Happy Doc Student Podcast

#35 Best Practices for Students and Chairs with Dr. Eva Mika

July 07, 2021 Heather Frederick, PhD
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#35 Best Practices for Students and Chairs with Dr. Eva Mika
Chapters
Happy Doc Student Podcast
#35 Best Practices for Students and Chairs with Dr. Eva Mika
Jul 07, 2021
Heather Frederick, PhD

Dr. Eva Mika obtained her PhD in clinical-community psychology from DePaul University Chicago. She is a leader, educator, advocate, and applied researcher who thrives on helping adult learners acquire the practical skills related to applied psychology. She is currently Acting Associate Dean for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola University Chicago where she embraces and promotes cura personalis as part of the Ignatian Heritage of caring for the entire person. 

Tips for students

  • Communication is key
  • Listen
  • Trust 
  • Show respect
  • Be candid  
  • Be an advocate for yourself – request a 30-minute video call at the beginning of the process and regularly during the process
  • Understand that Chairs are busy people; respect their time
  • DO NOT IGNORE FEEDBACK
  • Ask questions 
  • Be ok with rejection (see feedback podcast below)
  • Cool off  before communicating something you might regret later
  • Find support outside your Chair (see podcast below)
  • Understand that conflicting feedback is a part of the process
  • Pause and consider if you really want this
  • You chose this so drop the victim mentality (time to leave your program? see the good goodbye podcast)
  • A good question to ask when you are getting feedback: Are the bones there? Ask about the foundation of your project.
  • Don’t be stubborn 
  • Be mindful of your topic selection (see podcast on things you should know)
  • Ask for what you need, but understand you may be asking for things that aren’t your Chair’s responsibility
  • Do your part – step up to the plate and be responsible and accountable for your degree

Tips for Chairs

  • Communication is key
  • Offer a video call prior to starting the project and regularly throughout; be candid about how you work with students 
  • Have the conversation about WHY the student is pursuing the degree
  • Recognize your role of welcoming the student into the profession - this goes beyond mentoring a dissertation/doc project
  • If you have a resistant student, share this podcast 
  • Be aware of possible burnout - do you need a break or reduced student load to be the best Chair you can be?
  • Encourage students to build a support system outside of you (you are not their therapist!)
  •  Don’t forget about your self-care (see self-care podcast below)
  • Build your own system of support

 Loyola University Chicago Applied Psychology Program
https://www.luc.edu/adult-education/degree-completion/applied-psychology/

The Doc Journey: Things You Need to Know (that they probably won’t tell you)  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/6911234

How to Feel Good about Feedback  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8063165

The Online Doctoral Journey: Building a Community of Support  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8234175

Reality Check: Is a Doc Program for You? 
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8609514

Should I Pursue a Doctoral Degree – https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8169838

The Good Goodbye https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8016142

Unleash Your Genius: The Secret of Self-Care  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/6988105

Learn more: http://Expandyourhappy.com

Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Eva Mika obtained her PhD in clinical-community psychology from DePaul University Chicago. She is a leader, educator, advocate, and applied researcher who thrives on helping adult learners acquire the practical skills related to applied psychology. She is currently Acting Associate Dean for the School of Continuing and Professional Studies at Loyola University Chicago where she embraces and promotes cura personalis as part of the Ignatian Heritage of caring for the entire person. 

Tips for students

  • Communication is key
  • Listen
  • Trust 
  • Show respect
  • Be candid  
  • Be an advocate for yourself – request a 30-minute video call at the beginning of the process and regularly during the process
  • Understand that Chairs are busy people; respect their time
  • DO NOT IGNORE FEEDBACK
  • Ask questions 
  • Be ok with rejection (see feedback podcast below)
  • Cool off  before communicating something you might regret later
  • Find support outside your Chair (see podcast below)
  • Understand that conflicting feedback is a part of the process
  • Pause and consider if you really want this
  • You chose this so drop the victim mentality (time to leave your program? see the good goodbye podcast)
  • A good question to ask when you are getting feedback: Are the bones there? Ask about the foundation of your project.
  • Don’t be stubborn 
  • Be mindful of your topic selection (see podcast on things you should know)
  • Ask for what you need, but understand you may be asking for things that aren’t your Chair’s responsibility
  • Do your part – step up to the plate and be responsible and accountable for your degree

