I went to a late session tonight; a “fireside chat” for graduate students. This is an opportunity for invited senior scholars to give graduate students their advice, for some other faculty to jump in with stories, and for graduate students to ask questions. A timely session given my last post. I don’t know that I’m totally clear on where I want to go but this was definitely an interesting perspective on the topic.
The scholars that spoke talked a lot about finding your own voice, finding your question and your way of answering it and then doing that. They all felt that while you needed to know the “canon” for your area of study you shouldn’t consider yourself tied to it and that you shouldn’t make choices based upon how some hypothetical search committee will respond.
I almost bought it. I WANT to buy it. But then a woman at the back who graduated 2 years ago and still hasn’t found a full time faculty position spoke up and I had to wonder again.
I have no doubt that an MBA and 20 years in industry has made me very conscious of how marketable I will be when I graduate. But I don’t think it is good to advise students to not consider their long-term prospects as they determine their topic or create their research agenda. That doesn’t mean they should choose their topic just to please the aforementioned hypothetical search committee. But there needs to be a balance between the two extremes.
Having said all that I did realize something during the session. I don’t really HAVE a question. There isn’t some driving cause that I want to expose or work on. I am intellectually curious about a lot of stuff, but I worry that finding one thing I want to spend even a few years on is going to be really hard for me. I don’t think there is ANY topic that will keep my interest for the rest of my life.
This is the kind of day when I think that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea….Maybe I should just take a master’s and cut my losses….