SBL


Well SBL 2011 is done and I’m back home so I thought I would post my reflections of the event.  As always it was a stimulating and rewarding experience.  If you have not yet attended an SBL event I highly suggest you make next year your first.

Highlights

Pat McCullough always does a great job putting together panels that are both informative and entertaining and this year’s panel was no exception.  While all the speakers were tremendous, Margaret Mitchell’s words had the strongest impact on me.  A few weeks before SBL I had gotten stuck on one particular problem with my dissertation, closely related to my methodology.  Mitchell reminded the room that while methodologies are useful, questions are what drive the discussions and one’s work.  This statement helped me break through my own wall by reminding me that my methodology is just a tool for answering the questions I’m pursuing.  While this may seem like a simple truism, they were certainly words I needed to hear at that moment.  Amy Jill Levine was also incredibly entertaining.  I had not had the pleasure of hearing her speak before, and while she was informative, I will always remember her candor and outrageous comments.  Well done Mr. McCullough I look forward to seeing what you put together next year!

Presenting my work before the Rhetoric and the New Testament group.  This work done by this group has greatly influenced the direction of my dissertation.  Thus, I was excited to present my work before the group and was hoping that their critiques would not be too scathing.  Although, the audience was small, as my paper was presented from 6:00 – 6:30, influential members of the group were in attendance.  I especially appreciated the feedback offered by Greg Bloomquist, as his monograph on Paul and suffering directly influenced my own paper.  Moreover, after the session ended, we were able to talk for a while and this encounter allowed me to probe him for advice at another meeting of the Rhetoric and the New Testament group.  It was also great to meet Greg Carey and exchange thoughts with him.  Essentially, this meeting helped confirm that this group could serve as a home for my dissertation work.

Peter Head’s SBL closing presentation.  I have an interest in papyrology; but I often find the papers too technical or internal discussion oriented.  Head’s paper was both interesting and entertaining, though the entertaining part was probably unintentional.  There were serious technical difficulties which limited the length of his talk and turned 15 slides into hilarious one liners leading up to a 10 minute information packed presentation.  If this is how all papyrology papers were presented I wouldn’t miss a single one!

Talking to Duane Watson in the airport.  My table for lunch at some overpriced airport restaurant was ready and my lunch mate was pushing me to wrap up this conversation quickly.  However, I had burning questions about my dissertation that I had to ask given this opportunity.  Watson was also waiting for a table and was kind enough to provide me with some valuable information. 

Seeing friends and colleagues.  I’ll never forget my first SBL in 2004; I knew no one at the event and basically wandered around between papers and ate alone wondering how one got more involved in this sea of people.  Now 8 years later I can’t walk more than about 20 feet without seeing someone I know.  My SBL experience has drastically changed and this is due to the many people I consider friends.  I may not see them or even communicate with them all year, but it’s great seeing them at SBL.  So while I would love to give a shout out to every one of these people this list would be longer and more laborious to read than the genealogies in Matthew and Luke.

Lowlights

While I have enjoyed San Franciscoduring previous visits, it is not ideal for SBL.  The hotels were too spread out (often a 10 minute walk or more separating them) to attend all the papers I wanted to see.  I was often forced to make choices between papers even when they did not overlap.

Well, with SBL Annual Meeting nearly upon us and my Winter Quarter teaching rapidly approaching I decided it was time to start posting regularly again.  I must admit I was a bit surprised to see the length of my last drought; but, alas what is done is done.  On to more exciting topics, namely the SBL 2010 Meeting in Atlanta.  I will post a few times this week about events I plan to attend but I thought I would start today with some of the Professional Development sessions, many of which are hosted by members of the Student Advisory Council.  In the past I have not attended these sessions as there are always many interesting sessions happening simultaneously and I chose others instead.  However, this year I have two friends hosting sessions and I’m on the job market so I thought I would take a closer look at these potentially valuable sessions.

S20-314            Finding Your “Niche” in Biblical Scholarship

This session hosted by fellow blogger and UCLA PhD student Pat McCullough looks rather promising for anyone struggling to find a niche in this field growing more saturated by the day.  I remember the days when I was trying to find my niche and my feelings of dread the closer I got to working on my dissertation.  Pat has put together an all-star panel of established scholars ready to share their wisdom.

