Encyclopedia of Meg: H

H is for … you guessed it History!

Ok, I know it’s a bit of a cop-out, but really how could I not spend a portion of this Encyclopedia of Meg series without discussing something that takes up the vast majority of my life these days.

Like many people, I didn’t really like history in high school. I didn’t hate and I did well in the classes, but I thought it was so boring. Memorizing names and dates of dead white men just didn’t appeal to me. Then I went to college. For those of you who don’t know, I attended Chapman University for my freshman year of college. In that year, I took two classes with Robert Slayton. His way of teaching history made me fall in love with the subject. I especially loved his course “Everyday Life in America” (which he still teaches, btw). For the first time, I saw the art, the excitement, and the meaning in history.

I transferred to CSUSM in 2000 and my love of history only grew more, largely in part to my adviser Jill Watts (and her blog). I really cannot sing her praises enough, she taught me so much not only about US history but about teaching, about school, and about creating and maintaining professional relationships. I also have to sing the praises about the History faculty at CSUSM in general. I received so much support there and learned so much, I am so thankful to have completed my undergraduate career there.

After a few years off, I returned to pursue a graduate degree and graduated from UCI. I found that to be one of the most difficult experiences, I put too much pressure on myself and ended up leaving with a Masters degree and no desire to return to academia.

And yet… here I am, in the 2nd year of my PhD program and in the midst of the largest budget cuts to the California higher education system… maybe I should have stuck it out at UCI … nah (I’m happy with my decision). So history, specifically of course US history, remains a huge portion of my life. I spend entirely too much time reading and prepping for seminar, section, and lecture. For those of you who care, I’m particularly interested in women and religion in 19th century US… but I’m still trying to figure out my next big research project. Oh! And I also manage an informal blog about history (and am always looking for contributors). So yes, history is a big part of my life.

Time Management and Then Some

I know, I know… it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. But hey, give me a break! I’m a first year PhD student and there is reading to be done… A LOT of reading to be done! That’s not to say that I haven’t had time for other activities. For example, the history grads went out for karaoke on Saturday night. (No, I did not sing!) The karaoke was different than any thing I’ve ever witnessed because instead of singing along to actual song with the lead singer’s vocal track removed, the singers had a live band. The band had a list of songs they knew how to play and then people picked from the list. It was quite entertaining!

Let’s see, what else is new? As I mentioned before, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a little bit of writing. I am trying to master the difficult skill of time management. This is part of the reason I have not been blogging, my time management calendar does not have blogging scheduled in! Actually, managing my time has been really helpful. It requires me to really focus and read a book in specified amount of time. When I see it all lined out, it gives me an idea of what I need to do and when, and more importantly how devastating procrastination would be! To give you an idea, I took a screen shot of last week’s calendar. For anyone who might read this that is going to grad school or considering it, I would highly recommend working on time management and really dedicating yourself to committing to a schedule. And don’t forget to pencil in some down time!

Weekly Calendar

In relation to my grad school career, I am excited that I will be doing a directed reading next quarter with my advisor. I study religion in 19th century United States and she studies religion in earlier periods of the United States. There is another first year who studies Puritans who will also be enrolled. I took a Religion in US History class as an undergrad (thanks Prof. Watts!) and I loved it. So I am excited to revisit this as a reading topic and delve a little further, expanding my foundational library. We also discussed what I would like to work on for my dissertation and we were on the same page! Exciting indeed!

Finally, this quarter I am a teaching assistant for Women and American Religious Culture. It’s been such a great experience. The books have been excellent and I have been poaching some great sources from my students’ research papers. Instead of lecturing, as a TA I facilitate discussion. Today my section had such a great discussion. We read Miriam’s Kitchen (which I would recommend to anyone, historians and non-historians alike). The students really seemed to connect with the text. I had originally planned for half the class to be discussion and the second have to practice reading sources (with the text as a source). But the discussion ended up taking the whole class! It was great!

Well I must return to my allotted activity according to my calendar: reading Pox Americana (great book) and then editing some drafts I was working over the weekend. A graduate student never rests.