seventhe: (SAZH)
Somewhere in the back of my brain I've got a big 2013 New Year's Resolutions post brewing, but this is not that post. This is just a public announcement, because I figure it's fitting that one of my first actual actions of the new year has been registering for my remaining 4 credits of graduate research at the University of Akron.

I figure that since the general desire to finish my thesis and get all gradumitated and get this over and done with hasn't been enough motivation for me to actually do it, maybe the $1800 I just shelled out in tuition credits will be. :/

I mean it this year, folks. I know I've been saying it for a while, but I actually mean it this year. I'm done with this shit. I need to finish. I'm so tired of having the shadow of this hanging over my head and getting in the way of my actual life.

I will get my masters in 2013. Fuck it.
seventhe: (Life: stress out and die)
1. I have figured out, through some intense reflection during a boring meeting I wasn't involved in but had no chance to escape, that the answers I actually need to manage my project are an entire layer underneath the questions that I have been asking. (WORKCEPTION????) I've been asking for targets; what I actually need is a more clear fundamental understanding of the way work is supposed to flow from conception into production, and the role my project plays in the entire process, where communication goes and where priorities are. There isn't a process, by the way, and that's why I always feel so goddamn lost, and why even asking for clear targets isn't going to fix the mess I'm wading through. I actually need to go deeper.

I've set an appointment with the visiting Overlords on Monday and I plan to basically bang heads against a table with my newfound understanding of the situation I am in until someone cries uncle and gives me what I want.

2. I just emailed my advisor. I am back in the game. Thesis complete and Masters Degree by spring semester 2013.

Because fuck everything.

3. I am super stressed at the moment. :(

4. Icon (DW) has never been more relevant.
seventhe: (Cats: I LIKE THEM)
Usually I lock the entries that have to do with UAkron, but I (finally) have something good to say about them, so I think I will let this one stand as one high (counter)point against my ongoing internet diatribe. :)

As some of you know: last week Friday during lab I was talking with the lab professor. She was telling me some things about the department, upcoming changes they're discussing, and we got to talking about the part-time program. She told me there was a meeting coming up discussing the Masters program and the part-time program, and we got to talking about its weaknesses and problems, and I think she could see how invested in this I am (spoiler: it's not hard to see), because she asked if I had any points, complaints, concerns, or comments -- she offered to bring them up in the meeting anonymously.

Oh, I said. Um. I have a list. I have documents I'm compiling.

She said, if you send me something, I will make sure it's heard, anonymously.

Now: I can't pass up something like that. You all know how hard I've been working, for years, and how hard I've been hoping to find someone who cared. So I went home thinking about it - and over the weekend decided that I didn't really want to dump my rant list on this professor.

And on Monday, when I sent her a note about the lab, she replied asking again for my thoughts and telling me that she would represent my concerns at this meeting.

So Monday night I stayed up, going through my old LJ entries (note to self: my journal did not actually import into DW like I thought it did; my tags and some icons did, but the entries didn't. As soon as LJ isn't dying of DDoS, fix this), which are all tagged for this very reason - reconstructing the hardest moments of my graduate school career. I was very careful with what I wrote. I selected only 4 or 5 main "concerns" or "topics", and when I addressed each problem, I also took the time to write constructive suggestions to help alleviate each area of concern I presented. I also was very careful with my tone, to remain straightforward and professional, to keep each concern clear, concise, and precise without dampening my concern. I removed any particular personal details - both to avoid the feeling that this was just a rant, and to keep my anonymity (many of the professors in question definitely would remember these incidents since I confronted them the first time).

I had two people read it over for me to ensure it was tactful, professional, and coherent. (I'm pretty sure both of them suggested things I had forgotten, that is how bad this program has been.) And then I sent it to her.

(If anyone wants to read it, I don't necessarily mind sharing it, although I will do so privately/locked.)

I also told her in the email that while I appreciated her offer of anonymity, I was more than willing to stand behind my words, and especially if the department wanted to talk with me further about suggestions for improvement - I would be more than happy to meet, discuss, brainstorm, and help in any way I could.

(Because frankly, my anonymity won't last for long. I would say I've had personal confrontations with about 75% of the professors I've had in this department. And I am all in on this.)

I was pleased enough to have found someone who was interested in what I had to say - someone who valued a part-timer's opinion, first and foremost, because that respect and acknowledgment has been ultrarare. But second - not only did she care about my opinion, she agreed with me on much of what we talked about.

And today I heard back from her. She thanked me for my commentary, and said that she really liked what I had written and while it ended up not being the appropriate meeting she has filed it away in her head for future use, because she thinks it's important: a really valid argument and a valuable angle which is being completely overlooked.

I hope I don't have to tell you how much I am smiling right now. After four years of wrestling, one small victory feels really, really awesome.

