Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2005

Holiday Challenge

Are you going to try to work on your dissertation or publication over the winter break?

I'd like to offer a holiday/winter break challenge to anyone who would like to take me up on it.

Post what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily. Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadine pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Then you can go back to this post daily, weekly or just at the end of the challenge (shall we say January 15?) to say how you did, to tell us about your problems or to encourage and commiserate with others.

So, to summarize:
Post what you're working onPost your daily time commitmentPost again periodically to tell us how you're doing -- I'll receive all posts as emails and will comment and encourage you!Good luck and happy holidays!

With a Little Help From My Enemies

This is the title of a Dec. 1, 2005 "First Person" article in the Chronicle, by A. Papatya Bucak. She writes about the double-edged sword of jealousy and admiration of role models that compels her to exceed. She laments the fact that the "Life on the Tenure Track" meetings in her department give practical advice instead of allowing the faculty to showcase their work or model their successes. I wish we would all sit in a circle and read from our favorite works. Then wouldn't we all want to go home and write? Isn't that what made us writers in the first place? Jealousy?

Most of my colleagues are not creative writers -- they are literature scholars, historians, and sociologists, but surely they have their equivalent inspirations. Rather than warning against failure, our meetings could model success. I don't need any more practical advice: What I need is inspiration.

During the three years I was a graduate student, every one of my writing professors publishe…

More Reactions to "We Need Humanities Labs"

My article in Inside Higher Ed, "We Need Humanities Labs," has generated a lot of comments, I'm happy to say! I've seen the argument that I made for more interactions among those in the humanities tied in to the need for those in the humanities to collaborate more to compete for funding, and also to the idea of setting aside physical library space for grad students and advisors to meet. John, who writes Machina Memorialis, wrote a particularly thoughtful and well-written post. He writes about his experience in such a "lab." It's about the connections, the associations, the joining of disparate pieces of information into something new. It was the exposure to ideas, to thoughts, to associations and connections I wasn't going to encounter on my own.... And that, I think, is what Gina Hiatt is suggesting in this piece, that by coming together weekly to focus on each others work, to bounce ideas off each other, to tap into and share each others storehous…

"Trained for Nothing"

I just finished reading "Trained for Nothing" by Joseph Heathcott, in the Nov/Dec issue of Academe. This is the best article I've read so far on the job crisis in academe, particularly in the humanities. He makes the case that the "guild model" of training graduate students to become future tenured professors is no longer feasible. This is particularly true in the humanities, although the number of tenure lines is drying up in all disciplines.

I despair that articles like this are being written by assistant professors and dissertation coaches, and that nothing substantive is being done at the higher levels of administration. How bad does it have to get?

The Job Interview

This week's newsletter is about the job market, in particular the job interview. Here are some further hints gleaned from various web source.



Do your homework on the institution interviewing you! This is mentioned too many times to quote sources, and it's just plain common sense.Here are some good general interviewing hints from the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis (I couldn't resist that name.)Dave Johnson at Sciencecareers.org wrote a column, "Urban Legends of the Job Search," in which he wrote a good summary of the importance of eye contact and possible cultural differences that could sway interviewers.
Eye contact is crucial for interviewers to feel comfortable about you. You are judged by a number of non-verbal elements in an interview, and your ability to communicate with your eyes is one of them. Poor eye contact can result in subconscious decisions about you; the interviewer may decide she can't trust you, or conclude that you are low on energy and enthu…

The Academy's Dirty Little Secret

The National Research Council is in the process of revamping how they rate graduate programs. I posted the following comment following an article on this topic in Inside Higher Ed:


Great news for current and future graduate students
All graduate students should rejoice that ratings of doctoral programs will consider such data as “how students are treated and how they perform, including attrition rates and the time it takes students to complete their degrees.” As a dissertation coach, I get an earful from clients and from readers of my newsletter about mistreatment and neglect by advisors and committee. Poor advising inevitably results in poorer and slower performance by students. As a tenure coach, I hear plenty of the same stories — I have clients who can’t bear to face publishing their dissertation because it brings back memories of their advisor’s treatment of them. Some of the most hair-raising stories come from graduates of the most well-respected programs.
The only way for this si…

A Great Post -- Strategies for Successful Dissertation Completion

Here is an extremely useful post on the Crooked Timber blog by Eszter Hargittai, with helpful additional comments by readers, on Strategies for Successful Dissertation Completion. I added my own comments on how to choose a dissertation advisor.

