What to Wear to a Successful PhD Thesis Defense? A Skirt’s Worth of Academic Rejection Letters

Some peo­ple are par­a­lyzed by rejec­tion.

Oth­ers, like Michi­gan State University’s Earth and Envi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences PhD can­di­date, Caitlin Kir­by, sport rejec­tion like a man­tle of hon­or… or more accu­rate­ly, a pleat­ed skirt falling to just below mid-thigh.

“Suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed my PhD dis­ser­ta­tion today!” Kir­by wrote in a Tweet that has since gar­nered over 25,000 likes. “In the spir­it of acknowl­edg­ing & nor­mal­iz­ing fail­ure in the process, I defend­ed in a skirt made of rejec­tion let­ters from the course of my PhD.”

The cus­tom gar­ment, which Kir­by teamed with a dark blaz­er and red waist­band, was orga­nized in two tiers, with a tulle ruf­fle peep­ing out beneath.

MSU’s Career Ser­vices Network’s Direc­tor of Employ­er Rela­tions, Karin Han­son, told the Lans­ing State Jour­nal that rejec­tion comes as a shock to many high achiev­ing MSU stu­dents.

Kirby’s deci­sion to upcy­cle 17 dis­ap­point­ing let­ters received over the course of her aca­d­e­m­ic career was par­tial­ly inspired by a Parks and Recre­ation episode in which the skirt of Leslie Knope’s wed­ding dress is a wear­able col­lage of news­pa­per arti­cles about the char­ac­ter, drawn from ear­li­er episodes

More to the point, Kirby’s skirt is part of an ongo­ing cam­paign to acknowl­edge rejec­tion as a nec­es­sary, if painful, part of aca­d­e­m­ic growth.

The whole process of revis­it­ing those old let­ters and mak­ing that skirt sort of remind­ed me that you have to apply to a lot of things to suc­ceed. It seems coun­ter­in­tu­itive to wear your rejec­tions to your last test in your Ph.D, but we talked about our rejec­tions every week and I want­ed them to be a part of it.

And, as she lat­er not­ed in a tweet:

Accep­tances and rejec­tions are often based on the tra­di­tion­al val­ues of acad­e­mia, which excludes POC by not valu­ing the approach­es, research ques­tions, and expe­ri­ences that POC tend to bring to their work.

Kirby’s let­ters were culled from a vari­ety of sources—scholarship appli­ca­tions, sub­mis­sions to aca­d­e­m­ic jour­nals, and pro­pos­als for con­fer­ence pre­sen­ta­tions.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly and We regret to inform you are recur­rent motifs. About 8 let­ters were left on the cut­ting room floor.

But she is pre­pared to low­er her hem­line, when she starts apply­ing for jobs, fol­low­ing a stint at the Research Insti­tute for Urban and Region­al Devel­op­ment in Dort­mund, Ger­many, the result of a suc­cess­ful Ful­bright appli­ca­tion.

Fol­low Kirby’s exam­ple and turn your tem­po­rary set­backs into a pow­er skirt, using the tuto­r­i­al above.

via Boing Boing 

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read Rejec­tion Let­ters Sent to Three Famous Artists: Sylvia Plath, Kurt Von­negut & Andy Warhol

T.S. Eliot, as Faber & Faber Edi­tor, Rejects George Orwell’s “Trot­skyite” Nov­el Ani­mal Farm (1944)

Gertrude Stein Gets a Snarky Rejec­tion Let­ter from Pub­lish­er (1912)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC on Mon­day, Decem­ber 9 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain, res­ur­rects Dennison’s Christ­mas Book (1921). Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.