Friday, June 24, 2016

Ms. Peppercorn Considers: How To Fill a Dissertation Committee Vacancy

Our advice-columnist-in-residence, Ms.Peppercorn, is in constant demand! MOVE OVER, OPRAH!!

Dear Ms. Peppercorn,

Help! My dissertation committee has a vacancy and I have an academic etiquette question that's perfectly suited to your expertise. There's a professor in my department that I'd like to add to the group, but she is burdened with quite a few obligations and I want to respect her limits. How should I pop the question?


Stressed in the student lounge


It’s a busy week for Ms. P! Vacancies do occur, it’s true, and a faculty member rarely volunteers for a committee post. That said, watching the evolution of a dissertation and the growth of a scholar in training is honestly one of old Peppercorn’s most favorite aspects of the life we lead. After all, welcoming a newly minted PhD to the field is about the most satisfying thing one can do in an academic’s life that -- let’s be frank – includes a lot of tasks that are nowhere near as rewarding. In addition, it’s part of the job description, so turning down a student who asks you to be on his/her committee seems, well, small minded, to Ms P’s way of thinking.

That said, if the topic is too far afield, one could perhaps understand that a given faculty member might decline the invitation. With that caveat, Ms P says firmly “ask away”! We look forward to hearing from SITSL that all is resolved satisfactorily.