Friday, September 5, 2008

department organization

In this post and in the comments, I mentioned that I'm not getting much guidance while I'm writing, so I'm sending endless drafts for comment instead to make sure I'm going in the right direction. This is one result of my department having almost no rules and regulations other than those which are university-wide.

Other departments in the university and at other schools have orientation programs for new students, require you to submit a proposal for your work, require tests of general discipline knowledge, have a strict plan for completing your work on time, specify work hours for RAs, and have a template for how your thesis should be organized. My department has none of these for masters students. What it does have is a fantastic graduate student coordinator/secretary who knows all the university regulations, keeps a million balls in the air, and advocates for students who are getting shafted by their advisors. This works out ok, but if the grad coordinator leaves, the department will grind to a halt.

I'm a grownup and I dislike red tape as much as the next person, but there are disadvantages to doing everything on the fly. I spent my first week here in a panic, trying to get a million things squared away in buildings scattered all over campus. When I started my first TA, I had no idea how to run the labs and I was assisting a brand-new prof who didn't have a clue either, which made things interesting. My specific area of study is the specialty of a prof in another department, who has become essentially advisor 2 and has made it clear that he doesn't appreciate all the extra work advisor 1 has created for him. A proposal that formalized what I was doing and who would help out would have reduced that drama. A more institutional problem is that some students appear to have vastly different research workloads.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the lack of direction on how to write the thesis. The various professors have different opinions on how a thesis should be organized, and we have completely different theses. Some folks have long-term field projects, some do a million little lab experiments, some write makes sense that different formats wouldn't work so well for certain people. But if your professor doesn't really care how you write it, then it can be hard to figure out where to start. So I guess in my case, the reason I'm feeling sort of lost right now is because I'm not getting guidance from any direction other than that I should finish by x date, which is waaay too soon. So I guess I better get back to work...

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