Monday, September 01, 2008

Grad Student Dilemma (updated)

You may recall the RA drama of last spring, where a new student committed to taking my RA position and coming to Small College Town U. When s/he backed out at the last minute, I scrambled to find someone who had already applied to the program to fill the RA. The student I hired never saw the advertisement for the RA. His/her application did not express interest in my area, but instead mentioned an interest in a different area of research. H assured me that he had encouraged this student to mention that area because it would improve his/her chances of getting accepted into the program. In earlier communication with this student, s/he had told H that s/he wanted to work in my area, so when my RA became available, H suggested him/her. 

Now that this student is here, s/he is sticking to this other area of interest. This is all fine and dandy, but I really wanted an RA who would also work with me as a thesis advisor and work on a thesis related to this grant. This puts me in an awkward situation. I do not believe in forcing grad students to do thesis projects that they are not interested in, so if the student wants to work in this other area that's fine, but I won't get as much out of his/her work for the project. I have money to fund a student for two years, but s/he isn't doing a thesis related to the project, I feel like I'd rather find someone else for next year. This is also not ideal, because I would have to train the new person later. I also hate to tell this student that s/he won't have an RA next year if s/he isn't going to do a thesis related to the project (s/he would still have a TA). I don't even know if my RA knows that s/he was last-minute replacement and I hate to share that, but this is really a problem.

Any ideas? Help!

ETA: I had a talk with RA this morning and I think we are on the same page now. S/he is willing to do a thesis connected with the project and this doesn't exclude the other area s/he had been talking about. I am feeling much better about things now. I think s/he will be a good student!

5 comments:

~profgrrrrl~ said...

I have no idea how things work with these positions in your field and how fluidly students might move around and find alternate positions, but I think it's best to be fairly open about this with your RA and to do so sooner rather than later. Perhaps let RA know that your preference for this position is someone who will be doing thesis work in this area and that since she doesn't want to work in this area you may need to give the RA position to an incoming student with such an interest next year. Tell her that you're notifying her now because you realize that her interests lie elsewhere and you want to give her plenty of time to look for alternate RA funding. And then let her know that should her research interests change over the course of this year as she becomes immersed in your area, she should let you know. Anyway, that's what I think I would do. Easier to have the conversation early, before anyone is too invested or RA feels entitled to next year's funding.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I completely agree with profgrrrl, but want to add that the RA is probably not super excited about the position either. It's possible s/he wants to find something else too but is worried about breaking the commitment made to you. Better to be open in situations like this, even if it is a little uncomfortable, than to make assumptions that have big consequences.

Addy N. said...

Thanks for the input. I should clarify that this student would be guaranteed a TA next year, so s/he is no danger of losing funding. S/he is also an international student and knows that s/he didn't have a spot in the program until I made this offer. S/he is interested in the methodology that I use, even if the topic is not his/her interest. I guess I have been reluctant to say anything, because I don't want to appear like I am pushing his/her one way or the other...

Seeking Solace said...

I can't provide much input, but those who have posted seem to provide some good advice.

How about a hug instead?

JustMe said...

agreeing with PG