Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Things They Don't Tell You About Grad School, Part 4: Sometimes You Have To Be Mean

If you read Part 2 of this series, after looking at this post's title, you are quickly going to be thinking "uh, Kelzie, I have this book about Stockholm Syndrome you should read...."  But I swear there can be a positive outcome of harshness.

Grad school is not about being lectured to.  Grad school is about critical thinking and advancing your field.  That's not just the party line, that's reality, and the best grad programs and most valuable grad school experiences require you to do that in increasing less safe and comfortable situations.

For better or worse, Harvard fosters that from the beginning of freshman year.  Even the largest lecture class (800+ people) requires attendance of a weekly discussion section of = < 20 people where you are required to talk, respond, reflect, interact critically.  And that's just the basic lecture courses.  The upper class discussion seminars in everything that isn't a hard science can be brutal: one professor, 4-8 students, and 300 pages of reading per week to discuss around a small conference table for 3 hours straight.  Who those other 3-7 students are is critical to your experience.

Last summer a guy started in ex phys after an undegrad in informatics and a masters in ex phys.  He is smart, I know he is, and he is ace at statistics.  But he was a total push over: didn't offer thoughts or comments, tentative when he did, unsure about his own scholarship.

Last week in our "factors of human performance" seminar  he was presenting a paper for "journal club" and I totally came after him and he responded in kind.  It was awesome!  He has become someone I would want sitting around that small table with me and the 3 others who have already placed themselves there (and whom I welcome with open arms).  

Only 10-15 more people to piss off for greatness.

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