Graduate School and Early Modern Europe

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE The phenomenal growth in knowledge, which we are witnessing today in many areas of science and technology, is the result of the tireless efforts of a large number of teachers and students deeply committed to widening the horizons of human knowledge through painstaking research. Many of us of the younger generation are the beneficiaries, both intellectually and materially, of the outstanding work done in the field of computer engineering.
As a student of information technology and computer science, it is my ambition to contribute my mite to the widening and deepening of knowledge in the area of information technology and computer science in general. My undergraduate education in Information technology has enabled me to grasp the fundamental concepts in this area of study. I have excelled in most of the courses that I have taken which include Computer networks, Operating Systems, Microprocessor & Interfacing and Database Management Systems among others; a pointer to my sound analytical and computational skills.
My academic prowess can be gauged from the fact that I topped my department in the Microprocessors course and secured the 3rd rank in my fourth semester examinations in a highly competitive class. One of my unique achievements has been in pedagogy. It was during my fifth semester, when I was helping my peers with the computationally intensive courses we had to take up then, that I realized the efficacy of the statement “To learn better, teach”. The incessant queries of my friends’ made me brood deeper into the subject whilst they enhanced their understanding of it.

My achievement was the substantial improvement in grades for both my peers and me. The numerous seminars, which I have conducted in my class in areas both within and out of the scope of my curriculum, have honed my communication skills and I am confident that I would be an effective teaching assistant. My team-playing ability and leadership qualities came to the fore during “Interrupt 2006”, a national level technical symposium conducted by the Department of Computer Science, wherein I coordinated a variety of technical and non-technical events that were widely appreciated.
I am currently working in Egrove Systems Corporation as a Programmer and Analyst, a renowned multi-national firm involved in IT solutions. My first hand exposure to the industry’s working in designing and developing has helped in redefining my perspective and approach towards creating new ones myself. I have a dream to work in a place where latest technology is devised and where standards and protocols are dictated. Ultimately however, I do not want to follow oft beaten trails but blaze a new one for others to follow.
It is to realize this that I want to work towards a Masters degree and later for a PhD. It is each person’s dream to graduate from a prestigious school that can provide the launching-pad for his/her career. Though there is a plethora of options, the pride of place goes to the University that is reputed for its standard par excellence – an honor that goes to none other than to your university. I understand that this University offers exiting and unique opportunities for research and learning. As for my future, it is my desire to explore the realms of computer networks and programming design.
I also want to build on the strong foundation that I have acquired during my undergraduate study with a Masters degree and follow it up with a Doctoral one. To achieve this and to attain my goals, I strongly believe that the Computer Science program at your university would place me at the fulcrum of today’s technology in computers. I look forward to being a part of your program in Advanced computer science and would consider myself fortunate to secure an admission into the Masters program at your University since it fits my interests exactly.
It is with great optimism that I apply to your school and I sincerely hope for an association that would be mutually beneficial. Ramji Prasad Myrtheunjayan Graduate study is not for slackers. It takes focus and determination to pursue an advanced degree. That’s why admissions committees examine your statement of purpose very closely–they want to see whether you have the right stuff to succeed in graduate school. What are they really asking anyway? Different schools will give you different prompts for the statement of purpose.
Nonetheless, they’re all asking for the same four pieces of information: • What you want to study at graduate school? • Why you want to study it? • What experience you have in your field? • What you plan to do with your degree once you have it? Admissions committees look for candidates with clear, well-defined research interests that arise from experience . With that in mind, your statement should reveal that you care deeply about your chosen discipline and that you have the background to support your ideas and sentiments. It should also demonstrate that you’re a diligent student who will remain committed for the long haul.
However you approach these points, it’s imperative that you answer the questions asked in the essay prompt. Being substantive and direct is much better than being creative or flashy. Avoid this mistake Grad school applicants commonly make the error of including a paragraph about how well–rounded they are: They’re avid ultimate-frisbee players, they write short stories or they love to cook. Colleges are interested in this stuff; graduate schools are not. Grad schools are looking for great minds who will achieve mastery of a specific subject area.