Tips for Chairs

  • Communication is key
  • Offer a video call prior to starting the project and regularly throughout; be candid about how you work with students 
  • Have the conversation about WHY the student is pursuing the degree
  • Recognize your role of welcoming the student into the profession - this goes beyond mentoring a dissertation/doc project
  • If you have a resistant student, share this podcast 
  • Be aware of possible burnout - do you need a break or reduced student load to be the best Chair you can be?
  • Encourage students to build a support system outside of you (you are not their therapist!)
  •  Don’t forget about your self-care (see self-care podcast below)
  • Build your own system of support

 Loyola University Chicago Applied Psychology Program
https://www.luc.edu/adult-education/degree-completion/applied-psychology/

The Doc Journey: Things You Need to Know (that they probably won’t tell you)  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/6911234

How to Feel Good about Feedback  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8063165

The Online Doctoral Journey: Building a Community of Support  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8234175

Reality Check: Is a Doc Program for You? 
https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8609514

Should I Pursue a Doctoral Degree – https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8169838

The Good Goodbye https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/8016142

Unleash Your Genius: The Secret of Self-Care  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1547113/6988105

Learn more: http://Expandyourhappy.com

Eva Mika:

Educators want to help you grow and growing can be hard, but it shouldn't be traumatic. It really shouldn't. It was traumatic. There's something wrong.

Heather Frederick:

you're listening to the Happy Doc Student Podcast, a, podcast dedicated to providing clarity to the often mysterious doctoral process. Do you feel like you're losing your mind? Let me and my guests show you how to put more joy in your journey and graduate with your sanity, health and relationships intact. I'm your host, Dr. Heather Frederick and this is episode 36. Today. I welcome Dr. Eva, Mika who obtained her PhD in clinical-community psychology from DePaul university, Chicago in 1998. And before I tell you more about this amazing person, I want to give you the backstory for this episode. Even I worked together in a graduate program with doctoral learners over 10 years. And I was always in awe of not only her kindness to me as a colleague, but also of her ability to powerfully mentor doctoral learners. Now, knowing she was no longer working with these types of students, I asked her if she would be willing to come on the show to provide the unique perspective that can only be gained through that thing we call hindsight and lucky for all of us she said yes. Now let me tell you just a little bit more about Dr. Mika. She is a leader, educator, advocate and applied researcher. She loves the unique opportunities related to online and blended instruction and thrives on helping adult learners acquire the practical skills related to applied psychology, including the ability to become more adept problem solvers through the critical evaluation and application of research, evidence to social and organizational problems in service towards a more just community. Eva is currently acting associate Dean for the school of continuing and professional studies at Loyola university, Chicago, where she embraces and promotes Cura Personalis as part of the Ignatian heritage of caring for the entire person. And I want to offer her a congratulations because prior to this appointment, she was hired to lead the online psychology, bachelor degree and certificate programs. And under her leadership, the online applied psychology bachelor degree is now ranked number two in the country and us news and world report. So if anyone, you know, out there is looking for a bachelor's in psychology, be sure to check this program out and I'll link it in the show notes below. So Eva, welcome to the show.

Eva Mika:

Thank you. Thanks for having me Heather.

Heather Frederick:

Today we're going to get into this discussion about mentorship and a good mentor, or a good mentor relationship, can be the difference between finishing or not finishing. So let's just start with, how do you define mentoring or how have you seen it play out in the dissertation process?

Eva Mika:

Well, I'm no longer involved in the dissertation process, but I have had several years under my belt. And so I've had time to reflect on best practices and you're absolutely right. The relationship between the chair in particular and the doctoral student, mentee, is key. So when I think about mentorship in the doctoral phase, what we're really inviting people to do is not just to produce a document, but really inviting them into the profession and inviting them to become a peer and inviting them on a career journey or extending an existing career journey. So with that in mind, there is I think, an ethical responsibility to be mindful

of:

why is this person getting the degree? Does it make sense for them? How does it fit in with the rest of their lives? If they are adult learners and they're working full-time and they have families, which is a one bracket of people that are pursuing the doctoral degree, then what does that mean for the rest of their lives? There's going to be parts that are going to have to be put on hold. There's going to be leisure time that will have to be forsaken.

