Monday, March 13, 2006

More anti-sexism

I know anti-sexism day was last week, but this entry got me thinking.
My first year in graduate school, I applied for a very prestigious national pre-dissertation fellowship. While this fellowship is awarded to a large number of applicants, it is still very competitive. Most applicants for this fellowship are college seniors, planning their graduate school career. First-year graduate students are allowed to apply, but there is the general impression that they are much less likely to get the award. There were two women in my department's subfield, who had matriculated into the program the year before I did, who were awarded the fellowship. My fellow advisees -- both men -- were not awarded the fellowship.
I won the fellowship. I was the only one be awarded it at my graduate institution -- the entire institution, not just my department -- that year. (In a side note, my undergraduate college, despite being a "mere" teaching school, had three awardees that year.)
When people who know about this fellowship hear that I received it, they are usually impressed.
I usually dismiss the accomplishment as due to my gender.
Part of it is that I'm trying to not appear stuck-up. I don't know how to be proud of my accomplishments politely. But part of it is that I really don't understand why I received the fellowship. I don't think that I had any more accomplishments than either of my fellow advisees; in fact, I probably had fewer. I'm fairly sure my advisor thinks that one of them is a much better scholar/academic than I am. Maybe this advisee wasn't at the time, but I don't think that he grew and I failed so greatly in the few intervening years. I don't think my work is that unusual -- interesting, eye-catching, original. I definitely feel like I have failed to live up to whatever potential the awarding committee saw.
And yet... I shouldn't dismiss it as gender. All the awardees in my institution's subfield are women (a fourth woman, who matriculated the year after me, was also awarded the fellowship). They are better, more experienced researchers than I, with at least as many accomplishments (if not more) as my fellow advisees. It seems safe to say that they all received the fellowship because of their abilities.
So why do I feel like I didn't?
-- I noticed when someone (politely; Emily Post would have been proud) cut off one of my extensive forays into details & tangents. This blog is already paying off!
-- If I need a topic, I could discuss teaching vs. research again, or perhaps write a response to this post. I should think of some better mini-essay topics.
-- I am taking off one day this week. I think it will be Wednesday. At least I'm giving notice instead of just letting the work drop by the wayside. Unfortunately, I may miss Friday also. So much for every weekday.


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