I recently attended the NAGPS 2010 Conference held in Cambridge, MA at MIT. I was afforded the opportunity to join the conference because GradShare was a conference sponser and we work closely with the NAGPS organiztion. The conference was well organized and interesting, and it gave me an opportunity to learn more about the NAGPS while also helping attendees learn more about GradShare. I will touch on some of my personal experiences from the conference.
We got lucky with the weather. The temperatures ranged from high 50's to the low 60's, which is definately not what I expected when I first learned I'd be attending a November conference in Massachusetts. The hotel was about a 15 minute walk to the buildings on the MIT campus where the sessions were being held. The gift bag that everyone recieved at registration had a conference program that contained a map, so getting lost was never an issue. The gift bag also had a conference t-shirt, snacks and giveaways from various sponsers (including GradShare coffee mugs!). The bags were well put together and served as a nice treat for the attendess. NAGPS membership was up 50% from last year, and some people traveled from as far as Arizona and Florida to attend the conference, so I'm sure they appreciated the gesture.
There were several concurrent sessions taking place throughout Friday and Saturday. Two of the more insightful sessions that I attended revolved around the theme of graduate school orientation. I listened to Alime Sadikova from Texas Tech talk about her experience with graduate school orientations at her institution, and I also heard Kuang Xu talk about the extensive graduate school orientation program that he helps coordinate at MIT. One thing that both presentations touched on is that these orientations are especially important for foreign students and non-traditional students. Graduate students today don't fit into any particular mold -- they are all different ages and come from all different backgrounds. It can be tough to acclimate to a new city or country, and it can be challengeing to attend graduate school while trying to raise a family. I spoke with other attendees at these sessions, and they elaborted on the same concepts. All of this provided me with great ideas about how to add more content to GradShare that can help ease the transition to graduate school for foreign and non-traditional students.
On Friday evening I had a chance to set up an exhibit table and talk with attendees about GradShare. While I was setting up the table the I was able to observe the NAGPS Membership Meeting in action. The organization is very thorough in their voting process and it was interesting to see how they operate. I'd like to congratulate John Kowalski, he was voted the next NAGPS President and will be taking over for Alex Evans. Also, I'd like to thank Kevin McComber, NAGPS Director of Outreach, for organizing the Scotch tasting that took place later that evening! Let's just say that was a good time.
Aside from learning valuabe information about orientation programs, talking to attendees about GradShare, and tasting some great Scotch, my favorite part of the conference was listening to guest speaker Representative Michael Capuano from the 8th Congressional District. There are 34 colleges and universities in his district, so he's a big proponent of higher education. He gave a straight foward assesment of how politics and higher education intertwine, especially when it comes to issues like foreign students and immigration, and he also fielded several questions from the audience about various political issues that impact students and the world of academia. He was very honest and personable, and it was great to hear humorous and intelligent dialogue from a seasoned politician -- a nice change of pace from the nationwide vitriol we witnessed leading up to the recent elections in early November.
Dora Farkas hosted a session later that afternoon in which she spoke about social media and strategies that students can use to incorporate social media into the graduate student groups at their respective universities. She provided several wonderful examples from her own expereiences using social media -- whether it be posting on the GradShare blog, managing her own website (www.phdnet.org), or publicizing her book The Smart Way to Your Ph.D. There was a raffle at the end of her talk, and four lucky attendees walked away with a signed copy of her book. Not too shabby. Great job Dora!
Everyone on the NAGPS Board of Directors and all the volunteers did an excellent job making the NAGPS 2010 Conference successful. I met a lot of interesting attendees, and I was able help several people learn more about GradShare and how it can benefit them and their peers. I look foward to the NAGPS Conference next year in Boulder, CO. See everyone there!
Money can be tight in graduate school, but if you intened on pursuing an academic career you'd be foolish to not shell out $12 for What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career, by Paul Gray and David E. Drew. There are numerous books full of advice about getting into graduate school, a myriad of books telling you how to navigate a specific program or subject area while in graduate school, but few books like this gem -- an informative yet entertaining collection of advice on how to be a succesful academic. Take it from Laurie Richlin who points out in the foreword that if she were to add a 200th tip it would be to "read this book."
Advice books cannot provide the answer to every question, or a solution to every problem, and Paul and David admit as much when they note that "some of the individual hints are worthy of chapters or books of their own." So what exactly can you take away from 146 pages of "hints"? This book contains information and advice that you can continually reference as you climb the academic ladder, and that alone makes it a more valuable assest than a book you will read once and put on your bookshelf.
The authors draw from their decades of academic experience to provide insight on everything from completing a Ph.D. and landing your first academic job, to managing relationships with faculty and students while en route to becoming a tenure professor. The format of the book is concise and direct, with 15 short chapters, and 4 appendixes, ensuring an easy read sprinkled with humor -- cartoonist Matthew Henry Hall provides entertaining cartoons that are best described as The Far Side meets the world of academe.
The hints and tips throughout the book vary in length and if nothing else, they offer a starting point for examining particular topics. There are certian concepts that you may have never considered, such as "standard myths about professors." While the authors only touch on a couple of these myths, the information serves as catalyst for examining the fact that individuals, inside and outside of academia, do indeed have misconceptions about professors. Other hints go more in-depth and reflect the extensive personal experience that the authors possess. The caveats of department politics, the topics of writing and publishing, and the pursuit of "outside income" are some of the subjects covered in more detail; both authors have extensive knowledge of these realms, and one only need examine their accolades to understand why they can be considered authorities on such topics.
If you are destined for a career outside of academe, or you are in a foreign graduate program pursuing an academic career outside of the United States, this book may not provide the specific advice you need to be successful. However, for those aspiring to be a professional academic at an American instituion, they will find that Paul Gray and David E. Drew not only provide straight-foward, and at times cynical, advice, but they also remind us that a Ph.D. and an academic career should be revered and celebrated. As they put it so simply, "We consider a professor to be the best job available on the planet."
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|What They Didn't Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career
by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
Published by Stylus Publishing, LLC (March 2008)