Five Questions for UCHRI Grantees: Jessica Schwartz

Published on October 5, 2016



Now that UCHRI’s calls for applications are open for the 2017-18 academic year, we are profiling previous grantees by asking them five questions about their experience, including any advice they have for potential applicants. This week we are speaking with Jessica Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Musicology at UCLA, who received a 2015-16 Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop grant to prepare her manuscript for publication.

What appealed to you about the Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop grant and why did you apply?

I applied to the UCHRI Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop grant for three main reasons.

First, after receiving the readers’ reports from my editor and revising my manuscript, I felt the project would benefit from critical, collaborative discussion among scholars from diverse fields, and ultimately, their insights would offer new perspectives and help me assess the success of my revision goals. I have learned from workshops, conferences, and invited lectures that collaborative commentary and discussion is one of the most productive ways to begin revisions, from refining small points to unpacking larger claims. I believe strongly that critical attention to my work helps me focus my arguments and broadens perspective. Talking with exceptionally insightful scholars pushes me to think beyond the limits of what is on the page.

Second, my project, Radiation Sounds: Marshallese Music and Nuclear Silences, is highly interdisciplinary. To analyze the ways in which Marshallese musical material, sound, and performance share and shape our global nuclear legacy, I draw from scholarly work in fields such as anthropology, rhetoric, indigenous and Pacific studies, American studies, and women and gender studies. Bringing together six scholars from different disciplines—primarily fields that are not my “home” (musicology)—seemed crucial in preparing a cogent thesis and supporting interpretations with a depth that speaks meaningfully to music scholars (e.g., musicologists, ethnomusicologists) and scholars with whom my work intellectually dialogues.

Third, I wanted more feedback about my revised manuscript prior to the post-contract submission to my publisher, and six more critiques of my work would help me assess whether and in which ways I had met or fallen short of my revision goals. The two anonymous readers’ reports, my editor’s insights, and comments by dedicated friends and colleagues were instrumental in terms of specific chapters and revisions, but it has been difficult during the ever-busy academic year to read the entire manuscript myself more than a few times, much less expect six scholars in several disciplines to provide a critique in their “spare time.” I was excited to be able to offer the participants an honorarium, which allowed me to request a definite date by which their reading would be completed.

Can you discuss the process of developing and offering your workshop (e.g., how did you prepare, what did you hope to learn, how was your workshop organized)?

The UCHRI Junior Faculty Workshop application stressed that the majority of participants should be UC Faculty and one or two could be from outside universities. I was having a difficult time narrowing my lists down, so I wrote to Juliet Williams, UCLA’s representative on the UCHRI Advisory Committee. We met and discussed my application and rationale for applying. She read through my project and pointed me in the direction of four other faculty from whose work she felt mine would benefit. Instead of narrowing the list, the list was actually expanded, but I had a better sense of the workshop. I went back over the readers’ reports and matched the scholars that I felt would contribute the most in helping work through reader comments and my plans to revise the manuscript.   

In terms of preparation—after the scholars agreed to participate in the workshop and we found a convenient time for us all to meet, I sent a preliminary schedule. Without templates, I structured how I would lead the workshop and made my own handouts.

From the initial planning phase through the end of the workshop, what stands out to you as the most beneficial element?

The actual workshop was very challenging, and I am still processing the group and individual comments as I work through the larger-scale revisions in preparation for publication.  The direction I received was incredible, and I learned a great deal about setting goals and creating an environment where those goals can be met. Two aspects of the workshop from which I continue to benefit are having to distill my arguments and articulate my work to expert scholars in advance of the actual publication and hearing/receiving their honest feedback, both during and after the workshop.

What do you wish you had known before starting the grant, and is there anything you would have done differently?

I realized that I would have benefitted from more one-on-one time with the expert scholars. I did have a two-day workshop, but I would organize it differently. After the opening presentation of my work in front of all of the expert scholars, I would give participants the opportunity to comment on the project based on the feedback sheet I circulated in advance. This would last four hours and would be followed by a group dinner. The following day, I would meet with scholars individually for one hour each to make sure I understood their questions, comments, and advice.

What advice do you have for applicants and recipients of the Junior Faculty Manuscript Workshop grant?

This is a wonderful opportunity. For applicants, I would stress that you present a very strong rationale based on the work you have already done. Having concrete reasons why your project would benefit from this workshop will also strengthen the application. For grant recipients, I would advise that you begin thinking about the organization and timeline of the actual event early in your planning process. As I stated above, I realized that instead of having a group for both days, I would have benefitted from some individual meetings as well. I imagine that is not true for everyone, and it helps to imagine the scenario far in advance. Also, consider whether you want to give your expert scholars reading or review guidelines. If so, think about how far in advance you would like to share your guidelines and the way in which these guidelines relate to your workshop goals. Trying to envision how to meet your goals for manuscript revisions is important. Overall, learning how to articulate your project goals and findings beyond the elevator speech, abstract, and job talk to actual scholars that are present only to help you is difficult, exhilarating, energizing, exhausting, and—most importantly—amazingly worthwhile.

I want to extend my sincerest appreciation to UCHRI and my expert scholars for this amazing experience as I finish up my manuscript revisions. Thank you!