On Being a Postgrad

I finally got sick of it last week. Not being a postgrad myself, but hearing so many others whine about their experience while simultaneously not doing a darn thing about it.

Note to PGs: no one in this department is psychic. Everyone in this department cares. Talk to them!

NIECI is a brand-new department, barely out of diapers, really. Last year, they had a handful of PGs. This year they have over 40. That’s a big adjustment, particularly when the department doesn’t have dedicated administrators. Our head and director of PGs are both busy with their own research, in addition to running the department and helping all of us out with our studies. They’ve got a lot on their plates.

I just kept hearing MA student after MA student (most in creative writing) complain about lack of direction, that they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing, no one is teaching them, and they’re wasting their money. Meanwhile, none is asking the department for help, or even attending the events the department does host for the benefit of the students.

Part of the issue is that they all have the same supervisor, who also happens to be head of the school, head of the research council, writing books, teaching courses, and doing way more than any one person can fit into a day. Oh, and he’s personal tutor for everyone in the department. There’s no way he can meet regularly with everyone, or do everything people are asking him to do.

So we’re all going to have to step up and be self-managed units. If we want something, we need to ask – ask for solutions, not just whine about what we’re not getting.

Yes, a new department has holes, stumbling blocks. It’s going to be disorganized as we grow and feel our way. But the beauty of this is that we students have the opportunity to form the direction of the school. We can tell them what we want, and they’ll do their best to meet our needs. We can make things different for later years in the program. We can be pioneers, as it were.

I encourage all who have issues with the services they’re receiving to sit down and list all that you feel you’re missing. Then list out all the things the department can do to help you fill those gaps. Don’t just complain and make them think of everything for you – ask for what you want, and you may just get it.

I let the department know about what I’m hearing. Why? Because they ask. They want to know what’s going on, how they can make things better. Hopefully, things will start to shape up in the next couple of months, and people can get on with their research, instead of screeching over how abandoned they supposedly are.

Over the next few weeks the department is hosting several discussions for the students to air their concerns, and for the PhD students to offer what little wisdom we have to the disgruntled MA students. I think we’ll get some good solutions for future actions and feedback loops from those, and we can move forward.

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