General advice

Here are some general thoughts, which should apply to almost any graduate school program:

  • Network–recognize that that you learn with and from others; Networking on the network is an excellent document by Phil Agre on “helping newcomers figure out where the net fits in the larger picture of their own careers.” Includes the rationale behind professional networking, a six-step model of the networking process, the use of electronic media for building a professional identity, and how to get an academic job.
  • Value and manage your time–Randy Pausch has an excellent video lecture on this, Time Management.
  • Meet with other students–schedule regular times to get together. Analyzing data or writing a dissertation can be lonely work. It helps to have others with whom to share ideas, breakthroughs, or troubles. Some people seem to fall into supportive informal groups, while others lead an isolated student life. Most of us at times need to make some conscious effort to find others in a similar situation who can provide both intellectual and emotional support. In several cases, students have initiated reading groups on particular topics or weekly meetings to discuss their ongoing dissertation work.
  • Include social and civic activities–Stay involved with others through groups such as the Community Informatics Club.
  • Take advantage of campus resources–the University of Illinois is one of the great universities of the world. There are so many excellent courses, colloquia, discussion groups, workshops, and other activities that no one person could hope to take advantage of even a small fraction of what’s available. Taking courses outside of your department or school is not only OK, it’s a way to enrich your whole program. You can find these through cross-disciplinary programs, such as the Center for Writing Studies, the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory, as well as through informal networks of students and faculty.
  • Information professionals–get to know, and take advantage of the hundreds of information professionals on campus and one of the largest university libraries in the world, with extensive physical and online resources, including extensive e-journals. As just one example, the University subscribes to the [InteLex] Past Masters databases, which include complete, scholarly editions and translations of major classical writers with web-based search and reference tools.
  • Build an academic career–understand that success as an academic depends on many things beyond the ideas and skills you develop in courses; Paul Gray and David Drew discuss these in a three-part series, What they don’t teach you in grad school.
  • Smile

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