Thursday, December 06, 2007

More thoughts on graduate school

I started writing a comment in response to Articulatedad, but then decided it was getting too long and deserved its own post.

1. I completely agree that it's no good to be swayed by other people's research interests, that has been my big mistake in graduate school so far. When I couldn't get my adviser to give me any help or feedback I took it as a sign that there was something wrong with my research proposal (despite having had positive feed back from two of the senior professors in the program.)

On the other hand, I do think it's important to fit your work into a theoretical framework and understand how it contributes to a particular line of research. (I know, that's basic advice all grad students get, but I think lots of people ignore it.)

2. That said, I have been pretty successful and lucky so far, given the particularities of the program I'm in (and my own situation.) Let's just say that when I talk to people at Big Ag U. about my program they say, "Oh, THAT program." It's pretty dysfunctional and I don't think I'm badmouthing it by saying that. (It would be difficult for anyone here to deny that the program has had some troubles.)

In general students in my program are getting substandard treatment, even for graduate students. It's difficult to go into without revealing all the details. Most students don't understand that they aren't being treated well until late in their program or after graduation. Certain unsupportive administration policies towards graduate programs in general combined with the particular history of this program to create a bad situation. Some people do well here, I think because they find a good match in an adviser.

3. When I arrived I was trying to do a sort of dual degree or dual major thing (as offered by the "hairdressing" professors.) That didn't work out so well, but it did make clear to me which of the two disciplines I fit with. "Hairdressing" is out. Now I just have to make up a name for "field I share with JustMe."

4. I really appreciate many of the professors here. I have gotten some wonderful support and advice. Unfortunately, many of the people who's research interests matched with mine turned out to have just retired or to be in semi-retirement. Programs are always in flux and now a few new people have been hired who might be good to work with. On the other hand, it might be good to try a different different university, one that appreciates my field a little more.

5. Although I am worried about the huge debt we are accumulating, I'm not sorry about my decision to go to graduate school. I knew as a college student that I wouldn't be satisfied with my career unless I went to graduate school. My intellectual curiosity, independent thinking, quirkiness, and disgust with capitalism make me unsuited for most other careers.

In the long gap between college and grad school I taught in various different ways. I didn't know I wanted to teach, but I really love it. I would rather teach at the college level. While teaching younger students in enjoyable, I'm not comfortable with the school system in the U.S., which is even more dysfunctional than academia. Also, K-12 teachers aren't well appreciated or paid. I'm excited about my dissertation idea and the intellectual challenge that research in general provides, but teaching is my main goal. (Don't tell my professors.) If I end up teaching at a community college, like Inside the Philosophy Factory or in a staff position, lecturing part-time, like Trillwing, I will be happy.

6. Graduate school has forced me to learn some hard lessons, that I wasn't getting in my previous career. It has challenged me. Mythologically speaking, grad school feels like the hanged man.


wil said...

"My intellectual curiosity, independent thinking, quirkiness, and disgust with capitalism make me unsuited for most other careers." -- :-))

I know you won't reveal it...but I'm dying to know what your field is!

JustMe said...

i couldn't agree more with the quote above! and it's one the reasons i love our field so much (well, for the most part ;) )

trillwing said...

Regardless of what you decide to call your field on this blog, I think your dissertation's pseudonym should be "Tattoos for Women." ;)

ArticulateDad said...

Good luck to you in sorting it all out. Your mind and your ideas are your greatest assets. Whatever you do, be true to them.