They don’t care that you make a great chicken casserole or play intramural bocce ball. They do care about those activities that speak to your suitability for graduate work. As a graduate student, you’ll be called upon to do difficult coursework and research. You may have to teach undergraduate classes within your field and conceivably even design a course. And you’ll have to get along with a diverse group of colleagues who will sometimes work very closely with you. Any experience in school, work or your extracurricular life that speaks to those abilities is worth talking about.
Make your statement of purpose unique While it’s important to be focused, there’s no need to be boring. To distinguish your essay, add unique (yet relevant) information. One of the best ways to do this is to discuss, briefly, an idea in your field that turns you on intellectually. It’s an effective essay-opener, and it lets you write about something besides yourself for a bit. Remember, the idea you choose to talk about can tell an admissions committee a lot about you. And it demonstrates your interest in your field, rather than just describing it. Don’t forget
Be sure to show your statement of purpose to someone you respect, preferably the professors who are writing your recommendations, and get some feedback on the content before you send it in. If you need to revise it, do so and then ask for more feedback. Have someone else proofread your essay for spelling and grammar. A fresh set of eyes often picks up something you missed. Better yet, if you have enough willing friends, have a couple of people proofread each statement. Finally, don’t just reuse the same statement of purpose for each school to which you apply.
You can recycle the same information, but make sure you change the presentation to fit each school’s individual program. Sample Statement of Purpose Statement of Purpose: Please describe your aptitude and motivation fo r graduate study in your area of specialization, including your preparation for this field of study , your academic plans or research interests in your chosen area of study, and your future career goals. Please be specific about why UC Berkeley would be a good intellectual fit for you. The writer of the statement below was admitted into UC Berkeley’s History Department. With her permission, I reprint her essa parsed with my commentary about why it works as a winning essay. “Luscious fare is the jewe l of inordinate desires,” 1 cautions 2 the author of The Gentlewoman’s Companion (1673), one of many early modern conduct books I surveyed this past year for an honors thesis entitled “‘Chaste, Silent, and Hungr y’: The Problem of Female Appetite in Early Modern England, 1550-1700. ” 3 As indicated by the title, this pr oject explores a provocative but as of yet scarcely studied facet of early m odern gender constructions: female food desire. 4 I use the word “desire” here rather deliberately, as ea rly modern definitions of ppetite extended well beyond the physiological drive to eat to encompa ss all those physical (and shameful) longings associated with the body. And, in a culture wh ere women were by defi nition immoderate and sensual, female food appetite, I argue, constituted an unruly 5 desire that demanded both social and moral discipline. In brief, my research con cerns the patriarchal cont rol of women’s bodies in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England vi s–vis a cultural idea about food desire and satiation as sugges tive and immodest. 6 In lieu of a formal introduction of my research interests and aspirations I offer a summary of my enior thesis, which earned me the 2003 Chancel lor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research at the University of California, Davis. 7 This first venture into serious historical scholarship has affirmed my passion for early m odern culture and histor y; and it has given me the confidence to assert and cont est my opinions regard ing the status of women in early modern Europe and the current state of early modern historiography. 8 Continuing along these avenues of research in graduate school, I would like to use my thesis as the basis for a future dissertation. Though I remain wary about committing myself premat rely to a specific t opic of research, I am also eager to elaborate, modify, and complicate 9 my original assertions about the nature of the “problem” of female appetite in early modern England. Indeed, many of the conclusions reached in the thesis, such as my claim that the cultural er oticization of feminine appetite in early modern England betrayed a deep-seated masculine mistrust of female sexuality and sexual power, serve as starting points 10 for future research and study. On a more basic level, writing a thesis gave me the chance to become better acquainted with the essentials of historical resear h. Suspecting that normative disc ourses in early modern England participated aggressively in the monitoring of women’s appetites, I navigated the sea of early English printed sources in pursu it of the slightest mention of food and diet. Those sources I encountered during my research, wh ich ranged from the popular conduct book, The Education of a Christian Woman by Juan Luis Vives, to the anonymous sex manual, Aristotle’s Masterpiece, challenged my basic understanding of history and the original prem ise of my thesis in ways not anticipated. From deciphering esot eric type-fonts to developing n awareness of the importance of time and funds, I experienced the mundane realities of research that inevitably stunt the historian’s aspirations. Even more important wa s my gradual acceptance of the fact that early modern sources, no matter how we read them, do not always accommodate modern biases and expectations. 