Thanks, M.
seventhe: Rydia (Rydia)
This semester I'm taking my last class - a 3-credit Polymer Science lab, that runs for 6 hours on Friday, 9-3. *CUE GROANING*

At the very first class - a safety and syllabus overview - the professor introduced us to the class by saying: "This is the worst class you're going to take in your entire PhD." Which I am sure is a great way to start off the semester with high morale!

Basically, we run experiments on lab days, and reports - big honking 10-20 page reports with error analysis (and not the good HONKing either) - are due two weeks after the lab, rolling. So on Week 1 I will do Lab 1. On Week 2 I will be writing Report 1 and doing Lab 2. On Week 3 I will be finishing and turning in Report 1, writing Report 2, and doing Lab 3. This continues until the end of the semester, or until I die, whichever comes first.

Have I mentioned that they make grad students take this class by itself because it's so much work? FULL TIME grad students, that is. So this semester? I'm carrying a FULL TIME workload. With just this one class. Remember: I have a job! A hard one! It's already full time!*

On top of this GREAT AND EFFICIENT schedule come the following two awesome points:
  1. They are trying to redo the lab experiments, to improve them. However, this means that the new ones last year? NONE OF THEM WORKED. Students got to choose between (a) working extra in the lab to get good data or (b) attempting to write a 10-20 page lab report and answering all assignment questions with bad data. That's a lose-lose situation to me, but do they care? Apparently not, because the prof doesn't seem to think many of the labs this year will be much better. Great. Glad we care about quality.

  2. They've apparently run out of second-(or-greater-)year students on assistantships supported by the department, so. My TAs and teachers and lab assistants? Are the students in the class.
    Just think about this one for a long second here. The students taking the class right now... will be teaching the class. And taking it. As they teach it.
    These are first-year students. They've only been through the first half of the core - our first 5 courses**. That's it.
    So these first-year students will be coming on Monday, learning about the lab and setting it up, and then teaching it to us. While they also do it.
    I don't pity them and I won't blame them for doing a shit job; that's a shit situation to be in. But I am also Not Very Excited for the amount of help (read: zero) I'll have on these labs.

I just. University of Akron, you may consider this an official public notice: YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG, GUYS.

I'm not looking forward to this.

It's my last class, and with that in mind, I'm going to just shoulder on through until May. I'm basically making myself harshly limit the amount of time I spend socializing or traveling or doing other stuff, and I'm looking at my schedule to trim out things. I can survive this, and it'll be worth it when it's done.

My plan is: I am going to save Thursday and Friday nights all for homeworking and lab reporting. This means no more weekend-long trips, not until May (except for a very few rare exceptions, like Ohayocon and a birthday or two). Only one night per weekend for socializing or hanging out. If I get behind on things, I will take a half day of vacation to work on them, rather than stay up all night. I can't afford to get sick this semester because there aren't any lab makeups I can attend (seeing as I work). I'm going to have to be pre-emptively careful, not just careful. Or else this is going to suck, a lot.

So: yay. And, uh, sorry to those of you who I hang out with in real life, but I really do need to make myself do this. It isn't that I don't love you! I promise. Really. in my pants.

On the plus side, this is the last semester you'll hear me whining about class.

* If we factor in travel time - JUST travel time, not errands or the gym or anything else I will be doing during the week - I'll be pulling 55 hour weeks. If I count nothing but work and school and driving there and back. :/ That also doesn't include homework time or, you know, anything like eating or chores (adulthood is its own part-time job (ADULTHOOD SUCKS)).
** Yes, the UAkron PolySci core is frigging ridic. The first semester is 5 courses. Who does that. No wonder this damn degree has taken me 4 years.

seventhe: (FFEX: Doink!)

Well, okay.

I am going to separate this out into two parts: some big, fundamental things that I think need discussing, and some smaller, within-the-system, more reasonable things I think are relevant.

It's going to become a ramble and I am sure there are a lot of things I am going to miss. I have definitely NOT said everything I have to say about academia; this came out being more about academia as a whole, and I could write another 8000 words on effing grad school. But I don't want to let this eat up 2 hours of my evening. Have a sampling.

The big picture of academia... needs to change )

But what can we do NOW? )

I told myself I'd stop writing this at 8:00 and it is already 8:05 so I am going to post but I KNOW I HAVEN'T SAID ALL I WANT TO SAY so uh feel free to give me some leading questions if you are so inclined etc etc seriously, this doesn't even get into the way I would GUT graduate school and START OVER in so many places so.... dammit Cendri way to give me a topic I could cover for a week >.>

This is part of my 30 Days of Posting meme - feel free to check out the schedule of posting! My month is full, but if any of the posts make you want to ask for something else, go ahead and leave a comment anyway! DW || LJ


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