The Switch-up: Finding a New Supervisor

Hey folks! In my last post, I told you a little bit about the direction I was hoping to take as I develop my PhD research project. My work before this has been grounded in Canadian sociologies of religion, feminist theory, queer theory, and anti-racist theory, so getting into conceptual writing and drawing may be a departure for me. The art factor, especially, means I need a different kind of support than I’ve been getting so far. I have a background in studio art and a degree in art history, and my program has a project option for cultural producers, so I’m not going into this blind, but it means that I’ll be seeking out new resources and maybe even a new supervisor or, at least, co-supervisor.

We’ve all heard horror stories about student/supervisor relationships gone awry, so I thought I’d share a positive story about change. As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m doing both of my graduate degrees at the same school. So far, I’m doing them with the same supervisor, too. This didn’t used to be the done thing, but these days, expectations are changing. Nonetheless, I do know that it’s good academic practice to benefit from the influence of and build collegial relationships with more established scholars rather than fewer, and supervision is one of the main ways of doing this. When I brought some of my new ideas about art, poetry, and philosophy to my current supervisor, she regarded me with that characteristic look of pragmatism in her eye and she said, kindly but plainly, “I’m not trying to get rid of you, but I won’t be offended if you need to find a different supervisor with different expertise.” Just like that. Realistic, professional, and I got a bit of a chuckle out of the way she put it.

In my program, we have an awesome array of about 90 different affiliated faculty members. But because Cultural Studies is a program, not a department, not all of these faculty members participate in the same way. Potentially, there’s a lot of choice among supervisors, but these choices range from specialists in mining safety to social geography to Chinese languages to Cuban film. I’m in the process of talking to different folks and hopefully finding someone who’s equipped as a cultural producer and who’s excited about the ideas I’m excited about. I’m a little nervous about pitching the idea to someone I don’t know and asking them to add me to what’s probably already an overwhelming mountain of work and responsibilities. But what do I have to lose, I remind myself, and also, that’s what professors are there for. Training is not a peripheral part of what they do in the academy, it’s right there at the centre.

For students who are considering switching it up like me, you may want to check out the School of Graduate Studies’ advice on student/supervisor relationships. Happy searching!

General guide to supervision for students and professors: http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/forstudents/supervision.html

And, pathways to resolving differences: http://www.queensu.ca/sgs/forstudents/faq.html#step7

Posted in Thesis

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