In the latest edition of our annual Summer PhD Spotlight series, we are chatting with Dr. John Haberstroh, who has just completed his PhD in History.
What did you get your degree in, and what are you doing now?
I completed my Ph.D. in History (Ancient Mediterranean) with a focus on ancient Greece in June 2022. My research has been on the tensions between local and collective Greek identity in antiquity. I studied the local uses of so-called Panhellenic (“all-Greek”) sanctuaries in the northeast Peloponnese region from the Archaic Period to the Roman conquest of Greece in 146 BC. I was recently hired as an Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Ancient World History at UNLV. This is a career-track, teaching focused faculty position, and I start in August 2022.
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?
One nugget of wisdom I have is that “community doesn’t create itself.” I implore graduate students to find spaces where like-minded people collaborate and build each other up; if no such place exists, then make it yourself and be the change. Take classes and find colleagues outside of your department for real interdisciplinary experiences. Attend as many department, college, and university events as you can stand so that you get the most of your time at UCR. I discovered the idea of writing groups in the last two years of my program, and I wish I had joined them earlier—by the end of my dissertation, I had been a part of at least six different groups of friends and colleagues (not just at UCR). Turns out that accountability measures and reporting weekly progress to my writing group members really worked well for me! Special thanks to the GradSuccess Dissertation Writing Intensive Program for helping me see this.
Leadership and service experiences in academia have developed my problem-solving skills, communication, and political acumen. I was very involved in the graduate student community while at UCR. I was President of the UCR Graduate Student Association (GSA) in 2019-2020. In collaboration with other student leaders, we made a real difference in the lives of UCR graduate students. The final quarter of my term was when the Covid-19 lockdown began, so adjusting our operations to a remote environment and addressing new and intensified challenges was both difficult and rewarding. We need more leaders who can balance the many priorities of a university and be bold advocates for diverse student needs. So, if academia, public policy, advocacy, or working in a non-profit organization is your path, starting out in GSA is a great way to go.
I knew I wanted a teaching-focused career when I arrived in 2015, so I immersed myself in as many workshops, trainings, and experiences as I could. I offered to lead pedagogy workshops in my department, I completed the Graduate Division’s University Teaching Certificate (UTC) program (and I later served as the coordinator of that program), and I sought out instructor-of-record gigs. The UTC program was especially formative not only to my personal teaching techniques and approach, but the program exposed me to a variety of methods by other skilled graduate students. My openness to trying alternative teaching methods, as well as my willingness to try new things and make mistakes, culminated in the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2020-2021.
What did you like best about your graduate work?
Anywhere you go, there are special people who work hard to make the community better. I was blessed with a thoughtful and caring advisor, Dr. Denver Graninger, who was supportive of my research, teaching, and service.
Is there anything you wish you had done, or regret doing/not doing, while you were a UCR graduate student?
Readers might not expect to see this, but I have no regrets about my time at UCR—I involved myself in so many different areas of the university, I traveled for research (including a fellowship year in Greece), and I was able to attain a full-time position in my field. I acknowledge the privilege of having a spouse who could support me during the last seven years at UCR.
What are you most looking forward to in your new position/post-graduate life?
I am most looking forward to reading outside of my field—I love ancient Greece, but as a world history instructor I will need to build on my knowledge of other regions and time periods. Now that the dissertation is done, I can also return to a few back-burner projects and send them out for publication. Graduate school also required sacrificing many hobbies that I hope to return to, like long-distance running and playing music.
What advice do you have for other graduate students at UCR about finishing their degrees, going on the job market, or life in general?
First, carve out time each day for your priorities. We often hear people say “Oh, there isn’t enough time in the day…,” but twenty-four hours is plenty of time to work on what you need—it is simply a matter of deciding what is most important. I’ve lived off my calendar for years, setting aside devoted time for writing and research, composing applications, events, and personal time. Be strategic and reasonable in what time commitments you make. There were many times, especially during the later part of my program, when I had to decline certain events and opportunities because I had family obligations and my kids needed me. Related to this is learning how and when to say “no.” All of this takes practice—so seek the advice of your peers and colleagues.
Second, stay organized. There are a lot of moving parts in graduate student life. Especially when I was on the job market, there were so many different pieces and idiosyncrasies of applications, and there was always a due date coming up. I kept a running list of application folders with all the required documents with a color-coded system so that I could keep track of what was started, in-progress, and finished. It also helped me to remember submitting letter of recommendation requests in a timely manner.
Third, γνῶθι σεαυτόν—“know thyself” in Ancient Greek. This aphorism inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi reminds us that we must know our limits, our abilities, and our dreams. Reflect regularly on what you are experiencing in graduate school and where you want to be. You are at UCR because you are able capable—knowing yourself will help you see and realize your own potential.