PhD Lifestyle: Are Most Academics Lonely at Work?

There are clearly benefits of being part of an on-campus community. If you listen to PhD students talk, you might get the idea that poor supervision is the main problem, but survey after survey shows that PhD students everywhere think universities are doing a poor job of creating a sense of community.

So why are students reporting a lack of community? Some element is clearly missing – but what?

‘Community’ is defined in two ways: the first as a ‘being together’ in the same physical place, and the second as ‘feeling together’ – a sense of belonging that comes with working with people of like mind and heart.

Community is not just about being in the same place or having the same events to go to – it’s about that ‘feeling of fellowship’ that comes with sharing common interests and goals. The quickest way to achieve a sense of belonging, aside from perhaps religion, is shared work.

If you think about it, the structure of academic work does not give us many opportunities to work together on shared goals. Being an academic is nothing like my previous careers where I worked in large teams. On my research days at home it’s common for me not to speak to a soul.

Last week at a dinner party, someone said that being an academic is a bit like owning your own small business. This struck me as being very true. Being an academic is like managing a small shop that doesn’t get many customers each day. You set the performance targets. You decide if your ‘product lines’ (research, teaching) are profitable enough. You might have a few people in to help you during the busy times, but essentially you open and close the shop most days.

In fact, if I think too much about it, often my working life feels this way. No wonder many academics report feeling intensely lonely at times. Kate Bowles wrote beautifully about how academic work can make us feel estranged from the rest of the world. For many, the loneliness starts with the PhD itself. I’ve written before about how weird it feels that no one seems to care as much as you.

So what can we do about it?
Here are a few ideas on how to make the experience more communal:
1) Book Club Model: Simply make a regular meet up time for your group or department to have coffee, discuss the course content together and your reactions to it. The course content will launch on a Wednesday because I think this a good, midweek catch up day.

2) Blended Classroom Model: If you are a supervisor or researcher developer, consider using the course as part of your own workshop series and convene discussion sessions around it – either for students or supervisors. If I were doing this, I would take the opportunity to build my own content or activities around the course.

3) Virtual and Local Communities: Create your own Facebook group to connect people online to discuss themes and organise meetups, either as a ‘virtual community of interest’ (such as for people in African studies as an example) or a ‘local community of practice’ (for people in your location, meetups, etc.). A virtual community of interest would help you connect scholars in your discipline, the local community of practice could help you connect with and meet people in in your physical location.

4) Get Social on social networks with national and international peers.

Summer Reading for Students

Summer Reading for Students | Edutopia.

Video Playlist: Summer Reading for Students

  1. Summer Reading Gives You Superpowers! (01:23)Some students might be tempted to think of summer reading as a “chore” — but what if we could change the conversation? Watch as Dav Pilkey (the author of the hilarious and much-beloved Captain Underpants series) shows how summer reading can give yousuperpowers through this fun illustrated video.
  2. Children’s Summer Reading – Hoover Public Library (01:22)Every year, the Collaborative Summer Library Program announces a themed initiative to encourage kids to read. Check out this adorable video that the Hoover Public Library workers made to promote this year’s campaign, “Every Hero Has a Story.”
  3. What is Summer Reading Loss (02:35)But wait! Isn’t summer supposed to be for having fun? Online reading tutor Joanne Kaminski explains summer learning loss in this video. Encouraging students to read books over the summer can help prevent this backslide before school starts again in the fall.
  4. Book Review | The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (03:21)The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is Native American author Sherman Alexie’s first book for young adults. Humorous and tragic, it’s an eye-opening look at life “on the Rez” and the hardships that America’s native populations face. In this video, teen book reviewer Fantastic Magical explains why reading the book was a valuable experience to her, as a person who is not Native American herself.
  5. Kobo in Conversation: Rainbow Rowell (07:27)For her second YA book, Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell (author of the wildly popular book Eleanor and Park) has penned a story that brings fanfiction subculture to life. Watch this interview with the author to find out more about how her personal experiences inspired her to write the book (and read about the power of fanfiction as a learning tool here).
  6. Holes – Trailer (02:12)Holes could be considered an old book now (published in 1997!), but the Newbery Medal winner tells a timeless and bizarre story. Due to a family curse, the palindrome-named Stanley Yelnats is arrested and sentenced to community service at Camp Green Lake. Disney made a movie adaptation of the book that was very faithful to the original text, and is definitely worth watching (after you’ve read the book, of course!).
  7. I Am Not A Pornographer (04:01)Before the huge success of Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, andVlogbrothers, John Green wrote a novel called Looking for Alaska, which tells the story of a group of misfit pranksters at a boarding school. Here, Green discusses the controversy surrounding the book being taught in schools, and his view on teaching teens difficult subjects.
  8. The Book Thief (Book & Movie Review/Discussion) (08:03)The Book Thief is a historical fiction book set in Nazi Germany during WWII, and one of many children’s books that has earned great box office success through a movie adaptation. Reviewer Katie Strange discusses some of the unusual writing and plot techniques that make the book so unique. (Be careful if you haven’t read it yet, spoilers abound after 3:33).
  9. The Island of Dr. Libris Trailer (01:01)The Island of Dr. Libris is a new book aimed at readers aged 9 – 13. It tells the story of Billy, who goes to spend the summer at a lakeside cabin owned by the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is happening in the lake nearby… Watch the book trailer to find out more!
  10. 5 Tips For A Summer Reading Slump (03:29)With all the distractions of summer (beaches, pools, friends, and great weather!), it can be difficult to make time for reading. Here are some tips and tricks you and your students can use to make reading a natural part of every day.

