on advisoring

After a conversation yesterday, it occurred to me that the relationship i’ve had with my advisors and mentors is not necessarily typical. I’ve been thinking about how much is rooted in a disciplinary distinction and how much is rooted in me.

As an undergrad, i had the most amazing advisor. He took on a parental role almost immediately. He was there for me intellectually and in moments of crises. He was always making sure i was OK, the kinds of check-ins that are so important to an 18-year-old going through identity crisis. He taught me how to be a professor, how to be a mentor and gave me a level of expectation that i still hold today. At MIT, my advisor was not that much older than i and while she didn’t take on a motherly role, our relationship was certainly more than simply advisor/advisee.

My current relationship with my advisor is far more like my relationship with my undergrad advisor. He’s very much of a father to me and i love him dearly, both intellectually and personally. How he’s doing and where he’s at is very important to me.

Advisor as parent-figure is something that many of my friends have. One of them we jokingly call daddy (or Bosley depending on how goofy we’re being). Many of us are deeply dependent on our advisors for funding, departmental support, collaboration and sanity, especially those of us in fields that don’t have clear distinctions.

In the humanities, students publish alone while we’re so used to publishing with our advisors. Students get by via TAing while we’re connected to research grants. Advisors in other fields are off writing sole-authored books while ours are all working on publications with us.

I’ve spent the day thinking about how much my advisor means to me and i feel very fortunate to have such a relationship with him – i cannot imagine grad school any other way.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

7 thoughts on “on advisoring

  1. Ms. Jen

    My undergrad advisor was and is my mentor, friend, and “older brother”. Over the last 16 years, he has encouraged me in ways that friends and family could not have and he has given me criticism when I needed it, sometimes to my surprise.

    I have my current adjunct teaching gig (Critical Thought and Art Theory) because he recommended me, and when ever I feel overwhelmed, I still call.

    Advising is a calling all of its own. People talk of Teaching and Research, how about Advising as a tenure track?

    smiles, jen ;o)

  2. Irina

    I am not so sure that the distinction is so much a disciplinary one. You are certainly right about TA-ships vs. grants, single vs. multi-author publications, etc. These things are definitely rooted in the expectations of their respective fields. However, student-advisor relationships (like student-mentor relationships, the two are not always the same), depend as much on personality as on institutional and social constructs. In the same department it is possible to see students who are deeply interconnected with their advisors and those who feel their advisor really couldn’t care less.

    I would say, you are lucky in having found advisors with whom you could develop such deep relationships. Of course, this has to do with you in large part as well. There are people that can develop deep multifaceted relationships with their professional colleagues, essentially mixing work and life. There are people who prefer not to do that, and there are people who simply do not know how to do that. Disciplinarity matters little in these cases, although it may pay to think about the fact that any particular field is likely to attract similar people in terms of interests and temperament over time. We tend to have an easier time making friends with similar others :).

  3. joe

    Interesting reflection, girl… all my major advisers have been women. I’m not sure why, really… I think I just find them more intellectually stimulating and critical. Maybe that’s just academic women?

    Wow… I’ll have to think about this more. Thanks for planting a thorn in my brain, babe…

  4. metamanda>>weblog

    my precioussss! noooo!

    My powerbook’s hard drive finally died. I kinda knew it was coming, so when I heard the rumblings (literally) I backed everything up. So as the Big Lebowski would say, “nothing is fucked”. The UCI bookstore can have it back to me, fixed, in 3-4 days, t…

Comments are closed.