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Choosing between bad and worse

An article in the latest Chronical of Higher Education ominously warns new assistant professors on the dangers of heading a dissertation committee too soon. If you are one, you might want to read this lest you risk your own track to tenure or wind up along with your advisee trapped between the strong personalities of senior committee co-members, "cower[ing] like meerkats dodging an elephant tussle."

Me, I have a committee of two seniors and a ladder-climbing assistant professor who recently climbed another rung, which happens to be 3,000 miles away, leaving me dangling from the loose clutches of the remaining two. One of those leaves for a 6 month sabbatical in January. The remaining member is widely viewed as one of the most overworked professors in our department. Incidentally, the two exiting professors are my committee co-chairs.
You are a doctoral student, selecting a dissertation adviser. Option A is a scholar who is renowned but imposing, distant, and busy. Option B is a freshly stamped Ph.D., new to the tenure track, near your age, friendly, supportive, interested in your work, and seemingly ready to devote unlimited time to helping you.
In fact, I'm not selecting a new advisor. But with one now departed from this university and another enjoying an extended stay in Japan next semester, I may be looking. So how does one choose between these two options, the busy superstar and the supportive newbie? The authors of this article unfortunately only tackle the pitfalls of Option B, the newbie, without addressing what to do about those senior faculty members who don't have the time or the emotional wherewithal to shepherd graduate students to graduation. Where am I now? In the lurch. Surveying the remainder of our faculty that hasn't been lured away by big private university salaries. And you know what? There is no Option C.

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“Choosing between bad and worse”

  1. Blogger joanna and marco Says:

    that sucks

  2. Anonymous lisa Says:

    choose B.