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Counting hatched chickens, nos. 1-3

In which I explain three of the four of my heretofore uncounted hatched allegorical poultry…

As both of my longtime readers might recall, I was in a very real state of professional despair at the beginning of the 2008-2009 academic year. Much had gone wrong; I had been working my tail off only to be told, “You can’t get there from here,” it appeared that nobody had any idea what to do with me, and it seemed like I was totally out of options.

Wanting to still take advantage of my IU employee fee courtesy but feeling overwhelmed at the thought of taking more Syriac and starting Coptic with no clear road to having anything I might be able to do with them, I did a two-for-one swap for Modern Greek, figuring that I would be able to leverage the work I’ve done with ancient Greek and have a reasonable semester or two.

Long story short, the Modern Greek professor and I uncovered the idea that me doing a Masters in West European Studies would be beneficial for both of us. It would help me convert a good chunk of my unmatriculated credits into a degree within a semester and a half or so, and having an additional graduate student who specialized in Modern Greek issues whom he could add to his roster would help him in his efforts to raise the visibility of the Modern Greek program here. He gave me some very useful counsel on my personal statement, wrote a letter of recommendation, and in general went to bat for me every step of the way.

This brings me to hatched chicken #1, previously announced here, that I was admitted to the Masters program in West European Studies back in December.

While I was gathering my letters of recommendation for West European Studies, a member of the History faculty whom I had approached to write for me said, “Yes, I’m happy to write, but have you thought about applying to History again?” No, I replied, I hadn’t; it had rather seemed to me that the door had been closed on that possibility when I was turned down three years ago. This person disagreed, and very much encouraged me to apply. “You’re a much different candidate than you were then,” I was told, “and I’m not concerned about you having a B.Mus. rather than a B.A. in light of the other things you’ve accomplished in that time. I think it would be worth the fifty bucks for you to apply.” I was told, very frankly, that funding could well be an issue for a number of reasons, and it would take some talking to get me admitted as an unfunded student if it came down to that, but I was also told that as much advocacy for my case as this person could legitimately offer throughout the process would be employed. I was dubbed a “professional applicant” by another member of the History faculty when I discussed this matter with them. This is somebody who has been there since the first time I applied to History, and with whom I’ve had a near-annual conversation about what I’m applying to next. I alluded to this in an intentionally vague manner here.

To make a really long and drawn-out story a little less long and drawn out, I am thrilled to say that hatched chicken #2 is that I have been admitted to graduate program in the Ancient Studies field of the Department of History, and I’ve been awarded a five-year funding package. Exactly where I’m focusing my interests is still coalescing, but it will be the Late Antique Byzantine Empire someplace, probably with a particular interest in Syria and the Middle East.

We’re not quite done yet. West European Studies encouraged me to apply for a kind of a fellowship called a FLAS — Foreign Language and Area Studies. Essentially, it’s federal money which supports graduate study of modern languages, and there are two components, an academic year component and a summer component. The academic year component is full support for two semesters; the summer component supports summer study of at least a certain number of contact hours, including travel if necessary. I applied for both components with Modern Greek as my language; once again, my Greek professor had some very useful advice on my personal statement, and was happy to write a letter of recommendation.

And thus and so it came to pass that I found myself with hatched chicken #3, the academic year FLAS. History has been obliging enough to allow it to displace, rather than replace, a year of my funding package with them, meaning I have six years of full support with a good chunk of coursework already completed.I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but I should have a reasonable amount of space in which to get it done.

Then there is that fourth κοτοπουλάκι running around here someplace. He’s hatched, but I need to make sure he calms down and won’t try to fly away (thus falling to the ground like a stone) before I show him to my friends. That shouldn’t be long.

In terms of why I’ve had to be circumspect about some of this, well, word on blogs and Facebook accounts tends to travel fast, and I have both an employer to consider as well as various other people whom I could put in an awkward position if I said anything prematurely. Until egg #4 hatched (or broke apart revealing a runny yolk), I couldn’t tell those good people anything for certain (and it will be clear why once I can tell you about it), and I couldn’t really announce it publicly until I told them what was happening. In general, I try to not post anything that might come back to bite me later on.

One way or the other, this has all been a rather stunning turn of events for me. Although my path has remained less-than-linear, to say the least, it’s been a real game-changer of a year, let me tell you. Δόξα τῷ θεῷ πάντων ἕνεκεν!

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