I would also add a small addendum about the reading and literature review stage of your work -- when you are reading, don't just underline or put stars next to great paragraphs. Take the time to do a little free writing about how the article or book you're reading ties in to your planned work, whether you agree with it or not, what questions it brings up, and any other floating thoughts that come to your mind. You'll be so glad later you did this.

In addition to this, free write every day, even when you're at the beginning of the process. You'll be surprised later how much of what seems like drivel can be useful in jumpstarting the writing of the final product.

Dissertation Procrastinators Rejoice!

I've just been rereading Thomas H. Benton's piece in the Chronicle (Oct. 14, 2005) on Productive Procrastination. He makes the point that you can get a lot done on other useful tasks when you're procrastinating. I've been putting this tenet to good use. While preparing for a talk (November 17) to the dissertation group at Brown, I've written articles on other subjects, written my newsletter, visited my son at college, chatted with my daughter who's in graduate school, and picked up autumn leaves.

Benton offers reassuring advice for those who feel excessively guilty about their procrastinating ways:

But fret not. The best advice I ever heard is that life is what we do when we are avoiding something else. There are already too many books chasing too few readers, and, perhaps, the best thing for most us to do is take some time to play with our kids, talk with our students and colleagues, cultivate our gardens, and live well. Inevitably, our best books will be the on…

Professors as Thought Leaders

My article in Inside Higher Edon the idea of the "Humanities Lab" has received such insightful comments -- I've really enjoyed reading them. The first comment referenced John P. Kotter, a retired Harvard professor:

In the March 1999 issues of Harvard Business Review, John P. Kotter penned a classic, “What Effective General Managers Really Do” that, in spite of what business textbooks were advocating, suggested that “... seemingly wasteful activities like chatting in hallways and having impromptu meetings are, in fact, quite efficient.” Kotter goes on to emphasize that “flexible agendas and broad networks of relationships” enable opportunity and accomplishment “... through a large and diverse set of people despite having little direct control over most of them.”This prompted me to read more from Kotter. I became fascinated with his distinction between managers and leaders. In Leaders Talk Leadership: Top Executives Speak Their Minds, he states that "Leadership is, mos…

The Humanities Lab

My article came out today in Inside Higher Ed. It's entitled "We Need Humanities Labs". Although it is a bit tongue-in-cheek to suggest the idea that those in the humanities need to gather in "labs", I believe that more interaction and collegiality would improve the quality of the academic experience for grad students and also increase their creativity and productivity.

I wrote it in response to the epidemic of lonely, isolated, or even abandoned graduate students that I have talked to, heard about, and read about, mostly in the humanities. I find it interesting that one of the comments to the article stated that maybe "isolation is good for you." The writer went on to say that it might be help you with independent thinking not to interact with others in your field as often as weekly. As that writer is far from his/her campus, I suspect that there may be more than a little rationalization -- I can't have it so it must be bad for you. I doub…

Let the (Grad) Students Take Some of the Teaching Load

I just came upon this post on teaching strategies for a graduate seminar by Anbruch:


This being my third and most successful graduate seminar, I thought I'd write out some of the things that have worked for me this time around.
Frontload the reading. Students can absorb a heavy reading load early in the semester. Being fresh, they are also more enthusiastic about the readings so discussion goes better.
Have the students do the work for you. Well, not in so many words: you set the readings and the agenda, but you assign various student groups to lead the discussion each week. The way I've worked it this semester is like this: the group meets with me for about 30 minutes a week before they lead discussion. I give them talking points, the issues they should bring to the table, and how they might think about organizing the class. But the class itself is more or less theirs. I try to stay out of the way as much as possible, intervening only to get things back on track if things move t…

Non-academic careers -- think out of the box

I just got off the phone with a client and she raised the topic I had wanted to blog about. So many graduate students see being a professor as the only possible outcome of getting an advanced degree. And yet, the truth is that many will not be professors. Here is a quote from a Chronicle Article, which is entitled "A Ph.D. and a Failure":


But there are countless faculty members, administrators, and students themselves who continue to perpetuate a narrow definition of success in academe. Anything else is "less than."

