Interactive charts from: “Measuring the connective action of Black Lives Matter activists: A psychometric investigation into Twitter data”


I recently published my dissertation “Measuring the connective action of Black Lives Matter activists: A psychometric investigation into Twitter data.” In it, I examined activist participation in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement on Twitter by modeling Bennett and Segerberg’s Logic of Connective Action using a novel psychologically-based approach that combines social media content analysis and confirmatory factor analysis. Listed below are some interactive charts I created based on the data I culled. If you have any questions feel free to reach out!

The chart above displays the total number of tweets sent per day based on a database I have of tweets extracted using approximately 100 unique BLM campaign hashtags from 2010-April 2019. To view the complete chart make sure that you press the hamburger button in the upper right corner of the image and select “view in full screen.” To explore the data and drill down to certain information click and drag your mouse.

Hot off the press! “Mastering Mobile through Social Media: Creating Engaging Content on Instagram and Snapchat”


I’m excited to announce my new report for the American Library Association’s Library Technology Reports series: “Mastering Mobile through Social Media: Creating Engaging Content on Instagram and Snapchat.” What I really dig about this work is that I had the opportunity to conduct a mini-case study during which I interviewed 11 standout library professionals on their use of Snapchat and/or Instagram. In my opinion, their valuable insights are what make this report worth reading. It was such a privilege to chat with them. If you’re a library professional looking to amp up your Insta and/or Snapchat game or interested in a potential foray into this mobile marketing milieu I hope you’ll give it a perusal. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have!

The Amazon Internship Interview: Former Intern Shares Her Experience

**This is a reprint of University of Denver’s graduate studies blog which was discontinued in September 2018.

So a summer internship probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind with papers, projects and the end of the quarter looming ahead, but when it comes to grad student internships it’s never to early to get the ball rolling. A lot of competitive internships have deadlines in late winter and early spring and it’s definitely worth fitting in some time to apply. Just ask DU master’s student Sneha Sawlani. She applied early in 2015 and landed a 2016 internship at commerce behemoth Amazon. This internship was so successful that she even landed a full-time position with them! Take a read below and check Sneha’s advice to DU grad students looking to land their dream job.

Intern: Sneha Sawlani, MS student majoring in Computer Science
Employer & Position: Amazon, Software Development Engineer Intern

The Application/Interview Process

The application process was fairly rigorous and involved 2-steps:

  1. Online Coding Challenge: This involved solving 7 questions in 20 minutes. After one week of passing the Coding Challenge, I was notified of a Phone Interview round and was given 2 weeks of time to prepare for it.
  2. The Phone Interview: The phone interview was technical in nature. It lasted for 45 minutes and the individual I spoke with had me write code on a shared screen to solve 2 problems. The problems tested my understanding of object-oriented design, data structures, algorithms and basic coding skills. The interviewer concluded the interview by briefly explaining intern activities at Amazon.

The Internship

From June–August 2016 I worked in Amazon’s Search department as their Software Development Engineer (SDE) Intern in the rainy city of Seattle. The first week of the 12-week internship was spent getting oriented – meeting my team, settling into the culture, and getting the hang of Amazon’s internal tools and technologies. Then it was time to get more focused. I was assigned a Software Development project to be completed under the guidance of my mentor. SDE Interns at Amazon are given most of the typical responsibilities of a full time software engineer, including writing code, attending scrum meetings, code reviews, and reporting progress to the manager.

At the end of the internship, I presented my work to the team and received feedback from senior managers and engineers. I was also required to write a self-performance review, which along with my manager’s and mentor’s review, were used for evaluation of a full-time hiring decision. I’m happy to report that at the end of the internship I was offered a full-time position and will soon be working for Amazon Search!

Favorite Parts of the Internship

  • Meaningful work, challenges, and learning: At Amazon, I got to work on an actual application that was used internally by mangers, engineers, and data scientists. The challenges of writing production code that is maintainable, scalable and efficient pushed my skills to the limit but also helped me grow as software developer. It was a productive summer with a steep learning curve.
  • Perks! Amazon took all the responsibility of relocating me to Seattle for the summer. I got to stay right next to Lake Union, attend fun intern events on weekends, and received a humongous stipend which made all the hard work worthwhile!

Advice for DU Grad Students

  • Start early: I noticed that most summer intern positions at Amazon were filled up by March. I would suggest students to apply to jobs and internships at least 7 to 8 months before the actual time.
  • Prepare for the Technical Interview: From my personal experience and from what I heard from other interns and employees, data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented design are very important topics for the technical interview preparation, especially for people fresh out of college. So take those classes seriously!
  • Get an Employee Referrals: Although I got the interview just by applying online, I think it was easier to be noticed in the pool of thousands of applicants by having an employee referral. I would suggest networking with people who already work at your target company in order to obtain one.

