September 5, 2008

A Lonely AY Away from Writing Studies

Since I'm doing the IT Fellowship for CNES and SLHS departments this year, I have an office all the way over in Shevlin and won't be around Wesbrook too much. I'll miss running into you guys, but I do have some time set aside for most thursdays this semester, so I hope to see you in the mornings for coffee, convo, possibly a nosh? :)

Hope everyone is in good health, good spirits, and having fun this semester.

August 25, 2008

Welcome Back!

We're looking forward to catching up with everyone on Wednesday at orientation, the party, and the post-party party.

Anyone want to organize a "WritLife Goes to the Fair" meetup?

August 18, 2008

Picture Pages

Hello WritLifers!

I hope you are enjoying the wind-down of the summer...

I've added various photos to our WritLife page on Facebook. Please feel free to edit and untag as you wish. I have more to add!

Also, please add from your collection!


April 11, 2008

Disaffected Academics in Film

Continuing on with Marnie's theme of academics in film, there's this article from the Washington Post.

Going by the Book: 'Smart People' Trots out the Standardized Characters

Dennis Quaid's bearded, bed-headed professor joins a long line of disaffected academics in the movies. (By the way... I went to Carnegie Mellon and I didn't even know they had a literature program? What an odd choice of schools.)

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."

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 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>

Continue reading "Got writing issues? You bet you do." »

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.)

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

Continue reading "Response to "Performance Enhanced Academics"" »

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.

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:

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