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Step Up, Take Charge

Over at Inside Higher Ed, Yale University's Stephen Stearns says graduate students would be best to prepare for every possible worst-case scenario. "Assume that your proposed research might not work, and that one of your faculty advisers might become unsupportive — or even hostile," Stearns says. "Plan for alternatives." Stearns even says "nobody cares about" grad students, and because of that, they ought to take their training into their own hands. It's important, too, that grad students propose and possess their own research projects, because "if someone hands you a problem, you won't feel that it is yours" and, as a result, "you won't have that possessiveness that makes you want to work on it, defend it, fight for it, and make it come out beautifully," he says. When it comes to advisor-advisee relationships, Stearns says grad students should step up early and on their own accord. "Nothing elicits dominant behavior like subservient behavior," he says. "Expect and demand to be treated like a colleague." He suggests the "implicit hurdle" that students face throughout their graduate training is "attaining the status of a colleague." To that, he says, "act like one and you'll be treated like one."

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