Getting summer internship at Amazon was a dream come true and getting a job offer out of it was even a bigger dream come true. Working with so many smart people, learning and using cutting-edge technology to solve complex problems, and applying classroom knowledge to real-world problems was a very valuable experience. It also gave me an opportunity to showcase my skills and capabilities to Amazon and allowed me to network with fellow employees. All of these steered my career toward an exciting new direction with the e-commerce giant.

Award Winning Database is Revolutionizing the World of Data Access on Social Conflict One Incident at a Time

Data on social conflict now comes in a clean, flat, .csv file with any number of IV/DV combinations ripe for the picking (or analyzing) thanks to Dr. Cullen Hendrix’s  collaborative endeavor with researchers at the University of Denver and from the University of North Texas. Nearly a decade since its inception, the Social Conflict Analysis Database(SCAD) project was given the 2017 J. David Singer Data Innovation Award by American Political Science Association for being this year’s “best data contribution to the study of any and all forms of political conflict” (APSA). Today, researchers have the opportunity to combine, juxtapose, and differentiate information on nearly 20,000 social conflict events in Africa and Latin America with approximately 50 attributes per episode (think of the statistical power!).

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the co-parents of this brainchild, Dr. Cullen Hendrix, to learn more about this nationally recognized achievement.  Dr. Hendrix is a professor at the Josef Korbel School for International Studies and researcher at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. His current work “focuses on the political and economic consequences of environmental degradation and climate change for peace, security, and stability in the developing world, with a particular emphasis on Africa.” (About). During my conversation with Dr. Hendrix I was specifically excited to learn about the involvement of DU graduate students on this project!

Database Background

The SCAD project was conceptualized in 2008 and officially released in 2011. It serves as a resource for exploring various forms of social and political unrest in Africa and Latin America that are not covered in traditional datasets (think smaller-scale events such as protests, strikes, and riots). Information is aggregated via media reports from LexisNexis and manually coded into the database by a team of researchers. The project provides a robust repository for researchers seeking to explore a variety of different avenues of inquiry surrounding global social conflict. This year new variables were added which include information on women’s participation, gender, and sexual identity. Funding was provided for the first six years by the U.S. Department of Defense and is now being supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation.

An Open Environment for the Public Good

In academia, it’s an unfortunate reality that data is often hoarded by researchers in order to avoid getting scooped by competing scholars. In creating SCAD, Dr. Hendrix, Dr. Salehyan, et al. took a risk; they chose to make data available as soon as it was cleaned and ready for analysis. While there was definitely the possibility for researchers to get the jump on Dr. Hendrix with this approach, he stated that it actually turned out to be an effective way to drive interest to the data project and resulted in some really fascinating research. Many of these contributions have moved far beyond the contribution of the SCAD database and demonstrated what can happen when you tear down the firewalls surrounding data and open it for use toward enhancing the public good. SCAD data underpins analysis on topics ranging from the effects of cell phones on violence to the role winning national team football matches has on ethnic self-identification.

DU Student Involvement

One exciting aspect of this project being housed at DU is the fact that Korbel students have the opportunity not just to gain a great education about world affairs, but also attain applied data oriented skills that give them competitive edge when they hit the job market (and including your involvement on a grant funded internationally recognized project on your CV isn’t too shabby either). Skills in data management and content knowledge have provided a springboard for DU students to market themselves after graduation. For example, Richa Bhatia, who is now an analyst with the US Department of Defense, reports that as a DOD Minerva Project funded endeavor, SCAD helped get her foot in the door for interviews with potential federal government employers.

Additionally, one can really gain some intimate knowledge of a region when their combing through media coverage of social conflict events in that area. So as students are analyzing, coding, and managing data, they’re also gaining deep substantive knowledge on a social conflict in a specific geographic location. To enhance the somewhat tedious task of culling and entering information, those involved in the project have the opportunity to bid on countries that they find interesting and/or relevant to their area of research. One of the first coders on the SCAD project, Jennifer Williams, who’s now the Deputy Foreign Editor at Vox, had the chance to code data for Egypt. This comprehensive content culling for SCAD provided fertile ground on which to grow her knowledge for her honors thesis: “External Financing and Extremist Group Viability: A Human Capital Perspective on Egypt’s Al-Gama’a and Islamic Jihad.”