And the question then becomes:

Are these sacrifices worth it for you in the long run? And every person has a different response. Every person has a different story. And I think that exploration, I think, is something that a good mentor does.

Heather Frederick:

You hit on such an important point about just getting to know the student that you're working with and asking questions. I have worked with many students who feel like there's just a person at the other end of the computer that doesn't know them, that doesn't maybe care about them. That the feedback is coming across is sometimes even hurtful. even though it's not intended that way because they haven't taken time to establish this relationship. So as a mentor, you could say, all right, I know that this is probably important. It's going to take a little bit of time. But in my perspective, in my experience, it actually saves time later when you actually know what's going on with the student's life, and you can view them as this whole person. As a student, what are some things that you would recommend in terms of either finding a chair that they could develop this relationship with or facilitating this type of relationship? If the chair isn't kind of starting it?

Eva Mika:

Well, I think those are some really poignant questions. I think that your question illuminates a really important point, which is successful doctoral candidates who transition into doctors, the PhDs, the DBAs, the EDDs are ones that I think are very assertive. In other words, don't assume, although the mentor may have best practices, but don't assume that your chair is going to reach out to you for a couple of reasons. One is structurally they're often overwhelmed with just the high volume. So there are systemic problems that are coming from. that are beyond this conversation. So they may want to get to know you, but if they have 50 to 60 people that they're chairing, that proves to be difficult, even if they want to. Secondly, who is going to get the most attention? It's the person that asks for it. So don't be afraid to ask, ask for a one-on-one in the beginning, ask for something and you will likely receive it because it's going to, I don't know many, well, I'm not going to speak for everybody, but I don't know many professors, educators, mentors who would turn down "Hey, can I have 30 minutes with you just to get to know you in the beginning of this?" I think actually in most cases that would be a welcome request because then you can establish trust. Then you can say here, this is my style. I tend to make some blunt comments, but here's what, you know, the context of it. You know who I am, here's my face. And if you have questions, let's do this, you know, every three or four months or something realistic. So I think that while we can talk about best practices for chairs, I think best practices to be a good doctoral candidate is to be assertive. Knock on that door. You might just get a response. You might just get a cup of coffee or a tea you might virtually, I mean, it's metaphorical, but ask for it. I mean, people are longing for that. And actually from the perspective of you're chairing a dissertation and you have someone who wants to invest in that, then you shine. I mean, you really kind of stand out because from my perspective, I'm thinking, well, this person is taking this seriously. This person understands that the relationship is important. This person understands and wants me to get to know them. So that's a good sign because that tells me they're invested. They're not just going through the motions. So it's a good thing for all involved.

Heather Frederick:

You know, this theme of the student having the courage to ask questions comes up again and again, so many faculty will say: just ask. We know that you don't know how to do this because in most cases, this is the first time you've done this. Yes. Some people are a glutton for punishment and they come back for two doctorates. But in most cases we can assume you don't know what you're doing. We forget that you don't know what you're doing sometimes. So ask us. And look let's face it, most people go into education because they want to help someone else.

Eva Mika:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And you want to see people grow. I think the courage comes from one is being concerned about rejection. Get used to rejection, so accept that it's not personal. The other thing I would say is that you don't really need courage if you're respectful. So I think one of the challenges is the way that you ask the question will either elicit a learning opportunity or a defensive response on the part of your chair, because while your chair wants to help you grow, they don't want to be put on the defensive where they're having to defend their feedback or kind of getting into a power struggle about why you think you're right and they're wrong. It's usually somewhere in the middle. So approach it from a respectful point of view, approach it as I really want to learn from you. And then I think it becomes less scary and less likely that you're going to get a response that isn't very helpful because chairs are people too, but respect them. They're experts. They do know what they're talking about. They don't want to sign their name on something that does it meet quality standards. That's not helping you. It's not helping anyone. So respect their expertise, be open to it, but be open to, you know, being able to say, Hey, well, what about this? And can I think about things this way? Is there another way of looking at it? I don't know many people that wouldn't be open to that kind of approach.

