Committee Choices

Today I had a really good meeting with a member of my committee, and so I’ve been thinking again about the importance of choosing one’s committee wisely.

The best thing about this professor is that by the end of our meetings, I feel full of ideas and excitement. I don’t feel this way only because she gives good advice (which she does), but also because she is very engaged with my ideas. It’s such a great feeling to know that I have her full attention.

I was thinking about another person who many people have said was an “obvious” choice to be on my committee. I chose not to ask them, and here’s why: this person had read my first messy attempt at doing what I do in my dissertation. They were critical of it, but it wasn’t the criticism that was the problem. They just didn’t get what I was trying to do, or if they did, they didn’t care about the issues I was wrestling with.  I felt conflicted at first about not asking them to be on my committee, but once I found the right people it became very obvious I had made the right decision.

Other qualities I like in a committee member:

  • I like someone I can meet socially and have a pleasant, non-academic conversation with.
  • I like someone who can give practical advice about the writing process and about university bureaucracy.
  • I like someone who has advice about how to deal with other committee members–not necessarily a gossip, just someone who will speak from a professor’s point of view about how they like the committee member / student relationship to work.
  • I like someone who listens carefully to what I say and responds thoughtfully.
  • I like someone who makes me feel welcome to contact them frequently. It’s very hard to show someone your work if you feel you are imposing on them.

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