First, the good news: I have an interview next week for an admin position that I am very hopeful about. I’d work with first year students (my fave!), have the possibility of family-friendly hours and awesome health insurance, and work with some people who I really like. In pretty much every way, it would be ideal, and therefore I am trying to assume I will not get it so that if I don’t, it won’t be too crushing.
If this does work out, everything would be ok financially and we could unclench a little. I bought a pair of discount slacks at Loft and am going to have to do some stain treating and creative draping to be presentable next week. If I get the job? New wardrobe: one without sunscreen stains, holes, or bleach spots.
This month, I’ve been lucky enough to pull in some freelancing gigs that have been great. If I could just get 12 more of them over the next 12 months, we would be doing well. But freelancing is all ebb and flow and now that these cash cow gigs are in the past, I’m still getting my editing/writing site set up and saying yes to everything. One of the things I’m doing is working with a former writing center student on an ongoing basis while she tries very, very hard to get her diss proposal and prospectus written.
I have to say that working with her has made me so, so glad I am done with grad school.
First of all, this is a grad student who is several years out from comps and she still has not made progress on a diss topic. She’s smart, her topic is timely and important, but she is treading water. Her advisor left last year for a new position, and is advising from afar. Her data is based on a project this advisor ran and thus the advisor has all these specific ideas about what she should do with the data (we’ll call it X), but those ideas don’t line up at all with what the student is interested in exploring (we’ll call it Y). This student’s whole grad career focused on Y, and her career goals (which are, thankfully, non-academic) are all focused on working with those affected by Y, so doing a diss on X is pointless. Plus, the data she has really doesn’t support a new project on X. Despite having tried to explain this to the advisor again and again, the advisor still keeps sending feedback to changes in drafts with “I thought you were focusing on X, please rewrite so you are focusing on X and send it back.”
I am wondering if anyone ever really teaches grad students how to design research. I know I took courses in research design, but they never asked me to actually design a project and then critique it. I really feel that if there’s any time at which a person could use some handholding and careful direction when it comes to research design, the dissertation is it, no? So why do advisors (at least in my broad experience in humanities/education) just cut students loose and say “OK, come back when you have a complete methodology set up!” And then get miffed when people don’t get it right on the first try? This advisor and student have gone back and forth and back and forth a million times over the last year and every debate came down to a problem of research design. This student simply needs more help designing a project within the parameters of the data available to her. It’s not that hard (although it’s beyond the scope of my expertise), so why hasn’t it happened? I read the comments she received on her drafts and it was all this judgy crap about how confusing the draft is, and I’m like No shit. She’s trying to read your mind and tell you what you want to hear. Just sit down with her on fucking Skype and hammer out a research design for what ought to be a very simple qualitative study on Y!
I understand that professors are super busy. My last advisor was doing about fifty different, important things while I was under her purview. I get it. But I also think that crappy advising is a HUGE problem in grad school. Just like with undergrads, I think grad students need more attention from their teachers, more interaction and support. I think advisors should get some kind of course release to work with their dissertators so they don’t have to hire people like me to coach them through the gamut.
Anyway: it’s June, and it’s beautiful, and last night I finished reading a fun book and made black bean and sweet potato burritos while this student worked on a twenty page chapter draft due the next day. She’s paying me about $50/week to help her out. I’m eating soft serve from Dane’s with that money. The taste of freedom has never been sweeter.