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.