Navigating Post Coursework 01. Navigating Ambiguity

Navigating Post Coursework 01. Navigating Ambiguity


– [Instructor] Once you
complete coursework, you no longer have the structure
created by your classes with clear tasks and deadlines. The weight of completion shifts you and you become the driver. Additionally, since one
goal of this process is to help you become
an independent scholar you may find faculty reluctant to tell you precisely what to do. And they may look to you to tell them where you want to go and what you need from them to get there. As you will hear from faculty, the key is both embracing
the ambiguity and creating your own structure. – When you’re finished
with your coursework, there is a lot of uncertainty. You no longer have to be someplace from nine to noon on Monday. You no longer have a paper
due on May 2nd to work for. Things just become more ambiguous. What I recommend is create a schedule and a structure for yourself. Work with your advisor and
come up with a timeline. When do you want this paper done? When do you want to have this
conference paper written? And it’s going to be a bit
different for everyone. I think begin with the end in mind. When you leave here,
what do you want on your resume or Vida? What do you want to be able to tell your future employer,
whether in a business, an academia, in a non-profit? And then if you begin
with the end in mind, it’s very easy then to write down the steps to get there. When people waffle or
get lost, I think it’s because they’ve lost
sight of the end game. But if you, you know, everyone here is bright, they’re motivated. Keep the end game in mind, work with your peers, and your advisor, on coming up with a path to reach that end game and stay on target. – I think that this is
probably one of the hardest transitions that most students have in their academic careers, is, when coursework ends, because, coursework is so familiar and so structured. For many of our students
they’ve gone through years and years of academic training. And that structure becomes
very familiar, very easy, and something that
they’re comfortable with. When they lose that structure, often times students feel very lost
and the first thing, again, I think is important to
realize is this is very common. That everybody goes through this. It’s in some ways, I liken it to the feeling of driving off a cliff! You’ve been very structured,
you have your route, you’re going and then
all of a sudden, you look down and there’s no road there anymore! And so, I liken it to the metaphor, but you have to create your road then, you have to create your path. And you have to figure
out what those structures are, that you need to continue on your journey and make progress. – It’s easy to get through coursework. I mean, it’s, what people have
been doing for a long time. You show up for a course,
you do exactly what the syllabus says, you get good grades, and then
you move on the next one. It’s when you get to
after that to the exams phase, the dissertation phase, that’s where we see a lot of students slow down and struggle, sometimes. And, at that point, it really is about the ability to be
self-directed, the ability to be disciplined, the
ability to manage your time. I think those parts of the process are really valuable because they help the student gain the kinds of skills that they would need in the profession; whether as a faculty member, or in some other way that most of us, successful professionals are disciplined, and their managers of their own time, and they’re self-starters. Those are all the things
that have to happen at the exam stage and at
the dissertation stage. You’re not accountable
to somebody else anymore. You’re accountable to yourself. So I tell my students, you
have to treat this like a job. It is your job. And whether it’s a full-time job, you know whether this is
something you do 8 hours a day or whether you’re doing
other things and this is a part time job, it is a job! You’ve got to dedicate time to it. You’ve got to jealously protect that time. You’ve got to tell friends,
and even family members, No, I’m studying right now. I’m reading. I’m writing. And block out that time, make a commitment to yourself. Block it out on your calendar. And treat it with the seriousness
with which it deserves. – There’s phase one,
which is the structured coursework here on campus, every week. And then there’s phase two, which is not structured, and you’re
just kind of working on your own on a proposal or dissertation. And, in fact, my colleague,
David Drew, co-wrote a book with Paul Gray, On What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School. And this was one of the
important things they don’t often teach you, is
how to survive phase two. And he recommends, David Drew
recommends, that students stay in touch with their academic advisor, make weekly meetings, even if they have no new activity to discuss. Just the accountability
of meeting with their advisor, keeps them engaged. – People say they don’t want structure, but people want structure. It’s much easier to have a menu and a timeline for what’s expected of you. Even if the content of the
course can be difficult. I find that the process
of writing a dissertation, and developing the skills
that will lead you into the profession to be the
much more difficult part. As you say, it’s murky. There’s not a clear path. – I do think that one of the points that often is hardest for students is when they come to
the dissertation stage. I mean, classes you
have clear expectations, you know what you have to do. Dissertation, the student is expected to come up with an
original research topic! Wow! They are going to spend sometimes two to four years working on. – Once you ABD, you
realize that on your own. You know, you don’t have that structure coming to a campus, with your classmates, and with your professor. And so you pretty much, have to be discipline yourself. And it’s also doubly
difficult if you’re working. You know, because, writing a dissertation is very solitary kind of situation. You know, one of the nice things now, is the writing center has the boot camp. Because my students who participate in it, they rave over that. That makes a huge difference. And also they bond with other students who are also ABD, and
writing their dissertation. So they sort of keep up
with one another, you know, like, how far have you gotten? And these kind of things. – I tell my PhD students
that the hardest part is after your coursework is done. Then the focus shifts from being in a very structured environment to this less structured situation where it takes more initiative on both the advisor’s side and
on the student’s side to make progress towards
completing the degree program. And that is a challenge. And it’s challenging for
PhD’s and evaluations specifically because after
they are done with their Master’s a lot more job
opportunities pop up. And so we have directors of evaluation at the Kaiser Community Foundation and at multiple organizations
that are currently being filled by our current PhD students, who are not done yet, but are
on their way to being done. And what I find to be a really successful strategy that they implement,
the ones that do finish, is that they do meet with
the advisor, they have a set of dates and deadlines
that are negotiated. And in which the advisor
would check in on them and say, how are you doing on this? Do you need to schedule a meeting? Do we need certain updates
to help with the progress? So there has to be a proactive element on both the advisor and
on the student’s side to help ensure progress. – A lot of students will
focus on coursework. This is my goal. They’re qualifying them. Then after qualifying them they say, What do I do? I don’t have a research topic! What is about the proposal? So one first thing I
always advise a student, if they come approach me
earlier in Freshman year, when we have orientation for PhD students. I really always say, start
to find faculty to talk about research and
understand your areas, and develop your research ideas early. You should think about
your proposal very early in your PhD program. And you should take those opportunities to develop your research ideas in your all doctor level courses. We offer like three doctor level courses. Which I always suggest to
students, say, you know, if you have an area you want to explore, there can potentially
be proposal, then you can use in that in doing research project within the course. Then you have much, are
much better when you finish qualifying then you have
something to start with. That’s the first thing. So do not start after finishing coursework about your research, that’s one advice. And secondly, just need your hour program, we provide after you
finish, doctor students, all your coursework, they can
start to do qualifying exam, then prepare for qualifying exam, then there’s a guided study, independent study, for doctor students. Usually by this time
you pick your advisor, then you start working with the advisor to form the idea development. I think that’s a very important piece. And usually by this time you
just sign the guided study, meet with your advisor. I have some students, for
proposal developments, I meet with them every week. Some students every other week. And it’s there to talk
about topic areas they are interested in. What could be a good research potential? And in those processes usually students really the students were coming
with already solid ideas, but they say those are broader areas, then we narrow down the areas that could be research probable question. Then they will go out, do
a lot of literature review. So really that guided
study is literature review and identifying problems,
framing the problems. And I usually, you know, after a semester, some students will have good ideas emerge. Then they can get into their proposal. (cheery playful instrumental music)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *