The Graduate Student Lounge

Each year, the CSGSP hosts a lounge where graduate students can gather to relax, chat, and decompress. The lounge will have light snacks and beverages throughout the day, and we try to ensure outlet access for charging electronics as well. We will also host a networking event on January 8 at 5:15; information on what to expect and bios of the participants can be found here. Members of the CSGSP will be staffing the lounge throughout the convention, so please feel free to visit and say hi!

Austin Convention Center (10C, level 3)

  • Thursday, 7 January: 12:00 noon–7:00 p.m.
  • Friday, 8 January: 8:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, 9 January: 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, 10 January: 8:00 a.m.–12:00 noon

Connected Academics sessions at MLA 2016

The following Connected Academics sessions may be of particular interest to graduate students.

306. Connected Academics: Humanists at Work
Program arranged by the University of California Humanities Research Institute Connected Academics Project.

Participants consider the changing nature of work and its relation to a variety of humanist careers. In particular, they examine risk taking and creativity as two necessary attributes for humanists at work in the world and challenge artificial distinctions made between humanist work “within” and “outside” the university, especially in relation to graduate education.

676. Connected Academics: Articulating the Value of the Humanities to the Larger World
Program arranged by the Georgetown University Connected Academics Project.

What is the value of the humanities out in the world? Panelists articulate the transferable values, skills, and attributes acquired through advanced training in the humanities. They also investigate how we can go beyond the “outreach” of the “public humanities” to what we might call “inreach”—the direct influence of humanist PhDs working in business and government.

763. Connected Academics: Redefining the Humanist Entrepreneur
Program arranged by the Arizona State University Connected Academics Project.

Participants include English and foreign language PhDs who have crafted scholarly identities outside the traditional academic department and utilized their scholarly expertise to invent new vocations. Their career paths ask us to reexamine our training, reimagine the boundaries of the academy, and reconsider scholarly skills and the careers they can lead to.

233. Connected Academics: Expanding Career Possibilities for PhDs
364. Connected Academics: A Showcase of PhD Career Diversity

Showcasing careers of PhD recipients who have put their advanced degrees in the humanities to work in a variety of rewarding occupations, these sessions are an opportunity to discover the wide range of employment possibilities available within and beyond the academy. Presenters are available at individual stations for one-on-one discussions about their jobs and the career paths that led to them.

Presenters include university employees in a variety of nonfaculty positions—including an associate director of principal gifts, a deputy director of a research initiative, and a director of career development—as well as a program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities, a director of a university press, high school teachers in English and foreign languages, a content creator for Twitter, a freelance translator and novelist, a director of a learned society, an independent library consultant, a managing editor of online communications and a director of information systems at a scholarly association, a director of grants at a state humanities organization, an archivist at a public policy think tank, an associate at a research institute serving the not-for-profit sector, an analyst at a publishing and media company, and a recent PhD recipient working in a for-profit design and development shop for digital media.

The Elevator Pitch

By Margaret Greaves, Skidmore College

The phrase “elevator pitch” is intimidating. A year out from MLA in Vancouver, writing this piece from my new office at a college I love, I’m still so afraid of the phrase that I found it challenging to start typing. (I even Googled “elevator pitch” to make sure I haven’t fundamentally misunderstood the term all along.)

Because the elevator pitch intimidates most job candidates, there’s a built-in tendency to sound intimidating when we give it. This is a mistake. As we’re always telling our students, write and speak for your audience. You can’t predict how tired, excited, bored, or hungry the members of your search committee will be when you walk into the hotel room, but you can count on two things: most people like to be entertained, and most people don’t like to feel stupid. Above all, your elevator pitch should be clear. It might even tell a story. And it should never be so inflated, esoteric, or lengthy that your interviewers can’t follow you.

Each audience is unique, so if you have multiple interviews you’ll have to put in the work. I interviewed for eleven jobs in three fields, which meant I wrote three distinct elevator pitches. (To prevent confusion, I kept a folder for each job: it included the job description and all of the materials I’d submitted to that particular place. Reviewing the folders was a more soothing hotel lobby activity than playing word games on my iPhone, which suddenly took on loaded significance.) I say “wrote” because it’s a good idea to memorize the organizational scaffolding of your pitch, if not the words themselves. But after I wrote the pitches, I reworked them until they were conversational. Many candidates, I’m sure, don’t write them down at all and probably shouldn’t. It’s a matter of personal style; writing them down helped me to learn them, but I also had to work not to sound rehearsed, or, worse, bored by myself.