Heather Frederick:

You know, Eva this idea of how you approach the chair also comes up because we talk about this situation of getting really critical feedback and how it's so easy to take it personal. And you might shoot off an email or a text message to your chair. I need to talk to you right now, or I just got this committee's feedback and I'm freaking out. This really is to go back to the point that you made in the beginning, this is almost an apprenticeship into a field. And the chair's role is to guide you and mentor you through this process of becoming a professional in this larger framework of academia. And you don't want to be shooting off emails or doing anything that would call into question your growth as a scholar. So taking that time to think about what is that email going to look like when you're requesting help to approach it from this growth mindset. I know you've got the information I need. I'm confused. I'm frustrated, I'm hurt. I'm sad, whatever emotions you're feeling. To be candid with yourself and honest with yourself and reach out in, in a respectful way.

Eva Mika:

To reach out in a respectful way and then also find other means of support. I mean, one of the reasons I didn't want to do that work anymore is because I got very burnt out on dealing with anger frustration, trauma, however you want to call it. And no one wants to be inflicting trauma on other people. So I think there needs to be reformed to the process, but given that there has to be some sense of being able to compartmentalize the product from who you are as a person and being able to take in the information and feedback in a way that says this isn't about me. This is about somebody really helping me or wanting to help me grow. And by nature of the way that it's structured, you're going to be getting sometimes conflicting feedback. So knowing how to rustle with that and sit with that beyond even reaching out to your chair because your chair is not your mother, they're not your parents. They're not your spouse. I mean, they're not. That to me is not a realistic expectation either. And then you're setting up a dynamic where potentially chairs are walking on eggshells, and that's not what you want either. So being able to be kind of open to support from other places and recognizing the role that your chair has, which is ultimately to steer you in a quality product and to steer you into a professional role. But they don't want to hurt you. They're trying to offer you what they know and it's not easy. I mean, it's not easy to write a dissertation. It will never be easy. So it's always going to be a lot of work. It's always going to be iterative. So the real question then becomes, are you willing to go through that journey? And that's a real question you need to ask. No one can answer that for you. And there's no right or wrong answer. I don't think everyone needs to be doing a dissertation. It doesn't mean you're less worthy, less smart, less competent, less capable or less marketable. So if you are choosing this then don't be a victim. Be empowered. You are choosing it, basically. No one is forcing anyone that I know, to get a dissertation done. So if you're choosing it, then choose the good and the badbecause there's going to be all of it. It's not going to be easy. It's going to be arduous. And if you don't want to accept the good and the bad, then perhaps it's not for you. And that's okay. I mean, that's okay. I think, just say this isn't for me. I don't want to do this. Okay, fine. That's good. But don't be a victim in it.

Heather Frederick:

You have such a nice way of so beautifully articulating. So many messages that have come through on previous podcasts with Dr. Stewart, who talked about feedback and Dr. Cappannelli who basically, like you said, Hey, this is a big decision and it's not for everyone. And if you make this choice, then it's really, the burden is on you to ensure you've got a good relationship with your chair to do your part, but understanding there's boundaries there, your chair cannot be your end all be all. You need peer support. You need family support. You need friend support. It's an often overused phrase, but truly it takes a village.

Eva Mika:

That's true. Yeah. It's not easy. It's not going to be easy.

And then I would ask:

What do I want? Because in my experience, some of the people that I've mentored have just not enjoyed the process. They've hated research.

So then my question is:

Why are you doing this? If you hate research so much, if you hate the idea of building scholarship, then why are you engaging in a process that you hate so much? It's never going to feel good if it's always about the end goal, the title or whatever it is then what do you think it's going to get you? Because that's a valid question. I mean, sometimes we choose experiences that we don't enjoy because we want a certain outcome. My concern becomes when people don't enjoy the process or it's so negative. And then they continue doing it because they want an outcome. And then they realize that the outcome isn't giving them what they want either. But the goal would be for you to enjoy the process and make sure that the outcome is really something that is worthwhile.

Heather Frederick:

Because if, as a student, if you are and look, there's going to be times just like any big goal we're working on where you've got some discomfort about something or you're feeling tired or you're feeling overwhelmed, but if you've got this overwhelming sense, this prevalent persistent sense of just loathing the process as a student, it's very difficult to mentor you as a chair.

