FSTS à la Maude: Finding that Work-Life Balance as a Grad Student

If you’ve ever poked around our staff profiles page,  you have probably run across Maude’s bio, which reads:

Maude joined the project in its early stages in 2012, and participated in the initial appraisal and organisation of the collections. She has presented the team’s work at the 2014 UBC archaeology day, as well as at the EAGLE Conference in Paris, where she presented the digital imaging techniques pioneered by our project to the international community of epigraphists alongside Lisa Tweten. She is the project’s Chief Financial Officer, and has been involved in fundraising and grant applications, including the successful TLEF grant. During the summer of 2014, she also worked at Digital Initiatives to begin the compilation of metadata for the collection. She is currently responsible for the financial aspects of the project.

What's her secret? It's not coffee in that mug; it's champagne.

What’s her secret? It’s not coffee in that mug; it’s champagne.

This is factually accurate, but is so modestly written that you may not realize how integral Maude’s work is to the project. As one of the founding members, Maude has been part of just about every aspect of the project  – fundraising, organisation, planning, grant-writing, research, presentations – you name it, she’s probably toiling away at one of the vital but less visible tasks that keep FSTS running, and continues to step up and add her voice to all the behind the scenes decisions that need to be made but offer little fanfare or glory. On an average day, she’s fielding questions about our current funds, the budget for our latest fundraiser, status of our supplies purchases, and that’s just her “official” duties as Financial Officer. On top of all that, Maude has been called upon to track down jump drives of scanned files and get them up on google drive, dash across campus getting signatures for a special events license, and most odious of all, attend meetings at bars on a Saturday.  

When she says she “participated in the initial appraisal and organization of the collections” what she means is that she’s been involved since the very first day, when we discovered just how dusty and disorganized our squeezes had become, and how depressing it is to go through that giant metal file cabinet that houses our squeezes (I don’t know why; the idea of epigraphy is endlessly exciting to me, but the reality of those paper squeezes induces a torpor that can’t be overcome).


Cabinet of Horrors

Our first look at the squeezes, 2012

Our first look at the squeezes, 2012

It also means she gave up multiple sunny days to come to campus that first summer when we had no idea what we were doing or whether we would be successful just to deal with that disorganized mess. This is a big deal in raincity.

When we were first deciding who would do which aspect of the project, I thought finding someone to keep track of our finances (which at the time were non-existent, but we are nothing if not ever-hopeful) would be the hardest position to fill, but Maude stepped up right away and said she’d enjoy the task. Since 2012, she’s not only handled our funds responsibly, this spring she orchestrated what might have been the most complicated maneuver since the first moon landing – getting a local bank to set up a bank account that the 5 people on our administrative team can access. Seriously, the logistics involved in this seemingly simple task were mind-boggling, and required numerous emails and phone calls between Maude and the bank. It took almost 2 months to get the documents signed by 5 people, and it was only through Maude’s persistence that we managed to complete this task. (Let’s not talk about the 2 year email chain where she tried to get a grant check to successfully arrive in Vancouver. Let’s just not.)

Two fundraisers in one photo - Trivia Night & the limited edition FSTS T-shirt

Two fundraisers in one photo – Trivia Night & the limited edition FSTS T-shirt

She’s also been part of every fundraiser over the last 3.5 years, including the ambitious Mystery History Theatre 3000 fundraiser Molly Hutt has masterminded for this Thursday. These fundraisers are sometimes thankless tasks, but they keep the FSTS machine chugging forward and every bit of planning, execution, and clean-up is appreciated.

Another vital but unseen task Maude undertook was setting up the initial metadata for our squeeze collection. This is the document behind the DI Epigraphic Squeezes site, and between Maude and Heather, went from a type-written document from the 1970’s to a digital database with all the IG I2 #’s updated to their new IG I3 #’s, not to mention matching the ATL fragments to their IG I2 and IG I3 #’s. I’m bored just typing that out, but Maude tackled the task with the same dedication and precision she brings to everything. Granted, this was one of the first paid positions we were able to provide our team, thanks to the successful TLEF grant Maude helped submit, but was still a relatively dry, dull task that required a lot of diligence and attention to detail. For comparison, I spent my first DI job that summer photographing squeezes in a lovely air-conditioned basement, listening to Terry Pratchett audiobooks all the while.


Maude & I at the EAGLE Conference in Paris last year


Maude & I at the Eiffel Tower, playing hooky from the conference

Maude has juggled all the project responsibilities while maintaining her high academic standing, and was granted 4 years of SSHRC funding while she completes her PhD – this is in addition to the SSHRC she received the first year of her MA degree. As part of her own academic goals, FSTS has given Maude the chance to present the work at conferences both as part of a team (our AIA poster), on her own (the 2014 UBC Archaeology Day Conference), and in Paris last fall at the EAGLE Conference (check out our CV for the full list of FSTS involvement in the wider classical and digital humanities world).

On top of her own grad student work for classes and as a TA, and preparing for her PhD comps this spring, Maude is also attending the ISW workshops and picking up extra skills in archaeologically relevant technology, because you just never know what opportunities may come up. This term in particular has allowed Maude to shine, as she’s the only one regularly on campus to deal with getting a special occasion license signed, attending our ISW workshops and helping to make sure everything’s running smoothly, liaising with our TA’s, and generally steering the ship in our absence. Chelsea, who moved to Toronto and has had to manage FSTS via email and google hangouts (when the audio & video work…) all year, had this to say about Maude: 

Maude is the solid foundation that keeps FSTS stable. Too often we take her willingness to carry out the mundane tasks associated with finances for granted, but we are so grateful for her continued presence over the years. She is a constant, a reassurance to the rest of us that no matter where we go, or how long we’re away, we can come back to UBC and she will be there, holding down the fort, representing the goals and passion of From Stone to Screen. Somewhere in my mind I know that this can’t last forever, and that she too will graduate and move on, but for now Maude’s presence comforts us and reassures us that the project is well-represented and remains a point of pride in the department.

How to win friends and influence people - Open bar!

How to win friends and influence people – open bar!

All that, and Maude has also found time to maintain a happy, healthy relationship (not just with her coffee maker like most grad students – in fact, Maude is the only student I know who doesn’t drink coffee!) and got married this summer. Most of her cohort attended and made good use of the open bar to celebrate the day, and we’re all a little in awe of how she manages to fit everything in to her very busy, very demanding life. Now that she’s the only founding member of FSTS left on campus at UBC, where it all started, she’s a great example of finding a work-life balance, and a fantastic resource for the new students who have joined the department. 

About Lisa Tweten

As one of the project mangers, Lisa is the heart of the project. She works with Digital Humanities to photograph the MacGregor squeeze collection.

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