The process of transitioning from a master’s program to a PhD program has been a bumpy one for me. Officially, I’m listed as a PhD student here at B.A.U. despite the fact that my master’s thesis is not complete. At this point I have completed more than enough credits to be done with classes and preparing for my qualifying exams. My thesis has been lagging for a number of reasons. (I’m trying to convince myself that this isn’t a sign of my lack of suitability for an academic career.)

1. Last year I agreed to work with my adviser on a long term project and take part of the analysis to create my thesis. This cause no end of trouble because (I later found out that) we fundamentally disagree about what kind of analysis should be done with that data. Then the data collection process wasn’t very successful.

2. I have had all sorts of bad luck and family issues in the last two years: a broken foot, relatives in need of care, a stolen car, my grandfather dying, Beorn’s cat disappearing.
There has been some confusion about what discipline I want to be in and what degrees was pursuing. This was my fault. When I started, I thought I would pursue a dual degree in “hairdressing” and “head studies” because there are jobs for “hairdressers” outside of academia, which would have taken me 31/2-4 years, so really I’m exactly on schedule. (Right, right?) I always felt that I ultimately wanted to teach and so might want to pursue a PhD, but I didn’t communicate that very clearly to either my professors or friends and family outside of academia. I think Beorn understood, but other people not so much.

Last year, when it became clear that my Adviser and I weren’t meshing, I started thinking about who I might get to advise me on a PhD project. I met with professors from all over the campus looking for a good match, but while several people were encouraging about my project ideas, none of them seemed appropriate considering my degree will be in “head studies” and none of them come from closely related disciplines, so Beorn and I started thinking about applying to other grad schools.

I could stay at B.A.U. because things seem to be looking up for the “head studies” program here. Its interesting how many people seem threatened or upset by my choosing to leave. Friends from my cohort make pressuring comments, despite the fact that I rarely see them, and they know I have good reasons for leaving. Professors here keep emphasizing how great other professors here are (I think will little actual knowledge of the person in question.) Friends and family outside of academia mainly seem puzzled. They think I should be done already and start making money. They are probably right in one sense. Pursuing a PhD doesn’t make much sense financially, but I’m surprised, because these are people who didn’t choose their careers/jobs for their money making potential.

I understand not wanting a friend to move away, particularly one who you see frequently, but I have a feeling that many people just aren’t comfortable with my decision. Either they don’t see the value in pursuing an academic career or they are uncomfortable with my dissatisfaction with the current program. In my mind, if I’m going to pursue an academic career, I need to pursue it full force, not settle for a program that doesn’t suit me.