Unfortunately, the hard facts show again and again that only a small percentage of doctoral students can achieve the success of becoming a tenure-track professor at a research institution. In their study, "Ph.D.'s -- 10 Years Later," Maresi Nerad and Joseph Cerny found that only 58 percent of Ph.D.'s in English were on the tenure track or tenured 10 years after graduation. Of those, less than a fifth worked at top research universities (…

A challenge to professors: tell your students the truth and help them find non-academic jobs!

Here is a quote from "At Cross Purposes: What the experiences of doctoral students reveal about doctoral education." By Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore. January, 2001. A report prepared for The Pew Charitable Trusts, Philadelphia, PA. www.phd-survey.orgThis information is based on The Survey on Doctoral Education and Career Preparation, a 1999 survey of 4,114 students in 27 universities.

The data from this study show that in today's doctoral programs, there is a three-way mismatch between student goals, training and actual careers. Despite a decade of attention, the mismatch between the purpose of doctoral education, aspirations of the students, and the realities of their careers within and outside academia continues. Doctoral students persist in pursuing careers as faculty members, and graduate programs persist in preparing them for careers at research universities, despite the well-publicized paucity of academic jobs and efforts to diversify the options available for…

Create 100 research ideas

I frequently help my clients to free themselves up enough to create new research ideas. It's clear what kind of thinking gets in their way. Here are some of the protests that I hear when I ask clients to brainstorm new ideas: It's probably already been done That's a stupid idea -- I can't believe I said it It's too obvious It doesn't seem important enough My mind is blank; I can't think of anything I suggest that you get into a real brainstorming mode when you try to come up with research ideas. Here's a reminder of what's needed to brainstorm effectively:You can't critique your ideas All ideas, no matter how bad they seem, should be written down Create as many ideas as you can. Aim for an impossibly high number. One hundred seems about right! If possible, do this with someone else, who is in on the rules of brainstorming. It sometimes helps to purposely come up with outlandish ideas, to help your brain break out of its box. Another way to help generate re…

Are You a Creative Researcher and/or Writer?

A secret fear of many graduate students and professors is that they're not creative enough, or if they have been, that the well of creativity is drying up. Of course, this fear itself is crippling. Perhaps the most difficult time is coming up with dissertation topics, when the term papers have always been assigned before. But getting a Ph.D. is not enough for many -- the fears about a creativity drought continue into the professoriate. Here are some ideas about discovering and maintaining your creativity, from a list by Hugh MacLeod (one of the most creative people I know of) at Gaping Void.com. I've added some comments in italics, and also deleted some comments of his directed at business people.
Ignore everybody. Especially the naysayers.

Put the hours in.Read a little and write a little every day.

You are responsible for your own experience.No matter what they throw at you.
Everyone is born creative.Your anxiety gets in the way of realizing it.

Everybody has their own privat…

Writing and Grant Writing Resources

One of my dissertation coaching groups has members from various social sciences, which at times has included everything from psychology to marketing. They are a very supportive and cohesive group, and I'm always impressed with how much they value each other's input and their posts to the listserv (a private one I maintain for my coaching groups.)

Today one of them forwarded some resources, both from Harvard, her alma mater. The first one is aimed towards undergrads, but has useful tips for any academic writer: Harvard Writing Center. The second one has links for grants that you might want to try for: Grantseeker's Toolbox

Academic Bloggers

So, I've entered into the fray -- the blogging on bloggers in academia. Having been interviewed by Scott Jasich, one of the founding editors of Inside Higher Education, about Daniel Drezner's denial of tenure, I've now written about it in today's newsletter. Although Drezner, a highly respected and well-published scholar, stays away from stating it, the evidence points to the fact that his blogging was a part of the negative tenure decision.

