For those of us pursuing a PhD, graduate school is about learning how to become researchers. Our classes are focused on methods and theories, and our out of class work is in the library, in the field, or in the lab conducting research and experiments. However, graduate school is more than research: we learn about many other things related to our discipline, and we often learn them by being thrust into awkward situations with little training: teaching being the most obvious, but also dealing with university bureaucracy, departmental politics, attending conferences, and trying to get something published are all things we are rarely exposed to until they have to happen. In many instances, Gradhacker fills some of that void. I have also found that reading and engaging with the Chronicle of Higher Education to be a great tool for exposing me to these elements of higher education.
The Chronicle ofHigher Ed is a daily publication about the “news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administration”. Every weekday, I receive a newsletter from the Chronicle listing their offerings for that day, ranging from news articles about issues in higher education, small pieces from faculty about being a teacher, conducting research, or working on committees, and a number of other pieces about various issues in higher education. It is a valuable resource, and it has helped me quite a lot in a number of categories. Here are a couple reasons why I think you should consider reading it yourself:
You’re in Higher Ed: You should know about it
Like it or not, your position as a graduate student places you in this strange world between student and employee at an institution of higher education. Many of us are employed as a TA, Grad Assistant, or Research Assistant, and we are impacted by the things that go on at an institutional level: understanding how university’s work and how they effect us as graduate students, researchers, and teachers is important. In the same way that we should be up to date on what is happening in our discipline, we should be on top of what’s happening within the institutions that we work. For example, the recent debt ceiling crisis resulted in a change in federal loans for graduate students: the Chronicle was the first place I turned for clarification on what was going on. This was able to set me at ease about my future, while also allowing me to carry on discussions with other students and faculty about what was occurring at our institutions.
In addition to being a resource for current news on higher education, The Chronicle provides a number of articles, essays, and blog posts discussing ways for faculty members to be better teachers, researchers, and professionals. Since graduate students often have these jobs, but on different scales, the tricks and tools offered in these articles can be extremely helpful in developing new skills to make our lives easier. It was through the Chronicle that I began to start using Twitter, and I have pulled numerous ideas for organization, technology, and teaching from Profhacker. The Chronicle allows you to keep on top of some of the recent trends in higher ed, and apply them to your own skill set.
Learn the University
Part of this professional development is learning about how University’s work, and the myriad of parts that make it up. As grad students, we are often sequestered in one of two buildings: where our department and labs are, and the library. The Chronicle can give us a glimpse into the world of student affairs, resources that are available on most college campuses, issues in other departments, or even discussions about campus buildings, construction, and facilities management. Understanding the larger ecosystem that is a university campus can provide a unique perspective on why certain things happen the way they do, and may also give us ideas or insights into how to make our smaller section of campus better.
Learning about, and Getting, a Job
For those of us who want to keep on in higher ed as faculty members, reading the Chronicle can give us a glimpse into the world that may lie before us. In some cases, this can be a reality check: the Chronicle is not afraid to share the realities of adjunct faculty work, the difficulties presented by teaching, the struggles of getting tenure, or the complexities of departmental politics. In some cases, it can be a bit overwhelming (I, for one, would be happy with a few more positive articles now and then). At any rate, the Chronicle also provides tips for job interviews, provides an up-to-date listing of academic positions, and dedicates an entire section to discussing Jobs in Academia. This can be a tremendous resource for students looking for jobs, or for students who are still a bit unsure about what is out there.
In all, I find the Chronicle to be an invaluable resource: I have learned a great deal about what it means to work at an institution of higher ed, for better or for worse, and use the site regularly to be a better student, teacher, and professional. While graduate school does a wonderful job teaching us to become professional researchers, it often lacks in helping us learn how to be a professional in other aspects: administration, teaching, and dealing with office politics are all things we will have to deal with at the “next step”, and the Chronicle helps expose us to these topics. But reading is only half the work: I regularly use the pieces I find in the Chronicle as stepping stones for discussing these topics with my own faculty. It is through these conversations that the Chronicle becomes a tool for learning about these other elements of my professional growth.
Do you read the Chronicle? What have you found useful? What do you hate? Are there other magazines, blogs, or resources you use for this sort of information? Share below!
[Image by Flickr user Photo Plod and used with Creative Commons License]
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