I’ve mentioned my situation before but I basically have

  • Adviser (tenured, big name, well known, mostly admired although occasionally hated, closing in on retirement REALLY quickly) who was assigned to me.
  • Mentor (up-and-comer with excellent connections but only in his 3rd year, top-notch academic family tree) who I have worked with extremely closely for the last 3 years.

Mentor had technically not been allowed to have PhD students up until now.  (He worked with EDD students but you have to specifically “apply” to the PhD faculty, something he had been avoiding because he needed to publish to ensure that he gets tenure.)  He was approved last friday for the PhD faculty.  (Obviously Adviser has been on it all along.)

I have a great deal of respect for Adviser, but no real relationship.  I ‘TAed’ a class with him (this was a total joke – he had 2 TAs for a class of 3) and took 1 class from him.  We share co-authorship on a paper that Mentor and I wrote building on work Adviser had done.  (He put in his 2-cents and gets 3rd author…)  That is the extent of our relationship.  I haven’t seen him face to face since last April.  I never hear from him unless I call about something specific, and when we do talk we don’t communicate well.

And therein lies the crux of my decision.  I know full well that there is something to be gained by having a bigger name, tenured prof as my chair.  But I believe there is far MORE to gain by having a prof with whom I have a strong working relationship and excellent communication.  Mentor and I have that, built over multiple papers, presentations and conversations. 

So today I officially asked (he applied to the PhD faculty for me, so this wasn’t a surprise) for Mentor to become my Chair/Adviser as well.  He agreed.  We are currently brainstorming how to not burn the bridge with Adviser on the way out. 

It’s a big relief to me.  It might be a bit challenging (since we will be learning the process together) but in the end I think that the relationship is more important than almost anything else in choosing a chair. 

Mentor has been promoted to Chair officially (ok, except for the paperwork, but still….)

Now comes the strategizing around picking the other 2 required members.  At the moment I have 4 candidates (in no special order).

  • Big name one – Great guy, smart, lots of fun, very close to retirement, called the state superintendent of schools a liar on the news, well respected in academic circles, nearing retirement however and not big on deadlines
  • Big name two – he and a partner invented an entire new research method, massively respected, dry sense of humor, also nearing retirement but around more than BN1, I don’t feel that I know him quite as well but we have connected in the past
  • Super-up-and-comer – a year ahead of adviser but really playing the game well, lousy social skills (we really haven’t clicked) but she does work in my area and Chair thinks we’ll get on well once we get to know one another better
  • Newbie – new to the college and I haven’t actually met her yet, but Chair speaks highly.  Outside of my immediate area, so I need to find out more about why he thinks she would be a good fit.  Not finding a whole lot of information about her so far…

Pick 2…So far I’m leaning toward the middle 2 but would like to meet Newbie and feel out BN2 for how he feels about deadlines, since I’m not interested in someone who is to lose about them….