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Profgrrrrl posted today with a dilemma about how to work with a slacking student. I tend to agree with her commenters that most of the responsibility for project management should belong to the student. I have been struggling with this lately because my thesis project is closely tied to my adviser’s ongoing research. I asked to work on this project because I wanted to learn more about how to setup and run as social science research project. I didn’t feel ready to tackle the big project I had in mind for my dissertation. Now I find that the project is so cooperative that I can’t move ahead because I’m waiting for others to do their parts. Oh how I long for a project that really feels like my own.

I’m planning to change my focus somewhat for my dissertation (if I move ahead with it). Here are my ideas so far about what I need from my adviser.

I will handle most of the project management stuff, but I might need to ask some questions while setting all of this up.

My adviser will be willing to give me direction on project management when I ask for it.

My adviser will respond in a relatively timely fashion to my writings and contributes feedback and comments on substantive issues.

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This morning one of my professors said “Watch out about listening to academic bloggers, they are probably people who have had negative experiences, so they might not be the best people to be getting advice from.”

This came up because for whatever reason the six other people in my class can never get there on time and so I was making conversation with him. He mentioned that he was hosting a job candidate and that the candidates had to give two separate talks, one for the department (there were several possibilities) and one for the major. Joint appointments complicate job searches because you have to be approved by two (or more) different disciplines, and being interdisciplinary, I’m concerned about this process.

I mentioned something how I’m always trying to understand these processes in order to maximize my chances. Then I revealed that I read academic blogs and he responded that maybe bloggers weren’t the best people to listen to.

Are bloggers more disgruntled than others? I’m probably the most disgruntled blogger that I know, but in general I haven’t found people to be less successful or more dissatisfied than the people I know in RL.

This weekend a male friend of mine commented about things he doesn’t like about women. Now he was talking to three women who are is good friends, so I think he felt safe to express his feelings.

We were walking along a trail near his house and he commented that it really bothers him when women assume that a man alone might be a threat. He wants women to be OK with looking him in the eye and saying hello. I explained to him that women are conditioned to think of themselves as victims and to be mistrustful of strange men. It would be logical if women where a little more confident and men were a little more scared because men are frequently crime victims as well, but things get twisted around in the cultural washing machine.

Then he went on to his second theory, that the reason women don’t get ahead more in business is that they don’t look people in the eye and give them a confident handshake. The problem with this theory is that even when women do those things they aren’t treated in the same way as men. Women who are confident and outspoken are labeled bitches. Where can we point the finger of blame? Can young female professors be blamed for acting uptight when they are constantly challenged and disrespected in ways that male faculty never are? Are women in business treated differently because they act differently or do they act differently because they are treated differently?

I love my friend, but can you say “white male privilege?”

Nothing important to report, just being a good grad student, nose to the grind stone and all that. Putting your nose to the grind stone sounds like it should hurt. Right now I’m avoiding writing a wiki post for my class. I’m finding that the normal requirements of classes are irritating to me, even when it’s a topic that is interesting to me. I tend to feel resentful when I have to read and write about stuff that relates more to the professor’s own book/dissertation than my own. (Not very realistic, I know.) If the class focuses too much on the professor’s own research I tend to feel like they are coasting on presentations that they have done a thousand times, rather than really putting an effort into thinking about what would help the students learn. I guess I have the doctor who isn’t a good patient syndrome. (Ok, I’m not a doctor yet, but I do have a lot of teaching experience.) When my work schedule is so heavy anything that doesn’t directly relate seems irrelevant. I know I have to get over this because I will probably miss out on some really important learning experiences if I get too closed minded.

I’m working on campus 30 hrs a week this quarter. Truthfully my jobs might not take up all that time every week, but some weeks they will. If I’m enrolled in 12 units of classes and research and those units are supposed to involve 2-3 hours of outside work for every “class” hour, that would add up to another 36-48 hours a week. Realistically most weeks I have to spend some time running errands and doing paperwork in order to get my degree. Could anyone really keep up with these calculated commitments? I usually “work” 12 hours a day on weekdays, trying to not work after 9PM or before 9AM, but as I said some of that time involves errands, travel, eating lunch while reading, etc. I probably don’t do more than 5-10 hours of work each weekend. So by my calculations I’m officially supposed to be working 66-78 hrs each week and I’m really only working 55-60 hrs. No wonder I have impostor syndrome.

As I mentioned earlier, I need to decide whether I want to pursue a PhD or get out while the getting is good. At the moment I’m kind of obsessed, so what do I do? Research!

Flavia’s post discussing her transition into a tenure track position led me to a google search on “grad school infantilization,” which led to some very interesting resources for grad students in search of advice.

Jonathan Sterne’s site has a whole series of articles related to navigating graduate school and an academic job search.

“Over The Hoops And Through The Hurdles” by Pamela Oliver, of U. of Wisconsin, is subtitled “Surviving the Graduate Program in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin,” but contains many excellent tips for grad students in other programs.

I believe the reason graduate school is fundamentally unpleasant is that it entails inherently self-contradictory demands. Structurally, it is school, it is infantilizing. You are structurally a child, and adult teachers are ordering you around. I went straight through school, and when I hit graduate school at age 21, I was already too old to appreciate being treated like a child (Many of the people who work for a while before coming back to school find the infantilization even more intolerable, although others find that work experiences make them more motivated and tolerant of the structure of grad school. It probably depends on how bad your job was.)”

