The First Year

Whereas 5777 overlapped with my last year of graduate school, 5778 will be my first full year in a new career, one entirely of my own invention. I'm an "academic-adjacent entrepreneur," which is an unusual but increasingly common hybrid. Like an academic, I'll be teaching several classes this fall and will continue working on my research projects, conferencing, and applying for grants. I'll also continue to serve as co-editor of the Urban History Association's blog, The Metropole, and to participate in the active online community of #twitterstorians. At the same time, I'm knitting this work into a new business where I lead interesting discussions with cool people in the community, motivate and support other researchers, and write and edit compelling, persuasive messages for clients.

So while I devoted 5777 to finishing up the requirements to earn my doctorate, in 5778 my goals reflect my desire to grow into this new hybrid identity:

1. Build the readership of The Metropole blog to 2500 visitors per month.

2. Send out a new article to a history journal.

3. Write and submit a book proposal to a publisher.

4. Grow my business's revenue to equal to what I earned as a graduate student.


The Painted Ponies Go Up and Down

I prefer to set annual goals on the occasion of the Jewish New Year rather than on January 1, because it coincides with the academic year and the cycle of productivity that academia imposes. Last year, before Rosh Hashanah, I set three goals for myself: 

  • Write 3 dissertation chapters.
  • Get an article out for review.
  • Visit a new place. Preferably a tropical island.

Well, I came close. I only submitted one chapter to my committee, though two more are almost finished. I wrote an article, but am still working on revisions and have not yet sent it to a journal. I slayed the final goal, however, by visiting two new places this year--Nashville and Croatia--and even if neither were a tropical island, Croatia was pretty darn close. 

When I set these goals, they felt very manageable--I was not trying to be too ambitious. And yet this year has taught me that I'm not very good at estimating what I can accomplish in a set time. Three weeks ago, I vowed to myself that I would finish the chapter (now chapters, plural) that I have been working on by tomorrow, the last day of September. I worked so hard, and so badly wanted to achieve this goal, but I did not even come close. It was not for lack of effort. This chapter has required more research and methodological rigor than I could have ever imagined, and it was time consuming work. I think it has all been worth it, but I need at least another week, or maybe even two, to finish writing, editing, and polishing the chapters before they're ready for my advisor to read. I set an overambitious goal, and I should not be disappointed that I failed to meet it--it still motivated me to do my best work. And that, after all, is the real goal of setting goals. 

2015 in Review

This was a banner year for me, professionally. I received such generous support and was able to accomplish so much: I wrote three chapters, presented a paper at a major conference, conducted six oral history interviews, and did extensive archival research in New York and Cincinnati. Thank you to those who saw potential in my dissertation in 2015 and provided me with funding, resources, and time:

Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University

A.W. Mellon Foundation, Sawyer Seminar on "The Ghetto:  Concept, Conditions, and Connections in Transnational Historical Perspective, from the 11th Century to the Present," particularly Profs. Wendy Z. Goldman and Joe William Trotter, Jr. who granted me one of the Seminar's pre-doctoral fellowships

Graduate Student Association, Carnegie Mellon University

American Academy for Jewish Research

The Jacob Rader Marcus Center, American Jewish Archives

Feinstein Center for American Jewish History, Temple University

Association for Jewish Studies and Knapp Family Foundation

My dissertation committee, Profs. Caroline Acker, Rachel Kranson, and Joe Trotter

I also had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant again this fall, and it was a badly-needed reminder that teaching (if not grading) is deeply fulfilling work. 

In 2016, I hope to continue building on the growth I made this year. My goals are to write at least three more chapters, earn a dissertation completion fellowship, send an article to a journal for review, and present at another conference. Ambitious objectives, but ones that I believe are realistic and achievable. 

Happy New Year!