Identity crisis; the littlest hobo

Oct 28 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

If you've been reading here for a bit, you may remember that the college my department is in is currently in the middle of a giant clusterfuck reorganization. Essentially, we're moving from a traditional departmental structure to a system that divorces the grad and undergrad curricula and organizes the faculty by their grad program affiliation. In a large and diverse college, we are going to end up with 11 undergrad degrees and 4 graduate concentrations. Faculty are being asked to self-identify with graduate groups and organize the program from the ground up and to a large extent, this process is going surprisingly well.

Some of the current departments are being absorbed, whole-hog, into the new grad groups, whereas in others, like mine, the faculty are dispersing among the four programs. From my perspective, it's nice that I don't feel any pressure to follow the rest of my department into one section, but I find my research interests (and the projects I currently have students working on) evenly split between two proposed graduate groups. This is significant because we are being asked to declare a "primary" affiliation for voting rights and resource allocation (i.e.TA support), so any students I have will have to follow the rules of my primary group. If, generally speaking, I work on "Produce", I'm essentially being asked to choose a "fruits" grad group or a "vegetables" one, and I'm kinda stuck. So I began weighing the pros and cons of each.

The fruits grad group is essentially one current department plus a number of people from other departments who are coming in. A few from my department are making this transition, but the situation inherently makes me nervous for three reasons. 1) The majority of the group have already been interacting as a department for years, and if you've ever seen Survivor, you know how that works out for the new people. 2) The untenured faulty in the current fruits department are regularly frustrated with the actions or inactions of the tenured people in fruits, which brings me to, 3) The fruits grad group will be heavily populated by tenured faculty, many of whom are in their last ten or so years before retirement (You didn't think "fruits" was an arbitrary name, did you?). The combination of these factors concerns me. A lot. However, my lab probably fits in the fruits section best, if I had to choose at gunpoint.

The vegetables grad group will be a mish-mosh of people from several departments, with a pretty even spread in age and rank. The eldest faculty are research active individuals whom I respect. However, although the group looks big in a meeting, the number of primary affiliates may end up being the smallest of the four grad groups. Maybe that's a good thing, but it will depend on how resources are meted out (which has not yet been determined) and how much influence a smaller group will have on the whole. The composition of the people in the vegetables group will likely be a better fit for me.

Obviously there are some other politics involved that I don't want to get into, but for the moment I'm left with a fairly major decision to make and feeling torn.

9 responses so far

  • Alyssa says:

    Based solely on what you wrote here, I'd go for the veggie group. Personal fit outranks research fit, especially if you'd be miserable with the latter.Good luck with the decision!

  • Patchi says:

    You probably want to consider from which pool you would like to pick students and which curriculum you would like them to follow. Would you be teaching different classes? That might be another point...Or maybe I'm just throwing wood in the fire...Good luck!

  • Thomas Joseph says:


  • Genomic Repairman says:

    Go veggie, forget the fruits as they seem to be overripe and ready to plummet towards the ground anyday.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    My students come in a couple of varieties, so they wouldn't necessarily all fit in either but any of them would be able to complete the requirements in both. The other consideration is that the fruits group wants a rotation system and the veggie group does not.

  • Professor in Training says:

    Difficult decision - I don't have any suggestions, sorry 🙁 But I do have some extra fruits if you want some more.

  • Anonymous says:

    You sold on produce? What about dairy? Based on your post, sounds like veggie is the way to go. Some people favor a rotation system but personally I am not a fan of that at all. It all goes back to your post on how to pick a grad school. Pick it for your advisor (beforehand) not after a rotation. Good luck. It probably won't matter in the long run anyhow.

  • Candid Engineer says:

    I am often impressed by how clarifying it is to be able to talk about fruit.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    I learned it from watching you! Crap, am I dating myself with that reference?

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