S21-212            From Dissertation to Publication: Advice from Editors and Authors

Another friend of mine, Brandon Wason, is hosting this panel which should prove especially useful for individuals like myself nearing the end of the dissertation process.

S21-314            E-Publish or Perish?

This is the professional development session which intrigues me most.  Is e-publishing a viable and respectable  CV building outlet, something akin to blogging, or somewhere in the middle.   I will be at this session listening with great interest.

S22-131            Navigating the Job Market

This is by far the scariest of the professional development sessions.  As one on the job market I’m not sure that I’m ready to confirm the harsh realities of the current job market which I have already found out first hand.  Since it takes place during my presentation on Monday morning I suppose I will have to hear this information second hand.

Well, those are just a few of the useful professional development sessions being held this year.  I highly suggest you head over to the SBL website and view them for yourself.  While, listening to world class scholarship is a must make sure you use some of your time at SBL to network and acquire the necessary tools for finding your place in the field, opportunities for publishing, and improve your chances of finding a job when you graduate.

 

Well this Thursday marks the beginning of the NAPS (North American Patristics Society) 2010 national conference in Chicago.  It is the first one I have attended so I’m not quite sure what to expect.  I have heard it is not nearly as large as the annual SBL conference and the NAPS website says it plans on having over 250 visitors.  Also unlike SBL where I now have dozens of people to catch up with every year I am guessing that I will know 0 people at NAPS.  So if you are going to be at NAPS let me know. 

The program lists 5 papers concerning Paul, including my own  paper comparing Ignatius and Paul and their use of self-effacing language. 

Session 11: Kevin Scull, University of California, Los Angeles – “Self-Effacement in the Letters of Ignatius and Paul” 

Carl Smith, Cedarville University – “Ministry, Martyrdom, and Other Mysteries: Pauline Influence on Ignatius” 

Session 21: Thomas Scheck, Ave Maria University – “St. Jerome on Predestination, Free Will, and Divine Foreknowledge in his Exegesis of St. Paul” 

Session 22: Matthew Recla, University of California, Santa Barbara – “Emperor and Apostle: Constantinian Theology in the Pauline Tradition” 

Session 40:  Joel Willitts, North Park University – “Paul and Jewish Christians in the Second Century” 

  

This weekend Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona will be hosting the pacific coast regional SBL conference.  The SBL portion of the program begins on Sunday, March 14th and there will be two papers presented on Paul.   Both papers will be presented at 2:15 in the New Testament Epistles and Apocalypse section.  The first will be presented by me, Kevin Scull, and is titled Paul’s Use of Self-Representation in Galatians.  This will be the first of at least three conferences this year (perhaps 4 if my paper is accepted at the national SBL conference) in which I present papers examining Paul’s use of self presentation.  The second paper will be presented by Kenneth Waters and is titled,  Politics and Polemic: Hidden Strategy in Paul’s Rhetoric of Empire (Romans 13:1-7).  I am certainly interested in hearing Waters take on this important passage.  So if you are in the Tempe area this weekend come listen to the excellent papers at WECSOR and be sure to introduce yourself.

In part one of this series I presented two pieces of advice which I prepared for the SBL panel Things I Wish I Knew about a Ph.D.  During this panel I focused on embracing one’s role as a student and preparing for one’s career from the beginning of their Ph.D. program.  In this installment I will discuss some other issues that I addressed during the SBL panel discussion and other pieces of advice that I should have mentioned.

Live close to campus –  This is more important than it may seem.  In addition to saving money on gas and time on the road, living close to campus will allow you to stay more connected to your program.  Unfortunately, I live an hour (when traffic is light) from campus and this has prevented me from attending many functions I wanted to attend.

Understand your funding options – This is especially important when choosing a program.  Don’t choose a program over another based on incomplete funding information.  For instance, I nearly chose a program that was going to give me 8k a year because UCLA was unwilling to give me a financial package.  However, once I did my research I found that nearly all 2nd year students get TAships worth over 15K.  These TAships are then available every year after, along with dissertation grants and other options.  However, other programs that do not award financial packages do not ever provide financial aid and expect their students to pay tuition.  Make sure you thoroughly examine all of the options before choosing a school.