Although this seems hard to believe, consider the fact that the most senior tenured faculty are the least likely to read, and certainly to write blogs. The older you are, the more difficult to grasp technology. I've been told that there is something called "network effects" in marketing -- the idea that until there is a venue and a raison d'etre for something new, people will be slow to adopt it. And face it, older people are the slowest to adopt something new. This mistrust of "new-fangled" technology is…

Help for Hurricane Survivors

I'm sure you are all touched by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. If you are wondering what you can do to help, check out this site, Network for Good, which is a wonderful source of information on various ways you can help. Here is a description of the site taken from their "About Us" page:
Network for Good is the Internet's leading charitable resource — an e-philanthropy site where individuals can donate, volunteer and get involved with the issues they care about. The organization's goal is to connect people to charities via the Internet — using the virtual world to deliver real resources to nonprofits and communities.

Dissertations: Notice Your Successes

Lately I've noticed that as summer comes to an end, my ABD clients feel overwhelmed and down on themselves. There's a tendency for grad students to feel that they haven't accomplished enough on their dissertation at any time of year. It's particularly bad at the end of the summer.

After I pointed out their tendency to overfocus on what they hadn’t accomplished, one of my dissertation coaching groups decided that they would post what they had accomplished over the course of the summer. (I have a private listserv for each coaching group.) This turned out to be very successful – they had done a lot more than they thought they had. They all now feel encouraged.

I suggest you try making a list of all that you accomplished during the summer, big and small. This includes not only what you’ve written, but what you’ve researched, read, learned, figured out, realized, decided or changed. You might be surprised at what you’ve actually done!

Frodo Baggins, ABD -- An Article in the Chronicle

The Chronicle of Higher Education published a great essay today by a former Cornell graduate student who successfully defended her dissertation in 2004. She likens the dissertation process to The Lord of the Rings trilogy:

He travels across a land called Middle-earth to throw a ring into the middle of a volcano called Mount Doom -- an action that, for doctoral students, is known as "filing the dissertation."

She goes on to point out that Gollum is the eternal ABD, destined never to finish, while Frodo's faithful companion Sam will be written about in the Acknowledgments.

I particularly like her translation of the scene where Frodo's mind is so damaged and his spirit is so broken from years of tortured, lonely journeying that he can't let go of the ring. I have seen this so many times with clients who can't let go of even one chapter. "The ring is mine!" Frodo proclaims.

The author, Susie J. Lee, ends the metaphor by describing how Fro…

A Non-Working Vacation (?)

I'm going on vacation with my daughter. She's 24 and in graduate school, with a summer break. I'm already going through withdrawal thinking about the fact that I really shouldn't bring my laptop. No, I won't bring it. I'm sure I won't. It's too heavy. Sigh.

I've told all my clients that I would pay extra on the cruise to have Internet access so that they could write to me, and every one of them told me I was crazy. They told me that the point was for me to relax and forget about them. That's so hard to do!

It's easy to get caught up in thinking that there's never enough time, so this would be a great time to get something done. But my mind needs refreshing. I can tell when I'm starting to get bogged down. Perhaps you've had this experience? Have you ever gone on vacation and not realized until a few days into it how tired and run down you had become? I know that's happened to me.

That does it. I…

Trust Yourself

I believe that many of the fears that graduate students and professors have that hold them back stem from the fact that they don't trust themselves. Specifically, they don't trust themselves to be able to handle the outcome of the feared event, whether it's rejection by a journal, or negative comments about their dissertation.

For example, they may put off calling their dissertation advisor to arrange an appointment to get feedback on their last chapter. Or more often, they fear finishing the draft of the chapter because it means handing it in and getting feedback. I've known numerous postdocs and professors who have not published as much as they might have otherwise, for the same sorts of reasons.

But what's the big deal? .... Yes, it does hurt to get criticism. And if there is unfair criticism, that's even worse, since the power imbalance in these kinds of situations may leave you feeling angry and disempowered.

You do have a choice about …

Reasons to Share Your Work

I had six appointments today with six coaching clients, including ABD graduate students, postdocs, and professors. What I found remarkable was that in five out of the six sessions, the person had had a conversation with a colleague or advisor, and then felt immensely better afterwards.