Eva Mika:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And then what does that mean for you? We don't want you to be miserable. I mean, if you're loathing the process, maybe there's a way that we can talk about the process and then you have a frank conversation and that's where the trust and kind of the open relationship I think is really important because the chair could tell you, the chair sees the whole process. So they understand that when you give feedback, it's not to shoot you down. It's not that we're going to fail you. It's because we want you to improve your product. And it's going to be constantly improved. Scholarship doesn't mean perfection. And so the chair has that vision, but sometimes you don't. Sometimes you think, oh my gosh, I've got all of these comments. So that must mean I'm dumb or I'm not capable. Or my chair is just out to get me. If you reframe it as no hang in there. So if you're making a foundational error, then you're going to need to fix that. Because at some point you will continue to be investing in a house that's just going to fall apart. And it's all about the foundation, but if it's about refinement, if it's about things that are, you know, the window dressings, then has faith that you'll get through it. And that that's actually a really good question. I would ask if I were a candidate, I would say to my chair: Are the bones good right now? Is my foundation sound because if it is, then you can trust that you can keep investing in the product. And even if you get different opinions about other aspects of it or fine tuning or interpretation, you have a good product. If the chair says I'm really concerned right now, then listen to your chair. I mean, don't be stubborn about wanting to pursue something. Your chair has told you this isn't going to work. And I can't tell you how many times I've said really, frankly, to people, this isn't going to work right. They just keep going and going and going. And then they're surprised and shocked when they get feedback from other committee members a year down the line that says this isn't going to work. So we're not trying to tear down your idea. We're trying to give you honest feedback. Take it. If it's not foundationally sound. That's a bad sign and sign for you to do something different.

Heather Frederick:

Yeah. I've seen that situation where it's almost like a hungry dog with a bone and the student doesn't want to let this idea go. And they've thought this was the project I've been wanting to do all these years. And your committee is there to say I get it. But for this situation and time, and with the goal of you getting a product that meets the university's criteria and earns you this degree and gets you out of here, so you can move on, we need to rethink how to do this. And so it sounds like another characteristic that's coming through, if we're going to talk about how to be a good mentee, listen and trust that your chair has your best interests at heart.

Eva Mika:

And part of it then becomes if you're so attached to an idea, you may have to grieve it. In fact, some of the advice I got when I was a grad student is don't pick something you have your heart really invested in because then it will be much harder to adapt. And I think that's right. And to some extent. So if that doesn't mean you shouldn't, but be mindful of the fact that your dissertation is not your own. To some extent, it's not, it's a peerreviewed, collegial, scholarly document. And there's a part of that that sometimes feels icky like, oh, this is my idea. And it's a good idea. And it may very well be a awesome idea, but it may be an idea that people have already done extensively. It may be an idea that would be awesome if you were in an Institute and you had lots of different resources, but you don't. I mean, the idea itself is only a piece, the pragmatics and actually going through the motions is really where you differentiate whether an idea can be successful or not. So there's lots of great ideas sitting on shelves. The key is to take your idea and see what pieces of it need to be morphed so that they can be brought alive. And then you can contribute something.

Heather Frederick:

There is danger in pursuing something that you're really passionate about in terms of being able to not only approach it without bias. Sometimes it's something you're passionate about because it's something you've experienced. And so there may be some trauma that emerges during the process. And I think a good rule of thumb would be, Hey, is your general topic area, something that you see yourself involved in five, 10 years down the road is your piece of doctoral research, really a logical stepping stone on this larger career path? Or is it just like pet hobby that you have, or sometimes it's a pet theory you want to try to prove. Listen to your chair, listen to your committee, let them help you shape something that makes sense for your unique individual situation.

Eva Mika:

Yes. And that's where the holistic part comes. There's no, I think cookie cutter approach, no one can answer for you whether or not a dissertation is right for you and whether you should enter the program, enter the process, finished the process. But I think there are ways for you to become more empowered in it. If you kind of look behind the curtain, if you have a good chair that trusts you will help you and say, look, it's not uncommon for you to get two or three pushbacks first. We want to see what you could do. That doesn't mean we're going to fail you, but that comes from the trust and kind of understanding the larger process and kind of what we have in mind. But if you experience it as, oh gosh, I've got all this feedback so that means I must be a failure and I'm going to be kicked out. I could see why that would be really devastating and hard. So the interpretation is really key. And I think that's where the relationship with your chair comes in and a good chair will tell you this isn't going to work. You have to reformulate this, and this is how we're going to do it. That's a good chair. Listen to that. On the other hand, a good chair will also tell you, this is a great idea. I like what you got here. I've got a couple of ideas of how it could be better and how it could be stronger and ways to help you navigate feedback from someone else. That's also a good chair is helping you navigate that. So reach out to them.

