Graduate School Survival Skills

Graduate School Survival
Jamika Burge and Rachel Pottinger
CRA-W Programs
inspire and increase the success of
women & minorities in computing
600+ students & PhD researchers every year
from 250 U.S. institutions
What does CRA-W do?
Individual & Group Research Mentoring
Undergrads: Undergraduate Research Experiences
Undergrads: Distinguished lecture role models
Grad Cohort: group mentoring of graduate students
Grad Students: Discipline Specific Research
PhD Researchers: group mentoring early & mid career
@ CMW, CAPP, Grace Hopper & Tapia Academic careers
Graduate Students
Industry/government labs
600+ students & PhDs a year
More information on programs
available at table right outside
CRA-W booth in exhibit hall
Who are you?
How many of you are:
MSc students
PhD students
Others ?
Who are we?
About Rachel
• I’m an Associate Professor at the University of
British Columbia (in Vancouver, Canada, eh)
• I got my PhD at the University of Washington
and my BS at Duke
• I’m married to a tenured UBC
CS teaching track faculty
member, Steve, and we
have an almost 7 year
old daughter, Naomi 
About Jamika
PhD, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, 2007
CS: Human-computer interaction, computer-mediated communication
Senior Scientist
DARPA Technical Consultant
Co-chair, Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC),
• Programs develop and support a diverse computing research community
Change Agents Council of The Computer Science Collaborative Project
• Brings together key stakeholders in broadening participation in computing across
For fun: laughing, traveling, family & friends
Why are you here?
No, really, why are you here?
• Why are you at this workshop? Why are you
in grad school?
• Turn to the person next to you and talk it over
for the next 3 minutes
Why people are here
You can’t get what you came for
unless you know what you came
If you came to learn how to do
• You need to figure out how you’re
going to learn to do it:
Meetings with your supervisor
Lab meetings
Going to talks
Reading papers
If you came to get a job when
you’re done
 Figure out which job you really want:
 Do internships
 Teach
 Find out how to get the skills you need
 Research (see previous slide)
 Writing
 Public speaking
… but what if you’re not getting
what you came for
• The most important thing is to realize that
this is sadly fairly common
• See if you can figure out how to change
what’s bothering you. Some common ones:
o Advisor problems
o You hate your research
o You hate your group
• The biggest thing: find
someone to talk to
List the 3 most important people
in your graduate school career
• Let’s get together in small groups and discuss
among yourselves who are the important
people in grad school.
• Be ready to share with the larger group.
List 3 important people in your
graduate school career
Surely, your graduate advisor is on your list?
• For better or for worse, your advisor holds the
key to the next step in your career.
• If you are getting a PhD, you will be forever
linked to your advisor.
• This is one of the reasons picking an advisor is
serious business!
List 3 important people in your
graduate school career
Surely, you are on your list?
• You are important. You are to be respected and
• The way people treat you is a function of how
you expect to be treated.
• You have the most to gain and lose in your
graduate school career.
What to do when you run into
Don’t ignore it.
• The problem will only get bigger.
• Early detection is the key.
Summarize the facts of the issue.
• Discuss the facts with a trusted friend.
• Develop a plan of action.
• Don’t be afraid to do what’s best for YOU
What to do when you run into
Consider the following sources of help.
• Your graduate advisor – if she/he is not the issue.
• Women groups in computer science and
• Professors with whom you have taken a class and
have good rapport.
• A trusted resource from your undergraduate
Graduate school isn’t all work.
You must find time to play.
We all know about Oprah’s favorite things. Here
are ours.
• Rachel’s favorite things:
Spending time with my husband and daughter,
reading, cooking and eating
• Jamika’s favorite things:
Spending time with friends, doing *nothing*,
making time to laugh, traveling
All set?
• Having said all that, there’s one thing we’d like to
leave you with
• In order to make the most of grad school, you
have to be willing to put yourself out there and
be bold
• In short:
You can’t be afraid to make an idiot of yourself.
• So, with that in mind, it’s time for a sing along!
To be sung to the tune of “I will
go! Walk out the door
At first I was afraid,
around now
Thinking I could I’m
do research,
I’d have to hide
Doubt’s not welcome anymore
I spent so many nights thinking all I did was wrong
I used to feel so very hurt that I could cry
I grew strong I thought I’d crumble
I learned how toI carry
onI’d lay down and die
Now my groove’sOhback!
no, not I!
From a dark place.
I will survive!
long asleave
I know how to think
I just walk in andAspeople
I’ll make ittaste
out alive
with love of my research
got all
my life to live
I have changed the
I work
my thoughts to give
Now I know thatI’ve
I’ll survive
And I know for just
I will survive!
Grad school doesn’t bother me
Hey, hey!
Thank you to our sponsors
Private Foundation
Unversity Departments
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