Monday, April 30, 2012

Hurry up and wait

So I have my application in to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  My transcripts have been ordered.  I've mailed off my request for a waiver of the GRE.  I've indicated who I want letters of recommendation from.  I've submitted a letter of intent (why do I want to get into the Florida Studies program?), and I've sent a writing sample.

Now it is time to sit patiently and wait, something I'm completely incapable of!  So I'll be itching and climbing the walls until I hear.   And so it goes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

All Graduated

Yesterday was graduation day at the University of North Florida.  It was a lot of "hurry up and wait," so it reminded me of having been in the Coast Guard!

But the "hurry up and wait" was made bearable by friends giving good wishes and making happy talk, and by making acquaintances in the hallway where we were waiting, and just having a good time.  (Read "Six Degrees of Karen Rhodes," today's entry in my blog Karen About Genealogy to see how connections worked yesterday). 

Finally, the time came to line up and filter into the arena floor, where quite comfortable (thank goodness!) folding chairs awaited us.  I was in the last row, but that made me visible to my family, and they got lots of pictures.  The young man sitting to my right, Ray, had acquired his 5-year-old son from grandma and grandpa, sitting nearby in the audience, and held him on his lap for most of the ceremony.  The lad was quite well-behaved, and Ray took him on stage with him.

After being photographed by three photographers as I came off the stage, I was waylaid by a friend who gave me a big hug.  We exchanged congratulations.  Moving down the aisle back to the seats, I was ambushed by three professors and given big hugs.  One professor admonished me that I need more degrees (this is my fourth college degree, and my second Bachelor of Arts).  I said I was working on it!

Another professor accosted me before I got back to the row.  Then it was time for the recessional, and it was all done.

So my time at UNF passes into memory. It was fun!  It was challenging.  It was an experience I would not trade for all of anyone's money.  I may have received my Phi Beta Kappa key at Florida State University in 1969, but I feel like I earned it at UNF in the last four years.

Stay tuned for the further adventures of a historian-in-training. Next step:  Get my application in to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Monday, April 23, 2012


Happy to report that I lived through the defense.  My husband accompanied me, for moral support.  Also, it's part of the entertainment, and one thing I do is keep him entertained. 

Before the session started, we talked to Dr. David Sheffler, the medievalist in the history department.  He was the other member of my thesis committee.  Undergraduate honors theses need only 2 committee members.  I asked Dr. Sheffler if he was prepared with his rubber hose, and he did let me know that the department had outlawed waterboarding last month.

Kidding aside, we began the session.  Dr. J. Michael Francis, one of the latinamericanists  in the department, and the department chair, came in and we started after I introduced my husband.

They began by asking me how I had come up with the idea of my thesis -- that is, that godparenthood in St. Augustine, Florida, during the Second Spanish Period served as a vehicle for the transmission of values, influence and status -- how I developed it, and what methodologies and sources I had used.  That was not difficult.

Then they -- particularly Dr. Francis, as he is more familiar with the location, though his period is the 16th century rather than the late eighteenth and early nineteenth that I'm working in -- asked more penetrating questions, which I was also able to respond to.  The idea is not, as some may think (and some may experience) to tear the thesis and the argument to shreds, but to bring up the questions that the material may demand.  They both said there was a lot of meat in my paper, which generated lots of questions.  And the questions were not necessarily designed to challenge either my thesis or my argument, though some were.  There were plenty of questions which dealt with collateral study opportunities which may arise naturally out of the material I am uncovering.

I am breaking new ground, and this is an important part of a thesis.  If I can complete some of my project -- enough to really show something about godparenthood, or enough to enable a really practical, useful population picture of St. Augustine to be derived -- in three years, in time for the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine's founding, Dr. Francis said I'll be "the golden girl."  It could put me very much in demand for making presentations.  That would be great.  So I have to groom some aspect of this same project for my master's thesis, so I can advance the work just that much more.

I also need to spend the summer not only reading, but also transcribing and translating original documents, either from the East Florida Papers, which are available locally on microfilm, or from actual documents held by the Florida State Archives.  I plan an archives visit this summer.  Next summer, with some of Dr. Francis's travel money for students in the Florida Studies Program at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg (pending my acceptance there), I hope to go to Washington, D.C., to work with the originals of the East Florida Papers, for those portions which do not show up well on microfilm.

It is going to be a busy two years!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The defendant will please rise . . .

Tomorrow, I will be undergoing my first thesis defense.  I have written an undergraduate honors thesis.  Many departments do not require undergraduates to defend their honors theses; the history department does.  Facetiously, Dr. Francis, my mentoring professor and the department chair, and chair of my thesis committee, told the department secretary to reserve the conference room for "Karen Rhodes's interrogation."  I told him to be sure to bring rubber hoses.

To say I am a little nervous would be the truth.  I'm not sure what to expect, beyond that I had better doggone well be familiar with what I have written!  As to that, I just did a complete read-through (and caught a few typos) just to have it a little more fresh in memory.  Memory's a tricky thing to a 65-year-old undergrad!

