Thursday, July 21, 2016

Graduate Study in the USA

Today, I have the pleasure of hosting Christopher McMaster (Ph.D., University of Canterbury). Christopher has taught for over 15 years as a regular and special educator in the United Kingdom, United States, Nicaragua and New Zealand. He co-edited and contributed to Postgraduate Study in Aotearoa/New Zealand: Surviving and Succeeding (2014) and is currently lead editor for the "Survive and Succeed" series in the UK, US, Australia and South Africa. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at Augsburg College, Minneapolis. Christopher can be reached at drchrismcmaster@gmail.com.

Slightly over a year ago I asked popular blogs and graduate associations from around the country to circulate a call for abstracts for a book by and for graduate students. I asked students to contribute to this book, an edited volume, based on the premise: If you could go back in time to when you started your studies, what advice would you give yourself?

The response was encouraging. Submissions were received from all over the United States, and a leading educational publisher, Peter Lang, quickly signed it on. The end result was a collection of 20 chapters full of useful advice to those currently studying, as well as those thinking of embarking on the graduate path. It is titled Graduate Study in the USA: Surviving and Succeeding, and is now happily in print.

This book is to be part of an international series that includes similar efforts from students or recent graduates in New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom (the latter three are due out later this year). The concept was simple: graduate students writing for graduate students. After the publication of the New Zealand edition in late 2014, my co-editor (Caterina Murphy) and myself were soon asked by students in those countries, “Hey, can we have one too?”

Each edition in the "Survive and Succeed" series are written by graduate students (and sometimes recent graduates) in each country, reflecting the specific concerns or issues of that place. The books are not tomes of advice by the learned professor, but rather, students “doin’ it for themselves”, as the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin sang in the mid-1980s.

This book is a survival guide to help US graduate students at each stage of their studies. As editors we gave each contributor a simple task: “If you could go back in time to when you started your graduate studies, what would you tell your younger, less experienced self? What advice could you give to prospective or current graduate students now, with the wisdom of your hindsight?”

Each chapter is written in an accessible manner, developing a relationship between writer and reader. I encouraged the contributors to imagine that younger self, or keen reader, sitting in front of them to hear useful advice. Not personal anecdote and smug survival story, but something each reader can take away and be stronger and more successful in their own studies.

The book is divided into five parts, each covering key elements for surviving and succeeding in graduate study. The first part examines the mechanics of graduate study and covers essentials such as advisory relationships, scholarships, conferencing, and building support networks. The second part concentrates on succeeding as an academic and includes writing, editing, and publishing, as well as the responsibility of being an academic. The third part considers understanding and navigating difference in academia. Part four focuses on maintaining health, well-being, and balance when working for long, concentrated periods of study, including chapters on the long neglected issue of study and disability and mental health. The final section is about studying from and in another culture, whether that be an American abroad, or a student new to America.

Graduate Study in the USA can be read cover to cover, or it can be treated like a guide book to a city you have not visited before, where you dip in and out of sections or chapters that are especially pertinent to you at the time. The point of the book is to show what is on offer, what may be expected, how to prepare for the unexpected, and how to make your travels through graduate study in the USA a rewarding experience.

Graduate Study in the USA: Surviving and Succeeding
is available through most online book sellers, such as Amazon, and from the publisher.

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