Heather Frederick:

I think one of the main themes coming out of today's call is to ask with respect, show up at the table in a way where you are building trust with your chair. Because when we think about this holistic approach, I can't tell you how many times I've had students who have told me things very late in the game. They're studying something that's highly traumatic. But I don't know that because they didn't say an oh, by the way, this happened to me when I was 12 or, oh, by the way, I have a son that experienced this and your chair needs this information. Be candid. Disclose things that may play an important role on you finishing this journey. And really one thing that I have learned from chairing students is communication. Communication on both ends. As a chair sometimes I forget to ask, Hey, tell me, how did you feel after you got that feedback? Typically, faculty are busy people, whether they're running grants or they've got a small business on the side. And so being an advocate for yourself, remembering you chose this, not falling into any sort of victim mentality and doing what you can to approach the situation so that you build trust, you respect the chair, and trust the process.

Eva Mika:

Yeah. And I would say, don't come at it from a sense of entitlement. I know that that sometimes you start feeling like, well, I'm paying for this. You're paying for the opportunity for a quality experience. No one owes you as a PhD or doctoral degree. And if you approach it that way, I guarantee that it'll probably be not met with a very helpful response necessarily. You know, your chair's a human being as well. They may forget what it's like to get feedback, but also be mindful of the fact of you choose something that is really heart-wrenching for you, or that it's going to be traumatic. Yes. Be candid with your chair, but be mindful. They are not your therapist in that in terms of role clarification and kind of boundaries. That's not fair to you or them. So if you're embarking on something that is traumatic or is going to potentially evoke trauma, I'm not necessarily saying don't do that because some of the richest scholarship comes from that, then you need to make sure that you have the support, whatever that means so that it's not being acted out in your progress, because then you're going to be evoking all of these traumatic feelings or emotions, and also falling behind in your scholarship. And that's not going to feel good and that's going to be compounded. And there's only so much that a chair in their role can do. They can be compassionate. They can be open, they can be flexible, but ultimately their, their focus is on the theory, the idea they care about your experience, but be mindful of the, of the role because the chairs are not trained to be therapists or crisis intervention people. Although sometimes we have to act that way, but we have to be really clear about what we can expect from our committee members and what we can't. And there's a fine line.

Heather Frederick:

Yeah, those are such great points, such great points. And I think when I reflect back on some of the students who have been the most fun to mentor, these are students who were open with me, who asked to meet because I will assume, Hey, you're busy too. I'm not a micromanager. I don't think most chairs are, you will need to ask me to meet. And yeah students who get through most efficiently where there were the fewest number of miscommunications are the ones that will say things like, Hey, can I get on your calendar once a month? Just for a 15minute check-in face-to-face with the camera. And they're the ones who will say things to me, like without getting into details, I've got something going on in my family right now, or I've got a personal crisis going on. I need to take a month off. Let your chair know enough that's going on so we know where to step in and when we need to direct you to other services, but again, like you said, the chair, isn't your therapist. You need to be getting support where you need to get support, but an open line of communication can be your saving grace during this process.

Eva Mika:

I really like what you said about your chair assumes, right that no news is good news. We assume at your level that you're being autonomous. What do I mean by that? At least the way I approach undergraduate education or even non doctoral phase is there typically is more structure, perhaps more handholding, but you've gotten to this point where you are now embarking on creating new knowledge and becoming a scholar. I don't expect that I'm going to need to do as many kind of structural things for you, because I'm assuming that you have developed enough as a scholar yourself by now to be able to become more autonomous. That doesn't mean disconnected though. It just means a different level. It means a different level of support. So if you reach out and you say, I am feeling a little bit lost and I would like some more structure. That's awesome. But, but I think the default is this person has gotten to where they are because they are smart and competent and determined and resilient and have skills. So why would we want to micromanage them? But that can maybe feel for someone like, oh, this person is neglecting me or they're not reaching out to me or I'm not getting the structure. I did. Again, if you want that structure or need it, maybe that is something that you want or need, or you need to kind of work it out with your chair, then ask for it. But by default, they're going to assume no news is good news.

