Online Communities for Graduate Students

Last fall, I dispensed some sage advice to new graduate students. Okay, so maybe it was more personal experience than “sage advice,” and I offered more than “dispensed.”

Regardless, one of the things I mentioned was the necessity of finding a community of graduate students with which to congregate, commiserate, and complain. While nothing can replace a group of graduate students in your department, it is useful to extend that network beyond the confines of your own hallways. One way to do that is to create an online network. I want to suggest some places that graduate students might find helpful as they juggle the demands of historiographical debates and dissertation research.

One of the first things that any graduate student should do is join H-Grad, the H-Net online discussion network. While joining other H-Net lists is a good idea, H-Grad offers the grad student perspective. It helped me during my time in graduate school, and from what I’ve heard from subscribers recently, it still serves an important purpose.

I also recommend reading the forums on Chronicle.com. The Grad-School Life is important, but I also suggest looking at the In the Classroom, Job-Seeking Experiences, and Interview Process forums. As long as you tread carefully, wear a thick skin, and eschew the hu, you’ll be fine.

If I remember correctly, Chronicle forumites also had a hand in starting the Academic Job Search wiki, which lists most academic jobs and their deadlines, schedule of interviews, and hires. Last year’s history job market is worth reading if you want to get a sense of overwhelming angst and occasional notes of optimism permeating the discipline. I found it depressing, but useful, a few years ago when I read that a job for which I had interviewed had been offered to someone else.

Twitter also offers an array of users whom graduate students might find helpful. Some are graduate students themselves and thus can speak to the issues that they face; others are good sources of information on issues that affect historians and other academics. There are many, but I recommend following Shane Landrum (@cliotropic), Caleb McDaniel (@wcaleb), Kevin Levin (@KevinLevin), Larry Cebula (@larrycebula), Gordon Belt (@gordonbelt), Claire Potter (@tenuredradical), Katrina Gulliver (@katrinagulliver), Joseph Adelman (@jmadelman), Bill Cronon (@wcronon), Rob Townsend (@RBTatAHA), and Jonathan Dresner (@jondresner). These eleven provide a good start–look at whom they quote and retweet to build from there.

I also suggest looking at my blogroll. (Look to the right. Down a bit. A little more. Yep, that list right there is the one I’m talking about.) While many of the blogs posted are specific to the nineteenth century, some of them record the thoughts and processes of graduate students.

I hope this post is useful. One of the things I miss teaching at an SLAS is graduate students, so I’m happy to share what I learned during my six-and-a-half years in graduate school.

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6 Replies to “Online Communities for Graduate Students”

  1. As one who left graduate school in 1974, I’m thrilled at all the resources now available. Things were a lot more “primitive” in my graduate school days. We were using transparencies and typewriters to produce papers. We thought we were advanced because those just behind us were using soft clay tablets and scrools.

    1. Technology is a double-edged sword. For example, imagine teaching from notes one semester, then transitioning to Powerpoint the next. Trying to figure out the intricacies of the technology and incorporate it into the classroom takes time. Hopefully, it pays off with the students’ success.

  2. Mark, these are great guidelines, and I look forward to exploring them further. Claire Potter, The Tenured Radical on the Chronicle, offers complementary advice. http://chronicle.com/blognetwork/tenuredradical/2011/07/digital-dreams-a-case-for-producing-more-history-ph-ds/
    She suggests that history departments need to influence the multiple fields connecting the digital world and historiography, by creating programs that teach history PhD’s how to wend their way through it. Potter is more “down” on teaching than I am. I think that this is a critically important time to be teaching history to undergrads and younger, and I am excited by its challenges.
    Thanks for your blog, insights and advice. As a grad student of the Jacksonian Era, your efforts to reach out have been a boon for me.

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