My job before returning to grad school involved little pay or respect, but a significant amount of responsibility and independence. I returned to graduate school because I wanted to be respected for my knowledge and experience. (I know, what was I thinking?) I also spent 8+ years struggling to learn how to teach well and so was not impressed with many faculty members lack of pedagogical knowledge.

To the rescue comes Dr. Virago with “To professionalize or not to professionalize.” What’s funny is that I didn’t even know that “professionalization” was what I wanted. At least there are some other people out there that think it’s not crazy to want to plan ahead if I’m going to invest numerous years in an academic career. It seems that professionalization isn’t on the radar of most faculty member here at Big Ag U. I have been taking classes, writing papers, and getting A’s, but I still have no clue what my professors think of my writing and ideas. If they gave me some real criticism, I would at least know that they were taking me seriously. I understand that grad students are supposed to be self directed, but the occasional discussion of how to get through the process wouldn’t take that much time and would be amazingly helpful. Maybe that is part of the “game” here at Big Ag U., you have to figure out how to get through the process even though no one will give you a straight answer about how. It also worries me how few grad students from our program are presenting at the upcoming national conference, which is taking place within driving distance of the U. this year.

All this reading has inspired me to get moving on my grad student networking plan. Here are the things I need to discuss with other grad students: identifying helpful/relevant committee members, writing, getting funding, publishing, presenting at conferences, and on and on. Now I just have to lure some supportive/friendly/available students in with refreshments and/or entertainment.

Recently I came across this report of a new study which links chronic migraines and depression. I have read a number of news reports suggesting that there is a genetic or brain chemistry link between the two maladies. Since I suffer from both, this interests me greatly. Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, the link is very tenuous. In this particular study they compare the rates of depression in women who got 15+ migraines a month to women who get less than 15 migraines a month. Were they really surprised that women who got more than 15 migraines a month were more depressed??? Considering that migraines can last up to 72 hours? At most I get around 4 migraines a month and I feel like it has a major impact on my quality of life. My favorite part is this quote, “This relation between migraine and major depression suggests a common neurobiology.” Wouldn’t a simpler explanation be that being in severe pain on a regular basis might contribute to major depression? Seriously, 15 migraines a month, who wouldn’t be depressed?

My computer is on the fritz. Beorn is going to charge me a new one.

My one actual class involves social scientists studying other scientists. I really like to prof. He’s pretty new and so a lot of the discussion and reading are from his book. Sometimes it’s a bit much, but he’s pretty willing to adapt and let us take the discussion where we want. For some reason the idea that disciplines involve a set of rules, like a game, came up today. The whole, “it’s a game” argument irritates me. That’s fine if you happen to know it’s a game and you understand what the rules are. But most students, including many grad students don’t know the rule of the game, and faculty are unlikely to be explicit in informing us. Maybe that’s part of the game, you have to be able to “read” the unspoken rules, but that means that students of different cultural backgrounds/genders/etc will most likely be disadvantaged.

If my graduate school experience was a game, I think it would be tetris. Every quarter involves a different, yet similar, challenge in which the pieces are always moving faster and faster. Eventually the round ends and I get a score, I never lose, but I also never win.

The other reason I don’t like the idea the disciplines are games is that I’m very interdisciplinary. What game am I playing here? Can I win when I’m trying to play multiple games at once?

You scored as C.G. Jung. You are more of a spiritualist than would be immediately apparent. Some of your notions are questioned by the cynical, but deep down you know the human consciousness is more than the flesh and tissue can account for. You tend to take a scientific observationist look on matters the average person wouldn’t even begin to analyze. You personally are responsible for most of the ideas that are floating around in modern psychologist’s/psychic’s paltry little skulls. On the down side, you tend to be associated with that asshole Freud.

What Pseudo Historical Figure Best Suits You?
created with QuizFarm.com

Well this morning has been better than yesterday. I got an email from an office on campus offering me a RA position for this quarter. Too bad I’m already working 75% time at two other jobs. The problem is that I would really enjoy this job and there is a possibility that it could turn into an ongoing position. It would be very nice not to have to run around looking for positions each quarter. Unfortunately the quarter has already started, so I don’t think I can quit my TA position now. My other RA position is with my advisor and mostly involves data analysis for my thesis/her on-going research, so there isn’t much point in quitting, since I’ll have to do that work either way. Arg!

My post last night had to do with a situation in which someone I’m working for and a co-worker didn’t think to include me in their plans and discussions. It was most likely just an oversight; they just happened to be together and things were discussed and decisions made. I have been trying to schedule a meeting with both of them to organize this project all week and having trouble. It feels very frustrating because I feel like I’m the low ranking person in this situation but I’m having to take on a leadership role because neither of them are doing it. I guess I could view it as an opportunity, but it feels like a burden.

I’m doing fine, really. Just one of those days were it feels like I’m being left out of conservations on purpose. Ever had a day that reminded you of being picked last for dodge ball? I know it’s just in my head but I can’t help but feel offended.