1: Working within an Academic Community

Before beginning this module, take a moment to download the program basics form found here. Who is your program director? What is the URL for your graduate handbook? Note your responses in the form.

Advisors, committee members, other faculty, and colleagues are a major influence on our levels of stress and our capacity for success, depending on how supportive they are. We are going to now talk about working with members of our academic committees, especially advisors and committees. Keep in mind that “non-academic” relationships are important to your academic success too; see the appendices for strategies and suggestions for interacting with people outside your academic community.

When thinking about choosing your advisor, consider the following questions:

  • How do you feel supported in your academic community? What advice do you have for other PhD students?
  • What qualities do you believe a good mentor possesses?
  • What are the responsibilities of a good mentor?
  • What qualities do you believe a good mentee possesses?
  • What are the responsibilities of a good mentee?

When thinking about choosing your committee, consider the following questions:

  • Does your committee “fill in the blanks” left by your advisor? If not, do you have the power to make changes?
  • What are your committee members’ best mentoring qualities? Are you getting what you need from them?
  • List the qualities you will most need from your future committee members.

Please use the form found here for choosing your advisor and committee members.

Whether or not you have chosen your committee, can change your committee, or have chosen the best possible faculty members to support you and your work, you will still face challenges in working with these people. It is important for you to anticipate these challenges and how you would deal with them.

The following challenges are fairly common problems or are serious issues. It is important for you to think about how you would handle these challenges. Think about the resources available to you, both personal and external.

  • If you are not in agreement with a member?
  • If you need additional support?
  • If a member is not accessible enough?
  • If feedback on your work is slow in coming?
  • If members are not getting along?
  • If your relationship with your advisor becomes problematic?
  • If you begin to wonder whose work this really is?
  • If a committee member moves/retires/dies?