Legal Studies Graduate Workshop Supports PhD Students at UCSC

May 08, 2020


On May 8, 2020, the UCSC Legal Studies Program hosted its Graduate Workshop, which provided a space for Ph.D. students to meet with scholars and mentors from the field of law and society. 


This year, three student participants -- Jessica R. Calvanico, Ellie Frazier, and Natali Levin-Schwartz -- gave and received constructive feedback on draft dissertation chapters, proposals, or papers for publication. The three faculty mentors were Elizabeth Beaumont, Jacqueline Gehring, and Mark Fathi Massoud.


Feminist Studies Ph.D. candidate Jessica R. Calvanico, who studies the legal history of gender in New Orleans, shared, “The Legal Studies Graduate Workshop was a very special experience. It is rare to get such concentrated time with colleagues focused on compelling interdisciplinary work. This workshop offered lengthy and careful engagements.” 


Politics Ph.D. student Ellie Frazier, who studies law and justice in Sierra Leone, concurred, “It's rare as a graduate student - even in normal times - for so many colleagues to engage so deeply with your work. It helps us as graduate students learn how to give better feedback when we witness others doing it so thoughtfully.”


Each paper was given a one-hour session and following the supportive feedback, students were provided with a writing session that allowed them to begin revising their work, with a mentor present, in order to incorporate the feedback they had received. The workshop was held remotely. 


Not only did I come away with helpful insights on my current work but I also have carried a deep sense of gratitude at the intellectual community at UC Santa Cruz. I also left with excellent comments on my chapter, so I have a lot of work to do!” said Calvanico. 


Being able to work with others across UC Santa Cruz is the great value of the Legal Studies Program and the Graduate Workshop. Many of the Ph.D. student participants have also served as teaching assistants for the Legal Studies Program, and this was their chance to get something back. “I received amazing feedback on my own work, and I got to work with people from other departments. Getting an interdisciplinary perspective is essential in a field like legal studies,” said Frazier. 


The Graduate Workshop provided more than just an opportunity for Ph.D. students to receive supportive feedback on their writing. It was also an opportunity to connect with others equally passionate about the field. “Asking questions about what the law is, who it is for, and how we come to understand justice is central to so many questions in the social sciences and humanities,” Frazier said.


Workshop participants had some advice for undergraduates, too -- “write everyday, read closely, and don't procrastinate!” offered Calvanico. Frazier added, “I've learned that right when I feel the need to cloister myself away and keep writing is usually the moment I also need to swallow my pride, send whatever I have to my professors or classmates, and hear their perspectives. Usually they pick up on things I haven't thought of or they see something in a totally different light that helps me move forward. Sometimes it's hard to hear where things aren't working. But it always improves the work. Intellectual life is definitely a collective effort.”


The next UCSC Legal Studies Graduate Workshop will be in Spring 2021. Look for the call for proposals in January 2021.