When we here at Sociology Lens decided to dedicate July to posts about teaching, I had so much excitement. After all, graduate student advice month had gone over so well, why wouldn’t another themed month that is also relevant. I mean, is teaching not a significant part of what we do as sociologists? But there was one problem… I’ve never taught before. What could I offer in my posts?
Really. I had a very difficult time thinking of something, of anything, to offer. I’ve never even been a teaching assistant! Being in the classroom, beyond one or two guest lectures, is something that baffles me. On top of that, being so young (no more than 2 years older than some college seniors) and fresh out of college myself, how I could I really be considered an authority on being the teacher?
This is a guest post by Jenny Dick-Mosher. Jenny is a doctoral candidate at Virginia Tech studying Sociology, Health, and Women’s and Gender Studies. Jenny just recently accepted a position as a disability rights advocate at the Disability Law Center of Virginia.
Sociology Lens News Editor Megan Nanney (mnanney) saw Jenny present on this topic at a departmental symposium and felt that this important information should be shared with those looking to teach courses and for general knowledge in daily life. Thank you, Jenny, for sharing!
Being a self-identified disabled feminist in academia means a lot of people come to me for advice in how to make their disability accommodation statements on their syllabi. For many, the accommodation statement can be as awkward and perplexing for the non-disabled as it can be to interact with disabled people in real life. I’ve had countless interactions with non- disabled people who perform linguistic gymnastics to avoid the word disability and seem to be unclear about how or if to address the crippled elephant in the room.
By ENERGY.GOV (Delphi Automotive Systems) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In early April, 2015, a self-driving car completed a 9 day cross country tour from San Francisco to New York City. During the 9 day adventure, the car was fully automated for 99% of the trip – relying on its humans only to enter and exit the interstates. The Audi car supported technology made by Delphi which uses a combination of advanced features already on the market including collision mitigation, integrated radar and camera systems, forward collision and lane departure warning. While the company certainly used the trip to promote its products the more pressing purpose was to collect data – a lot of data – more than 3 terabytes of data over the nine days (about 30% of what’s on record at the Library of Congress) because the car’s technology needs to learn. more...
And so here we are. Four weeks, 14 posts later. It never ceases to amaze me what we here at Sociology Lens have done here: we have created a space for graduate students to offer advice to other students. No where else is there a space specific for students to seek out advice and community, especially Sociology discipline-specific, from other students. I am ecstatic that this is now a resource that students will be able to come to for years.
While there is always more to be said as our contexts and social circumstances, here I want to offer additional resources that have been provided to me over the years that people should feel free to use, share and distribute, and contribute to. May we continue to share our experiences, offer support and advice, and more importantly look out for not only the future of the discipline itself, but also those people within the discipline.
Kerry Ann Roquemore’s National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Some resources are free; others are quite expensive but might be worth a look for later on: http://www.facultydiversity.org/
Good writing is crucial to sociology. For sociology to thrive as a discipline we sociologists have to be able to communicate our research effectively to a range of audiences. There are many great writing guides out there (Write for Research is especially good: https://medium.com/@write4research). This list of tips reflects my experience of writing a sociology PhD. It’s by no means an exhaustive or authoritative list and some readers may disagree with some of its items: nevertheless it reflects three years focussing on trying to improve my own writing. As student advice month draws to a close, I think this list therefore may be useful to some student sociologists. more...
A couple of weeks ago, in my Social Issues in Qualitative Methodology course, I was assigned to give a presentation on the “technologies of interviewing.” At first, I was told by older cohort members that I was lucky because I had the easiest topic: “Just do the history of the recorder.” As I googled the topic, thinking that it would then be some cool history and development I found that my predecessors had just done a timeline of photos of how the recorder has changed over time. How boring! Who would want to sit through a 20 minute lecture, slide after slide, talking about the recorder, especially when we’re supposed to be talking about the social issues involved in qualitative methods?
My advice to you, graduate students, today is to avoid this typical pitfall in your methods classes (as both student and instructor): revamp your lessons so they can be of some actual use! Below I offer an example of how I revamped this “simple and easy topic” to something that students can actually use and learn from.
Nobody really knows what is like to do a PhD until they do one. I am half way through mine and I still only half know what it is like to do one very specific PhD: my own. Everyone’s experience is unique to their own research topic, their own field site and their own personality, but many of the challenges, pressures and anxieties we encounter are more similar than we realise. We all seem to spend most of our time oscillating between contradictory emotions (hope and despair, enthusiasm and exhaustion, excitement and frustration), hoping that eventually all of this turmoil might (miraculously) become something worthy of calling a thesis.
I wouldn’t really call the following five things ‘advice’, and they are by no means a description of how I have been approaching my own research so far. At best, they are a few things that I now know I need to keep reminding myself of, and that other researchers might be able to identify with. more...
There was a shooting on my campus. A lone gunman entered the first floor of the library last week in the middle of the night and started randomly shooting. Three students were injured and hundreds more hid in the stacks while campus police ended the attack by killing the shooter. As a sociologist, I know too well how our culture has a way of pushing people to the point of breaking, more...
In a previous post (which can be found here), I mentioned the ‘impostor phenomenon’ and how I and many people I know who work in academia have experienced it in some form or another during their career. The ‘imposter syndrome’ (identified by Clance & Imes, 1978, pp. 1-2), the feeling that leads the self-declared impostors to believe that they are not intelligent and that anyone who thinks otherwise has simply been fooled, is usually accompanied by a fear that one day some significant person (a colleague, boss, parent, or partner) will catch them out and realize that they are a fraud. It is incredibly common among academics and is even more common among those who are not in the ‘elite’ category normally associated with academia, i.e. white, wealthy men. Thus, impostor phenomenon is particularly prevalent among women, ethnic minorities and/or any under represented populations (see e.g. Peteet, Brown, Lige & Lanaway, 2014).
As impostor phenomenon has entered mainstream discourses surrounding academic success (and failure), numerous books and articles (such as Clance, 1985, this Forbes article, or this advice for new students at MIT) attempt to offer ways to understand and deal with this newly acquired insecurity; the fear of failing because you feel like an impostor. Oftentimes, it is said that feeling like an impostor is something that we need to overcome, and that ‘faking it’ is an important part of doing so (for example, Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, 2012). This is almost certainly the case for people in academia who are undermining themselves unjustly, particularly women and first generation graduate students who tend to face significant internal barriers to success (see e.g. Gardner, 2013). I would argue, though, that in some instances (particularly in my own experience) feeling like an impostor can be a legitimate emotion, because that is exactly what we are.
Nobody really talks about how or why his or her research failed, or what you are supposed to do when you can see that the fieldwork you are in the middle of might be doomed. Those who decide to leave their research uncompleted rarely write up their experiences, and so the lessons that can be learnt about what not to do during your research, and how to avoid a similar outcome, are forever lost in the private notebooks of the ‘failed’ researcher (Wolcott, 2005, p. 214). I am sure I can’t be the first person to be six months into their fieldwork and be seriously doubting the entire process and already wondering if it is salvageable. So I have decided to write a post about why I think my research is going wrong. more...
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Sociology Lens aims to offer a lively and informative venue for faculty, graduate students and the wider public to discuss current issues in sociology. The site is a companion to the online review journal, Sociology Compass.