PhD candidate and former Sié Center research fellow, Jonathan Pinckney, worked on SCAD both as a coder – reading newswire articles and transforming the information in them into lines of data – and as a supervisor – managing the work of the student research assistants and troubleshooting day-to-day problems in the coding process. For him the best parts about working on the project was “getting to learn so much about the political dynamics of particular countries and working alongside a world class scholar like Dr. Hendrix, which was both a tremendous privilege and an incredibly rewarding experience.” Jonathan is planning on using his strong data skills in his new role as a postdoctoral research fellow at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. At NTNU he’ll be working on the “Anatomy of Resistance Campaigns” project; an effort to build the scholarly understanding of the organizations and social groups that participate in resistance movements.

Database Challenges

However, involvement on the SCAD project isn’t all publication-induced academic glamour; it takes a lot of time and dedication to code data. The daily grind inherent in data coding and management takes a specific personality type that involves discipline, nuance, and a certain contextual understanding. One of those discerning individuals, Jonathan Pinckney, cited “quantitizing” qualitative information as a challenge that he faced while involved with the project. He states “any data collection effort involves translating the complexities of reality into simple, consistent numerical coding. Dealing with events that are unexpected, or weren’t anticipated in the original coding scheme is thus always one of the most challenging things about working on this kind of project.”

Another challenge involves the complicated nature of creating a database that relies on material that is inherently based on varying perspectives and subjective vantage points. Exemplified by Dr. Hendrix as the Rashomon effect, this challenge involves the many (and often differing) ways in which people experience a certain event. Having to depend on information generated in this murky space that involves the imperfect process of human observation inserts a certain degree of bias to the information that comes across a SCAD coder’s computer screen. That’s why proper discernment and judgment are so important for the grad students who are examining these accounts. This, however, is tempered by a detailed codebook intended to ensure interrater reliability among coders and facilitate consistency with those using and interpreting the data.

Developments on the Horizon

In the coming years SCAD will continue to be maintained and updated. The research team is also working with a librarian who will help get the data hosted on a SQL server. This will serve to enhance the scalability of the project as well as provide an opportunity to generate data visualizations in the future. This year Dr. Hendrix is leveraging SCAD’s bevy of data points to explore more nuanced insights about repression and uncover connections between climactic conditions in Africa and social conflict. Be sure to stay tuned for his upcoming research publications as well as articles using data from SCAD!

Tips for Landing a Postdoc Position: Insights from Hiring Faculty Members

**This is a reprint of University of Denver’s graduate studies blog which was discontinued in September 2018.

The postdoc application process can be confusing to navigate for many PhD students. Deciding on what institution is the best fit, how you can set yourself apart from other candidates, and even identifying what postdoc positions are available can be tricky. To help you navigate this process, I decided to get some perspectives from the other side of the hiring process by asking some Sié Center faculty members about their thoughts and recommendations regarding the whole the process.

Finding the Right Fit

Before you start emailing faculty and  submitting applications, Sié Center director Dr. Avant recommends that along with salary and research support that each position will offer, applicants should consider the term, location, and job responsibilities for the position in which they’re interested. Where would you be willing to move for a short period of time? (Postdocs, at least in the social sciences, are generally for 1-2 years.) Are the responsibilities compatible with what you want to do? What does the position require? (Most postdocs require some writing and research; some also require participation in activities or research.) Specifically, at the Sié Center Dr. Avant states that the faculty are looking for high quality research, but also for research that reflects a broad view of global security issues and is directed toward contemporary problems: “We are specifically looking for students who want to engage with global politics as well as study it.”

According to Dr. Kaplan, who was a postdoc for two years at Stanford and Princeton, the nature of postdocs varies widely across different schools—some positions are with individual faculty, while some are with broader departments, and others are attached to research centers or projects. A benefit of being attached to a particular project or center is being more closely tied to a research community, which can be helpful since postdocs can fall through the cracks between grad students and faculty, and may have trouble connecting with an academic community. However, he states that a trade-off (if one can term it that) to that attachment is that the center- or project-based postdocs may spend more time on group projects relative to their own research; but this can also be mutually beneficial, since group projects offer postdocs the opportunity to learn new skills and methods, and develop substantive areas of expertise.

Conducting Your Job Search

You should be ready to apply for a desired position approximately six months to a year beforehand. Dr. Avant recommends that students also start looking at postdoc positions they might be interested in before that period so they are ready to apply when the time comes. “From a practical perspective, it might be a good idea to apply for postdocs and jobs at the same time in order to manage your time more efficiently.” Sié Center postdoc, Dr. Kelsey Norman, applied widely for postdocs and jobs. She recommends letting other academics (in your department or elsewhere) know that you’re on the job market. “This can help you discover jobs that aren’t circulated widely enough, as well as aid in your ability to learn about opportunities as new position announcement get released.”

