Cynthia Verba may be the premier authority on French Enlightenment composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. But the work she is best known for makes no mention of music theory or Gallic philosophy.The title, like its author, brings to mind a more genteel time in academe: “Scholarly Pursuits.” It’s Verba’s calling card, a dissertation on the dissertation — and everything else that graduate students encounter on the road to becoming professors.“My family teases me because this gets more hits than my first book on Rameau,” Verba said, holding up a bound copy of her volume published by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), where she is director of fellowships.In more than three decades at Harvard, Verba has become a professional guru for graduate students trying to get ever-more-competitive fellowships and tenure-track jobs. She’s also a scholar in her own right, which allows her a special kinship with the students who show up to her Holyoke Center office looking to improve drafts of their application essays.“I don’t see music scholarship as an escape from my everyday world, nor do I see my everyday world as an answer to the loneliness of writing,” she said.Verba has developed a reputation as a sharp editor and a dispenser of tough love. One Harvard student created a Facebook group devoted to the advising experience: “Cynthia Verba Still Makes Me Cry — But Sometimes They’re Tears of Joy!!”“She is not there to make you feel great about your draft,” said Kirstin Scott, a second-year student in the interdisciplinary health policy doctoral program. “She’s there to help ensure you walk out with a strong essay or a plan for how to improve it.”With Verba’s help, Scott secured federal funding from both the National Science Foundation and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowships Program (though she ultimately had to decline the latter). Scott has become an acolyte, recommending Verba to incoming Ph.D. students every chance she gets. “I feel incredibly indebted to her,” Scott said.Verba’s Harvard connection dates back more than 50 years ago, when she met her husband, then “a very sophisticated Harvard sophomore,” while working as a camp counselor. (The dashing sophomore, Sidney Verba, went on to become a respected political scientist and director of the Harvard Library, and now holds the title of Carl H. Pforzheimer University Research Professor Emeritus.)Verba earned a master’s degree at Stanford and a doctorate in musicology at the University of Chicago while raising the couple’s three daughters. The family settled at Harvard for her husband’s appointment, and in 1978 she took a job advising graduate students at Harvard’s Office of Career Services. At the time, Harvard had no professional counseling for Ph.D. candidates.“This was a brand new field,” Verba said. Doctoral students “were surrounded by scholars, and yet no one thought to tell them how to become a scholar.”She found she was making up ways to help as she went along. “My husband says an idea doesn’t exist until you can write it down,” she said. So she did, drafting “Scholarly Pursuits” in the early 1980s and helping to professionalize a new administrative field in higher education.She transitioned into her current position at GSAS in 1986. Until three years ago, she also taught music history at Harvard Extension School.At the start, Verba made two promises to herself: that she would continue to pursue her scholarly passion — her work on Rameau — and that any advice she gave her student advisees she would follow herself.She kept her word. Her first book, “Music and the French Enlightenment: Reconstruction of a Dialogue, 1750-1764,” was published by Oxford Clarendon Press in 1993, and “Dramatic Expression in Rameau’s Tragédie Lyrique: Between Tradition and Enlightenment” is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.“It’s my goal to help students, but it’s also in my own interest to be practicing what I preach,” she said. “I do not find it easy to go to publishers and say, ‘You’ll love my book,’ [or] to contact French scholars and say, ‘Would you be willing to read a draft?’ So I know when I tell students to do it, I’m giving them a challenge.”Despite its obstacles, the life of a scholar is rich with rewards, Verba said. She relishes the chance to see graduate students thrive in their disciplines.“I think they’re all crazy,” she said, stopping abruptly to clarify. “Crazy like an artist, because of their deep commitment. I have that feeling about my life, and I like to see it in theirs.”
433, a legitimate football focused social media powerhouse with over 16 million followers, has signed a strategic partnership with the esports arm of Ducth football club Ajax. Juul Manders, 433Ajax eSports, which has maintained a presence in esports by way of FIFA for two years and counting, has signed this partnership with one of the world’s leading online football communities. 433’s audience consist primarily of ‘the younger generation’ for whom FIFA is a rather popular, and esports more widely too. FIFA related content is prominent on 433’s social media channels, and the outfit’s second biggest Instagram account is 433FIFA with 1.6 million followers. 433 is the largest football community on social media. Over 16 million people follow 433, of which reportedly ‘at least 14,000 are professional footballers from the top 50 leagues in the world’. 433’s influence and reach has seen the firm work with the likes of Adidas, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Hilton. 433 generates 1.6 billion impressions on a monthly basis, and receives an estimated 675 million views on Instagram. Juul Manders, CEO of 433 commented: “433 and Ajax eSports are revolutionary entities both dedicated to leading their respective markets in the Netherlands and worldwide. Becoming strategic partners with Ajax eSports will enable us to further assert ourselves in a dynamic and rapidly growing industry. Combining our young audience and Ajax eSports’ talent will produce innovation and promising results for years to come.”Mirroring the club’s success on the real life pitch, Ajax eSports became champion of the Dutch eDivisie last year as well. The team also announced a new signing this week, in the form of American FIFA pro Joey Calabro, who is currently the number one in the world on Xbox. He previously played for New York City FC. Menno Geelen, Commercial Director of Ajax stated: “We noticed the content consumption of the new generation is different. 433 is unique in knowing how to reach this generation football fans as none other online community. With Ajax we do have the ambition to become the best football club of the world in FIFA eSports. Both regarding the best performances and engagement of our FIFA-fans through unique content. This cooperation emphasized our international goals with our eSports domain.”This marks 433’s first partner in the esports field, the two will ‘collaborate to develop innovative concepts that engage fans through live streams and activations’. Esports Insider says: 433’s reach in the world of football is staggering, and if they’re able to mirror this then Ajax eSports has made an undoubtedly smart move from which it’ll bolster potential sponsorships and more going forward.