Life on B Floor: My UAF Experience

My name is Wafa Isfahani, and I’m a second year MA student in Near Eastern Studies. I study Indo-Islamic thought in the 18th and 19th centuries, especially the reception of ideas of prophecy and revelation and the ways in which they were employed by South Asian thinkers in the articulation of their reformatory ideals. Besides my research, I enjoy reading Urdu poetry, listening to Indo-Pakistani ghazals, or cooking with my housemates.

Last year, my colleague Cecilia Palombo introduced me to CDH while she was on her way to the B floor at Firestone. Both Cecilia and Deborah (another NES colleague who worked  as a Graduate Assistant) seemed to enjoy spending time at the CDH a lot, and so I decided to apply for the University Administrative Fellowship (UAF) position here. I discovered that it wasn’t just because of the endless supply of coffee and tacos (real and virtual). Since I started my fellowship in fall 2018, the B floor has become a much more frequented and happier place for me.

Left to Right: Natalia Ermolaev, Wafa Isfahani (that's me) and Rebecca Koeser at a Year of Data Event (Photo Credits: Shelley Szwast)
Left to Right: Natalia Ermolaev, Wafa Isfahani (that's me) and
Rebecca Koeser at a Year of Data event (Photo Credits: Shelley Szwast)

This semester-long fellowship organized by the Graduate School is designed for graduate students to get the opportunity to work in an administrative capacity with a host department. At the CDH, I joined the “Year of Data” project and worked closely with my UAF supervisor, Project and Education Coordinator Rebecca Munson, and the Associate Director of CDH Natalia Ermolaev. This meant learning about publicity and communications, outreach, event planning, and campus partnerships. Through the UAF, you’re exposed to a lot of University resources that might otherwise remain undiscovered. UAFs across campus meet frequently to talk about career development, navigating departmental hierarchies and more.  

I applied for the fellowship program because I thought it was important for me to get a breadth of experience, both academic and administrative, during my stay here at Princeton. As a graduate student, I felt that one can get quite alienated from the work-environment and engagements outside academia, which are crucial for someone considering a non-academic career. Sure enough, the six months I worked as a UAF proved worth the while. I learnt plenty about administrative procedures, communication flows, event organization--you name it! Not only was the fellowship in itself useful, but I also enjoyed working at the CDH, with all its exciting projects! That was part of the reason I decided to continue on as a Graduate Student Assistant even once the UAF term ended.

I would definitely recommend graduate students apply for a University Administrative Fellowship, especially with a place  like the CDH. I am particularly eager to see more NES involvement in the digital humanities here at Princeton - to tap into the research potential of area studies data and help build community.

And I can promise you, there will be tacos!

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