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For all those interested in information on getting into a PhD program, Nijay Gupta has an excellent and comprehensive post that all should read.  However, my post focuses more on those (since the April 15th deadline just passed) that have been told they did not get into either the PhD program of their dreams or any program at all.  Put simply my advice is Don’t Give Up!  Actually, if you are the type of person who gives up easily, you probably should give up now as PhD programs are not easy and require intense amounts of hard work and resiliency.  However, if you are the type of person willing to work as hard as necessary, a rejection from some or even all PhD programs does not have to be the end of the line. 

Rather than giving up a better approach is to assess your particular situation and take the next year to improve yourself as a candidate.  Concentrate on your German, French, Greek, and Hebrew.  If those are not weaknesses improve your application in other ways such as:  improve your GRE score, complete a research project, beg a professor to let you assist him/her, or go to SBL and make contacts.  Simply put, do whatever it takes if this is what you really want to do!

For myself I know that while I may have been ready academically to do graduate work after my days at the University of Illinois ended, I was certainly not ready in many other ways.  I was not prepared for the intense amount of work graduate programs require.  Instead of going to graduate school immediately I improved myself as an individual doing both humiliating and stimulating jobs and careers.  As a side note, delivering pizza was not the most stimulating job I had.

Just because you have been rejected from a PhD program once, this is not an eternal condemnation of your chances to ever get into a program.  There may be at least three potential isssues.  First, you may not be as strong of a candidate as you thought you were.  As I stated above there are many ways to improve the strength of your application.  Second, and this is critical, get to know both the programs you are applying to and faculty members you are interested in working with.  Read their words and email/call/visit them.  I know I sat in on a number of Dr. Bartchy’s courses and had many conservations with him before I applied to UCLA.  A friend of mine took this one step further and made road trips around the country visiting potential schools and speaking with a large number of professors (by the way he was accepted into Emory!).  While this step may seem unneccesary, put yourself in the shoes of your potential professors.  They are committing to work with you for 5-10 years.  That is a massive commitment.  A third possibility is that you are indeed an amazing applicant with an M. Div from Harvard, two publications under your belt, and a few presentations at SBL, but in the particular year you applied there was just someone better.  Bear in mind that there are not many openings each year.  So while your rejection may indeed be disappointing, it does not have to be the end of your academic career.

I will leave you today with one final thought, Don’t Give Up.  If you want it, go get it.  The best things in life don’t always come easy.

This is a post intended to both provide advice to and to elicit advice from the commuting scholar.  I imagine there must be other people besides me who are interested in the NT, have insane commutes, and would like to use their time in their vehicle more productively.  I for one have an hour commute each way on a perfect day.  Residing in the Los Angeles area I am one of the many people insane enough to live far from school or work who cram their car next to the thousands of other cars on the jammed LA freeways. 

Since I spend so much time in the car I have adopted a number of methods to use my time more productively.  First, I have obtained the NT on CD.  There is nothing better than listening to Paul’s letters on a long drive.  Since it is most likely that Paul’s audience originally heard and did not read Paul’s letters it is an excellent method of attempting to put Paul in his historical context.  You will certainly understand some passages in a new way upon hearing rather than reading them.  Second, I use Zondervan’s New Testament Greek Vocabulary.  It never hurts to brush up on your Greek vocabulary especially during an especially bad traffic jam.   Now the third device I use is a little more dangerous and not recommended unless traffic is not moving.  I use German vocabulary notecards, but don’t worry I am not a danger to other drivers.  I only use them when my vehicle is stationary and in LA high traffic hours that is all too often.

Well those are my tips, now it’s your turn.  Hopefully somebody has some advice for me as after three years I need some variety to my routine.  Is anyone aware of any scholarly podcasts on the New Testament, especially on Paul?  Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

Well I think it’s appropriate to answer the question I am asked over 100 times at SBL every year.  It starts with someone looking at my ID badge. Then a look of shock appears on their face and they ask, “uhh, does UCLA even have an NT program?”  The answer is, why yes we do and a pretty good one if you ask me.  Now that world famous blogger Pat McCullough has joined the program this year I can only hope that UCLA becomes more well known for its program.  Since no one has heard of our program I will take the time today to tell you all about it. 

