Saturday, December 01, 2007

I need to be writing my thesis and applying to PhD programs

so what am I doing? Anything but what I should be doing.

I feel really conflicted now, because officially I have already been accepted into the Phd program here and suddenly, they have hired new professors, who work in exactly the subfield I'm interested in. Strangely, three new professors in my discipline were hired in the last year, two in 'hairdressing' department. One of these, lets call him "enthusiastic new adviser," as repeatedly offered to be my dissertation adviser. He also gave me tons of useful advice, recommended appropriate literature, and generally acted interested and reliable. I'm not sure how to take this, because while I'm excited to have found someone who is interested in working with me, I still have a number of misgivings about staying in a program that has basically no support from either the university administration or from individual departments (where the money is.) I don't want to sound like a big whiner (although I'm considering including the word "whining" in my new blog title), but I don't trust the faculty in the 'hairdressing department.' Its not that they aren't nice people, its just that they have no idea of how to work with graduate students and they are wealthy and from upper middle class/upper class backgrounds, so they have no clue. They are generally clueless. Nice, smart, but clueless.

My class background and general poverty are beginning to give me a clue about how people of color feel. A while back, I was involved with a group in which one woman was a Latina. She is a chemist and kind of weirded out by the touchy-feely meeting we had. I really appreciated her honesty though. I forget why this came up, but for some reason she just said to us one day..."I don't trust any of you. You are white people, and when I meet white people I don't trust them, until I learn different." (Or something similar.)

I can understand her feeling. "Class" isn't even part of the vocabulary in this country. I have trouble when I hear people talking about their housekeepers and their trips to Italy. It's difficult for me to take advice from these people seriously.

Here's the unusual situation I was in coming into grad school...

I had a job that in some ways I loved, but it was paying me like a grocery store bagger.

Working part time as a grad student paid me a similar amount to what I was making full-time previously.

Since starting grad school I have worked 75%-100% most quarters. My first quarter in grad school I worked 33% as a TA and 20hrs a week running a field trip program for elementary students. So that was 33 hrs a week, while starting a new grad school. No wonder I was crying all the time.

For whatever reason, I'm a masochist, unless I'm overworking myself, I tend to feel I'm not accomplishing anything. Luckily, as a grad student I have good health insurance. My therapist has been so great.

My point is, I feel conflicted. I have struggled so much with my adviser. I still think she is clueless about the particular project I have been working with her on. In general, she has been unavailable, and given me little to no helpful advice or feedback. Also, there was a lot of confusing about research sites last year. I want to be mad, but still, compared to the other people in the hairdressing department, she is pretty cool.

Enthusiastic new adviser seems to have his heart (and mind) in the right place. I don't want to come off angry and bitter, but when he suggested a particular, senior professor from the 'hairdressing' department as a possible chair for my qualifying exam committee I wasn't sure what to say.

Thoughts on having a newly hired, tenure track professor as an adviser? Thoughts on getting a PhD from a crappy program, a R1 U, but with excellent advisers? Feelings/thoughts on changing PhD programs part way through? Is it worth it?

Beorn is finishing his undergraduate degree and is ready to move to another part of the country and a new graduate school.


JustMe said...

i know people who have changed, in our field, after the MA, it is totally ok to do so. it seems having a hairdressing department is important, for everything you mention - money, support, etc. if you want to stay in hairdressing, i say apply to other places. in hairdressing, it seems like the program quality matters more than the uni, but program quality depends on your subfield. ie, Berkeley's great for x but not for y. anyway, best of luck, and you can always apply to have the options and decide later.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

Having so many new people in your department does seem to be an indication of university support.

I think you ought to apply other places and see what they offer you. If you want to stay where you are, you can be honest with them and say school X offered me this, and Y offered me this -- what are you going to do to keep me here? Either they'll come up with somethig or you'll move, either way seems to work.

ArticulateDad said...

You need to follow your heart. #1, you need to believe in your projects and your research, at all costs. Don't be driven by faculty or advisor interests (though surely learn what you can from them). Seek out advisors whose work you admire.

But be sure this is what you wish to do. Truth is, if there is little to no support for you as a graduate student, there will be NONE for you when you graduate and are looking for work.

Make no assumptions regarding your potential career. It's a painful lesson, very painful, to struggle for years, pursuing your interests, receiving grants and fellowships, making presentations, writing articles, completing a dissertation, to be left alone in the desert. If your advisors don't understand this matter, or they can't communicate with you openly and honestly about it, then they are not advisors.

Jessica Singer said...

So, what happened to your thesis writing? I think it would be a good idea to start finishing it as soon as possible so that you wouldn’t have problem in the long run. Because as we know, thesis and phd dissertation writing can really be tedious and hard task to do for people.