I am having one of those moments where I am completely stuck between screaming and crying. Even time I tear up, I get so angry, I want to spit, which makes me want to cry again.
One of my graduate students just left my office, after explaining that s/he would like to move to a different advisor. It was all quite civil, as this student is nothing if not polite and I’m not about to keep a student who doesn’t want to work with me. I didn’t flat out ask if s/he had an issue with me – maybe I should have – but the explanation was that my colleague does research in the student’s interests areas so it’s a better fit.
I always tell my students they need to do what’s right for them, and I work hard to help them figure out what’s right. We talk about how to form a committee, how to determine interest areas, how to create a plan of study, how to leverage faculty time and expertise. I suppose I did my job if the student did those things and figured out a better fit for an advisor.
But I’m still having a moment. I’ve worked with this student for two years; I put this student on a funded grant last year that resulted in research experience and a publication; I’ve crafted independent studies; I’ve spent hours in my office, working through various academic and personal issues. It’s hard to see all that effort and energy go down the drain. And it isn’t that my colleague’s research areas are an exact fit – they aren’t, any more than mine are – because we both work in areas that would support the student’s interests (hence, my ability to advise and support these last two years).
This is my second graduate student to defect this week. Yes, really, the second. The first student and I spoke at length and agreed that it was the right decision; I hated to lose the student but the new advisor is a much better fit, research-wise, and I’m remaining as a committee member. I have no idea if I’ll even be on the committee for the second student; it wasn’t addressed today, which makes me suspect that this was a clean break.
Am I not a serious enough scholar? Is my research so unappealing to students? Do the students not see me as a good advisor, whatever that even means?
I realize I’m not a rock star. I know that students may not think my research is particularly cutting edge or sexy. But I’m good at what I do, even though I feel like the graduate students here have no respect for me.
So, I’m having a moment.