The irony is that many people avoid just such interactions. They dread showing their colleague what they have written as a contribution to a jointly-written chapter or paper. They are sure that their dissertation advisor will hate their latest draft. This causes them to procrastinate during the writing process, and avoid setting up the much-needed meeting.

Yet nine times out of ten, the imagined criticism either doesn't come or is just not that painful. I think that such people die a thousand deaths, yet actually they are strong enough to endure should they get negative feedback.

The moral of the story? Bite the bullet and schedule that meeting. You will feel more energized an…

Do You Have Any Advice for New ABD's?

I realized after writing the previous entry that I would love to get some advice for new ABD's from those of you who have been in the trenches. Whether you are currently a grad student, or a professor who advises graduate students, your words of wisdom would be appreciated.

What do you wish someone had told you?

What mistakes do you see people make, but either they won't heed your advice, or you feel it's not your place to say anything?

What advice would have made a difference in your finishing the dissertation sooner and with more ease? If you have any thoughts on this, big or small, please write them here or in the forum.

My First Pictures Using My Graphics Tablet!

I just got my graphics tablet, which I purchased in order to put my own illustrations on this web site. It's an Intuos2 by Wacom. I'm surprised how easy it was to adjust to drawing on the tablet. Read on if you're interested in seeing my pictures -- they have nothing to do with academia, unless you're interested in graphics tablets.

Dogwoods

You Are Not Alone

I'm continually struck by the fact that ABD's who are struggling to finish their dissertation think that they are the only ones having this kind of problem. I'm writing this right now to tell you:
You are not alone! There are so many people that are suffering while working on their dissertation, that I'm tempted to say that they are in the majority. How do I know that? Well, the often quoted and never disputed fact that 50% of graduate students fail to finish their dissertation tells me that there must be another 50% who had a difficult time of it.

Unfortunately, it appears that graduate students in the same program rarely talk to each other about the difficulty that they're having. In particular, they don't talk about how bad they feel about themselves. That's why people like to come to this site and find out that they're not alone. I find that I can never say it too often.

Procrastination: The Number One Problem

I've been receiving lots of great ideas and feedback from my feedback form/assessment called Web Site Features Survey. One of the most clear results so far is that people most would like help with their tendency to procrastinate.

It's not surprising: academia has it's advantages and disadvantages....


The freedom that you have to spend your free time also means that no one is breathing down your back asking you "have you published yet?" And you WILL be asked by other people, "How's the dissertation going?" but that only makes you want to run screaming in the other direction. The only hard deadline will come when the dean refuses your third extension of your dissertation deadline.

This is the reason that my first workbook in a series for the graduate student will be on procrastination. Granted, there are a lot of books written to help people with procrastination, but none are specifically written for the graduate student, and none will ha…

Do You Deserve a Ph.D.? The Answer is "Yes!"

The response to my newsletter has been great -- I can't believe how many people have filled out my self assessment: "Do You Deserve a Ph.D.?" So many people feel insecure when they are working on their dissertation, despite a long history of scholastic success....

I meaan, think about it. If you're writing your dissertation, you must have done well, most likely quite well, in high school and college. Furthermore, you have the kind of motivation, interest in your subject, and intelligence that would cause you to apply for, and be accepted to graduate school.

Compared to most of the population you're way above average. But you're working and studying in a place like the mythical Lake Wobegon -- all the people are above average. So you begin to lose sight of your own greatness.

It's not a normal human condition to work, produce and create without feedback. Of course, authors and artists do it for a long stretch of time -- but they'r…

Feedback on Software?

I'm starting to look into various kinds of software that are useful for doing footnotes, bibliographies, etc. I wondered if anyone had recommendations. Some people I've worked with have used Endnotes. I've noticed a few people who think that this particular software is too hard to learn, although they haven't really tackled it. A similar kind of software is called Citation.

There's another kind of formatting software called StyleEase, and a few others. I've noticed that some of the informal reviews on the web are out of date.

This is a plea -- if any of you out there has made use of this software, comment here and let me know what works and why you like it or don't like it.