For me, these were the three most important prongs of the elevator pitch: short, organized, and down-to-earth.

First, on length. The committee is interviewing you as a colleague. No one wants a colleague who monologues at meetings and makes everyone stay late on a Friday afternoon. Prove that you won’t be this colleague by keeping yours under 60 seconds. Mine were 40-45 seconds, but I could do them in 30 seconds if I saw anyone getting glassy-eyed. The interviewers can (and will) ask you a follow-up question if they want to hear more. Be enticing; it’s better to play a little hard-to-get with your research than to bombard them.

Second, on organization. Here’s the structure I used in all three versions: an attention grabber that introduces the topic in the broadest way possible (the best I’ve ever heard was from a friend who opened with, “My project began with the word ‘failure’”); a statement on periodization and region; a one-sentence version of the argument; one specific, concrete example that also demonstrates the project’s methodology; and a closing statement on the significance of the research. You can accomplish all of this in 45 seconds; you can even do it in 30 if you write an airtight version.

Third, don’t make anyone feel dumb. Make sure to explain each turn in your complex ideas, and each potentially obscure term, without highlighting the fact that you’re explaining concepts. This might sound like occult advice, but we do this constantly when teaching. In fact, it helped me to think about my elevator pitch as though I were explaining my research to my students. How can I interest them without alienating them? How can I seem both intellectually intense and approachable? And above all, how can I activate their passion for my narrow subject? This last part was the most important for me. After all, why else do all of this?



MLA 2016: ATX

As we get closer to the MLA 2016 Convention in Austin, TX, some of you must be excited but also nervous about interviews you have been invited to, papers that you will deliver or figuring out which panels you would like to attend, as because of time constraints, cannot attend them all. Among all the concerns that you might have, here are only a few suggestions to enjoy your time in Austin to the fullest and see what Austin has to offer.

With its rich options in cuisine, there is an abundance of local restaurants and food trucks for Tex-Mex restaurants and street tacos, Austin’s foodie culture offers a wide variety of cuisines from around the world, many of which that are conveniently located in the downtown metropolitan area. For a list of nearby restaurants and coffee shops, as well as B-Cycle Stations, you can use this map.

There are a lot of things to see if you have the time in between sessions. The Harry Ransom Center (HRC) at The University of Texas at Austin (UT) is mostly for the archive lovers. With its unique exhibitions and extraordinary collections of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Gabriel García Márquez, among many others, HRC invites those that would like to enjoy rare manuscripts, books, and visual materials. Here is the information on how to view the collections. Also located on the UT campus, the Blanton Museum of Art holds exhibitions that the art lover would not want to miss. Admission to Blanton is free on Thursdays.

For those who like to remain active during your travels, The Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake is highly convenient, particularly for the conference attendees who will stay in downtown hotels. The trails along the Colorado River span through miles and miles of breath-taking scenery and offer a scenic view of downtown Austin during your morning jog or evening walk.

If you are coming to Austin with your little kids, Thinkery Kid’s Museum has science exhibits, play spaces, and free admissions on Wednesday nights. You will need to take a cab, Uber or Lyft to Thinkery from downtown.

For the music lovers, Austin lives up to the claim that it is “the live music capital of the world.” You can find live music almost every night of the week in just about any genre you could think of. Luckily for MLA attendees, the first week of January is “Free Week,” which includes a number of free concerts in Austin. After a long day of intellectual conversations, unwind a little by stopping by a local pub (or many) to listen to various bands and their eclectic tunes with fellow academics.

Finally, do not forget to stop by the Graduate Student Lounge located in 10C, Level 3, Austin Convention Center to chill and participate to our event on Friday, January 8, 5:15-6:30 pm to talk to our distinguished speakers. The Lounge will be open for you to take a break, relax, and practice your interview skills through the questions in our Fish Bowl throughout the conference!

Convention job counseling

This year, the Job Information Center (Governor’s Ballroom, level 4, Hilton Austin) will be open on 7 January from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., on 8 and 9 January from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on 10 January from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.

A list of available positions will be posted, and a counseling service for job candidates will be available in the interview area on 8 and 9 January.

A former member of the CSGSP, Shane Peterson, wrote a helpful guide to utilizing job counseling resources at the MLA convention.