Qualifying Exams – My advice here is two fold.  First, warn your family, friends, etc. that this is a major time commitment and extremely stressful.  You will disappear for extended periods and even when you are present in body your mind will almost certainly be elsewhere.  Second, when you see your exam questions don’t panic.  Answer the questions as well as you can.  Some professors purposely make difficult questions knowing you will struggle.

Establish a relationship with your advisor and examiners – Establish a positive relationship with your advisor, faculty, and examiners as early as possible.  The better your relationship the better your recommendations will be and the more confident your will be going into your qualifying exams.  By the time I took my exams I knew my examiners so well that I was able to guess (accurately) the types of questions they would ask.  There are a number of steps you can take to establish positive relationships with these individuals.  Most obvious is taking their courses.  There’s no better way to determine what is important to your faculty then taking a course from them.  Another great way to connect with your faculty is to grade for them.  I was either a TA or grader for most of my examiners.

Rely on your departmental staff and treat them well – Don’t assume your professors know everything about the nuts and bolts of your program.  They may actually have all the answers, but they may not.  Even worse they may have outdated information.  Essentially, it’s not their job to know this information.  Get to know and rely upon the knowledge of the department staff.  These people know what forms need to be filled out and which hoops need to be jumped through when.  Finally, treat them well and when you are in a bind they will go to great lengths to help you out.

Children, wait – My advice here is wait, wait, wait.  Wait until you are done with your program if at all possible.  For some reason at UCLA it seems to be a requirement to have children during your program, as all of us in the Christian Origins program have children.  However, if you are going to have children during your program wait until after your exams.  If you read my above advice you know that exam prep is brutal and I cannot imagine preparing for exams and caring for one or more children.

Marry someone with a “real job” – Okay this advice is a bit tongue in cheek, but most people I know who are successfully navigating Ph.D. programs have a spouse with a “real job.”  Having someone in the family earning more than 15K a year makes life a lot easier.

Massive time commitment – If you don’t realize Ph.D. programs are a major time commitment then you either are not in a program or have never talked to anyone who has gone through a Ph.D. program.  My advice here is to be as straightforward with those around you as you can.  My first quarter was rough because my wife and I had worked out a time schedule before I started my program.  However, after I began I quickly realized we had not allotted enough time for my work.  Things were rough until we reassessed the situation and made a new schedule.  Be honest with yourself and those who rely on you, they will understand (at least you hope they will).  Set aside time to spend with your family and do your best to honor this time.  Date night is a great idea.

Well that is all the advice I can think of at this moment.  If I think of more advice I will post a third entry for this series.  If anyone else out there has some advice please put it in the comments section.  Perhaps, if there are enough suggestions, I will add a third entry into the series consisting of your advice.

Usually I restrict my posts to topic concerning Paul of Tarsus but I also like to post helpful resources for students.  Thus, I have decided to post a summary of my SBL presentation  Things I Wish I Knew about a Ph.D.

During my presentation I addressed two points, embracing one’s role as a student and preparing for one’s career from the beginning on one’s education.  However, in this series I will also address issues concerning funding and qualifying exams.

Embracing one’s role as a student

My advice here is simply this, remember you are a student in a Ph.D. program to learn.  Everyone has gaps in their knowledge and your education is an excellent time to address these gaps.  Taking a wide variety of courses will address gaps in knowledge and provide material for future work allowing you to make connections that would otherwise be missed.  Don’t be afraid of looking foolish in courses or fields in which you are a novice.  Additionally, research a wide variety of topics during your coursework. There is no shame in not knowing something.  It seems that many Ph.D. students are a bit afraid to show any weakness in front of their world renowned faculty and other students who seem to know everything, however, it will serve you well to fully embrace your time as a students.

Prepare for your career early

At the beginning of a 5-7 year program it can be difficult at times to see the big picture.  Coursework can become overwhelming followed by the all encompassing nature of exam prep.  However, it you wait until after your qualifying exams to prepare for your career, it really is too late.  There are a number of small steps you can take throughout your Ph.D. program to prepare for your career.

