Monday, January 10, 2005

AHA 2005 - Saturday

I just returned from the AHA in Seattle. The trip was a pretty good one, although I am exhausted from the long flight out there and back.I arrived on Saturday morning and registration was very easy. All the staff seemed in a pretty good mood and I even had someone greet me when I entered the registration area and point me to the right booth. Unfortunately, my room was not yet clean so I had to haul my bag around for the next couple of hours. The good news was the hotel gave me a free upgrade to the "club level" which put in a nice room, high up in the hotel, with a view of the mountains. It was really stunning.

I eventually made it over to the book exhibit. The highlight was that some press was giving away free cake. I also ran into a friend from graduate school and we made plans to get together that night for drinks and dinner. For lunch I went to "Game Works", which was like a cool Dave and Busters. The meal was just okay, but it did give me some time to review my paper.

I made it one session in the afternoon. It was a talk on Graduate School Fellowships. I ended up at it because I knew someone on the panel and wanted to show my support AND it was in the building I needed to be in for a 4:00 meeting. Luckily the session had some good things to say about applying for funding in general and it wasn't just focused on graduate students. Some of the helpful comments included:- be able to answer the “so-what” question- persuasive in broad terms- know enough to show mastery without having finished the research- research practical and restrained- don't present research as filling a gap- needs to be jargon-free- you can get a grant even if you aren't at a research institution- start months early- explain how your work fits in your field- don't fill your proposal with unanswered rhetorical questions- have someone to read it who is outside of academy- don’t whine about how if you don't get the grant you won't be able to do the project- don’t compare yourself to mega-scholars- proof read.

I then went to visit with a publisher who had seen my paper title and wanted to talk about the book I am working on. I 'pitched' her my idea, but she didn't seem that interested. But when I later talked it out with some other historians, they seemed to be more encouraging. I definitely am not ready to abandon my plan.

Early in the evening, I met up with my grad school advisor and one of my former classmates to discuss what has been going on at the school since I left. Lots of changes, but at the same time it almost feels like I never left. Same old controversies and problems as ever. I then had dinner with some other grad school friends. They all seem to be doing well. It is so nice to see people from my old department getting several job interviews and being successful at landing teaching positions. I swear that when I started in the program it was much rarer for a student to successfully go on. Then it seemed to be the exception rather than the rule when someone got an AHA interview. At least now, it seems to be much more common.

I'll write about Sunday in my next post.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Conserative Students, Liberal Profs

This is what I was talking about a few posts ago. While it is totally unacceptable for professors to grade students on their political views or make them feel intimidated from speaking up in class, at the same time I wonder how many of those people who are complaining actually have an argument to back up their views? I know that if I have a student in class who wants to argue that FDR was an awful president... they need to have some information to back it up. If they can point to stuff like court-packing or that the New Deal failed to end the Great Depression great, but they need more than just their opinion... they need the information to back it up and they need answers to their opponents arguments. If they can't support their arguments and they are just mad that their opinions aren't getting them good grades -- too bad. You need evidence, not just opinions.