CSGSP Session #586 Upgrading Graduate Student Teaching Positions

Saturday, 9 January1:45–3:00 p.m., 5A, ACC

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession

Presiding: Alexandra Valint, Univ. of Southern Mississippi

Speakers: Katie B. Angus, Univ. of Southern Mississippi; Anna Castillo, Stanford Univ.; Sophie Christman-Lavin, Stony Brook Univ., State Univ. of New York; Melissa Dennihy, Queensborough Community Coll., City Univ. of New York; Maureen Fitzsimmons, Univ. of California, Irvine; Sarah Kremen-Hicks, Univ. of Washington, Seattle; Jens Lloyd, Univ. of California, Irvine

Session Description:
Although graduate students are often interested in teaching courses at a range of levels during their graduate training, those opportunities are not always available to them. Panelists consider how graduate students can make the most of the teaching opportunities they frequently receive. How can these common (often devalued) teaching opportunities be valuable pedagogical positions?

CSGSP Session #192 Humanities Beyond Humanities

Thursday, 7 January7:00–8:15 p.m., 201, JW Marriott

Program arranged by the MLA Committee on the Status of Graduate Students in the Profession

Presiding: Geffrey Davis, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville

Speakers:Liam Corley, United States Naval Acad.; Josie Fischer, Thompson Rivers Univ.; Zachary Lamm, Epitome Group; Kenneth Luna, California State Univ., Northridge; Lissette Lopez Szwydky, Univ. of Arkansas, Fayetteville; Svetlana Tyutina, California State Univ., Northridge

Session Description:
This panel considers nontraditional professional environments for “practicing” a humanities PhD and examines the challenges of teaching languages and literature in small programs and STEM and military institutions.


Tips for first-time graduate student attendees

The first time you attend the annual MLA convention can be a bit overwhelming — I attended for the first time in 2013 as a second year Ph.D. student. The CSGSP recommends trying to attend the convention at least once before the year you go on the job market. Even if you aren’t presenting, consider attending in your final year of coursework or the year you take your comprehensive exams. Having a basic familiarity with the general format and feel of the convention can help you feel less anxious during the year you attend for interviews (we all know interviews are stressful enough!). Consider organizing a trip with other Ph.D. students with whom you can share hotel and transportation costs. Responding to CFPs for our committee’s two guaranteed sessions each year can be a great way to get your foot in the door.

The CSGSP has some suggestions for first-time attendees who are not interviewing at the convention:

  • Don’t burn yourself out. The first thing you must realize is that it’s impossible to attend all of the hundreds of amazing sessions. It’s equally impossible to spend all day, every day, attending session after session from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Pace yourself, eat regular meals, stay hydrated, and don’t forget to get some fresh air.
  •  Support your friends and colleagues. Are other members of your department, former professors, and friends presenting at the convention? Be sure to attend their panels. No one likes presenting to only a handful of people in the audience and seeing a familiar face can put presenters at ease.
  • Check out panels both in and out of your field. Some sessions will be an exceptional gathering of key scholars in your field, but also don’t be afraid to check out panels in fields you are less familiar with.
  • Attend panels relevant to graduate students. Each year, the CSGSP puts together a handy list of sessions of particular interest for graduate students (posted here).
  • Dress the part. Even if you’re not presenting, you’ll still want to dress business casual. Wear appropriate and comfortable shoes though, because you’ll be doing a LOT of walking. Keep in mind that the weather in Austin might be hot, rainy, cold — who knows what January can bring!
  • Visit the graduate student lounge. Often. Not only is the lounge a place where you can sneak away from the hustle and bustle of the main convention areas, but it’s also a space where you can meet CSGSP members and other graduate students. They’re your future colleagues, so take advantage of networking opportunities. The lounge usually has refreshments and small snacks too.
  • Consider business cards. There are several websites where you can create small, inexpensive business cards to bring with you. They allows for quick and easy exchanges of contact info.
  • Attend the presidential address. The president often addresses pressing concerns facing the future of English and foreign language departments and presents information on what the MLA is doing to respond to them.
  • Explore the city. The annual convention is held in wonderful cities such as Austin in 2016 and Philadelphia in 2017. Block out some time for sightseeing, wandering, shopping, or trying some fantastic restaurants.
  • Most importantly, have fun! The convention is a fantastic time. You will hear inspiring scholarship, meet wonderful new people, and come away inspired

Why Go to MLA Before You’re on the Job Market?

“Why go to MLA before you’re on the job market? It’s so big and impersonal. You might as well wait until you have an interview to go.” When I first went to a national MLA conference a few years ago, many people had the same advice: don’t go to MLA until you’re on the job market. The thinking behind this advice was that you could propose a panel, meet with potential colleagues, and make new connections all while being a fresh face for potential employers. While I think there is some truth in waiting until one’s fifth or sixth year of grad school to attend MLA, I have some alternative advice, borne from three years of attending MLA before interviewing for jobs.

I attended MLA for the first time in my third year of grad school. I was accepted onto a panel in my area of specialization, and presented it in front of some of the foremost scholars in my area. That first experience allowed me to meet with and get an invitation to work with these scholars in other settings, including writing an article to be included in a book. If I hadn’t gone to MLA, I wouldn’t have been invited give papers at other conferences, write articles for editors, or become personally connected to scholars working in my field. I have given papers at two MLA conferences, both of which have helped to expand my network and have put me in rooms with the scholars I admire the most.

Yes, the national MLA convention is huge. Yes, it can be impersonal. But it’s also the only time in the year where scholars from all over the world can connect with one another, and you can connect with scholars that you read an admire in a face-to-face setting. You never know what experiences you may have. The most preeminent scholar in your field may sit in the audience at your presentation, and you may be invited to publish/ discuss your project/ have a chat with her.

Whether you wait until interview season or you present on a panel before you hit the market, MLA is a great experience. You never know with whom you will connect unless you attend!