July 14, 2010

Research advising update

Things are going pretty well with my fellowship student. He is doing a multi-method research project, with a qualitative and quantitative component. I've encouraged him to do more quantitative data collection and analysis, so that he can learn new software and data analysis skills. He agreed, and I've spent a few afternoons teaching him how to use ArcGIS and SPSS. He has been very appreciative that I've spent time teaching him, and I think that after some initial reluctance, he is excited about working with quantitative data.

One thing that's a little strange is that I am the only graduate student mentor in the fellowship program. All of the other mentors are faculty members. My student is also working with my advisor, so he actually has two mentors. But I've been the one going to all of the meetings and working with him on his data, so the fellowship program directors mostly see me. And even though they have been welcoming, I can tell that they are watching me to see if I'm doing a good job. My advisor is also checking with my student to make sure I've been helpful.

So, I'm a little self-conscious and anxious about it. Nobody can say that I haven't put in the hours. I'm sure I've spent more time working with my student than most of the faculty mentors. But I hope I'm steering him in the right direction, and that the final product will be something that everyone is happy with (especially my student, of course).

The fellowship program itself is really cool. The program offers summer funding to underrepresented students (women and minority students) so that they can work with mentors on research projects. The funding allows them to devote the summer to research and learning, instead of getting a summer job. We have meetings where the students report their progress, and it seems like most of the students are learning and getting a lot out of the experience. The program is primarily for rising sophomore and rising junior students -- the idea is to get them involved in research early, so that if they enjoy it, they can apply for honors programs and undergraduate research grants in future years.

My student has done a great job so far, and I'm hopeful that he will apply for the honors program. If he does, he will have a lot of support in the department -- my advisor, the program director, me -- and he would definitely get accepted with any decent proposal. Hopefully I won't scare him away by inadvertently teaching him that research is the path to poverty and never getting out of school.

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