Alice Glaze, Senior Associate at Know History

Alice Glaze, Senior Associate at Know History

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Alice Glaze graduated with a PhD in History from Guelph University, where her dissertation focused on seventeenth-century women’s networks in Canongate, Scotland. She currently works as a Senior Associate at Know History, a historical research company in Ottawa.

(March 2019)


Q: Why did you enroll in a PhD program in the first place?

I took some time off between my Masters and my PhD, and for a while I really didn’t think I would do a PhD. I was pretty much done with academia. And then, after a few years, I realized that weirdly the thing that I most wanted to do was a PhD. I did my Masters in Scottish history and I ended up working in Ottawa for a historical research company. It was a great job, I liked the hours, and I thought the work was interesting, but I really missed my obscure corner of Scottish history.

I ended up finding someone at Guelph who could supervise my research; I met her as I was thinking about doing the PhD, and she really won me over into the project and the Guelph atmosphere.

Q: What kinds of teaching experience did you get in your program?

I taught a course as part of a teaching practicum option, where you can teach a course on your own but you’re paired with a professor who can mentor you. I had already been a tutorial leader, so I’d marked assignments and things like that, but to actually be in charge of someone’s education even in a small way felt really weighty.

At the beginning I found it absolutely exhausting to teach, but I learned how to go from being a very introverted person to having a teaching persona, which helped. I ended up really enjoying it, although I still found it draining. The work also forced me to really develop my organizational skills, which I appreciated, and it forced me to let things go—if something falls flat in one lecture, you try to fix it the next lecture but then you move on.

Q: What kind of financial support did you have in place?

I had 4 years of funding from my department, which was supplemented by an OGS in the first year. And then in my second year I got SSHRC. I also received travel funding for research trips to Scotland. My final year I only had partial funding through an RA position while I was finishing things up, and I also started working part-time at the historical research company where I still work. I transitioned to full-time work there while editing the dissertation and waiting to defend.

The emotional support from fellow students was really important, but the financial support was, I think, key. I would not have been able to do it without the financial support: it made the difference in my ability to finish on time and to just stay in the program, and my final two terms, juggling multiple jobs in order to keep afloat financially, were very difficult.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of a community during your PhD? Or that you are still part of a community?

Yes, both the Department of History and within Scottish Studies more specifically. I felt like the professors really were there for students and, and there wasn’t the kind of distance between professors and students that I had heard of happening elsewhere. I appreciated how the department seemed to respect and support its students, both Masters and PhD.

I relied a lot on the emotional support my friends who were also doing their PhD, and I took advantage of resources such as the mindfulness courses that students could take through the university. I also tried to find ways, activities or things that could take me out of the PhD mentally for a bit, so hiking, knitting, even just going for a walk in the evening.

Now, I feel like I’m part of the alumni community for the department of history. And I also have the privilege of working in my field in a non-academic environment, as I still work with historians on a day to day basis, and that’s been really great.  

Q: How long did your program take? Did it feel like the right amount of time?

It took five years. I certainly could not have finished it in less; the project needed that amount of time, and I worked every term. Many of my colleagues took that long as well, since for the first four terms you are doing comprehensive exam work.

My supervisor was very supportive and very clear in her expectations at each point along the process, which really helped me stay focused. My thesis committee also helped to improve the thesis, and also to keep me moving forward.

Q: What kind of obstacles did you, and do PhD students, face?

I hate to call this an obstacle because I think it was a really great opportunity, but teaching a course for a term puts you out of commission in terms of actually writing your PhD. But again, I think that it’s a good opportunity and people really appreciate what you get out of the course, so for me at least it was worth it.

I think that also by your third year, you can really lose motivation. It doesn’t matter how organized you are, motivated you felt, or how clear some things were, you’re going to have those days and you might have those weeks where you can’t see your way forward and that can be a barrier to getting anything done. That’s really where having a support network or a writing group or other things like that can really benefit you later in the program.

I think, at the end the day, it’s between you and your project, and that can be really, really tough. I was in a really good place psychologically for most of the time, and I feel really lucky to have had that fairly positive experience, and even then it was incredibly stressful. I am not at all shocked that many people don’t finish their PhDs, because it is a hard thing to get through, and sometimes you realize that it just isn’t the right time or the right project for you, and that’s totally okay.

Q: Is there something that you wish you knew before starting the PhD?

Alice Glaze describes the benefits of treating the PhD like a job.

I don’t know who told me this early on, but they said that the way to get through each day is to treat it like a job that you show up to every day and you work whether or not you want to. You find something you can do—if you’re too tired to do editing, you try to do research; if you’re too tired to do research, you try to do something else, and you put in your seven to eight hours that day. I don’t think I made eight-hour work days very often, but I was able to work on something for most of the day, most days of the week, and it was a good goal to have. I think that it also takes far more work than I’d thought to just plan—there is so much planning out and outlining that has to take place before and during the research and writing, so making sure you take enough time for that is important.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your current position? What caused you to decide that this was for you?

I’m a Senior Associate at Know History, a historical research company at Ottawa—a different one from the one that I worked at before. I feel like I’ve found a good stride, that I’m using a lot of the skills that I learned in my PhD.

This job still makes me excited about the things that excited me in my PhD. I still get to do research and talk about historical subjects with other historians. I feel engaged in the material that I’m doing, and I also feel like I’m bringing skills that I learned in my PhD, including database design, social network analysis, and a bit of electronic mapping. I was able to bring those skills to my job at the historical research firm, and those skills were really helpful in making me marketable and as someone outside of academia.


Many thanks to Alice for sharing her PhD narrative! You can find more about her work at knowhistory.ca.