Heather Frederick:

That's true because it takes so long to work on each part of the dissertation. Right? Whether it's your chapter two, you could go off for months. I remember I was gone for months writing this thing, my chair, we didn't talk at all about my chapter two. It was like a six-month period. Here's my chapter two. And so we assume you're working. So if you're not and you need more accountability, you need to reach out and ask for that.

Eva Mika:

Yeah, and that's okay. It's okay to say, you know what? I really am getting kind of lost. Could I get some more support right now? Of course. Sure. But understand that not everybody wants that. There's other people that would find that annoying. So our default is we're going to let you be a free agent until you need and you ask, so that's really the crux of it. Ask for what you need reasonably. And by that we don't mean getting your idea through, without any changes. Beacause that's not going to be realistic. That's not a realistic expectation. But ask for the relationship that you need. And that might change. I mean, you may need a lot of support in the beginning and at the end you're flying or maybe during the methodology section, you're feeling a little bit more lost and you need more support or, you know, you, maybe you're getting nervous towards the end. We all have our different journeys. Assume by default that your chair is a caring educator. Who's doing this because they love to see people grow in their ideas and in their professionalism. That's the optimistic perspective. Again, if you encounter someone that's not like that, then find someone else. But overall, you know, that's my experience. Educators want to help you grow and growing can be hard, but it shouldn't be traumatic. It really shouldn't. It was traumatic. There's something wrong.

Heather Frederick:

And developing this relationship. That can be the difference between you enjoying the process and even graduating doesn't need to take a long time. That's one point I really like to stress, like you said, a half hour phone call at the beginning. Check-ins here and there. It doesn't need to be this big overwhelming thing. It can happen very naturally, very organically. Over the course of a couple of meetings, if both the chair and the student are willing to just communicate in an open and candid way.

Eva Mika:

Yeah. And again, best practices would say that your chair reaches out to you and invites you to do that. I mean, that's what I used to do is when I was assigned someone new, I would welcome them and ask them, do you need a one-on-one in the beginning, if they do that, take them up on it. I mean, that's a blessing. But if they don't again, ask, be an advocate because we're assuming that you're a free agent and that you're going along and no news is good news. So if you're lost or confused or feeling, you know that you need a little more support ask for it, but become prepared. I mean, that's the other piece. So if we, as a chairs or committee member have given you resources and readings and you come unprepared then we start feeling that our feedback isn't reaching you or that you're not taking it seriously and you're implementing it. So while we're not expecting that you're going to take feedback and be able to just turn it around and understand it completely. If we give you a resource, read it, say I tried and I really don't know what's going on here. Fine. That's where the magic happens in education. If you come and the chair or committee members says well, I sent you to this information about sample size. Oh, I didn't get to it. The perception then becomes from the chair or committee member, this person isn't really implementing what I have to say. And then that becomes a snowball effect because if you continue and continue and continue, and you're not implementing feedback at some point you're going to get stopped. And that's when you start getting frustrated and, and maybe where it starts feeling real when something gets rejected. All right your proposal gets rejected. Butyou've been getting feedback all along that you haven't really implemented. So it's okay not to understand all the feedback. It's okay. If someone says, read this resource and for you to say, I'm really don't know what this is. It's not okay not to take that feedback seriously. It's not okay not to read those resources. Because then you're not doing your part. I mean, then you're not, you're not coming to the table with the work that you need to do in order for your chair to help you grow.

Heather Frederick:

I love when you said that's where the magic of education happens, do your best to understand the feedback, look at the resources, but also understand that we need you as chairs, we need you to come to us and say, I tried to read that resource. This is what I got from it. I'm still confused. That's where the relationship really starts to mesh.

Eva Mika:

Absolutely. Then you have something, then you have a foundation you're talking the same language. You can't be on a level field if you're not talking the same language of research or scholarship or theory. And when they provide your resources, they're saying, Hey, I want you to catch up here so that we can have a collegial conversation about this. Research, scholarship, theory, there's a language involved. I mean, the way I academicstalk to each other, practitioners, there's a language. And in order for you to communicate effectively with your committee members, you have to become well versed in that language. And we're trying to do that with you. So that's a piece of it as well. And that is where the magic happens. It's like any other coaching experience, you have to do your part. If you're not training, if you're not bringing your equipment, if you don't bring your ski boots or snow shoes or whatever metaphor you want, then what are we, what are we supposed to do? Kind of look at you and say, well, you're in the snow, but we can't really teach you to ski. And so you put your skiis on, so you have to be equipped, you know, do what you can to be equipped. Okay.

