Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ivy League Zombie or Nah?

I was reading this blog and I am kind of love-hating it. I can't stand the extreme of the rhetoric, but I also agree with some of the core ideas. I feel the same way about this blog as I do about Jill Stein. I like the jist of it - y'know caring about children and the earth, but I really wish it wasn't so weirdly anti-vaccine and anti-science.
Parents today emphasize results over effort and learning. They discourage kids from participating in activities that "won't look good" on their college application. They hire tutors, email teachers and schedule meetings with the principal to insulate kids from ever failing. This means that our young adults are unable to deal with failure.
I like the idea of children being able to play outside and travel alone 4-8 blocks at an early age. But I don't like the complete disregard for those who live in crime-heavy environments or lack the environment safe for an unsupervised young child. Growing up with neglect and then interacting with Department of Family Services, I can see how quickly this could lead to an investigation or indicate serious neglect for the child. But that's just one example.
In the desire for strong language and decisive examples, the logic and reasonableness of her arguments just kind of... falls apart. Especially if you have recently been in the environment she describes.
They tell their kids that studying is what it takes to get into a good college, which is what it takes to get a "good job" -- which, for over 50% of the nation's top graduates, means one of five things: med school, law school, grad school, consulting or finance.
If you've ever met a graduate student, then you probably know that this is a young person with an extreme amount of motivation and also a casual relationship with a plethora of academic fields. Some of the women I know pursuing graduate school took time to work at a start up before beginning their academic work while others have a resume of exciting travel experiences. Still more have explored dozens of career fairs and information sessions while pursuing their degree and a minor in a related field. All of the women I know in college for undergrad and graduate have pursued their interests in addition to focusing on high grades in their core curricula. Notably grad school isn't a cohesive single career, much less a pursuit that stymies independent learning. Similarly, consulting is a very broad description of careers that can cross over several fields of study. Many students from a range of fields prepare for the consulting interviews. (BTW: The questions and guestimations of consulting interviews are super fun to do drunk.) There's a lot more in this chart than just 5 dull boxes for everyone to fit into.

