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My Academic Independence Day

A poster designed as a mock cover of the magazine National Geographic, with information about my defense seminar. It has a picture of mastodons eating trees, and the text: The Biogeography of Biotic Upheaval: Novel Plant Associations and the End-Pleistocene Megafaunal Extinctions

Poster by Jeremy Parker.

This is a quick update to say: I defend my dissertation tomorrow! I have a lot of thoughts about this, most of which I am unable to articulate because I am literally eating, breathing, and dreaming my dissertation, which means I’m finding it difficult to articulate anything that isn’t about late-glacial novel ecosystems, bison, dung fungi, glaciers, or pollen.

If you’re interested, I’ll be live-streaming my seminar (but not the closed session with my committee) here, at 1pm CDT. Feel free to join in– there’s even a chat feature. Be forewarned that, while I’ll do my best to give a compelling and accessible talk, my target audience will be more on the academic than popular side. But if you’d like to hear about what I’ve been up to for the last 4.5 years, please feel free to join in!

Why live-stream my dissertation? Well, it started as a way to broadcast to two remote committee members. After a few Twitter followers expressed interest in watching the stream, I decided to make the link public. I’ve gotten some raised eyebrows from some folks about this, because it’s largely unprecedented at my department (we’ve only recently started requiring public talks, and they haven’t yet been very well-advertised). I think graduate defense seminars are good opportunities to give back to the broader university community, and are a way to display the vitality of research on campus. I also think defaulting in favor of more communication and outreach is generally a good thing (you can read more on that in my recent interview with Inside UW). While defenses serve a particular purpose as a gateway ritual, I think there is value in sharing the experience with the broader community. First, the culture of science (and academia!) is something of a mystery to many people (including undergrads and early grad students), and there’s something really powerful about increasing the visibility of our successes, and the work that goes into them. Secondly, the ability to give a compelling talk that balances accuracy and accessibility is, so I’m told, a good life skill to have, and a critical component of academic job talks.

So, while my fellow Americans are enjoying one of the hottest Independence Days on record, I’m preparing for my own Independence Day tomorrow, and thinking about the last ice age.

 

Categories: Academia Communication Education Grad School Outreach

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Jacquelyn Gill

10 replies

  1. How did you live stream the talk? Did you use a dedicated video conference facility at your U? Or did you use other technology in the place that defense talks are usually given? Who set up the technology — you, your department, the IT department? Curious, because I’d like to do the same.

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  2. best of luck tomorrow. Just remember you wouldn’t be at this level if your committee didn’t think you were ready.

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