11 Though I cannot predict the course this project might take in graduate school, I expect that it will address the following themes and issues. First is the overarching issue of distinguishing the phenomena I observe from other forms of food re striction and obsession, namely the modern itual of dieting and its most extreme manife station, an eating disorder. Though not willing to evade those complicated (and controversial) para llels between modern and early modern usages of food and food symbolism to cont rol the lives of women, I also wish to offer as an historian a nuanced portrayal of how early modern conceptualiz ations of female appetite were infused with contemporary, historically contingent notions of sexuality and gender. Furthermore, the question of fema le agency in a project devote d almost exclusively to male prescriptions for diet and behavior demands further discussion.
Admittedly, on more than one occasion, my own extensive use and analysis of conduct books and various obstetric manuals, works composed primarily by educated men, cause d me to pause and wonder whether it was best to relate a history abou t women’s actions or the patriarchal apparatus under which those actions were oppressed. While I refuse to see women as simply passive receptacles of masculine command, I neither wish nor aspire to focus sole ly on their achievements; for, in my mind, the history of women and the history of patriarchy are inextricably related. 12 My goal, then, will not be to detail just another example of how wome in history were dominated by men, but, rather, to interrogate the means, in this case food, or, better yet, the cultural meaning of appetite, by which women’s desires were suppressed or denied. 13 Indeed I am proud of my thesis and, given extra time, could say much more. But I should also stress that that at the heart of my specific res earch concentration lies a more general interest in early modern European history, cultural and women’s history to be more exact. 14 To date, my knowledge of the early modern period has been informed and my imagination sustained by an array of courses on early modern history and lite ature (I was a joint hist ory and English major), including a graduate seminar on Renaissance urban culture taught jointly by Professors Margaret Ferguson and Deborah Harkness. My personal pe nchant for cultural history stems largely, I believe, from my training in litera ture and literary criticism, wh ere sensitivity to the importance of language and metaphor is a neces sary skill. Also of crucial importance to a professional career in history are my growing skills in Latin and French, and my fluency in Spanish. 15 This year I find myself in that difficult and fr ustrating transitional peri od between undergraduate nd graduate studies. Though I would have preferred to directly co ntinue graduate school after graduation, I opted to take a year off. A year aw ay from school, I reasoned, would afford me the time needed to recuperate from an exhaustive und ergraduate education, gain some perspective, and work on fulfilling the language requirement for a doctorate in European history. In fact, I am currently enrolled in a French course at a nearby university and plan to take a subsequent course during the upcoming spring semester. This academic hiatus, moreover, has imposed some much- needed distance between myself and my thesis, wh ch I can now reread from a more critical, less invested stance. And, finally, a break from school has given me sufficient time to search and research for graduate programs that best suit my needs. 16 UC Berkeley’s history program looms large in my mind, largely because of its outstanding faculty and interdisciplinary approach to hist ory. In my own quest for a suitable graduate program, I was thrilled to learn that Professors Thomas Laqueur and Carla Hesse both taught at Berkeley. Professor Laqueur’s book, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud , stands out among the many books I ead during my undergraduate education; and I credit his book with introducing me to the nascent but fascin ating field of the history of sexuality and the body. Together, Professor Laqueur’s cutting edge research and Professor Hesse’s knowledge of early modern women’s history would make my experience at Berkeley a challenging and enjoyable one. 17 In addition, Berkeley provides an id eal climate for me to develop my cross-disciplinary interests. In particular, I am interested in pursuing a desi gnated emphasis in women, gender, and sexuality, a unique option that distinguishes Berkeley’s hist ry program from that of other institutions. The cross-disciplinary nature of Berkeley’s gra duate program would foster, I hope, fruitful discussions with other departme nts, notably the department of English and Women’s Studies, thus broadening and enriching my research as well as my general understanding early modern culture and history. 