Sunday, May 02, 2010

AERA 2010 - Graduate Student Council

As I am making the transition from student to scholar, I especially appreciate the work of the Graduate Student Council (GSC) at AERA. The graduate student room is an amazing place to meet people, gather your thoughts, and gear up for the next session. In addition, the sessions that the GSC sponsor are some of the best at the conference, with a focus on interactivity and mentoring the graduate student. I enjoyed the orientation session on Friday night, as it gave me the opportunity to get to know fellow grad students who I continued to bump into throughout the conference. This helps me connect to the conference; when I can walk into a session and wave to someone I know and afterwards have a confidant to talk with about the session.

Throughout the conference, I targeted the Fireside Chats, sponsored by the GSC and specific divisions. These sessions are improvisational, filled with timely advice, and interactive. The session GSC Division E Fireside Chat: The In Between: How to Use My Time Wisely was filled with practical and inspirational advice for the student-scholar transition. The panel was responsive to the immediate questions of the audience and clearly take the role of mentor seriously. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Know your own personal path and make choices to keep you on the path.
  • Focus on filling the gaps in your CV – teaching, research, publishing, etc. It may be useful to delay graduation to fill the gap, but don't delay too long.
  • Get published – the sooner the better, even if it is in smaller journals
  • Get on committees (but not ones that are too time consuming). 
  • Do a post-doc only if it will advance your personal path. 
  • Be able to articulate not only your past work, but clearly know your future research agenda.

Another interesting point made was about creating support systems. It is fairly obvious that to make it through graduate school, then as an junior scholar, then through tenure, support is needed. However, one of the panelists had a nice way of identifying the people in her life as supports and recommended evaluating the reciprocity of the relationships. If the relationship isn't working, then it might be time to “prune” the person.

3 Tiers of Support
  1. People who help you get the job done.
  2. People who are steps ahead of you and can mentor you.
  3. People who are social supports – need work/life balance.
 Two Bumper Sticker Phrases:
Rejection is a part of academia. Get used to it. Move on.
Define success for yourself and move towards it. Don't buy into the institution's view of success.

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