Pretty notable to me is the focus and idealization of start ups. Not all start ups succeed and those that do often rely on a strong foundation of privilege and economic cushion. One of my roommates spent a long time, hours and hours, into a start up. While she enjoyed the many hats she could wear while finishing her last semester at MIT, she also recognized that she was putting in far more work than she was paid for. She felt it was worth it due to the service her start up would provide if it made it to market, but we have to recognize that not all start ups make it to market and the dangers of a repeat Dot Com bubble. 
Similarly, not all people enjoy start up culture. We can't all found our own company.
This sentiment seems like part of the "Do what you love" platitude that lots of college graduation speeches trot out.
DWYL, however, was the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs. In his graduation speech to the Stanford University Class of 2005, Jobs recounted the creation of Apple and inserted this reflection:
You’ve got to find what you love.
In these four sentences, the words “you” and “your” appear eight times. This focus on the individual isn’t surprising coming from Jobs, who cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate—all states agreeable with ideal romantic love [...]
“Do what you love” disguises the fact that being able to choose a career primarily for personal reward is a privilege, a sign of socioeconomic class. Even if a self-employed graphic designer had parents who could pay for art school and co-sign a lease for a slick Brooklyn apartment, she can bestow DWYL as career advice upon those covetous of her success.
I might just have had a strange cohort, but the students I knew doing the coolest things - activist or physically active - were also the ones putting in heavy hours memorizing material and getting As.
Our system of elite education manufactures young people who are smart and talented and driven, yes, but also anxious, timid, and lost, with little intellectual curiosity and a stunted sense of purpose: trapped in a bubble of privilege, heading meekly in the same direction, great at what they’re doing but with no idea why they’re doing it.
--Ivy League are over rated
Further, those of us who were most hounded by pressure from parents in high school found college to be a welcome relief. By moving across the country, we were able to set our own priorities and determine our independence for the first time. The Ivy League setting meant that our hovering parents or instilled anxieties could be satisfied with the environment and the support system entailed. In the latter half of her examples, the author admits that many of the creatives began with a stereotypical career or academic path: the tried and true background provides a fall back for the creative risk taking. And as the original article purports: young people today are strapped with anxiety as we shuffle in the same direction. But the Ivy Leagues, while bastions of privilege and ivory towers of academia, offer a green house perfected collection of the diversity of the world. With study abroad being covered by tuition and grans and international students around every dorm hall, the Ivy Leagues are actually great for prompting curiosity and adventure. If some students graduate without experiencing those moments of exploration, it seems more likely that it reflects the students and not the institution.
On the subject of institutions, both articles mention the pressure students feel. The narrow pathway to a job. 
The result is a violent aversion to risk. You have no margin for error, so you avoid the possibility that you will ever make an error. Once, a student at Pomona told me that she’d love to have a chance to think about the things she’s studying, only she doesn’t have the time. I asked her if she had ever considered not trying to get an A in every class. She looked at me as if I had made an indecent suggestion.
--Ivy League are over rated
What neither article mention is that these are part of larger institutional problems. Students strapped with large debt can't think of their education as an exploration, but as investment. Ivy League schools may have larger sticker prices, but they also have more funding and garner more scholarships than state schools. Jobs are scarce, especially for new graduates and the application process becomes more intense as websites scan resumes for industry key words and interviewers expect a plethora of unpaid experience. So too do the institutions that feed into the Ivy Leagues prime us towards fear: Standardized tests aren't exactly written to be fun explorations of liberal ideas. "From learning to commodify your experiences for the application, the next step has been to seek out experiences in order to have them to commodify" -- the article does capture a bit of the background that feeds into the colleges, but I find it strange that the author at once argues that students don't seek out new experiences and believe in a pre-established sense of self and that we do seek out experiences, but only so we can navel gazing-ly write about them and develop our identities around them. It's not the week long vacation that turns into an application that riddles us with anxiety. With an increasing focus on surveillance and security in high schools and a police force that has expanded outside of urban schools into the suburbs, the constant fear and self-vigilance should be expected. 
Let's turn to an example of this:
Kannokada had an engineering degree and fellowship under her belt. She had the privilege of good looks and the gut to take the risk of an acting career. But I'm sure she had the good sense to realize that very few first generation Indian women make it big in acting. So she prepared herself with a reliable and stable employment path.
We can be honest about the privileges necessary to make it at an Ivy League, but we can also be clear about the privileges built into the arguments of these critiques. Not everyone can have a Do What You Love job. Not everyone had a wonderful upbringing that makes college an easy ride or staying close to home appealing. Some parenting methods are only acceptable when enacted by a particular kind of person in a particular kind of environment.
Anyway, this article remains as conflicted as my relationship with Jill Stein. I read her speeches and find myself nodding along and irritated in equal measure. Finally, I never quite know if I'm going to write her name in or go for the standard bearing of lesser-evil. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Neon Gensis Evangelion: Lesbian Count

For one of my Women and Gender studies / Anthropology classes, I created this presentation. For the choice of topic, I wanted to focus on lesbian identity in Japanese media. Lesbian identities are often  commodified in products like yuri, comics that focus on lesbian relationships for the voyeuristic pleasure of a straight male audience. Neon Gensis Evangelion is interesting as a case study because the series is well known for the Girls - Rei and Asuka - along with the explict male relationship between Shinji and Kaworu. I wanted to refocus on the way that women related to each other, the way that lesbians could visualize their own sexualities within a hyper-popular narrative.

You can view the presentation here!

I wanted to utilized gifs to make the presentation visually exciting and dynamic rather than being a static background. I made this presentation right when Fun Home came out and won the Tony Awards. As far as the style, I also wanted to point out how much fandom and individual women's relationships with the story can expand it into something meaningful.

I am rewatching the show as I do periodically. Every time I watch the show, I find something new to get out of it. Rewatching now, I can relate more to Misato and Ritsuko. The complexities of their professional and personal live is more understood as I age.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Daily Routines

I've finally gotten into a clear daily routine. I show up to work on time, with a variance under 10 minutes. My meals are healthy and even affordable. My friends get to see me on a regular basis; I make sure that I don't isolate even if tired or troubled.

