Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I force my grad student to be a polluter.

I have a great little PhD student working on some data we're gathering at a site off-campus, which requires somebody to actually go to the site. In the past, I have hired an undergrad to do this, and I supported and supervised and went out there myself when the situation warranted it.

But as I get more and more involved in more research, my schedule becomes more crowded, and now that there's a full-time PhD student on this project, I need her to take over the management.

She doesn't drive. There's no way for her to get to the site, since public transportation runs around town but not to isolated areas like this one, even though it's only about 2 miles from campus.

I told her that she needs to get a drivers license and I'll rent a motor pool car for relevant periods of time so that she can get there and back, but that will take several months to accomplish since she has never, ever driven a car before.

In the meantime, I have to act as her car service to take her out there and bring her back, and it annoys me and complicates my summer schedule more than I want. It's also a true problem during periods (for example, nearly all of July) when I am out of town and need her to be overseeing things. Phoo.

Monday, June 12, 2006

You win some.

Last summer an undergraduate advisee was kicked out of school for failure to achieve the required GPA for several semesters in a row. After talking to me and evaluating his options, he petitioned to be let back in on a probationary basis, and was granted the petition, under the additional caveat that he meet with his advisor on a weekly basis.

I was kind of annoyed at first because I thought this placed an undue burden on me, rather than him. But, fine, it's part of my job I guess, so meet we did. It was mostly just a check-in kind of thing, so he'd have somebody besides himself to be accountable to, so I played Mother Hen and asked him if he had turned in all his homework and studied for his exams.

I started off thinking thought this was sort of a waste, but somewhere in the semester our conversations became more about people skills and general professional management (example: when you did poorer than you expected on an exam, and you want to talk to the professor about it, DO NOT say, "Is there any way you would raise my grade?" Instead try something like, "Could you give me some advice on where I went wrong, so that I can improve my studying and do better next time?" Remember that you are the only person really responsible for your performance). At the end of the fall semester, he had received his highest GPA ever, but was still under the cumulative GPA to graduate as planned in the spring.

So, spring semester we continued to meet and he continued to work hard, and at the end of the academic year raised his GPA to 0.01 above the minimum level, and graduated. He stopped by my office to give me a victorious thank-you speech, and to tell me he'd be more than happy to talk to any of my students in the future about why you should work hard and take college seriously right from the beginning of your career, rather than blowing everything off and assuming that it'll work out.

So, yay!