25 June 2015

The Other Side of Academia

I was part of a search committee recently. My institute had an open position, and I was part of the group of people that were involved in selecting who we wanted. This is perhaps the first time that I became part of this process. Add to that the fact that I have been supervising an MA thesis for the past year. Hence, I am slowly getting to know the other side of academia, that of being the adviser.

See, when I was in Buffalo, I was just a student. I applied for a PhD position back in 2004, where I submitted all of the required documents and hoped that this group of faculty members would see my application to be better than the rest, and so that I would get some money as a fellowship. That happened back in 2005. However, as I was a student and my files were handled confidentially, I never really knew how the admission process went behind closed doors. But after waiting for a few weeks, I got a letter saying that I was admitted, so I went.

Sometime back in 2008, I was the President of the graduate students' association in my department. And the department was doing a job search that time, so I was the representative of the students, as we also had a voice in the process, albeit small. So I saw a little piece of the other side, so to speak.

However, it is not until this year when I was part of the search committee, substituting for someone else. So I saw the CVs, the application materials, I attended the talks, I wrote a report at the end, and it is interesting to see what the various factors are that are being considered to come to a decision. Would this person be capable of doing good research? Assuming the research is good, would this person be a good fit with the overall composition of the department or institute? Does this person have overall potential? These are just the few things that we had to consider for this position.

This wasn't just the only administrative thing I have been doing recently. As I mentioned above, I am part of a MA thesis committee, therefore I also do work with a student of mine. We have done a couple of studies together, and we are trying to report it by presenting it in conferences and such. I remember my student days with my adviser, where we would be writing abstracts, and I would start by writing a very crappy abstract and my adviser would then revise it. By the time we finished, it's a long way from the original text. Now I find myself in the other position. I have my student writing abstracts, and I send her comments on how to improve it.

Academia is an interesting learning process. And little by little, I find myself on the other side of it.


  1. This is kind of cool, especially considering your own experience is still very fresh. I'm sure you're more helpful than someone who did his thesis 40 years ago!

    1. Zhu,

      Hopefully students find me helpful. :)

      That's also my experience; most of the time, old professors are just so old, which means they have been stuck in their ways and don't know how to deal with newer folks. But then again, there are also young professors who are so busy and occupied with their work, because they are hurrying up to get their tenure, and therefore it is also hard to work with them.

      At the end of the day, I think it's more about personality and work ethics. I had an adviser in graduate school who was very busy, since he was also Chair of the department, yet he still found time to be helpful with his students. He was definitely a good mentor in that sense.

  2. I agree, it's not so much about age but about what you have to offer.