BUSY start to Winter Quarter!

I still cannot believe that it is the end of week four! This quarter started off quite busy because in addition to the usual stress of crashing classes and getting accustomed to them, I also had to start prepping for a conference and simultaneously applying to summer research opportunity programs. I finalized an abstract for the McNair National Conference happening in mid-March at the University of Maryland, College Park. I went through about ten drafts of my abstract with the McNair writing consultant, Dr. Broidy and my faculty mentor, Professor G. Reginald Daniel. As I begin to narrow in on my research certain terms are being refined. For example, previously I described the identity constructs I use in my research as the “sleeper” and “awakened” components. My faculty mentor, advised me to change them to “latent” and “activated”, they entail the same meaning however the latter terms appear refined. In addition, he reminded me to cite his work even though I am working on a separate research project to gain legitimacy. Besides prepping for the conference, I have been applying to four different summer research programs. One at UC Berkeley, UC Los Angeles, Leadership Alliance, and CIC. Each application requires different elements and a slight difference in questions with regards to the personal statement which make it difficult. McNair kept telling us that these programs are extremely competitive, thus I will be lucky if I get any offers. This process served as a mini introduction to what will soon await me when applying to graduate school. I hope to get selected at campuses that are not in California just to get a different experience and create a network with scholars and professors elsewhere. Obtaining letters of recommendation was a bit challenging but in the end everything worked out. The next project I will be working on is creating a powerpoint for the conference that needs to be 10 minutes long. This will be the first formal presentation that I will partake in! I am a bit nervous and overwhelmed but overall excited for what the future brings for me.

Deciding where to take my research next…

Over the last year in the McNair Research Program I conducted a study on the division of childcare labor in gay male partnerships, and while I did produce some interesting findings I’m unsure of where to take my research next.  I have a number of options to build on my existing study:

1.       The sample from my study was largely Caucasian, upper middle-class men.  I could continue attempting to locate a more diverse sample both racially and socio-economically.

2.       My findings related to the motivation to become a parent, so I could investigate and compare motivations between gay fathers and heterosexual fathers to identify differences

3.       I could research literature on masculinities and interview fathers to understand how childcare changes the narrative of masculinity.

There are countless other research options that my previous study has opened up for me, but after speaking with my advisor I think that for now I will choose to explore masculinities and interview both heterosexual and gay fathers to understand how acts of childcare, which are traditionally perceived as feminine, work within a framework of masculinity.  I anticipate that it will look very different for gay fathers than it will for heterosexual partnered fathers or single fathers.

Staying Afloat

The first quarter of my Junior year has been the craziest yet. Not necessarily the difficulty of course load and work, but dealing with life in general while simultaneously thinking about my research and being occupied with work and staying involved with student orgs. The tardiness of my blog is attributed to everything going on. It has been difficult to focus on anything related to academics and being away from home since one of my cousins passed away. So lately I have been trying to get reconnected with my sense of motivation to get me through the quarter and revisit my work on my research. Though I have not been editing my summer research paper this quarter, I have been spending my time going to a conference, networking, researching summer research programs, and more NETWORKING. On November 5-6 I was given the opportunity to attend the first Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference at DePaul University in Chicago. Although, I was not able to present, I took advantage of being able to meet with leading scholars working on mixed race issues from across the country. It was a historical event that took place and was critical towards my own research and the near future in terms of having contacts for summer research programs and graduate school.

Selecting Graduate Programs

I am currently in my second-to-last quarter at UCSB, and have taken a brief hiatus on my research to apply to graduate school.  Many of you currently interested or involved in research are probably thinking of pursuing a Masters or Doctorate, so this may be part of that process for you.  Knowing that my future career goal was to become faculty at a research institution, I wanted to apply to top-ranked graduate programs so as to get the best educational experience possible and be competitive for job openings.  My list consisted of schools like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, but what I found is that while school ranking is important, there are many other factors that outweigh it.  Here is how I narrowed down my list of schools.

I started by identifying what I was interested in within my discipline.  My research in the McNair program really helped me to see that I was interested in gender and sexuality as an area of focus within Sociology.  Still being concerned with ranking, I now looked at what schools had a strong gender and sexuality emphasis in their Sociology programs by looking at rankings by specialty.  This drastically changed my list.  What I found was that a lot of the schools I had wanted to apply to had almost no faculty representation in the areas I was interested in researching.

Using that list, I went onto each school’s Sociology website and looked at the Faculty’s interests and CVs.  This helped me to see what they were interested in within the category of “gender and sexuality” so that I could see if we had any overlap in our interests.  Gender and sexuality are broad categories, and so those schools which had good reputations in those areas often had faculty members conducting research on topics totally unrelated to my own interests.  I jotted down names of the faculty I was interested in working with at each of these schools so that I could mention their research and my interest in working with them in my Statements of Purpose.

With a new and revised list, I then met with Faculty here at UCSB to discuss my list and get further recommendations.  (As an aside note, faculty may personally know the people you are interested in working with at these other institutions, and it never hurts to have that connection.)

I felt like I had my final list at this point, but I was still in for further revisions.  I started contacting the faculty members I was interested in working with, and most of them were happy to meet with me in-person (assuming the school was within driving distance) or over the telephone.  I came prepared to these meetings with a copy of my CV and my article, and questions to discuss their program.  In one of these meetings, the faculty member I wanted to work with told me that she would be retiring shortly, and that there weren’t a lot of other people who studied similar subjects to what I was interested in.  This meant that I wouldn’t have the faculty support I might need to do well in the program, which helped me to decide not to include this school on my list.  Other faculty members gave me personal recommendations on things to do and to avoid within my application, to strengthen my candidacy.

While some of the schools on my original list still made it to the final one, many were replaced during this process.  Of course, during all of this, the location of the school and funding came into consideration, but ultimately, you have to find a school that is a good fit for you personally and academically.  You’ll be spending a lot of time with the faculty and other graduate students, so you have to be happy where you land.