want to be and where you want to end up. Maybe even write/blog/journal about it some (That is so “writing studies? of me to say).

What type of jobs do you want: ones that are more research-heavy or teaching-heavy or somewhere in between? What type of school are you looking for: R1, liberal arts, large, small, urban, rural, college-town-feel? Where do you want to live (I mean areas of the country)? What do you want to teach? What might be your next project, and what resources might you need for that? What type of career do you want to have – be a heavy-hitter, a mover-and-shaker, or someone happily not-in-direct-sunlight? Do you want to be in an already developed program or one just starting out? Are you interested in being involved in a program-building-situation that will ask/allow you to design new courses and new curricula?

The most important part of this exploration is just to see what comes up. After all, you will not know the answer to these questions until you are in the middle of the job search—at least that was the case with me. I finally knew what I thought about most of these questions only after I had to start making final decisions.

March 3, 2008

Circles of Writing

Well, it's not necessarily a straight line from here (writing a prospectus) to there (defending a dissertation). In fact, I've discovered that I can get pretty tightly flumoxed--trying to write my way out of circular writing that isn't going in the direction I want. And I've talked to several dissertators who have similar stories to tell. A couple of weeks ago I swallowed my pride and asked if I could make an appointment for a writing consultation in the Center for Writing; they welcomed me with enthusiasm.

Full disclosure: I work there as a consultant. It seemed to me that I should be able to help myself. Everyone assures me that isn't necessarily the case--that it's wonderful to talk to someone, have that person look at what you're doing, and then coach you to get yourself out of the muddle and moving in a useful direction again. It was a great experience. I'll be glad to get to the point of some other dissertators who are coming in for a weekly scheduled consultation and have done that for a year.

I'm not done with my dissertation yet (sorry to admit that...). But I'm beginning to think I might actually get it written. My friends keep asking if they could at least see a title page. um, no....