Doctoral Student Priorities

Posted on Posted in Blog, Main

A little over a week into my program, and my head is full of student obligations, professional obligations, teaching obligations, personal obligations… too many obligations, not enough Meagan. Typical PhD paradox – what do you tackle when there’s not enough time to do it all?

This has really gotten me thinking about priorities. What comes first? I was initially thinking coursework… duh. But conversations with fellow CRDMers have me re-thinking this. If my ultimate goal is to earn a position as a scholar in my field, teaching somewhere, shouldn’t I focus on professional duties, such as presenting at conferences and getting published? That’s not to say that books can go unread and seminar papers unwritten, but there’s definitely a need to balance the two.

Added to this are those twenty-two little faces staring at me each day we’re in class, students who expect me to be on top of my game, teach them something interesting, and grade things in a reasonable period of time. At least, that’s what I expect of my professors, so I shouldn’t give any less to my students. Though Carolyn Miller, a professor in my program, muddied the waters for me this week when she said in class something to the effect, “Teaching is a distraction. It will eat up as much time as you let it and then some.” This was echoed by David Rieder, another CRDM prof, at our orientation, who remarked that I should always remember why am I here in the first place – that I love to learn and do research. Obviously, I’m conscientious and always want to bring my best to the classroom, but it’s true: teaching and all of its accompanying responsibilities will take all of my day and then some if I let it.

Mixed in the middle is the obligation that was reiterated over and over by our faculty – write, write, write. Hence this blog. It’s harder to write than I realized – and I know I still haven’t gotten to academic material, but that’s coming as we’re now waist-deep in rhetorical theory, communications history, and visual content analysis – especially because it requires carving out at least a half hour for these personal posts, likely more for academic material that I could be dedicating to reading. It’s true what every other PhD student has ever told me, but I never truly believed until now that I’m living it – there’s more reading than you can handle.

I’m thinking of writing a post that discusses reading strategies for tackling large block of reading that will help me focus my attention where it’s most needed. I may consult my academic idol, CRM, and other faculty for some much-needed advice and report back with hopefully some new ideas and a fresh take on accomplishing my reading lists.

In terms of ordering priorities… I’m not sure that I’ll always place coursework over getting published or vice-versa but that I’ll advocate being highly scheduled and highly disciplined when it comes to following my schedule. So, when I have a Wednesday to read a book, I get it done – then I can grade on Thursday without feeling like I’m shortchanging my studies. Or watch TV with my husband on Friday night, because I got everything done on Friday that I needed to do. Speaking of that… better go finish that reading!!

Go Pack!!

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