Over casual meals and conversation, summer is a great time to build rapport, talk shop with more freedom, and be very productive in the sense that nothing may get written, the but foundation gets laid for the upcoming semesters.
I’ve had the good fortune of working with some outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in just a few short years and while I’ll save the ‘gloom and doom’ portion of the post for later, let me share with you the story behind the young ladies in the photo above.
The student (undergrad or grad) who excels, gets asked to work the extra projects and ends up reaping the rewards. The students in the photo above were all working with me (except the guy, he’s a colleague) and two of the three have been hired for the fall. The third graduated and is off to her first FT job soon. This group of young ladies has exceled in work ethic. It’s ok if they didn’t get hired knowing everything about research, we taught them. A good work ethic will get you a lot farther in my book than a giant list of books you’ve read or an ego the size of a fire truck. Quite frankly, the ego can go anyway. The same can be said for some of the fine graduate students I have the pleasure of knowing and working with. Checking their ego at the door and buckling down for some real work is paying off for them. They’re the ones being paid for to attend conferences, going to special sessions to learn new software, and while the workload is double, the students have all weighed the advantages and disadvantages for the long haul.
These are great human beings to work with. I cannot say enough nice things about them. There’s even the middle of the road students who I enjoy who work really hard but have other things in their lives (partners, young children) that impede them from being a ‘rock star’ but they also work extremely hard and will finish with ease.
Now to the other side of the coin: In talking w/ several unergrad researchers and grad students, I shared my experiences of how I’ve observed departments take students off of funding/benefits as a way to gently nudge them. The student may not have realized it, but was quickly becoming a career student, something the dpeartment was trying to avoid. The student persisted, running from small grant to small grant, running out of funding, going through lapses with no funding, but yet, would not finish their dissertation.
What does this say? What do you say to that student (besides my friend HONESTY that says, “hey, read the writing on the wall & get your shit together”)
I keep repeating and sound like the broken record to grad students, but I keep saying the following:
it sucks. work hard. your faculty notice. you get picked for things b/c we know you’ll do the work correctly not b/c we’re trying to punish you. when we give you the whole summer off unpaid, (and not by choice, when there’s ZERO offer for summer funding) it’s b/c we know you won’t produce during the summer b/c you didn’t produce much during the year.
If you’re the student who’s getting cut from funding completely–wake up, make some coffee & smell it. Unless there are catastrophic cuts somewhere (beyond control) it’s b/c we want you done. We want you out. You hanging on only makes you look desperate, not scholarly. Do circumstances arise? Yes, but departments are masters of moving money when they feel the investment will be worth it. Be worth it to your department to move money (and mountains) for you if need be.
Don’t be the career student who sucks everyone dry.