I am trying to slowly add make up to my routine before going to work. I think that this is part of a professional look for my office. It's strange to have my physical appearance so much a part of my job, but I think this simply comes with the setting.

I'm also working on athletics. I want to be fit in the upcoming year. I made a strong resolution and followed it for about 4 months. But I fell behind eventually. I'm starting to build up my strength again, but it's quite painful.

I have periodically been checking in on how I am doing with my goals. I think if I study hard for my classes then I will do very well in achieving them. I'm amazed how a daily routine has built into a sustainable movement towards my goals, even if it does take a bit of conscious effort to keep things in line. I want to keep working on it, both myself and my experiences.

My routine has even expanded to contain health and long term goals. This makes me have a lot of hope.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Female Friendship: Exemplars

I've written about Patriarchal sisterhood, the ways in which women are turned against each other, even in the closest familiar relationships.

Here’s the truth: friendships between women are often the deepest and most profound love stories, but they are often discussed as if they are ancillary, “bonus” relationships to the truly important ones. Women’s friendships outlast jobs, parents, husbands, boyfriends, lovers, and sometimes children. -- The Rumpus, Emily Rapp 

I also have begun to tackle ideas of a better sisterhood and friendship, the ways in which women can help and support each other.

I've read a lot about the women who founded Black Lives Matter, the ways in which black women supported each other in order to create a grass roots movement about improving community relationships. I'm certainly not at that level, but I think it's an exemplar of what women can do when we work together and build on each other's ideas.

In the early history of the Women's Liberation movement we can find the focus on decentralized friendship and consciousness raising through sharing experiences among a gaggle of united women. The movement didn't focus on a singular leader, allowing women to collaborate in an organic way, like the amoeba with natural exponential growth.

One narrative reading that affected me, especially as a young person beginning my career and activism was this story, of a woman who met a cohort of older and more experienced women. The way that Emily was able to learn from them, be guided and supported, while also giving her energy to a shared cause was something that resonated with me.

What I realized, sitting there, was that these women had been in these kinds of emotionally challenging situations for over 20 years. Together. They understood, together, as friends, and apart, as individuals in the world, the urgency of compassion, and that it often goes unnoticed but that this doesn’t make it any less important or vital or difficult to sustain and cultivate. And they also understood that you could try as hard as you possibly could, and disaster could still strike – mercilessly. Without warning, without fairness, and with fatal consequences.

I joined a few online groups that allow me to speak and think with women. Sisters send each other notes of love and support when we describe our challenges. Elder women advise younger ones on the strength inside of our hearts and minds, the resillience of the female to continue through struggles that our fore-mothers have survived; they share the tricks gained through experience. Young women share the silly Buzzfeed posts that give giggles and reality check the hurt of male negation.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Police Round up

I listened to the Democracy Now podcast for August 3rd. They had a lot to say about the resignation of Chief Bill Bratton.

It's been a long time coming; what's truly amazing is how normalized these aspects of police violence are like stop and frisk. I remember when I first watch this video and was aghast.

Now we have to be grateful for police offering to wear body cameras, cameras that open a whole host of privacy issues, security storage issues, and finally seem to mysteriously turn off when actually needed.

I don't know if Black Lives Matter's or the Million Man's March platform directly lead to the resignation of the chief architect of a form of police surveillance. But I think that the stakes are too high for us to stop marching and protesting.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

So, I have a job at Boston University in the Development and Alumni Relations’ Research.
You can read my cover letter for my application, to get a sense of how I described both my previous experience from working during college and my current experience of working part time. I can go into more detail on the experience of writing dozens of cover letters or provide a tableau of them if it would be helpful. I spent a lot of time tailoring my cover letters to the position I was applying to. Often I went line by line between my resume and the job requirements. Certainly, working as a temp gave me a sense of how Boston University described its goals, such as their focus on the current campaign fundraising goal or wiki-databases. But most of the cover letter was focused on the tasks listed in the job posting.
Research coordinator positions can cover a broad range of tasks, especially as clinical research coordinators, development research coordinators, and project research coordinators have completely different areas of focus. A decent description of my job can be found at the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook. I find the handbook to be really helpful for both salary and responsibility descriptions. Reading the descriptions, I often direct my focus on duties based on whether the position is in federal, non-profit, academic, or profit.

