Despite the shitstorm that is work, I am chipping away at my other obligations, one of which is forming my dissertation committee. Believe me, I put no small amount of thought and effort into forming it, and consulted my adviser a number of times to get his advice, since he is, after all, the head of the committee.
In forming any committee, I’ve found that there are a few people and situations you want to avoid:
1. The Loose Cannon– This person is apt to say anything, even if he/she has no idea what in the everlasting hell he/she is talking about because they loooove to hear themselves talk. They will challenge anything you or one of your committee members says, just to prove a point. Or just to hear his/her own voice. Quite fond of what I like to call “academic masturbation.” It will be impossible to have a committee meeting that lasts any less than three hours with the Loose Cannon. If you want to have a meeting about absolutely nothing, The Loose Cannon is for you!
2. The Slacker-Won’t read anything you send, and will never even pick up the copy of your proposal that you carefully printed, stapled, and waded through rain/snow/hurricane to deliver to the Slacker’s departmental mailbox in Outer Bumfukt Mongolia. Might sleep through a good portion of your meetings and may just up and forget to come to the defense.
3. That Guy– You know the type: not yet tenured or freshly tenured. Usually a dude. Seeks to destroy you, as you are future (and perhaps present) competition, and he definitely has a point to prove. Needs to save face to impress his colleagues, and you are merely collateral damage. Will attack swiftly, without warning, usually at crucial points in the process. Just pray you get out alive with That Guy’s signature on your dissertation approval paperwork, dignity not included.
4. Those Guys-Just because folks work together doesn’t mean that they have to get along. Careful that you don’t have these guys on your committee. You will get caught in the crossfire and it will not be pretty. Pick one, but not both.
5. Sausage Party-Unfortunately, many areas of academia are still male-dominated, and it’s entirely possible to have an all-male committee. If you’re of the XY persuasion, this isn’t such a big deal, but if you’re female, you probably want to avoid this. It’s not the end of the world, but there could be some weird dynamics there that you probably want to just not have to deal with, particularly if you’re young and they’re older than your parents.
Most fortunately, it looks like I’m putting together a really awesome committee full of great people. As far as I know, they all get along and will be the guiding force I need over the next 12-18 months, people who will both challenge and support me in my journey.
Sometimes I think about how quickly time flies, and how soon I will be Dr. Freckles. I am at once in complete awe at life and utterly afraid of what comes next.