Darkest Before the Dawn

I've noticed that as grad students reach the end of the chapter they've been slaving on, or as professors are just getting over the hump in writing an article, they feel the most discouraged.

I'm not sure why that happens. Does that happen to you?

Perhaps it's the fact that you've been immersed in your writing so long that it ceases to have any meaning. The lack of perspective makes it look insipid and trite. People often say they feel like they're going in circles.

Probably that's the time where you should set your work aside for a day or two, and work on some other project or chapter. Even better, give it to a trusted colleague to read and get their input. What you need at that point is some perspective.

I've experienced this: I put something away for a while, feeling that it was mediocre. When I picked it up a week later, I think, "That's really not so bad!"

Whatever you do, don't delete what you've wr…

Finishing is the Best Revenge

How do you channel the frustration and anger that you have towards an unresponsive advisor or less than helpful committee? How do you deal with the fact that one grad student seems to have the ear of your advisor and she won't return your phone calls?

Simple! To paraphrase that exclusive department store phrase: "Finishing is the Best Revenge." Get it done, get a great job and get out of there! No need to burn any bridges or go out in a blaze of glory. Just make the unpleasant situation a distant memory.

Paranoia Pre-Publishing

If you've done research, you know what it's like to be paranoid. It takes this form: "Right now, somebody is doing the exact same research or writing that I'm doing, only they're doing it better and faster."

You may have experienced this phenomenon when the newer graduate students copy some of your procedures, or tackle the same subject. Or somebody mentions that they think so-and-so is doing similar research. What follows is usually sleepless nights, hair-pulling days, and breathless investigation into the truth of the rumor.

What I wonder is: how often does this actually happen -- that someone gets scooped? My guess is that it is very rare. Most new research moves the field forward a little at a time -- what chance is there that someone is doing exactly what you're doing?

If you've heard of this happening, please let me know, or respond to this posting.

In the meantime, my suggestion is that you should not worry about being scoo…

The Magic of Accountability

I'm constantly amazed at the power of accountability to allow or even compel people to do the things they don't feel like doing. I see this in my own life -- when I'm expecting guests, it's a lot easier to straighten up those messy piles on my kitchen desk. When I commit to writing a certain number of reports to my own coach, I get them done as promised.

That's one reason that coaching groups work so well. People feel accountable not only to me, their coach, but to the rest of the group members. After all, they were witnesses to the promises made the week before.

Careers Outside of Academia

I've been checking out websites that have information for people considering job hunting outside of academia. There's a site called Sellout (doesn't the name speak volumes about the attitude of those staying in academia?) that has resources for academics thinking of leaving the fold.

As an outsider myself, I find it a little amusing. I've seen this kind of attitude with some of the patients in my clinical practice who have worked for years in a large government agency (I could tell you which one, but then I'd have to shoot you.) When they contemplate leaving, you would think they were moving to Outer Mongolia. The peer pressure is enormous to stay.

Although psychology graduate students are taught that they are part of the scientist-practioner model, meaning they are being taught to do both, in reality there are not enough jobs for all graduates to stay in academe and have a private practice. What bothers me is the hypocrisy -- "We want you…

Dissertation Advisor Horror Stories, Part 2

My next newsletter will be about terrible dissertation advisor behavior. I'm thinking about titling it "When Good People Become Bad Advisors." I like that title because I don't believe that these are bad people. There must be something about the dissertation advising process that brings out strange behaviors in some people.

If you would like to send me any horror stories, I will happily post them here or write about them in my newsletter (see sign-up on upper left of this page). Please change unimportant details so that all people involved remain anonymous. I'd love to hear from you!

Tenure Coaching: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

It is widely known that executives have coaches. Although they are successful, high-functioning people, they still hire coaches to help them become clear on their priorities, stick to their long-term goals, deal with difficult people and all the other problems of such a complex career.

Assistant professors have at least as difficult a career as high-level executives. They are really doing several jobs at the same time. As many of you who are reading this have experienced, the first year or two can be totally overwhelming. The time has come

for professors to take care of their needs in the same way that executives do: by getting the support and help of a coach. A coach can help them track the myriad of tasks that they need, keep a steady pace of publishing, networking, speaking and developing their teaching skills. A coach can offer support and advice with the complexities of departmental politics.
If your institution doesn't offer this kind of help, take…

The Passionate Professor

My newsletter is coming out on Thursday with an article on how NOT to get tenure. I thought I'd mention a couple of thoughts on the professoriate.

