In the latest edition of our annual Summer PhD Spotlight series, we are chatting with Dr. Xiomara Forbez, who has just completed her PhD in Critical Dance Studies.
What did you get your degree in, and what are you doing now?
My PhD is in Critical Dance Studies and I’m currently spending the summer doing some revisions on the dissertation, hanging out with family and friends, and relaxing. I head to France for a two-month residency in September where I’ll continue working on my second project.
What are the top 2-3 things you did while at UCR that helped you finish your degree (and get a position in your field, if you have)? What was most helpful to you as a student here?
- Setting up writing groups and accountability groups. Because most of my dissertation writing happened during the pandemic, having daily scheduled Zoom writing sessions kept me writing and moving forward even when I didn’t feel like working. Even before the pandemic, I was never really a fan of working at coffee shops – working on Zoom with a friend or friends was a nice compromise – still at home but working in community.
- 100 day writing challenge for the win! This really helped me get into a daily working practice. I committed to working at least 30 mins a day, and some days that’s all I did while other days I worked longer. Being able to say I put my time in every day made progress more tangible. I also kept track of my progress via Instagram so it kept me accountable and helped document and record my progress and my process. Whenever I was feeling down about the dissertation, I’d go back and look at the photos and keep pushing forward.
- The Graduate Writing Center! I like to brainstorm and process out loud so it was nice to have people willing to do that with me.
What did you like best about your graduate work? What did you like least?
I love that I made it a point to travel for my research. I went to Hawai’i, Japan, and I had plans to go to the Dominican Republic but had to cancel to take care of family. I also really liked working with popular culture in the form of movies, TV shows, and TikTok. The thing I liked the least about my graduate work was having to juggle teaching, research, writing, and doing extra jobs on campus. As much as I love to multitask, I would have liked some more time to focus and not have to worry so much about funding.
Is there anything you wish you had done, or regret doing/not doing, while you were a UCR graduate student?
Bagpipes! I absolutely regret not taking the bagpipes ensemble class through the Music Department. Time just got away from me but I know it would have been a cool learning experience. My second year of grad school I took the Taiko ensemble class with Rev. Tom and it was the best class! I had always wanted to play drums and I finally did. Most of my music experience prior to grad school was solo – piano, cello – but playing in an ensemble was so rewarding! Grad school, especially writing, is often a pretty isolating experience (at least for the humanities) so doing things in community helps get some balance. I also wish I could have taken more classes. Even though I did take classes outside my area, I always wanted to take a class in Art, Creative Writing, Physics, and Engineering.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position/post-graduate life?
The last two years of grad school, I started a UCR rock band class (shoutout to Crista Truit, James Sale and James Diaz!) via independent study, I was the Co-President (shoutout to Co-President Magnolia Yang Sao Yia!) of our mini dance GSA, and I directed and produced several dance and theater Zoom performances (shoutout to Priscilla Marrero and Esther Banegas Gatica!). Through these experiences, I realized how much I enjoy creative work and collaborating with others. I’m looking forward to developing an artistic practice and to working on different projects. Graduate school was all about committing to a long project, which was helpful and important training, but I can now indulge in experiments and shorter scale projects to my heart’s content (well, as much as my wallet allows).
What advice do you have for other graduate students at UCR about finishing their degrees, going on the job market, or life in general?
It took me 8 years to finish my degree and many of those years were spent thinking I wouldn’t be able to finish. But I kept at it – five different writing challenges, countless Zoom writing sessions, writing exchanges with friends, writing center meetings, meetings with advisors and mentors. Eventually, slowly, I got to the finish line. So if you’re ever feeling in doubt of yourself or your progress, remember it’s the little things that add up. Also, start cultivating the life you want to live now – don’t wait till after grad school. Granted, many things will be different (and easier hopefully) after grad school but find ways to live a life that you want to live and that you’re happy with.