C.V.s and Publications

When updating your resume/CV make sure that it’s clear and jargon free. Dr. Avant states that “applicants who communicate clearly and take the time to think about what their audience will want to know are highly advantaged.” Now, in regard to publications, Dr. Sisk’s advice is to “publish, publish, publish.” He advises potential postdocs to thoughtfully weigh the short-term monetary benefits of adjunct teaching (which universities will always have a need for) with the gains (such as getting hired and promoted) against longer term trajectories that come from a focus on publishing. He states that while he “would never have a blanket advice of ‘don’t make money,’ postdocs will likely have less time to take material to publication once the teaching, committee service, and other obligations of assistant professorship crowd in. ” Dr. Avant supports Dr. Sisk’s recommendation, asserting that more and more students are publishing in graduate school, making it increasingly important for interested applicants to have publications. However, she also says that “a very interesting project and strong recommendations from esteemed faculty about the worth of the project can sometimes outweigh the publication component.”

Hopefully this is helpful as you start your postdoc search. If you have any suggestions please feel free to add them in the comments section!

Creative PhD Dissertations: Are Universities Closed Minded?

**This is a reprint of University of Denver’s graduate studies blog which was discontinued in September 2018.

So I’ve been thinking about this topic of creative dissertations for a while… I am a 3rd year PhD candidate studying Research Methods and Statistics, which is housed in DU’s Morgridge College of Education, and being more of a “trans-discipline” this topic probably comes up every year in one class or another. And it’s not just my program that this concept is being examined. The field of education relies on the fusion/intermixing of a variety of knowledge branches, which has resulted in a growing expectation of flexibility/creativity when it comes to dissertation composition. Performance, art, and text that surpasses the confines of 1″ margins are gaining attention in a variety of academic fields and are being discussed in many graduate classrooms. However, while we learn about alternative methods of knowledge dissemination that go beyond a “text-centric” view of communication, we also need to consider why we’re choosing to utilize these more novel methods and techniques.

Within this debate some have argued that a more creative approach is often hindered by the glacial speeds of academia, involving individuals who are slow to take action and allow for more creativity. Recently a research team from Harvard and Northwestern sought to test out the idea of proposing innovative work within the science fields. Interestingly, the researchers found that “highly novel research proposals were being systematically rejected, receiving worse ratings than those with only moderate novelty” (Matthews, 2016). The authors state that this is due to the amount of creativity the reviewers are able to understand cognitively. One of the authors, Dr. Riedl, defines this concept as “bounded rationality,” which is the inability to “look across and beyond the knowledge frontier” (Matthews, 2016). He concludes that these findings are particularly concerning given the fact that this bias can affect the proposals that do and do not receive funding.

I think this is an important finding to explore in the debate surrounding flexibility with dissertation composition/presentation. In order to gain a more in-depth picture of this discussion I sat down with Drs. Barbara WilcotsRyan Gildersleeve, and Bernadette Calafell. They provided insights into this debate and I learned that it isn’t a binary, black or white situation. I came into this dialogue with a more simplistic “us vs them” mindset, thinking that writing a dissertation that doesn’t look like a bound tome was something that graduate offices just needed to get on board with. I rationalized that this reticence was because chapters and textual contributions are much easier to regulate and measure than performances and art installations. What I learned is that, like most things, this topic is complex and multifaceted, requiring us to use both critical and reflexive lenses when we make our academic decisions regarding dissertations.

Substitute vs Supplement

One debate that has arisen when students propose a more creative approach to their dissertations is that of substitute versus supplement. Some graduate offices have agreed to allow students more creative license with their dissertations if they produce both a written product as well as a less tangible supplement such as a video, performance, art installation, etc., with the latter used to enhance the researcher’s message/point. One of Dr. Calafell’s students chose the “performance as supplement” option and created a powerful dissertation about the oral histories of Chicano men in Denver that included a written portion as well as a performance of those experiences after submission. However, some individuals feel that this “double work” isn’t fair and that more offices need to move past their “bounded rationality” and allow students to perform or present their dissertation without the written component. While many institutions are choosing to compromise by offering the “supplement” options, others are starting become more flexible. For example, a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article featured A.D. Carson, a Clemson University PhD student and activist who defended his dissertation in rap. Rather than submitting a written thesis/dissertation, “Carson created a 34-track rap album entitled ‘Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes & Revolutions‘” (Zamudio-Suaréz, 2017).

