CJ and I exchanged a couple tweets of the other day, in which I expressed a bit of ambivalence about his #IQuitGradSchool project. Tweets, of course, are a terrible way to capture complicated feelings, so CJ reached out and offered me the opportunity to explain what I meant in a guest entry on his blog.
So first of all, let me say that I essentially like the project. What I like most about it is the same thing I like in general about chemistry blogs and Twitter and so on: I think it’s valuable whenever we speak openly and honestly about our experiences in graduate school. Everybody struggles through the difficult transition from undergrad to grad school, and I think it helps us all feel less bad about it when we realize that this is true.
In the stories that CJ has posted so far, I like the fact that so many respondents say they’ve landed in good places after leaving grad school, professionally and personally. And I think that’s a really important thing to acknowledge: leaving the PhD track is sometimes a good decision. An MS is not some mere consolation prize, and it would be a mistake to consider it a personal failure.
On the other hand, it’s also true that leaving graduate school is not the right decision in every case. It would be great to get a little balance in the stories that are getting told here.
So I’d really like to hear some success stories as well. Tell me about times that the system worked: folks who had a hard time in grad school but ended up in good places; mentors who did the right thing by their students; stories of women, minorities, and LGBT students being supported by the field.I set out on this project to learn from people who left graduate school and that's what I feel I've been doing by blogging about this. I still have at least 4 or 5 stories yet to edit and I plan on writing more about what I've learned.
I like Prof. Yoon's suggestion that I solicit stories from people who feel they succeeded in graduate school in chemistry, especially those who feel they overcame a barrier. I am committed to hearing from (and telling my readers about) as many stories of graduate school in chemistry as people want to tell. Thanks to Prof. Yoon for the suggestion.