My office is in the Armstrong building at Purdue. Walking into my office this morning, I saw Neil Armstrong's statue festooned with balloons, letters, flowers, news clippings -- Purdue marking the passing of one of its own.

It was a good weekend. Saturday was spent getting my place back in Homelike-Domicile Shape instead of "exhausted Mel has just collapsed here" status: grocery shopping, shower-scrubbing, that sort of thing. Sebastian won the Best Boyfriend Ever prize by suggesting, shortly after waking up, that he could help me clean the apartment, particularly the bathroom. We had some fellow ENE grad students over for raclette in the evening, and it was delicious, and my fridge is now stuffed with chopped vegetables we need to cook and eat somehow.

Sunday was a reading morning, then we took crepes (banana-chocolate) over to the Gerndts', where they added ice cream and we had a lovely time just hanging out before Sebastian and I went to see a movie (Premium Rush), for which he also gets the Best Boyfriend Ever prize for finding a theatre with captioning glasses. My ears were sore by the end of the movie from having my normal glasses, caption glasses, and hearing aids on all at the same time, but it was worth it to be able to actually understand the dialogue as it was being spoken. This... never happens. Yes, we had to drive over an hour to the movies instead of going to the theatre that's basically a mile down the street I live on, but it was worth it.

I have been giving more thought to my committee. Specifically, it should probably cover the following bases:

  • Someone who knows about how people (especially academics) learn to talk in a design context with others who aren't "like them" -- cross-disciplinary design. (This would be Robin, my advisor.)
  • Someone who understands the concept of radical realtime transparency the way I do, with the lens of access and a comfort with technology and distributed work -- not necessarily someone from the FOSS world, but someone who's amenable to that perspective.
  • Someone who understands faculty development programs and how they're built and run and measured.
  • Someone who understands how STEM faculty design courses, and how good course design is done, and how to teach STEM faculty how to do it better. This might overlap with the above.
  • Someone who is comfortable with very small-scale qualitative studies. I don't want to hear "but you were only looking at 5 people, you can't do that!" as a criticism; I want to hear something more like: "Okay, you're studying one person -- or 3, or 5, or whatever. How are you doing at looking deeply into things with them, since you have few enough participants that you can?"
  • Someone who understands deconstructivist thinking and can help the rest of my committee be comfortable with -- or at least accept as valid -- the way I tend to play parkour with all existing structures, and how I habitually (sometimes even unconsciously) blur boundaries, flip theories upside-down.
  • Someone who understands communities of practice and cognitive apprenticeships within them, since that seems like an important framing for my own work.

This won't be a one-to-one or onto mapping; there will be committee members who cover multiple bases, and there may be multiple committee members covering the same base.

Realization during grad seminar today: I am still, still, still profoundly uncomfortable tooting my own horn. I can be someone else's PR/marketing department, but not my own. Perhaps what I should do is find someone with a similar predisposition and agree that we'll be each other's "getting-credit" nags.

Another interesting comment that came up during seminar today was this: in academia, publications are the only things that are portable across all institutions is publications. If you're moving institutions, nobody cares if you served on this or that committee in your old place, but you know your papers will always be with you.

I'm personally not sure if this statement's true in all cases. It may be true in research institutions, but teaching institutions might count more or different things (like... teaching, say) as portable. Our discussion took place on a campus that is research-focused, in a room of people who all probably want to climb the tenure ladder and become full professors, and -- I mean, I wouldn't mind that. It's a good option to keep open at this point in my academic life. But I'm not yet sure what sort of place I want to be at when I graduate.

Part of me thinks: I'm going to want to pack my bags and travel after graduation. I'll have so much pent-up-ness that I'll need to run and run and run to decompress. (I realize this may not be the best idea in terms of academic career development, but I think a happy Mel is probably the best thing I can do for long-term life development, so I'll do what seems best at that time. I won't make myself miserable just on account of a job; I've made that mistake before and know how much it is -- and isn't -- worth.)

Part of me thinks: I wonder if I can find a way to write my dissertation while travelling around the world. I do most of my best writing, I think, when I move every so often, when I'm in a new place -- paradoxically, that's the arrangement that makes it easiest for me to consistently dedicate large blocks of time to churning out text, because the part of my brain that craves variety and stimulation is already fed by being in an unfamiliar location.

Part of me thinks: Mel, that's dumb. There is a reason nobody does that. It's called "they want to graduate."

Part of me thinks: Hey, can't you figure this out in a year or so, after you pass your quals and maybe know what you're doing for prelims?

And then I go and work on something else.