Alice Glaze graduated with a PhD in History from Guelph University, where her dissertation focused on seventeenth-century women’s networks in Canongate, Scotland. She currently works as a Senior Associate at Know History, a historical research company in Ottawa.

(March 2019)


Q: Why did you enroll in a PhD program in the first place?

I took some time off between my Masters and my PhD, and for a while I really didn’t think I would do a PhD. I was pretty much done with academia. And then, after a few years, I realized that weirdly the thing that I most wanted to do was a PhD. I did my Masters in Scottish history and I ended up working in Ottawa for a historical research company. It was a great job, I liked the hours, and I thought the work was interesting, but I really missed my obscure corner of Scottish history.

I ended up finding someone at Guelph who could supervise my research; I met her as I was thinking about doing the PhD, and she really won me over into the project and the Guelph atmosphere.

Q: What kinds of teaching experience did you get in your program?

I taught a course as part of a teaching practicum option, where you can teach a course on your own but you’re paired with a professor who can mentor you. I had already been a tutorial leader, so I’d marked assignments and things like that, but to actually be in charge of someone’s education even in a small way felt really weighty.

At the beginning I found it absolutely exhausting to teach, but I learned how to go from being a very introverted person to having a teaching persona, which helped. I ended up really enjoying it, although I still found it draining. The work also forced me to really develop my organizational skills, which I appreciated, and it forced me to let things go—if something falls flat in one lecture, you try to fix it the next lecture but then you move on.

Q: What kind of financial support did you have in place?

I had 4 years of funding from my department, which was supplemented by an OGS in the first year. And then in my second year I got SSHRC. I also received travel funding for research trips to Scotland. My final year I only had partial funding through an RA position while I was finishing things up, and I also started working part-time at the historical research company where I still work. I transitioned to full-time work there while editing the dissertation and waiting to defend.

The emotional support from fellow students was really important, but the financial support was, I think, key. I would not have been able to do it without the financial support: it made the difference in my ability to finish on time and to just stay in the program, and my final two terms, juggling multiple jobs in order to keep afloat financially, were very difficult.

Q: Did you feel like you were part of a community during your PhD? Or that you are still part of a community?

Yes, both the Department of History and within Scottish Studies more specifically. I felt like the professors really were there for students and, and there wasn’t the kind of distance between professors and students that I had heard of happening elsewhere. I appreciated how the department seemed to respect and support its students, both Masters and PhD.

I relied a lot on the emotional support my friends who were also doing their PhD, and I took advantage of resources such as the mindfulness courses that students could take through the university. I also tried to find ways, activities or things that could take me out of the PhD mentally for a bit, so hiking, knitting, even just going for a walk in the evening.

Now, I feel like I’m part of the alumni community for the department of history. And I also have the privilege of working in my field in a non-academic environment, as I still work with historians on a day to day basis, and that’s been really great.  

Q: How long did your program take? Did it feel like the right amount of time?

It took five years. I certainly could not have finished it in less; the project needed that amount of time, and I worked every term. Many of my colleagues took that long as well, since for the first four terms you are doing comprehensive exam work.

My supervisor was very supportive and very clear in her expectations at each point along the process, which really helped me stay focused. My thesis committee also helped to improve the thesis, and also to keep me moving forward.

Q: What kind of obstacles did you, and do PhD students, face?

I hate to call this an obstacle because I think it was a really great opportunity, but teaching a course for a term puts you out of commission in terms of actually writing your PhD. But again, I think that it’s a good opportunity and people really appreciate what you get out of the course, so for me at least it was worth it.

I think that also by your third year, you can really lose motivation. It doesn’t matter how organized you are, motivated you felt, or how clear some things were, you’re going to have those days and you might have those weeks where you can’t see your way forward and that can be a barrier to getting anything done. That’s really where having a support network or a writing group or other things like that can really benefit you later in the program.

I think, at the end the day, it’s between you and your project, and that can be really, really tough. I was in a really good place psychologically for most of the time, and I feel really lucky to have had that fairly positive experience, and even then it was incredibly stressful. I am not at all shocked that many people don’t finish their PhDs, because it is a hard thing to get through, and sometimes you realize that it just isn’t the right time or the right project for you, and that’s totally okay.

Q: Is there something that you wish you knew before starting the PhD?

Alice Glaze describes the benefits of treating the PhD like a job.

I don’t know who told me this early on, but they said that the way to get through each day is to treat it like a job that you show up to every day and you work whether or not you want to. You find something you can do—if you’re too tired to do editing, you try to do research; if you’re too tired to do research, you try to do something else, and you put in your seven to eight hours that day. I don’t think I made eight-hour work days very often, but I was able to work on something for most of the day, most days of the week, and it was a good goal to have. I think that it also takes far more work than I’d thought to just plan—there is so much planning out and outlining that has to take place before and during the research and writing, so making sure you take enough time for that is important.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about your current position? What caused you to decide that this was for you?

I’m a Senior Associate at Know History, a historical research company at Ottawa—a different one from the one that I worked at before. I feel like I’ve found a good stride, that I’m using a lot of the skills that I learned in my PhD.

This job still makes me excited about the things that excited me in my PhD. I still get to do research and talk about historical subjects with other historians. I feel engaged in the material that I’m doing, and I also feel like I’m bringing skills that I learned in my PhD, including database design, social network analysis, and a bit of electronic mapping. I was able to bring those skills to my job at the historical research firm, and those skills were really helpful in making me marketable and as someone outside of academia.


Many thanks to Alice for sharing her PhD narrative! You can find more about her work at knowhistory.ca.

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