Like any program our NT program has its plusses and minuses.  First, we are in the History department which is among the top 10 in the nation.  This means when you take a class from any professor in the department you know they are world class.  We are given the option of tailoring our program to suit our interests and needs, while this is an amazing feature it can be overwhelming in one’s first quarter.  One can take classes in a wide variety of fields such as: Roman History, Greek History, Late Antiquity, Papyrology, Paleography, Hebrew, 2nd Temple Judaism, and many others.  Not only does UCLA have a remarkable History department but we are encouraged to take classes outside the department in Classics, NELC (Our excellent Near Eastern Languages department), and many other top ranked departments.  Do you want to learn a language well UCLA has it.  I’m not sure if Ugaritic or Akkadian will help your NT studies but if it will it is available. 

In addition to a wide variety of professors our students have a wide variety of interests such as: Anthropology, Magic, Manliness, Apocalytpicism, Paul of Tarsus, letter writing, and rhetoric.  Nothing is more interesting than talking to this group of students about a passage you find interesting, everyone has their own take on it.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my time at UCLA has been the ample teaching experience I’ve had.  During one’s first year at UCLA normally one will not receive a TAship and thus, in order to receive a tution fee remission one normally is a grader.  I graded for the 186 series which includes: Christian Origins and the Historical Jesus.  During one’s second year at UCLA often one is awarded a TAship.  Now this is both a plus and a minus.  On the plus side it is excellent teaching experience.  However, there are no NT courses offered that qualify for a TAship which leaves choices which can be somewhat unnverving (I always cringed ranking courses like African history 4th on my list, though admittedly the course would have provided me a lot of useful information).  I have been a TA for Western Civ: Pre-History – 800 CE, World History 400 BCE – 400 CE, Western Civ: 800-1600, and Introduction to World Religions.  Being a TA for such a wide range of courses can be construed as either a positive or a negative.  On the negative side, it is a lot of work to prepare a discussion section for a field in which you have limited knowledge.  However, on the plus side your breadth of knowledge is expanded substantially.  Finally, if you are one of the lucky few (as I am this year) you will be awarded the opprotunity to design and teach your own class.  This year I designed and am teaching my own course titled: Paul, the New Testament, and Letter Writing.  This has been a tremendous experience!

In order to provide you with an example of what a NT program can look like at UCLA, here is a list of some of the courses I have taken.  Bear in mind this list varies substantially for each student in our program.

Christian Origins, Historical Jesus, Paul of Tarsus, Spirtuality and Sexuality in the New Testament, Epictetus, Apostolic Fathers, Greek Papyrology, Greek Paleography, Roman History: Caesar to Constantine andthe Dead Sea Scrolls (with a focus on the liturgical documents).

Finally it should be noted that our program only has one scholar who focuses on the New Testament but he is excellent.  Dr. S. Scott Bartchy is well versed in a wide variety of topics and in addition to being a top notch scholar, he is an amazing mentor.  I have never encountered a professor who cares so much for his students and is so generous with his time.

Well that about wraps up my take on the New Testament program at UCLA.  So this year when you see me at SBL perhaps you will be one of the few people who does not ask me the standard question, “What, UCLA has a New Testament Program?!?!??”  Instead you can ask the second question, “So how far are you on your dissertation?”

Well many of my friends have been posting about how excited they are that their papers were accepted for this year’s SBL in New Orleans.  I too submitted a paper to 2 groups, “Paul’s Self-Representation in Galatians.”  The New Testament and Rhetoric group promptly informed me that my paper did not make the cut.  However, the Pauline Epistles group waited until the last possible day to inform me of their decision, April 1st.  In true April’s Fool fashion they to informed me that my paper had not made the cut.  I am still waiting for them to complete the joke and let me know my paper has actually been accepted.  However, I am getting a bit worried.  Perhaps SBL has not pulled a prank on me after all.  It sure would have been funny though if they had!

Welcome to the blog of Kevin Scull. Yes this blog is brand spanking new and thus, there isn’t much here yet. I am intending this blog to be about Paul of Tarsus, Christian Origins, and my experiences as a Ph.D. student finishing up his program and attempting to become a scholar. I will include my thoughts on Paul of Tarsus, book reviews, and book blurbs (like a book review only 1 or 2 lines). Many of my NT friends have inspired me to write a blog. I was a co-author near the end of the run of Brandon Wason’s wonderful Novum Testamentum blog. Also, my fellow UCLA grad student Pat McCullough has an interesting blog which has inspired me to create my own. Stay tuned for my next post in which I will introduce myself and regail you with a prank that SBL recently played on me.

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