Vindication tastes like oranges and peaches

April 6th, 2009

This weekend I went to the Colonial Academic Alliance conference held at Towson with a group of students from WM to present/share our work with other undergraduates from the 12 schools in the Alliance.  Now, I’m not at all a social person – very much the introvert, confidence issues etc – but when I go to conferences, I’m on.  The main point of conferences is networking.  [[Networking – the bane of my existence!]]  Unfortunately, most of the other students there didn’t quite “get that” and so everyone segregated themselves by school.  The only non-WM people I got to talk to were those who asked about my poster, and those whose posters I asked about while we walked around the little, well-lit hallway at the school.  It was definitely fun, but I wish I’d been able to mingle more beyond the, “Hi, tell me about your poster,” small talk.  [[I did get beyond that with one woman, the head of the CAA, who was tickled that I use statistics in history work.  Apparently, she got her higher degree from Carnegie-Mellon in “Applied History” – history with stats – and now uses it regularly to look at gender issues in higher education based on the institution’s history… Very cool.]]  Some of the other girls and I did employ the “friend attack” strategy developed by my next-door neighbor, which got us into some interesting conversations about science-y things (in spite all of us being rather humanities-oriented).  But the most exciting thing to happen was to get the “birds and the bees” talk from a guy my dad’s age.  But the trick was, he wasn’t talking about humans – he was talking about frogs.

I thought the fun was over when we got back to WM and I headed off to Swem for homework and a group meeting.  Lo and behold, in my inbox I got an invitation to skip class and listen to a professor from American University talk about constructivist things.  (That’s Poli-Sci/IR speech for a sociologist-in-political science.)  Dr. Jackson’s talk was exhilarating for a couple reasons.  First, vindication [[which tastes like oranges and peaches, like the drink I sipped while listening]] because his theories explained my thesis perfectly.  If I can come up with ideas that match what a PhD’s come up with, then I think I’m doing okay.  Second, his original research interests (and first few articles/books) touch on a topic that I could easily add to the reading list I’m going to develop to stay in touch with the graduate school world even though I’m going to enter the real world in about a month.  He started out studying post-conflict reconstruction, which would just so happen to incorporate ideas of identity, problems/policies on immigration and a toning-down/-up of nationalist sentiment.  And third, I could follow his weird and tangential references to all manner of philosophers and scientific/theoretical ideas without much trouble – in spite of his rather patronizing comments like, “This probably makes more sense to the PhDs in the room.”  I have a feeling that, if I end up in Washington, I will want to stop by his office at A.U. on occasion (after having read some of his work) to *ahem* network and pretend like I’m still a student.

And, last but not least, the initial results are in: She likes it!  My thesis advisor actually liked my final draft.  After some minor corrections, I’ll be printing it out for the committee members next week.  Without trying to get my hopes up, her comment was, “For the bibliography alone, I’d push for honors!”  A sigh of relief, a celebratory round, and some sleep before another big tomorrow.