Tag Archives: graduate students

One Thing I Learned at MLA 2019

Committee members share a few takeaways from MLA 2019, Chicago:

“This was my third MLA. I presented in Austin in 2016, attended the New York conference in 2018, and presented twice–oddly enough, in back to back panels!–this year in Chicago. I’ve presented on panels and coordinated panels at MLA, and one of the presenters in one of my panels this year suggested we all meet for coffee or lunch the day before to coordinate. This was so helpful to me. I got to meet the folks I was presenting with, and I felt more comfortable the day of. We were also able to coordinate our talks in advance. That meant we minimized overlap and found authentic transitions between talks to make them seem linked. I think this made our panel feel more cohesive. Not all panels can do this, I know, but if you are placed on a panel, I’d highly recommend suggesting a quick coffee meet up beforehand. It could be 20 minutes in the hotel lobby; it’s amazing what a few minutes and a few friendly hellos can do for your confidence and organization.”    — Kristina Reardon

“MLA 2019 in Chicago was my second MLA, and it felt like it too. Last year’s MLA in New York was my first and it was certainly overwhelming, though I was neither interviewing nor presenting. The sheer amount of people in one place and the fast pace of the in-between panel walks can be disconcerting the first time around. I parked myself in the Graduate Student Lounge for the most part and limited myself to only attending 2 panels throughout the whole conference. This year in Chicago, however, I knew what to expect and planned accordingly. I picked out in advance the panels I wanted to attend, and I tried to schedule meetings with former colleagues in such a way that I was able to do everything I wanted. Having gone through my first MLA last year made this year’s so much better and easier to navigate. If at all possible, I highly recommend attending an MLA before you have to present or interview. Getting the major conference jitters out of the way ahead of time might just pay off in an unexpected way. ”    — Andrés N. Rabinovich

“One thing I learned at the MLA Conference this year is the importance (and pleasure!) of meeting other scholars at the conference. By attending different events, going to panels, and talking to people in the exhibit hall and in the grad lounge, I was able to meet a number of graduate students, professors, publishers, and other conference attendees with whom I had some fascinating and enlightening conversations. For example, I learned some great tips about applying to jobs from a first-year assistant professor, and I talked with another group of scholars about ways to incorporate our research interests into our classrooms. I appreciated the opportunity to learn from others, get advice about my research and career, and generally just make some new friends and connections! For future conferences, I plan to bring cards with my information on them to hand out to others, as several individuals had them, and they seem like a great way to share contact info without having to awkwardly take out my phone or search for a notebook and pen to write things down. I also noticed that some of the booths in the exhibit hall had contests where you could enter your card and win something, so it wouldn’t hurt to be able to enter those!”        — Kayla Forrest

“One of the things I noticed immediately when looking through the program of this year’s MLA Conference is the astonishing diversity and scope of the sessions. The sessions cover a huge range of topics, methods, issues and perspectives of the humanities. I think one of the rewarding challenges of being a young scholar in the contemporary humanities is exemplified in the conference: there is an astonishing breadth of work being done! One can be both overwhelmed and stimulated as one selects which panels, workshops and events to attend. I found helpful practical sessions on academic writing and navigating the difficult terrain of journal submissions, as well as sessions related to my research interests. One thing that was particularly helpful as I navigated the intensity and size of my first convention, was attending an evening event hosted by my university that made me feel a familiar sense of “home” in a new place.”   — Amir Hussain

“After going to about ten MLAs—enough that this was my third MLA Chicago!—I’m starting to learn that as the committee meetings and coffee chats and book parties pile up I absolutely have to save a little bit of time for myself. I love conferences and seeing friends, but I’m getting too old to work, network, and spend time with people I really want to meet or to catch up with from brunch through late-night drinks for days on end!  (I almost always come home from the MLA with a cold, and the reasons for it are obvious). So hopefully next time I’ll remember that I’ll have a much better time if I leave a little bit of time for myself. If I don’t do all the things I want to do, there’s always next year. And this level of conference over-intensity is just one more manifestation of the compulsion to try to do it all, which I think most of us are always fighting. Being selective is always better than saying yes to everything—at least in the long run.”     — Meredith Farmer

Eats and Attractions near the Convention

There are plenty of coffee shops and eateries near the MLA 2019 convention.

Following is a variety of budget-friendly options (variably priced from $ to $$). This list is not an endorsement of any particular place, rather it is a compilation of places nearby to the convention. Local-to-Chicago options have embedded links to their website.