Fundraising managers typically do the following:

  • Manage progress towards achieving an organization’s fundraising goals
  • Develop and carry out fundraising strategies
  • Identify and contact potential donors
  • Create and plan different events that can generate donations
  • Meet face-to-face with highly important donors
  • Apply for grants
  • Assign, supervise, and review the activities of staff
Neither my job duties nor my salary are quite so expansive. Maybe with a promotion! My job is a mix of the above and an Administrative Service Managerposition. I do a lot to maintain records and the daily running of the office.
My research coordinator position focuses on the research needs of the Development researchers, researchers who focus on identifying potential donors and tracking the likelihood of giving. I also cover some tasks similar to a clinical research coordinator in that I manage several large subscription and database services. I do also manage the budget for the department with the oversight of the director and the assistance of the sourcing and procurement teams. Unlike a clinical research coordinator, I don’t have to balance research grants; that falls to another member of the Development team. Managing paper files is also a large part of my job. These paper files are used by researchers and prospect managers to find information on previous correspondence, promises to give, and fund updates.
Really, these paper files are a very large part of my job. Data and record keeping are critical for financial and privacy reasons. I’d really like to improve some aspects of the record keeping. I do my best to pay attention to how people use the files I’m in charge of, so that I can be vigilant for changes that could be helpful and cost-effective.
What can be strange is that I’m very used to academic and non-profit workplaces due to my experience at MIT and at museums in D.C. and Boston. But Boston University is not only a different place; I’m in a different position within the higher education field. The Development field is kind of a mix of these two areas, the lofty goals of funding new research to solve big problems and the lowly limited budgets found outside of industry. Plus, fundraisers do brush elbows with donors and travel to meet international parents, but researchers type away and pour over FEC filings. I do like the work, especially the balance of personality and workplace found by going across some of these boundaries.
Another part of my job?


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Being your best self: Curation

I know that I seem to constantly come back to my goals and attempts to improve myself.
I hope that it's helpful to see how much of a task it is, something that must be constantly brought into awareness with purpose.

Part of being the best version of yourself is curation. I mean curation in two ways
  1. Exhibiting the best parts of yourself
  2. Silencing the worst parts of yourself
So here's a bit of part 2

Curation and Honesty

Geek x Girls has a comic about part two. The Three-A-Negroes has a whole section on their podcast for times people have failed at part two.
I think we're all familiar with this in professional environments.

Maybe we love to sit on our couch at home, sprawled out in our jammies as we stuff chocolate into our mouth. But we're not going to do that while in the middle of an interview or a conference at work. That's not dishonestly. That's simply comporting ourselves appropriately for our goals and the situation at hand.
I think most people have had at least one friend who uses honesty as a front to say hurtful things. As the comic points out, when this hurtful friend does have something meaningful or constructive to say, we've gotten so used to tuning them out. Of course, we don't want to be that person!
We can translate this to our daily life. For example, writing this blog, I have drafted ranting complaining posts and then deleted them. I've curated content here that helps both readers and myself to have a positive look towards life. We can't move forward if we're constantly using our energy to look back and complain about how hard the journey is.

Curation and History

The Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) had an exhibit that had a controversy around the curation. The exhibit, The West as America, gave an accurate if politically charged view of how America has represented itself and the westward expansion of white settlers into occupied Native lands. You can read more about the controversy at the SAAM here. 
While I wasn't at the SAAM while this happened, I did hear about the controversy. 
Whether the curator made the right choices about the exhibit, the institution has remembered the way the exhibit's honesty was perceived. The Smithsonian wisely has chosen to learn from the experience and controversy. Even when tackling politically charged issues such as the mistreatment of Indigenous people, the Smithsonian is careful to portray the issue honestly and leave room for guests to have a positive experience of the museum. 
Again, being your best self doesn't mean hiding your morals or ignoring the truth. In those situations, rare and difficult, that a hard truth must be vocalized, your best self will find a way to curate a positive message.