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Advising redux

Last December, I wrote about my struggles with getting time with my advisor. Having switched colleges, I'm happy to report that the situation has taken a complete 180!

I've switched from a large campus of a Big 10 university to a small campus of another Big 10 university. And I switched from a Ph.D. to and Ed.D. But most importantly, I switched from a traditional program to an adult-focused one.

A "traditional" doctoral program aims at taking unemployed young, potential scholars and turning them into employable academics. That brings in a lot of assumptions about the amount of time and attention that students are capable of spending on the nitty-gritty details. There is an assumption that students are entirely focused and are generally available to their professors.

An adult-focused one assumes that students are already teachers or otherwise employed in their field. The opposite assumption applies: students are not assumed to have time to spare.

This has large ramifications for the advisement process! Upon entering my previous "traditional" program, I had to chase down my advisor. I only managed to meet her regarding my program ONCE in a year. She couldn't tell me what basic courses I needed to take as a foundation. This lead to serious concerns on my part about my ability to get through the program in a reasonable amount of time.

In my new program, I have already met with my initial advisor. In fact, she made sure that the graduate office assistant tracked me down to schedule an appointment. I know that I will meet with her every other month throughout the program. I already have a schedule of courses (which can be revised as I go) as a framework for the next two years.

For some people, this sort of structure will be considered "hand holding" - but it is really a reflection about how teaching adults is different than teaching the traditional grad student. Yes, I know that grad students are statutory adults, but there is a large difference between people whose job is to attend school and those whose job is to teach or run a company.

For me, I'm grateful that I have found a better fit. And I hope that I can encourage other programs to wake up and consider the different needs of a different student population.