Dissertation Progress: Week of January 25th

This is almost more of a general PhD update than a dissertation update, but I thought I needed to write something about my work since it’s been a while.

My dissertation is extremely close to being done. I feel like I’ve had a full draft of this thing for years, but maybe it’s only been since September? Still a long time. Now my draft is really a full draft – there are no big gaps anymore or sections without footnotes. There’s one piece of Chapter 3 that I’m still writing – an analysis that only occurred to me recently after getting feedback in a seminar. But most of my work at this point is polishing. In fact, it’s complete enough that I was able to send the entire thing to a hiring committee, which brings me to update #2…

What part of my dissertation looks like from space.

I’ve been interviewing for a job. I won’t say where, but it’s a tenure-track job in my field, which at this point is a unicorn for PhDs, since there are so few jobs this year at all. I’m incredibly lucky that this even exists, and even luckier that I’ve managed to get anywhere in the application process. The more I learn about this department, the more I want the job, but it’s very much out of my hands at this point. I will say that the interview process during a global pandemic is very strange. My first-round interview was not so unusual, since those have increasingly been video interviews anyway. But this week I did my teaching demo by zoom, and my next interview isn’t for another two weeks because of scheduling conflicts. If nothing else, it gives me a lot of downtime to prepare for each individual interview. It also might make my job talk a bit easier, because I won’t have to memorize anything.

If I don’t get a job in academia, I might end up in project management. This was an interesting thought experiment that’s actually become quite appealing. Rather than take the bad advice of just about everyone in academia that a good alternative if I can’t find a job as a professor is to go into publishing or freelance writing, I thought a bit more abstractly about my skills. Yes, writing is a skill. But I don’t have to be a writer or editor to use writing. The biggest skill I’ve developed as an academic has been project management – taking a large, complex project and breaking it up into smaller pieces with actionable components. I’ve even learned how to manage a group project over several years. Since that’s a role, not an industry, my options are much broader and I can still try to find something interesting rather than resigning myself to a soul-crushing job. My project manager job search is currently on hold, though, while I’m working full time on the academic job opportunity.

My spare-time academic project is now provisionally up and running! The group project I mentioned is called the Medievalist Toolkit, and we’ve been working since 2017 to create a public set of resources for education on the Middle Ages. We now have a website, medievalisttoolkit.org, with our mission statement, some of our work and our contact info. Enjoy!