1.) Take a variety of classes and not just classes that seem interesting to you but rather courses in “hot” fields.  Universities are looking for professors who are not limited to the traditional historical critical methods but have broader training in additional fields and hermeneutics.  My advice is to check the job postings on the SBL website and take a few courses in areas that employers are seeking.  While this can easily be addressed during one’s coursework, cultivating a new area of expertise while working on a dissertation can be very difficult. Here are two recent job postings:

  • Seattle University – We are particularly interested in applicants with expertise in liberation, feminist, African-American, Latino/a, Asian, or ecological hermeneutics
  • University of South Carolina – Strong candidates should have expertise in one or more of the following areas: interdisciplinary approaches to Scripture; knowledge of various interpretive traditions, including postmodern, feminist, multicultural, or global; knowledge of popular/emerging cultures of the Mediterranean; or material culture

2.) Universities will request recommendations, this is obvious.  However, what may not be as obvious is the fact that universities will want recommendations on your teaching skills.  This means inviting your professors to watch you teach and add their thoughts to a your file.  Ideally they will observe your own classes but for many this is not feasible.  Thus, I would suggest even as a TA having your professors observe your section.

3.) Present papers at conferences.  There are endless opportunities to present your work: graduate students conferences, regional SBL, and the national SBL to name a few.  While you may not be confident enough in your research to present your work to the vast array of scholars at the national SBL conference, graduate student conferences are an excellent place to begin.  Presenting papers at graduate student conferences allows you to gain valuable experience presenting before a group and receiving criticism in a group setting.  Additionally, you will probably receive valuable feedback on your work and all presentations are great for your CV.  I suggest working your way up the conference ladder, start with a graduate student conference and then move up to the regional SBL conference in your area.  Try to present at least one paper a year.

4.) Another excellent opportunity available during your Ph.D. program is writing articles for encyclopedias.   These articles are a great opportunity to fill CV with some publications.  However, be careful these entries are more difficult than they might appear.  While writing 600 words on a topic sounds easy it is not!  These short articles require a rather large time commitment so do not agree to do many.  A friend of mine agreed to do 5 during one summer and was completely overwhelmed by them.

5.) As a  professor you will be part of a department.  Thus, it will be expected that you take on administrative duties.  This willingness can be demonstrated by taking on some duties during your program.  I was the liason for Religion subfield to the History Department Graduate Students Association and  UCLA’s SBL’s Student Representative.  Neither duty took much time but both are excellent for my CV.

However, a word of warning, be careful about overextending yourself.  Don’t put so much focus on your long term goals that you get overwhelmed.  Remember your primary role is as a student.  Taking on even one small administrative role, article, or course every year will amount to quite a bit over a five to seven year period.

This concludes part 1.  Next time I will provide some further thoughts on things I wish I knew before I started my Ph.D. program.

This is the last post in my series of posts concerning my whereabouts during SBL.  The Saturday early evening time slot has a few promising sessions.  I will almost certainly be attending the Pauline Epistles section whose theme is The First Urban Christians Twenty-Five Years Later.  This section will examine the impact of Wayne Meek’s influential work The First Urban Christians and has important panelists such as David Horrell and Wayne Meeks.  Although this session looks excellent, I am seriously considering arriving late in order to hear James McGrath’s paper in the Intertexuality and the New Testament section.  McGrath’s paper examines a topic I am quite interested in, aurality and orality.

Pauline Epistles
11/21/2009
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: La Galerie 1 & 2 – MR

Theme: After the First Urban Christians: The Social Scientific Study of Pauline Christianity Twenty Five Years Later

Alexandra R. Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
David G. Horrell, University of Exeter, Panelist (15 min)
Todd D. Still, Baylor University, Panelist (15 min)
Wayne A. Meeks, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Break (5 min)
Steven J. Friesen, University of Texas at Austin, Panelist (20 min)
Margaret MacDonald, St. Francis Xavier University, Panelist (20 min)
Discussion (55 min)

Intertextuality in the New Testament
11/22/2009
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Rhythms Ballroom 1 – SH

Theme: Exploring Methods: Hearing, Remembering, and Contextualizing the Intertext

B. J. Oropeza, Azusa Pacific University, Presiding
James F. McGrath, Butler University
On Hearing (Rather Than Reading) Intertextual Echoes: Methodological Considerations Related to Aurality, Orality, and Intertextuality (30 min)
Jill Hicks-Keeton, Duke University
Remember and Believe: Psalm 69:9 in the Johannine Temple Logion (30 min)
Kenneth D. Litwak, Azusa Pacific University
Text, Pretext, Proof Text, Context: Should We Consider the Original Contexts of Intertexts? (30 min)
Stephen Moyise, University of Chichester, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)

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