Dr. Calafell also mentioned that some of her students are incorporating performative writing to fuse together the two substitute/supplement approaches. For example, one of her former advisees, wrote a script for her dissertation. Dr. Calafell also incorporated this approach by poetically crafting her own dissertation, “Towards a Latina/o Politics of Affect: Remembering Malintzin Tenépal.” This technique can be used in a variety of ways, including poetically transcribing interviews in a way that emulates spoken speech or writing a personal narrative. If you’re interested in trying this out for yourself or learning more, one resource Dr. Calafell recommends is the performance studies journal Liminalities. Liminalities is a digital journal that lets scholars publish textual performance, experimental art, and film among other mediums.

Dr. Calafell admits that unfortunately these culturally ingrained options are still stuck on the page and expressed that PhD students should have additional materials available to them such as black box theater. She opined that text-centric approaches and requirements could potentially stem from our desire to “make our mark” on society; a physical trace that’s focused on individuality rather than communality. Dr. Gildersleeve concurs, stating that text is not the only way to represent theory and institutions’ text-centric mindset is a result of dismissing long traditions and histories of research methods that are performance based. He states that text-centricity centralizes privilege, white supremacy, and patriarchy. However, he doesn’t completely write off this approach stating that it’s the deployment that matters. He also asserts that the form and medium/media should be dictated by the methodological traditions in the field and not by administration.

Complicating this viewpoint, is the argument that this approach opens doors for appropriation. Academics, in their fervor to create something fresh and innovative, could misrepresent these methods and the cultures that created them. Over our history, scholars have been criticized for their disregard for the cultures that they’re studying. It makes me think of the situation with Dr. Carolyn Ellis’ research of the fisher folk communities on the Chesapeake Bay. She wrote her dissertation and book on, what has been considered by others, as an unflattering representation of a group of Guinea watermen that turned her from a “beloved outsider and frequent guest into a traitor” (Allen). Charlotte Allen points out that this instance “illustrates the degree to which the profession is caught in an uneasy bind between fulfilling research objectives and honoring ethical obligations.” Similarly, the same problem can arise when methods are used by non-local outsiders. Dr. Wilcots aptly points out she would have difficulty accepting a rap dissertation from someone who wasn’t from the culture that created, knowing nothing about its history for its creators, but rather seeking a fun, creative way to present their subject.

Deciding on the Appropriate Medium

One critical point to address when considering non-print dissertations, is the fact when you adopt a non-textual approach, it’s difficult to demonstrate whether or not it effectively represents the acquisition of expertise in a field. I think that’s what makes this whole debate so difficult to tackle; if we don’t have standards that we can actually measure how can we differentiate between a PhD and professional degrees such as an MFA or a JD? This concept of measurement and being able to properly evaluate accuracy, thoroughness, etc., comes with a wide range of opinions. Dr. Wilcots, former associate provost of DU’s Office of Graduate Studies, states that one reason universities require a standard in the case of dissertations is so they are able to provide evidence for the PhD credential. She reminds us that the word credential originates from the word credence and when one earns a PhD they are receiving a title that certifies their knowledge and tells others that there is credence to what they have to say about a topic. It is because we function in this system of credentialing that we are required to demonstrate our expertise in a prescribed manner. That’s why individuals pursuing an MFA degree are able to create a novel and PhD students are required to produce a dissertation. Dr. Wilcots also states that one of the problems with this debate is the fact that the concept of a dissertation isn’t properly defined in the first place. Since we’re lacking a structured explanation of what a dissertation is, it’s extremely hard to argue how it should be shaped and changed.

Dr. Calafell’s answer to this discussion is that performance, which involves a lot of theory, can be just as effectively measured as written work. She contends that performance itself can be the final product, due to representations of social, political, and cultural-critical perspectives. Dr. Soyini Madison, Performance Studies professor at Northwestern, has written extensively on this topic (one great article is Performing Theory/Embodied Writing). Dr. Calafell outlined 6 types of rigor related to the proper evaluation performance based scholarship:

  1. Interrogation of one’s own positionality
  2. Experiencing emotional labor that can’t be quantified
  3. Constantly revising- performance is fluid
  4. Staging/audiencing
  5. Interlocuting- She states that the best part often comes after the performance, during the discussion
  6. Placing concern on the process

Dr. Gildersleeve states that individuals in applied fields like education should be pulling from other approaches outside of social science due to its interdisciplinary nature. He asserts that education should become transdisciplinary, seeking a more pluralistic approach that is similar to Anthropology’s multi-methodological use of discourse analysis. For example, the aforementioned A.D. Carson’s “work included a timeline of social movements on campus, a blog, music videos, transcribed lyrics, and a peek into his compositional process. At his defense, he performed four of his songs and showed one music video” (Zamudio-Suaréz, 2017).

