|Braxton D. Shelley, Lizeth Gutierrez, Robert Bland, Sandy Placido, Kenton Rambsy|
By Kenton Rambsy
Every year at SSRC-Mellon Mays Summer Graduate Conference, the recent PhD panel seems to be one of the most memorable sessions. The conference organizers invite four recent PhDs to participate in a forum where they provide brief comments about their academic journeys and offer specific tips to graduate fellows. This year’s featured panelists were Braxton D. Shelley, Robert Bland, Sandy Placido, and Lizeth Gutierrez, all of whom recently earned PhDs.
During the panel, the panelists have 15 minutes each to share his or her experiences about the journey towards the doctorate. The fellows also get a Q & A session where they pose questions to the panel. Fellows get the chance to hear first hand from colleagues who just recently completed their degrees. Typically, the advice the recent PhDs offer resonates with the Fellows since they receive advice ranging from topics such as how to establish and maintain professional relationships to how to structure your research time and improve on writing.
Last year I was a featured panelist. This year I served as the moderator. When the panelists were given their remarks, I asked them to incorporate into their responses specific tips about how to develop good study habits.
Dr. Bland told audience members to be sure to remain physically active, whether that meant taking a walk or playing a pickup game of basketball. Dr. Gutierrez emphasized the importance of self-care and imposing mandatory breaks to deal with the challenges of graduate work. Dr. Placido emphasized the value of finding a trusted person for peer review and study groups.
One of the comments that stood out the most to me came from Dr. Shelley.
“Regular and efficient writing depends on discriminating between the various tasks associated with writing: typing quotes, editing drafts, completing footnotes, etc … I recommend setting aside a short period of time, somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes, and committing that completely to producing new prose,” he said.
He also encouraged fellows to “type at a computer,” or “type on one’s phone,” and even “write longhand,” or “dictate.” In Shelley’s experiences, “Varying the means of writing can sometimes reenergize a difficult session.”
More information about the recent PhD panelists:
Braxton D. Shelley, a musicologist who specializes in African American popular music, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Music and the Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks Assistant Professor in the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.
Robert Bland, a historian of the African American experience, with an emphasis on the place of the post-Civil War era in black memory, is an Assistant Professor in the History department at St. John's University.
Sandy Placido, a scholar who specializes in women’s history, social movements, and the history and culture of Latinxs, the Caribbean, the African diaspora, and the Americas, will begin a tenure track position in the History Department at Queens College of the City University of New York, and she will also be a researcher at the Dominican Studies Institute at the City College of New York.
Lizeth Gutierrez, a scholar who researches queers chisme as a spatial practice that harvests homosocial bonds between undocumented Mexican women to examine how Mexican women negotiate the global economy, is a current Consortium for Faculty Diversity Postdoctoral Fellow in the American Studies department at Macalester College.
• 10 Years as a Mellon Fellow