Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Grad School- Spring Semester Check In


I'm a pop culture kid. I see life through a series of movie clips and quotes. There's one for everything. I still stand by the fact that one of the best lines for grad school is "Always be closing". But lately, this is the exchange that's been going through my head.
I've been sick the last two weeks. Not dead-sick, but slow-plague-sick. Enough to make it really hard to get through a 15 hour day. I had student essays to grade, a sequence to design, a presentation for a conference to finish and present, as well as meetings with professors over comps, and just the normal reading/writing necessary for grad school. It sucked. When you're sick, you want to just stay home and sleep, and feel better. But, just as I found when I taught, that's not an issue and you just make the most of it.
When I first moved to NY, this bench was one of the first places I went. I tend to view new places to live through the movies shot there, so...
"If you're strong enough" seems a pretty good tag line for grad school. And when I say grad school here, I'm referring to PhD programs. MA programs are great, but as I've stated before, my lower class-chip on my shoulder background just doesn't understand people who get MAs full time. A master's degree is something you get to improve yourself, but to me it's also something you do while working. I just don't get going to school full time for it, but that's my prejudice. There's also a huge divide (as I also see in my graduate classes) between MA and PhD students- we have different expectations, we need different things, we have different end goals.
PhD students may or may not have already earned their MA. But (at least in English) we have an entirely different agenda. We want to be professors. We want tenure track jobs. As I see it, that means from the first second you step on campus, you need to be working towards this:
  • dress like you want to be a professor, not like a grad student
  • get your work out there, so you're contributing to the conversation (blog about your work, engage in Twitter, present at conferences, get published)
  • sit up front in class, always do all the readings, be the first to raise your hand, be the one always contributing in class, be the first to volunteer
  • make sure the professors in your department and in your field know who you are and know your work
  • be better than everyone else
I'm a firm believer that a professional attitude, and an insane work ethic will get you further than anything. I may not be the smartest person in the room. I may not have mommy and daddy paying my way to make things easy. But I'm willing to work 15-16 hours a day, seven days a week. I'm willing to work harder than anyone else. This is what it means to me "if you're strong enough".

I can't help but thinking of another one of my favorite lines:

I don't know if I'll get a tenure track job. The economy is not great, and the academy seems to be imploding in multiple ways (grad school, adjuncts, rigor, etc.). But I do know this- if I don't it won't be because I didn't do everything in my power. I don't believe in saving anything for the swim back.

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