Spring 2020 Student interview: Alison Parks

Alison Parks is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Theory. She was awarded the American Association of University Women (AAUW) American fellowship for the 2019-20 academic year.

Leo Tamamizu: I heard that you successfully won the AAUW fellowship (Congratulations!). Could you tell me what the award is and how you feel about your winning?
Alison Parks: I was awarded the 2019/2020 American Dissertation Fellowship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW). It is a $20,000 award for women who are advanced-level Ph.D. students in the final year of dissertation writing. I was extremely grateful to have won the award because being able to offset my costs of living without taking on additional teaching has been crucial for me to create the conditions under which I can actually write my dissertation.
LT: Could you tell me about your main research?
AP: This project explores the psychic effects of a life haunted by proximity to suicide. It begins by tracing how the queer subject came to be something pathologically distinct—from the construction of the homosexual in the nineteenth century to the so-called epidemic of queer youth suicide in the twenty-first century—and the violences that have been inflicted upon the community as a result. Through a mixed, interdisciplinary methodology that ranges from archives to the theatre, my dissertation seeks to offer a new critical approach to suicide that resists pathology and focuses, instead, on the contributions of structural oppression and points of resistance.
LT: Getting grants or fellowship is crucial for our fruitful research. Could you tell us tips for getting funds?
AP: Applying for funding can be a full-time task so it’s best to start applying as soon as possible. I mainly followed the advice of Professor Cole, my advisor, which was to start small! The best way to win money, is to already have won money, so start by applying to small-stakes grants (like the DSRG offered by the Graduate Center) so that you can have those awards on your CV before you apply for more extensive funding, like dissertation-completion fellowships. Also, make sure you pay attention to the criteria for application and strategize when you apply for different things. Many larger awards only allow you to apply once so make sure you’re in a position to be a viable candidate before spending all of your energy applying. That being said, don’t discount anything and be willing to tell potential funders what they want to hear about your project (you may even end up discovering new elements to it you weren’t planning on writing about).
LT: What are your best memories of the GC?
AP: The best part of my time at the GC has been the opportunity to connect with peers not only within the Political Science Program, but also across disciplines. Constructing meaningful support networks among my fellow students has been crucial to my success across my graduate school career. Additionally, I’m very grateful for my time with the DSC, especially the three years I spent on the steering committee. Contributing to a sense of community in an otherwise isolating environment and learning the tools required for effectively communicating with the administration in the fight for students’ rights has been an invaluable experience.