After the experience tomorrow, I will blog about what it was like.

As soon as I recover from the blows of the rubber hoses!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Caught in the Tide of Events

Many times during my most recent academic adventures, I have felt like I am caught in the riptide of events, powerless to struggle free, swept to my destiny. 

The tide just came in once again, and grabbed me.

One of my chief concerns about the decision of whether to stay at UNF for my master's in history or follow my mentoring professor down to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg (USFSP) has been where I would live.  We do not have a great deal of money for living expenses.

We have a friend who lives in Pinellas Park, but I was not sure how to approach her.  I don't like to seem like I'm begging (which is my own flaw, not hers).  And I had no idea what sort of space she might have.

I need not have worried.  Today, about three or four hours ago, I sent an e-mail to another friend who lives in Lake Wales.  She is friends with the one in Pinellas Park (she introduced me to her).  Tonight I got a phone call from the friend in Pinellas Park.  She has a two-bedroom house and is looking for a roommate.  So we're going to work out the particulars.

I guess I'll be doing my master's at USFSP.  I like the interdisciplinary nature of the Florida Studies program.  It will allow me flexibility to explore topics I would not be able to explore at UNF.  Apparently the History Department at USFSP is stronger than that at UNF.  Unfortunately, UNF is having some problems in that area right now.

Now I need to go print out the admission requirements and get to work meeting them.

And my life takes yet another twist

I like watching "Law & Order," for one thing because of the twists the plot always takes.  I think I like that aspect of it so much because it reminds me of my own life.

I despise job interviews, so I'm happy to be a historian and free-lance writer.  I'm my own boss and do not need to put up with interviews.  What I hate most about them is the awful question, "Where do you see yourself in five/ten years?"

Listen, my life has taken so many twists, I have learned that there is no way I can answer that question!  If someone had told me in 1971 that I would be in the military, I would have laughed.  I wanted to, even as a child, but it was the 1950s and "nice girls" did not do such things.  Well, I was sworn in as an enlisted member of the United States Coast Guard Reserve in February of 1976.

If someone had told me in 1974 that I would be a registered nurse working in Jacksonville's large hospitals, I would have said, "And what have you been smoking?"  I was capped and pinned in 1979, and began working in a hospital.  It did not last long. We had three deaths in the family in the space of two years, and the emotional toll was too much.

If someone had told me in the mid 1980s that I would have a book published, I would have told them they were nuts.  I started work on my first book, Booking Hawaii Five-0: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series in the early 90s, and it was published in 1997.  By the way, after fifteen years, it is still in print.  I have since produced a second, more seriously scholarly book, Non-Federal Censuses of Florida, 1784-1945: A Guide to Sources, which was published in 2010.

If someone had told me in 2002 that I would be going back to college, I would have had them committed to the loony bin as a danger to themselves and others.  I entered the University of North Florida with a double major in history and Spanish in 2007.

And when I entered UNF, if anyone had told me that in five years I would be pursuing a master's degree in history, I would have taken them to the nearest shrink.  I begin my master's studies in the fall.

The question is:  Where will I begin such studies?  And that is the latest twist my life has taken.

I have been accepted into the master's program at the University of North Florida.  However, my mentoring professor, one of the reasons I applied to the graduate school at UNF in the first place, is leaving.  He is going to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, where they have a program in "Florida studies," of which he will be a part.  He has been given an endowed chair there, with funding the like of which he did not get at UNF.  I do not think UNF realizes what they are losing.

So I am contemplating following him down to USFSP.  It will mean family separation, as we cannot move our household down there for a variety of reasons.  But it is only four hours away, so frequent visits home are certainly possible.

There are logistics to be worked out.  What my professor told me is that right now, what I need to do is look at the program of study, then if I like what I see, I need to get my application in.  Then we will see what we need to do to get funding for me.  We can pay for part of it, but with living expenses separate from home being thrown in, the tab has gone up considerably.

I do like the program, which I looked at last night.  It is an interdisciplinary program, and I get to, with the advice and consent of my advisor, design my own program.  I like that a lot.

I have to have a decision in three weeks.  Stay tuned.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Clio's Daughter

Clio, of course, is the Muse of History.  I am a history student.  I have been accepted into the Master of Arts program of the Department of History at the University of North Florida, where in one week I will graduate with my second Bachelor of Arts degree, this one in history and Spanish.

My main area of study is St. Augustine, Florida, and its province of East Florida, during the Second Spanish Period (1784-1821).  I am currently engaged in a long-term research project I began as an undergraduate at UNF, with a grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research.  This project is recreating the family structure of St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period, to analyze the relationships in the community at that time.

I wrote an undergraduate honors thesis on godparenthood in St. Augustine during this period, as a means of transmitting values within a family, and of transmitting influence and status from the elite downward.  It's an interesting study, and vastly incomplete because the sources for this particular period are wonderfully numerous.  There is a lot of research yet to be done.

So, as a historian-in-training, I am definitely Clio's daughter.