However, when we do decide to utilize mediums and approaches outside our field we need to ensure that we’re not just borrowing from the creative writing, performance studies, etc fields that created those methods but properly investigating and critically applying them. Dr. Wilcots states that not doing so dismisses the fields that produced those techniques and reduces them to a mode of communication rather than a field of study. Anyone can write a novel, pick up a camera and make a film, or compose a script. Nothing about those methods require what Dr. Wilcots describes as “an understanding and artistry of that genre.” She argues that what we need to be focusing on in this discussion is interdisciplinary presentations of knowledge. She states that “at the core of interdisciplinarity is understanding both fields of study, which takes time, effort, and a respect for all fields and disciplines represented in the scholarly work.” That certainly doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be pushing for more creativity with our chosen mediums, but Dr. Wilcots states it does indicate that we need to be able to show that we’re not just a “tourist in the field,” borrowing what we need without proper knowledge or expertise to support that decision. It’s for this very reason that she recommends that any dissertation that draws upon a field of study outside of the discipline in which the degree is being offered have a defense committee that includes a faculty person from every field represented. For example Anthropology faculty are not trained and credentialed to provide a scholarly decision on the quality of a novel, and Higher Ed faculty are not trained and credentialed to provide a scholarly decision on a film.

Getting “Buy-In”

You need both faculty and administrative buy-in when it comes to pitching a creative dissertation. Dr. Wilcots states that while academics do need to shift the conversation and redefine research, PhD students need to be communicating how their more creative or alternative medium is germane to the discipline that they are trying to advance in their dissertations. She recommends that students desiring the experiment with alternative approaches demonstrate how the creative component reflects the theory when discussing their ideas with administrators. In other words, you should be answering questions like “How is this novel format or art installation advancing knowledge in my field? What makes a novel/performance/script more effective than a traditional textual dissertation? She acknowledges that there is room in higher education for more creativity but states that imagination needs to have a purpose when it comes to dissertations/theses. As was discussed in the previous section, as long as we function within the system of credentialing we need to find ways in which to properly represent the associated levels of knowledge and theory advancement that are required. Dr. Wilcots denoted the importance of being able to distinguish between professional degrees, such as an MFA, JD, etc., and research degrees, such as a PhD. With individuals holding the latter claiming to discover new knowledge in a field, things get complicated when their scholarly products become indistinguishable with those who are focused on the practice of a profession. To add to this complexity Dr. Gildersleeve points out that not all PhDs go into academia and institutions need to adapt to this shift as well. Additionally, Dr. Calafell claims that often times, departments are receptive to exploring new ways of communication, but unfortunately expectations are still very traditional at the national level (which likely comes from the unacknowledged biases of people in power).

Moving Forward

These discussions are percolating at institutions across the country. It’s important for us to continue to have these conversations and facilitate a dialogue that surpasses elitist knowledge and celebrates alternative methods of communication that go beyond prescribed textual formats. It is difficult for administrators to understand what they don’t know, and as doctoral students we should be working to expand and shape the definition of our degree and the products expected from it. We just need to also ensure that during these discussions we are also critical and reflexive about our methodological decisions. Dr. Wilcots suggests that one way to advance this conversation is to publish papers and present these issues at conferences, stating that the more we talk about these issues the more likely we’ll gain broader acceptance. “Paradigm shifts take time, and it’s important that we’re realistic in our proposals and reasonable with our requests.”

There are some universities that are starting to experiment outside of textual dissertations. For example, you have the aforementioned student at Clemson who submitted a dissertation in rap, Iowa State which is allowing visual ethnography such as participant and researcher photography and photo essays as ways to represent knowledge, and the University of London where PhD candidate Lucy Harrison was able to build a musical fort for her PhD. Nevertheless, I think that together as a PhD community we can be doing more to advance this agenda. At the very least we could pitch it to universities as a great PR move on their part. After all, PhD candidates who are thinking outside the box are getting featured in major publications. But I think the real onus is for us as PhDs to 1) explore alternative methods and techniques of knowledge representation, 2) be reflexive about those choices (Why are using performance, art, etc. over text? Is it essential to our production of new knowledge and advancement of theory?), and 3) present our choices in a cohesive, relevant, and understandable way to faculty and administrators. Dr. Gildersleeve believes that we need to innovate traditionally used methodologies and push boundaries from philosophically sound foundations. He claims that academics need to accept alternative versions of knowledge representation in order to stay relevant. With that thought I’d like to leave you with A.D. Carson’s words from his dissertation as inspiration for those who want to push boundaries in the cloistered confines of the ivory tower:

