As promised, a series of posts are coming from former lab students Brooke Long and Fritz Yarrison with a Goffmanesque twist about graduate school.
Here is the first one: “Self-presentation: How to be a successful actor on the graduate school stage.”
First, we should begin by introducing ourselves, as any good author describes the characters within their story. My name is Brooke L. Long and my co-author is Fritz W. Yarrison. We are currently finishing our second year in the sociology department at Kent State University in Northeastern Ohio. We will be defending our Master’s Theses this summer and continuing straight on to pursue our doctorates here at Kent State. Where our story really begins, however, is Sociology 001 at Penn State Altoona. It is because of the never-ending mentoring, encouragement, and support of Dr. Nicholas J. Rowland that we are able to sit here and write about graduate school. His mentoring has inspired us to become professors of sociology and mentors that help other students recognize their potential and achieve their future goals whatever they may be. It is an honor to participate in this blog to help others who may be considering graduate school as an option.
The idea for this blog comes from the conversations, interactions, and social situations we have encountered during our first two years of graduate school. With that in mind, these pieces of advice, stories, and examples are from one single graduate program and should not represent all graduate programs or experiences. We thought it would be nice, however, to share some of the basic lessons we have learned thus far including pieces of information that would have been useful to know before embarking on this journey. There will be a variety of topics covered throughout this series, and due to our focus in social psychology and respect for Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self, each topic will be related to the dramaturgical approach discussed by this social theorist.
For the first post, we thought it would be best to establish that graduate school is a choice and a privilege. This notion is something that can be frequently forgotten as one is swamped with papers, exams, assistantship responsibilities, departmental functions, reading assignments, and the plethora of continuous demands of graduate school. No one is forcing you to attend graduate school, and (as we tell our research participants) you are free to leave at any time. There will be another eager student waiting for their Master’s or Doctorate degree and the chance to obtain it. The concept of choice, then, becomes important when selecting a graduate school and the selection process is probably at good place to start.
However, the process of applying to graduate programs and selecting one from those that accepted you is a whole blog series on its own (maybe one someone could write). For now, know that picking a graduate school is similar to buying a car. You don’t just buy the first car you see on the lot. There is a lot of information that is important to know before making your purchase. Will this be a family car? Is gas mileage a priority? What color of car do you want? Do you want a car that turns heads and draws attention? etc. Then, there are the technical questions. Do you want a manual or automatic transmission? Do you want four-wheel drive? What size of engine do you want? etc. Finally, there is the practical question. How much can you spend on a car? Deciding which graduate programs to apply requires a similar amount of research and knowledge. Once schools send you an invitation to their program, your final decision should be a rational, calculated, and knowledgeable choice.
Thinking about it in a dramaturgical sense: you have to select your stage carefully. The graduate program you select (i.e. the stage you will perform on) will determine which character you play, the actors you will encounter, the location of the stage, the intensity and duration of the performance, what costumes and props are appropriate, and ultimately your selection of future roles and performances.
The goal of this blog series is not about getting into graduate school, rather it is about successfully performing your role as graduate student in whatever department you choose. Some of the topics that we will cover include:
*What costume is appropriate for graduate students?
*Email etiquette 101.
*How to read for graduate classes.
*The seminar class…
*How to handle criticism professionally.
*How to select an advisor or change one if necessary.
*Dealing with departmental drama.
*Graduate student responsibilities.
*The Master’s Thesis.
We hope that some of you will find this blog series helpful (or at least entertaining).
Always yours in slogging,
Long and Yarrison