This year is the first year I didn’t volunteer to help out with our interdisciplinary program‘s recruitment weekend. I think I have gotten far enough along in my program that I’m sufficiently disconnected from what the coursework is like, let alone what the rest of the departments are like these days. As much as I enjoyed interacting with the potential students for our graduate program and helping to see what the program is all about (and graduate school life as a whole), it’s time to pass that torch on to the younger class members more permanently. Besides, I think I’ve already had my last say in the program in some sense of the phrase. 😉
My mentor told me the roster for this year’s incoming students looked very good on paper, with a strong set of credentials behind most of them. When the email was sent out to the usual crowd of volunteers, I committed to not helping out this year, despite wanting to. To some extent, it was because the more obnoxious of the two new graduate students in my lab decided to invite himself early into the volunteering crowd. I wasn’t pleased by this, but my own altruistic aspirations aside, I felt I was getting too old for the crowd as well. I am somewhere around a year from finishing (for sure this time), so there’s only so much mentorship I can really stick around to provide. With most of my classmates graduated now, I’ve lost most of my connections to the other departments, so I have less of an idea what’s currently going on in them. But man, if you want to know some stuff about the Department of Biochemistry (and sometimes even the Department of Microbiology and Immunology), I can get you info!
I was really put off last year by people who just seem to abuse the program and/or recruitment. There was a younger fellow in the program who volunteered to help, and was all about exploiting the free meals and drinks from the two dinners. Word through the grapevine was he did the same thing this year, to no surprise of my own. There was also another individual who just gushed about how awesome bioinformatics was, because you can just code all day and not do any real benchwork. I was rather appalled he openly suggested that, basically degrading the entire graduate education experience in my personal opinion. I suppose I can’t do much about it; the program directors keep bringing these people on board for the recruitment weekends, so at least the remainder of the volunteers are able to exert a positive and reinforcing environment to encourage the new students.
All in all, it is probably better for me that I didn’t participate. My weekend ended up being far more exhausting and busy than I had anticipated, plus it’ll be unlikely I see any of these students actually come into my lab except for rotations. On the rare chance I stick around for some post-doc time before moving on, then perhaps I’ll actually be around long enough for that, but I don’t anticipate it at this point.
Tangentially related, I just served on a standing committee to formally revise and suggested a new set of guidelines for how the interdisciplinary program is handled and operated (and named…surprise!). It was very interesting to see how the University politics function, so I’m thankful for the recommendation for me to serve on the committee. It was basically a couple of graduate students (myself and two others) to ensure that everything would be kosher from the perspective of a student in the program, as opposed to the faculty that serve to administer and recruit into the program. So recruitment or not, I got my last glimpse into the full operation of the program as a whole. Watching it in action makes me yearn for involvement in instruction more. Ugh! Such decisions!