 

Coffee 

Peet’s Coffee ($) (400 Michigan Avenue #120)

Starbucks ($$) (333 Michigan Avenue and 444 N Michigan Ave)

Dunkin’ Donuts ($) (404 N Wabash Ave)

Stan’s Donuts & Coffee ($) (535 N Michigan Ave)

Caffé Rom (180 N Stetson Ave #107)

 

Food

Café

Corner Bakery Café ($$) (444 N Michigan Ave)

Wildberry Pancakes and Café ($$) (130 E Randolph St)

 

Sandwiches

Snarf’s Sandwiches ($) (180 N Stetson Ave)

Jersey Mike’s Subs ($) (203 E Ohio St)

Yolk Streeterville ($$) (355 E Ohio St)

 

Fast Food

McDonald’s ($) (233 N Michigan)

Chick-fil-A ($) (177 N State St #1a)

 

Health

LYFE Kitchen ($) (270 E Ontario St)

 

Restaurants and Taverns

Billy Goat Tavern ($) (430 N Michigan Ave)

Beacon Tavern ($$) (405 N Wabash Ave)

Giordano’s ($$) (130 E Randolph St)

Coco Pazzo Café ($$) (212 E Ohio St)

 

Grocery

Trader Joe’s (44 E Ontario St)

 

Popular Attractions 

Lastly, here are a few popular destinations within reasonable distance from the convention:

Navy Pier (600 E Grand Ave)

Chicago Water Tower (806 Michigan Avenue)

Chicago Cultural Center (78 E Washington St)

American Writers Museum (180 N Michigan Ave)

Track Changes: Dissertation Writing Groups

Thinking about starting the new academic year as part of a writing group? These communities can offer a lot during the process of writing a dissertation: different readers might point out unclear aspects of an argument you have taken for granted, or let you know how your work resonates with research in another discipline; peers keep you accountable in the intervals between consultation with advisors; and of course, meeting regularly with friends leavens the isolation of long hours spent reading, coding, and revising.

If you are looking to start or join a writing group, check out a few guides and reflections, such as:

While completing my dissertation, I participated in two writing groups. Each varied in size, followed distinct organizational patterns, and impacted my work in different—but equally vital—ways. Group 1 comprised just 3 members. We met once a month, giving detailed feedback on one person’s pre-circulated chapter. By the time we went to the job market, we knew each other’s work quite well, and changed our regular meeting schedule to include practice interviews and job talks. Group 2 comprised 5 members. We were looking for a bit more accountability in our writing during the summer months, so we agreed on a rotating schedule in which we each had to send a short sample of new or revised writing (up to 5 pages) to another group member on Fridays. When the academic year became more intense, we shifted these incremental exchanges to a schedule like that of Group 1. Still, we maintained our focus on accountability by holding interim meetings where we simply caught up on each other’s projects.

Based on these experiences, I’ve come up with few thoughts on successful and meaningful work in a writing group:

1. Don’t wait

I was just drafting my prospectus when two friends invited me to join them in Group 1. I was hesitant, thinking that I simply didn’t have enough material yet. Still, I said yes and sent around the prospectus for comment. The detailed—and difficult—responses from my friends both prepared me for my prospectus colloquium and had a formative impact on my project.

2. Organize the feedback you receive

If I sent my writing group, say, a 25-page chapter section, I would likely receive back (1) a page of overall comments, (2) a copy of my file with a more specific inline notes, and (3) additional spoken points during our meeting. Implementing feedback requires a system, so decide early how you will organize these notes.

3. Cultivate the art of the response

Articulating clear questions and productive comments are skills that translate across and beyond academia. Reflect on how you go about critiquing the work of your peers, and hone these skills for use in the classroom, the conference room, and everywhere else.

Chasing Data: Creating a Graduate Student Survey

The University of Arkansas’s Graduate Students in English (GSE) recently used the CSGSP’s “Improving Institutional Circumstances for Graduate Students in Languages and Literatures: Recommendations for Best Practices and Evaluative Questions” to create a survey that gauged the climate and concerns of its department’s graduate students. The GSE then used those results to advocate for a hybrid committee:

The Committee will address some of the trends and concerns raised by the GSE’s inaugural survey, including devising and implementing new graduate program protocols.

Read more about this work by the GSE in this post, authored by Megan Vallowe and Christy Davis.