For some grad students, it may be summer time and the living's easy, but others can't seem to put the "break" in the summer break. The GCC is asking readers to shed some light on how to remain productive without overdoing it. Christina Boyles, a Ph.D student from Baylor University, offers 10 tips for grad students to keep their eyes on the prize during the summer break.
Connect with professors
The summer is a great time to connect with faculty and establish relationships with future thesis/dissertation directors and/or committee members. Before the end of the spring semester, ask your professors what their summer plans are. If they plan on staying in the area, ask if they could help you prepare an article for publication. Just make sure your professor is open to working with you over the summer before you send your work their way.
Celebrate “pub night”
More often than not, graduate students stay near campus over the summer. Use that to your advantage and form “pub” groups that peer-review articles or other work for publication or to be presented at conferences. This way, you can have multiple scholars review an article or paper presentation before it is submitted. You can also talk about past publication experiences—what worked, what did not work, acceptance rates, revision strategies—and advise one another on how to proceed with your work.
Seek out non-traditional academic opportunities
Over the summer, there is a lot of time to seek out academic opportunities that are not available during the school year. For example, this summer I enrolled in Digital Humanities Summer School led by Drs. Adeline Koh and Roopika Risam. During the course, I read up on the field, interacted with a number of prominent scholars, and engaged in a lot of prewriting that can serve as a foundation for future research.
Other examples of non-traditional academic opportunities are applying for a Fulbright, attending a summer seminar on a particular author or genre—like T.S. Eliot International Summer School— attending your institution’s summer seminars (if these are available), and/or engaging in collaborative work with scholars from your or other institutions.
Do research that requires travel
Since summer frees up time for research, consider traveling to an archive that houses rare papers or books in your area of interest. Doing so will give you a leg up in your research endeavors and will open up opportunities for publication. Consult the archives or institutions that you aim to visit during the summer ahead of time for possible grant opportunities that would fund your stay.You can also use the travel as a mini-vacation (after all, you still deserve to relax a bit over the summer months.)
Get on Twitter
A lot of leading scholars are on Twitter, so following them is a great way to get involved in the conversations surrounding your field. As a bonus, Twitter posts and links tend to be short, so it is possible to participate in a number of threads at once. If you feel particularly knowledgeable in a specific conversation, you can even join the conversation and connect with influential scholars in your area of interest. This may open up doors for future employment and/or research.
Read up on the field
Utilize your free time to read up on the leading scholarship in your field. Read the most recent issues of the leading publication in your area of emphasis to see who and what is being published. This will not only make you more knowledgeable of the field, but will also make it possible to connect with the authors/editors at conferences and regional meetings. Consult your advisors or future advisors for suggestions in creating a reading list.
Whatever you do, keep writing. Keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to focus on article-length projects; instead, think about writing a blog, short note, conference paper, or a creative work. Doing so will both give you a break from more intensive scholarship and keep you in the practice of writing so seminar papers won’t seem like such a push in the fall.
Review your lesson plans
If there is one thing I have learned from teaching, it is that there is always a way to improve my lessons. Take some time to make your lesson plans more effective. Ask to see your colleagues’ favorite lessons, read articles on pedagogy, collaborate with other instructors, and consider integrating a new project into your curriculum. By doing so, you will continue to improve as a teacher and will have more skills/projects to talk about at future job interviews.
Try something new
Do something you do not have time for during the school year. Take a course outside of your major focus area, teach abroad, or volunteer. Doing so will not only expand your horizons, but will also encourage personal, as well as academic, growth.
Take a break
Remember, summer is one of the few times graduate students have to rest and relax. While it is important to keep up your academic pursuits to a degree, it is also important to give yourself time to rejuvenate before the school year begins. Make sure you give yourself enough time to relax before diving into another school year.
Christina Boyles is a Ph.D. student at Baylor University. Her areas of interest include 20-21st century American literature, gender studies, ethnic studies, pedagogy, and digital humanities. To read more of her work, you can find her on Twitter @clboyles or read her published work at South Central Review and Pupil.
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The Grad Caucus Chronicle is the online publication of The Graduate Student Caucus of the Modern Languages and is dedicated to professional issues regarding graduate students in the humanities and their everyday experiences. It seeks to publish relevant and timely articles and interviews, as well as opinion pieces or contributions in alternative formats that relate to the journal’s mission to provide a forum in which graduate student matters are discussed.