by Nick Baez
Whenever I reflect on my years in grad school, I often get into the habit of saying, “Man, I wish I knew then what I know now.” Many fail to realize that once admitted, there may also be intra-organizational dynamics at play that can serve to produce, for some, a very tumultuous experience. Rather than presume to know what your experience will be like, I will instead spend this short time describing some potential difficulties you may encounter. Learning about the existence of these, and subsequently, how to effectively navigate them, is an essential part of having a successful graduate school experience.
When your advisor has an ulterior motive/hidden agenda.
In an ideal situation, the professors of your graduate program will do everything they can to ensure that you graduate in a timely and appropriate manner. However, I have witnessed instances across programs in which a student’s defense of his/her dissertation or thesis has been delayed for seemingly arbitrary reasons. A closer investigation of such instances reveals that quite often, it is the student’s advisor who is behind this delay.
Usually, the advisor’s motives are due to two possibilities: either (A) they have personal conflicts with other committee members; or (B) they want their students to obtain post-graduate jobs that are worthy of “bragging rights” before graduating, so that they can be perceived as noteworthy advisors. In both cases, this unnecessary delay adds equally unnecessary expense and stress.
When the publication process is used against you.
Most doctorate programs will naturally guide you towards publishing scientific, peer reviewed articles. The amount and quality of publications are significant factors that determine your post-graduate work. However, in some programs, the faculty will purposefully (and passive aggressively) withhold information regarding publishing opportunities from students with whom they have personal conflicts. Unfortunately, this petty manner of handling personality differences has major repercussions and career implications.
When your stipend is not commensurate with your amount of responsibilities.
People who attend doctorate programs often joke that graduate student assistantships are the most legal form of worker exploitation in existence. Though in the grand scheme of things, this is an obvious exaggeration, there are also some elements of truth. Many graduate programs, if they offer a monthly stipend, offer such an infinitesimally small amount that students must be single, have no dependents, and live a menial existence in order to avoid feeling an economic burden. However, when working the assistantships required to earn such a stipend, many grad students find that they put in at least 40 hours a week into doing an adequate job. If, for example, your monthly stipend is $1100, this translates into an hourly wage of $6.88 (less than the national minimum wage).
You will certainly not encounter these issues at every graduate program. However, these circumstances do occur frequently, and may significantly impact your progress through grad school. If they occur during your experience, it is important to confront those responsible for perpetrating such issues in an appropriate and immediate manner.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.