In order to be a successful professor, you should have a passion for your subject and a gift for giving selflessly to others. The professoriate is a way of life; you are contributing to the greater good of society with your research, teaching and outreach to the community.

The first couple of years of being an assistant professor are so harried that it's hard to remember this viewpoint.

A Family-friendly Tenure System?

I just read an article in the Chronicle on a report about changing the tenure system to a more user-friendly state.   What I particularly like about it are the recommendations that will help female faculty who are mothers, such as: allowing more than seven years to earn tenure and allowing a certain amount of part-time work.  This not only supports women, it supports families.  If they finally take action on this, it will show that our institutions can support "family values" even though it might hurt them in the pocketbook.

Dissertation Advisor Horror Stories

In my role as a dissertation coach (I also coach faculty) I hear some amazing stories about how graduate students are treated.  Granted, I only hear one side of the story, but in most of the stories the advisors have no excuse.  For example, the advisor of one student went to Europe for a semester and did not return emails or phone calls from his student for over a month.  Did these people ever write a dissertation?  Were they mistreated and now want to get revenge?  I just don't understand this.

Another Time Management Hint

I wrote about using frequently done activities as a reward for writing (see Feb. 4.)  The problem is:  If you are giving yourself a reward for having written (e.g. you get to check your email for 10 minutes if you write for 20)  -- how do you get yourself back to work?  That seems to be the biggest problem for those who procrastinate and avoid.

One simple solution is to have a watch that you can set for 10 minutes and it beeps.  They can be bought cheaply at Target, for example.  Or just set your cell phone to ring, or vibrate if you're in the library, in 10 minutes.  The external cue works better than just counting on yourself to keep track of the time.

Tenure Decisions: Are They Ever Unbiased?

I've been reading about a case where a member of a tenure committee  had a conflict of interest with the candidate being considered for tenure.  It brings up the idea that when you are first hired as an assistant professor, you never know who will be on your tenure committee.  So brush up on your interpersonal skills, use diplomacy whenver possible, and keep asking yourself this question:  "Would I be ok if this person were on my tenure committee?

Time Management for Professors and Grad Students: Make E-Mail Your Reward

There is an often-overlooked principle in psychology: Something that you choose to do with high frequency is a reinforcer. Many of my graduate student or assistant professor clients admit that they spend a lot of time checking e-mail. The conclusion? Make checking your email your reward for doing a less-preferred activity.

How to put this in action? Well, you know what you don't want to be doing. Decide that you will do it for, say, 15 minutes (see my last newsletter article.) If you do manage to spend the allotted time on your dissertation or article, then you get to check your email.

How to get back to the work after you check your e-mail? Aye, there's the rub. I'll leave that to a later blog...

Time Management

I just got off the phone with a client, and we went over several aspects of time management. These issues pop up repeatedly with faculty and graduate students alike.
She had been filling her to-do list with tasks to finish this week. As a result, she was working far too many hours and never feeling caught up. I suggested that she:
Set generous deadlines for self-generated (as opposed to assigned) activities. Make a schedule for the week, where she assigned herself specific times for working on items, e.g. Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 work on committee agenda. See the deadlines as something that will change as she learns more about her tasks. As with many academics, she was caught in the spiral of "I'm really good at this, so I should volunteer to do it and do the best job possible." What I say is, "just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it."

Blog at last

Well, it's taken me a while to set up my own blog. Since I always seem to have extra words, I might as well put them here. Since becoming a coach for graduate students and professors, I have been shocked to find out how much I love working with English/Comp Lit/Religion/Humanities types. I was used to hanging around with science types -- my father having been a physics professor, my husband a doctor/doctor (Ph.D./M.D.) and psychology being a science, according to some. But the humanities people are so eloquent and deep. Whenever I get off the phone from my humanities dissertation group, I feel like I've been reading poetry. I know one of them is reading this now and snickering.