A student for whom I write recommendations has landed an interview at a doctorate-granting institution. In discussing the differences between this arrangement and others, it brought me back to my first time I had to emotionally confront the idea that I might one day supervise graduate students.
I was on an interview at Michigan Tech in the Humanities department in January 1999. I was ABD but had submitted the thesis to the cte in the fall and had scheduled a February defense date because that’s when all my cte members would be in town. So I was almost out of grad school but not quite. I don’t remember the day’s schedule exactly but there was a point where it was time to go meet with the grad students. So I went and met with the students. The faculty dropped me off, the door closed in the lounge, and there I was with a bunch of students who looked at me as someone who might be able to teach them something. Or not, as the case may be. My first response was probably something resembling abject horror. After all, I was still a grad student but they were looking at me like a faculty member. It seemed somehow off. But the adrenaline eventually turned into a positive rush. I did what any candidate or campus visitor should do when confronted with graduate students: I asked them about their work. We proceeded to have fascinating conversations and I felt challenged and stimulated and thought afterward that this whole supervising grad students thing would be pretty cool.
There’s probably just a touch of that abject horror every term when I walk into a class for the first time, but that’s okay. It helps me keep my edge.