How Facebook Helps Students Adapt to College

For today’s students, social media isn’t just a diversion, it’s a support system, says a paper exploring the role that Facebook plays in helping students adjust to campus life, from Collin M. Ruud (postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), “Social Networking and Social Support: Does It Play a Role in College Social Integration?”.

Mr. Ruud has been observing the effects of social media for years. He was an assistant residence-hall manager when social-networking sites first started to take off, and he was immediately interested in how they might affect student development.

For his recent research, Mr. Ruud conducted online surveys, collecting 159 responses from undergraduates at an unnamed flagship university in the Midwest. He identified a strong link between social-media use and feelings of belonging to the broader campus community.

Mr. Ruud found, as he expected, that students today spend more time on Facebook than they did in 2007, and that more students have made Facebook part of their daily routines. “It’s just part of what we do now,” he said.

But there was a more surprising finding, too: Students who used Facebook to keep in touch with high-school friends reported feeling stronger connections to their college communities. Mr. Ruud said he’d had a feeling there might be a link there. When he got the numbers to back up that hunch, “it was like an alarm going off,” he said.

On its face, Mr. Ruud said, it makes no sense that students feel more connected to their colleges when they continue to interact with friends from high school. But look closer, he said, and there’s a logic to that link. Facebook acts as a support network for students. A virtual network can help college students bond with high-school friends who are going through the same process of adapting to life on other campuses, Mr. Ruud said. With social media, all a student has to do to feel supported is log in.

Now that Facebook has become so ingrained in daily life, “we’ve got all these student-development theories” he said, and “is technology going to change the way students develop socially?”


Original Source

From Great Universities to “Knowledge Factories”


Thomas Frank, perhaps best known for What’s the Matter with Kansas?, an examination of America’s new conservatism, has an article in Salon, “The New Republic, the torture report, and the TED talks geniuses who gutted journalism.” Toward the end, he writes this:

The new press lord’s deeds are all made possible by the shrinking significance of everyone else. Compared to the patois of power, the language of journalism is but meaningless babble. Compared to once having been a friend of Zuckerberg, no form of literary genius matters any more. Compared to the puissance and majesty of the CIA, we amount to nothing. We are playthings of the powerful, churned out by the millions every year from the nation’s knowledge factories. We are zeroes to their ones, ready to rationalize monopoly or rectal hydration at a moment’s notice.

We’ve been through all of this before, though Frank doesn’t write…

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The 10 Best Careers Right Now For Recent College Graduates

Some career paths are going to be more beneficial, paying well, with solid career prospects and open to a recent grad. According with Business Insider, these are the 10 Best Careers Right Now For Recent College Graduates:

Best College Grad Career#1 Software Developer – Systems Software
#2 Software Developers – Applications
#3 Market Research Analyst/Marketing Specialist
#4 Accountant/Auditor
#5 Network/Computer Systems Administrator
#6 Elementary School Teacher
#7 Computer Systems Analyst
#8 Management Analyst
#9 Public Relations Specialist
#10 Insurance Sales Agent

See also: Hot Careers for College Graduates

Why Asian-American Students Outperform Their White Peers

See also: Here’s One Reason China Dominates At Teaching Math – Business Insider

When it comes to academic achievement, Asian-Americans outclass every other ethnic group, with more than half over age 25 holding a bachelor’s degree—well above the national average of 28%. To find what gives Asian-Americans a leg up, a team of sociologists scoured two long-term surveys covering more than 5000 U.S. Asian and white students.

After crunching test scores, GPAs, teacher evaluations, and social factors such as immigration status, the team reports a simple explanation online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Asian-American students work harder.

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