I’ve spoken with students lately that had a committee member that didn’t agree with aspects of the dissertation, or a chair that had different views than the AQR. What is a student to do? My advice is to ask questions, ask for help, and move up the ladder.
Ask questions. For example, you can ask your chair, “How have different points of views been resolved in the past?” “If you were me, how would you resolve this impasse?” “Would you both be willing to hop on a call together to see what common ground can be found?” Find ways to ask questions that promote a solution.
Get support. Find support from colleagues or other faculty that might be able to lend a hand via their relationships or experience. I remember a time I was having trouble with a person at the financial aid department, Lola, as a student. I didn’t like Lola, and Lola didn’t care for me either. Everything was a hassle. I went to a friend named Roy in the housing department. As I told him my trouble with Lola, he said, “Lola is a pussycat.” “No, no Roy. You’re mistaken, LOLA in the financial aid department.” He assured me that, yes, we were talking about the same Lola. Once I mentioned Roy to Lola, our relationship changed for the better. Months later, I remember walking past her door one day and pinky waving to each other, and I thought, “boy have things changed!”
Move up the ladder. What if none of these options work out, then what? I think it’s appropriate to take your concern up the ladder to the chair of the department or dean. I don’t think jumping to the dean is a great idea, but if you’re in the middle of things for say 8 weeks, it’s time to reach out to others.
That Lola experience was over 25 years ago, but the lesson that relationships can and do change, that people can become helpful, and that the current circumstance is not necessarily the final circumstance sticks with me. Keep this in mind as you move through the dissertation process and graduate. There’s more help around than you know, if you’re willing to open up to it.
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I wish you an expedited graduation, and thoughtful planning. You’re almost done, so plan for support early!
James Lani, PhD
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