“Kweli said ‘I speak at schools a lot because people say I’m intelligent, no it’s cause I’m dope, if I was wack I’d be irrelevant.’ …This world of academia, however we want to describe it…is that world not ready for that dope in its uncut form? Can the scholars not just create or speak through hip hop as opposed to having it mixed with something else in order for it to be acceptable? We already know that people can experience and talk about rap without having someone else filtering it… I don’t think there should really be that much of a problem with me doing the scholarship that we call hip hop through rap, it shouldn’t be a problem” (A.D. Carson).

Resources/Reading List

Dunford, C. M. (2009). Deploying nature: A performance ethnography of community gardens, gardeners and urban change in a Chicago neighborhood. Northwestern University.

Carson, A.D. (2016, Sept 11). A.D. Carson: Owning My Masters Dissertation Intro. [Video File]. Retrieved from 

Madison, D. S. (1999). Performing theory/embodied writing. Text and Performance Quarterly19(2), 107-124.

Pasque, P., Carducci, R., Kuntz, A., & Gildersleeve, R. (2012). Qualitative Inquiry for Equity in Higher Education: Methodological Innovations, Implications, and InterventionsAEHEVolume 37, Number 6 (Vol. 164). John Wiley & Sons. (specifically chapters 2 & 3)

Snapchat Explained: A 30 Minute Microlearning Event


I just wanted to announce another Snapchat workshop that I’ll be teaching in September for ALA’s eLearning series. This will consist of a 30 min online webinar where I’ll show you the basics of Snapchat: how it works, how to set it up, and how your library can use it. This is perfect for those who are not very familiar with Snapchat or need a refresher. I hope to see you all there!

6 Libraries to Follow on Snapchat for Some Snapspiration

In 2015 I wrote the post 5 Universities Killing it on Snapchat. Since then, I have seen a of bevy brands harnessing the app in really creative ways. Coming from a library background, I naturally follow several libraries on Snapchat (see Libraries on Snapchat: A Directory for a comprehensive list) and I have been really impressed with a way some librarians are promoting their collections, showcasing events, and engaging patrons with the use of emoji, GIFs, lenses, and filters. So today I thought I’d share a list of my favorite libraries on Snapchat to give you some “snapspiration” in your marketing endeavors:

Cape May County Library

Username: CMCLibrary

Standout Features: Not afraid to take a risk, CMClibrary is dipping their toes into Snapchat takeovers, allowing patrons to takeover the account for a day. They also are great about posting consistently and now appear on Snapchat Discover (which is an impressive feat in and of its on, as inclusion in Discover requires your public story to “reach a certain viewership threshold” (Wagner, 2017)).

The Webb Middle School

Username: libfeet

Standout Features: Hannah Byrd Little was an early Snapchat adopter is amazing when it comes to using lenses. I like this example with the Shakespeare bust because it shows her creativity and the fact that lenses aren’t just for people or even books with faces!

University of Limerick Library

Username: libraryul

Standout Features: This librarian has mastered the art of Bitmoji, GIFs, and all around engaging snaps. I also love how she keeps with the spirit of Snapchat and prioritizes communication components in her snaps.


Jacksonville Public Library Teen Advisory Board

Username: jpl_tab

Standout Features: JPL is fantastic at incorporating calls to action (CTAs) and using links in their snaps. Snapchat now offers users the ability to add URLs to their snaps, allowing users to “swipe up” to read more, or in this case, put a hold on a library book.


Commerce Library

Username: librarycommerce

Standout Features: This library is awesome at incorporating contests that organically fit into patrons’ day to day lives. They utilize free books, gift cards, and other tactics to get users physically into the library. They also make it personal with fun Bitmoji and pictures of librarians.


Cheshire Library

Username: cheshirelibrary

Standout Features: The librarian at Cheshire library is a master at capitalizing on “tentpole holidays” (national events that recur every year like Black History Month, National Limerick Day, #MayThe4thBeWithYou, etc). They are also great at promoting their library collection with features like “Book of the Day.”

I hope you find this list useful! I also recommend following @epircreads for somebookish inspiration. They are really effective at providing book synopses using images and text. If there’s any library you think should be added to the list please let me know in the comments!