Heather Frederick:

You know, as you were talking, I was thinking these situations where a student is struggling with understanding something and going to the chair, asking for more instruction, more guidance and the chair filling in that gap. It really is practice for being part of the profession. Right? Because I think there's this idea that once you have your doctorate, you're going to know everything. And my goodness, just like you said, chairs and committee members are people too. I can't tell you how often I am reaching out to my colleagues saying, is this right? Hey, if, if I say it this way, does this make sense? I have a student proposing this, and Ithink it makes sense, but are we missing something here? That is part of academic discourse, questioning each other, being curious, looking for better ways to solve problems. And so having the ability to be candid, Hey, I'm not so sure. Can someone check this over? That's part of being a colleague.

Eva Mika:

Yeah, it really is. And the evolution of theory and knowledge is evolving all the time. And we all have to stay open, curious and humble because none of us know everything, but, you know, the pursuit of knowledge is something that, that should be creative and magical and wondrous and not necessarily easy. You know, that's the piece where if you can rekindle some of that or kindle it with your chair, then you have something. But if it's starting to feel like drudgery or all trauma, then either it's not right for you either. The journey is really meant for you and that's okay. Or the journey needs to be altered in some way. And in that case advocate. Reach out. Again, the chair is not necessarily going to be soliciting you. Be mindful of the fact that we're assuming that you're free agents and that you're doing your work and that, unless we hear from you. No news is good news.

Heather Frederick:

You've given us so many great tips, both for faculty and students, how to create this relationship that can really be an amazing support. So much of what you spoke about today aligns with some previous podcast episodes, and I'll put the links in the show notes below. If you're curious if you're listening and you're like, I want to hear more about that, but Eva often I ask my guests at the end. Hey, do you have any final words of wisdom or maybe a favorite quote that you used either with your students or to get yourself through your graduate program?

Eva Mika:

Oh, my gosh. That's such a good question. We use the phrase a lot, but life really is short. So choose your experiences wisely. And at some point, if something is costing you quality of life or experience, or your ability to shine in the world, then don't do it. I don't want to be in environment systems, workplaces, endeavors that are not helping me be of service to the world in the best way that I can. And that is a personal question that everyone has to ask. So I would ask on a bigger scale, you know, is your doctoral journey really part of your real journey and reason for being here? And if it's not it's a huge investment that you're making. That is not part of a core value of who you are and that's okay. But be aware of the consequences of that. You wouldn't buy a house or think about an investment without really thinking, is this fitting into my life and what I want? Sometimes I think the dissertation often becomes something people feel like they have to just keep plugging on and on. Maybe not. Think about it as a choice as you start, as you embark, and as you continue. Having said that if you persist and it makes sense for you to persist and you reach out for help, you will finish likely unless you're not listening to some real hard feedback. And if you're ignoring feedback, then you may not. But that's, I think a fair question is: How does this fit in? Is it really helping you shine and becoming who you're meant to be on the planet? Because we're not here that long, you know, we're not. A dissertation takes a long time. Is this really helping me in my journey? And if it's not, can I tweak the process? Can my chair help me? I mean, I know as a chair, I welcome those experiences. When someone, for example talked about I need a new career because I'm injured now and I can't do manual labor anymore, so I have to switch into something that's more academic. Okay. That makes sense. All right. So this is going to be difficult, but it makes sense in your journey. For other people, I, I sometimes wonder, like, why are you doing this? And do you stop and ask yourself, why am I doing this? That's an important question to ask and no one can really answer it other than yourself.

Heather Frederick:

And, you know, Eva, that's an important question to ask. Whether or not you're in a doctoral program,

Eva Mika:

right? Why am I doing this? Exactly, exactly.

Heather Frederick:

So life skills today for all the listeners far and wide. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and your experience with us today.

Eva Mika:

You're welcome. Thank you.

Heather Frederick:

If you're enjoying the Happy Doc Student Podcast, could I ask you a big favor? Would you be willing to rate, review and subscribe? It would help me get noticed by more people like you. People who know there is a better way to navigate the doctoral process. Oh, Hey, one more thing. The information, opinions and recommendations presented in this podcast are for general information only.