18 • 1 The writer begins with a vivid quote that grabs the reader’s attention right away. • 2 “Cautions” is an excellent verb choice. Carefu l word choice makes fo r lively writing. • 3 Note how neatly in one well-packed sentence , the writer gets right to the point of her urrent research. • 4 “Provocative” is an apt and colorful word c hoice. This sentence explains the nature of her study and situates her subject in historical and thematic context. • 5 “Unruly” is another aptly c hosen adjective. Adjectives can create “dead places” in writing if they add nothing significant to the noun that it is describing. • 6 The summary sentence not only recaps the gist of the first paragraph, but also provides further nuance of the subject at hand. • 7 This first sentence makes clear that research first and foremost will be central to her argument in the essay. Mentioning the “Cha cellor’s Award” in the context of her research is a clever way of boasting without seeming to. • 8 It is a very good idea to explicit ly state the chosen subfield within history: early modern Europe. You can’t assume that your readers will make the inference from the research topic alone. To “assert and contest” opinions is, of c ourse, the marksmanship of historians; making reference to “the current state of early modern historiography” conveys familiarity with the subject on the one hand, and confidence and intellectual poise on the other. Notice how much more powerful is such a statement as compared to ne poorly written, such as “I am passionate and committed to my interest in early modern Europe. ” • 9 Again, to say that as a historian, she will “e laborate, modify, and complicate” the subject matter is to show that she really understands the work of historians. A less experienced candidate might have written that she wa nts to uncover the “truth” in history. • 10 “Starting points” –referring to her research interests–is a very measured way of saying that she knows what tugs at her heart, has done enough research to have some hunches, but is open to surprise endings. A beautiful re ndition of a historian’s sentiment.
You may turn off your readers if you come off sounding overly confident. Maintaining a measured tone is very important. • 11 This paragraph details further specific less ons and skills earned through this research project. Note the use of colorful verb s such as “navigated” and “stunt. ” • 12 Note the nuanced and carefully measured way of speaking about her subject. Clearly the writer is well-read in theory and show s strong ability in cri tically evaluating her subject. Moreover, she tries to be the “obj ective” scholar in that she does not champion any cause. That is, she does not champion the ause of women even as she conveys deep empathy. • 13 The reference to a parallel example of female appetite in contemporary culture as holding interest for the writer is aptly placed here. Were she to have mentioned it any earlier, it would have clouded the primarily hist orical nature and focu s of her venture. • 14 It is wise at this point to zoom out a bit and show that th e writer’s interest lies more broadly in early modern Europe and the hist ory of women. Zooming in and out from the narrow to the general shows th at you are capable of becomi ng a specialist without being overly narrow. • 15
Showing interdisciplinarity and your abilities in language are key to your academic biography. In this case, the reader learns that she is a historian with training in literary and critical theory. • 16 This is a model paragraph for showing what you did in your “time off” from school. Note how nothing extraneous to her study is me ntioned in this paragraph. The paragraph shows that the time off was spent wisely in preparing herself for graduate school. • 17 She demonstrates a thorough-going knowledge of UC Berkeley. She mentions not one but two key scholars with whom she could pur sue her studies. She mentions how their rea of specialty dovetails with her own resear ch interests. Note how she does not make empty, flattering remarks about the professors or the school. • 18 She continues to list bounties beyond the department strengthening the argument that Berkeley is well-suited for her. The reader will be impressed with the research and the seriousness with which she has examined UC Be rkeley as an option for graduate school. A well-written essay unveils much information about the writer, not only in her intellectual capacity, but also about her character and core values. Through her writing, she makes a distinctive impression.

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