Resources for Finding a Graduate Summer Research Position

**This is a reprint of University of Denver’s graduate studies blog which was discontinued in September 2018.

Summer jobs aren’t just for undergrads. In fact, there are a plethora of opportunities that specifically request graduate students! By now in your academic career you’re probably aware of the benefits that come from temporary job training programs, but you might not know all the new opportunities that your advanced graduate school training can provide you. This summer is a great opportunity to build your professional network and gain some vital real world skills that will prepare you for life after your grad degree.

Tips Before Embarking

Prior to commencing your exploration you will want to beef up your internship searching skills. The tips below will make the search process much easier and potentially increase your discovery!

  • Don’t limit yourself to a single term– Graduate summer work goes by many names (associateship, fellowship, co-op, graduate internship, and so forth). Conduct separate searches for each term to increase your results list. For example, a search for summer education fellowship will give you different results than a search for summer education graduate internship.
  • Use quotes– quotation marks are recognized in most search engines and allow you to search for phrases rather than single words. Searching for “graduate summer fellowship” will provide different results than searching for graduate summer fellowship without the quotations (this is great for using with the search engine monolith Google).
  • Exclude erroneous results with the minus sign– If you’re receiving numerous results that aren’t relevant to your search, place a minus sign before the word you want to exclude. For example, if you’re searching in LinkedIn for graduate summer internship and you keep getting results for AT&T, modify your search to: graduate summer internship -AT&T and all of those AT&T listings will be excluded.
  • Set alerts for missed deadlines- Years fly by while you’re in grad school and before you know it it will be 2016! If there is an ideal summer internship that you missed, set a calendar alert for next year so it doesn’t pass you by next time around. While you’re waiting, you could spend the summer updating your skill set for that particular position to ensure that you stand out from the other applicants.

Visit Company Websites

One of the best ways to land the fellowship/internship/co-op/associateship of your dreams is to check out your favorite company’s website. Many of these entities provide summer internship programs, with many being targeted specifically at graduate students. Listed below are a few of the companies that target graduate students:

Tap into an Organization

Most likely you’re a member of a professional organization associated with your field of study. (If you aren’t, join today! Students receive discounted membership fees.) Listservs or email lists and websites for these organizations offer a trove of potential opportunities Many career services offices and/or universities send out newsletters with lists of upcoming internships and fellowships (keep your eyes peeled for the monthly GCS newsletter!). Various government, health, business, and education organizations also provide listings of upcoming opportunities. Check out their websites or follow them on social media to stay abreast of future opportunities. Here are some suggested resources you can take a look at:

Scrutinize Social Media

crimson-linkedin LinkedIn

Don’t let the “job” in LinkedIn’s job search deter you from utilizing this tool for locating summer opportunities. With this resource you can limit by location/industry/company and often apply directly from LinkedIn using your profile information.

crimson-twitter Twitter

The monarch of the microblogging world, is a wonderful place to cast your search net. Try following scholarship and intern matching websites and searching for specific hashtags to increase discovery.

Avail Yourself of a Job Board/Search Engine

Job search engines like Indeed are great resources for uncovering summer research positions. Play around with different search terms and search operators (discussed in the Tips Before Embarking section) to expand your search. For example try conducting separate searches for summer fellowship, summer internship, and summer associate. They will all produce different search results.

InternMatch is a resource that is targeted specifically for searching internships. This includes graduate internships, fellowships, etc. With this tool you can create a profile where potential employers can view your credentials. There is also an internship forum where you can post questions and an internship blog for your perusal.

And, of course, don’t forget good ‘ol Google. With Google you can browse through a vast amount of summer research opportunities. Due to the fact that Google is so comprehensive you might want to narrow your search by using search operators. A search for summer graduate internship will only include results coming from a website with a .org domain (which includes many non-profit organizations).

Once you land a summer fellowship/internship/associateship you will all set to rake in the benefits (such as directed guidance and mentorship and a chance cultivate new skills, fine tune your current abilities, gain real-world experience, and network with individuals in your field). And don’t forget, our career counselors can also help with this process. Good luck on your journey and please let us know about your favorite resources/tools/methods in the comments!

New Session: Using Snapchat to Reach Library Patrons Workshop


I just wanted to send you all a quick note to let you know I’ll be teaching a Snapchat workshop for the ALA’s eLearning series. “Using Snapchat to Reach Library Patrons” will consist of two 90-minute sessions that will take place on Thursday, April 12, 2018 and Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 2:30pm Eastern. If you have any questions or want me to discuss anything specific please leave a message in the comments. I’m really looking forward to it and hope you all can attend!