Sticking up for myself

July 17, 2009 at 6:50 pm Leave a comment

I’ve been having fun reading some posts about mentoring in academia via Historiann. Something that undine said on Sisyphuspost got me remembering something that happened to me as an undergrad. undine said:

If you were raised with working-class values (as I was), you thought that when someone told you the rules, they were really the rules. You didn’t realize that you could argue your way out of them and convince people to do your bidding, because that’s not how the world works if you don’t have class privilege to back it up.

Not that I’m bitter, but I’ve learned that most rules are just starting points for negotiation for people with privilege and have strongly encouraged students who didn’t grow up knowing that the world was their oyster to speak up and protest when some arcane rule gets brought up.

This made me remember working on my senior thesis as an undergrad. I did a pretty big project working mostly on my own with a bit of direction from the only paleontologist at my Uni. I had decided paleobotany was the thing for me, and there were no paleobotanists within a 200-mile radius. I came upon some rules in the middle that dealt directly with the way I approached my senior thesis as a class. It was ambiguous as to how many credits you could use for a senior thesis – credits that counted towards graduation. My reading of the rules, and my thesis adviser’s, was that you could take 3 credits per semester, for a total of 6 credits. I had taken 3 in the fall when this came under department scrutiny. They read the rules another way, that you could only take 3 credits total. You were “supposed” to take 1 credit in the fall for lit review and 2 credits in the spring for research. Well, I was only half done with my project and I was NOT going to find another class to take! I made this clear to my thesis adviser and to my academic adviser, who happened to be department chair as well. They helped me fight for my right to have the extra 3 credits count towards graduation. I was successful and got a nice senior thesis out of it. The fight was well worth it.

I was confronted with some arbitrary rules, and I chose to fight them.  I didn’t come from a particularly rich family, private school, or otherwise privileged childhood.  I wanted this 6-credit thesis so badly that I wouldn’t take no for an answer!  That’s all there was to it!

This really sticks out in my mind right now because, especially being in “corporate America” daily now instead of academia, I feel like I am quickly losing the ability to stick up for myself. Perhaps my goals are more nebulous now? Back then I knew what I wanted and was prepared to fight for it. Now, frankly, I’m not so sure. But, as I write, I am preparing to do a teeny bit of sticking up for myself. We’ll see how that goes…

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Entry filed under: Daily Life. Tags: .

Almost parallel trajectories Yes… I’m a scientist.

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The Stars

SkepticMommy : Me! I'm a scientist working in industry. I get to play in the lab most of the time. I also run, do yoga, and read. And I'm always learning more about the world around me.

SkepToad : My husband, a 6th year astrophysics PhD student. He's involved in some really cool research and he also likes teaching and outreach.

Froggy : My preschool age daughter. She loves to dance and sing and color and go to the Children's Museum, and she has a great sense of humor.

Ringo : Froggy's lovey, a stuffed frog that's been with us since she was born. Yeah, his name is Ringo.

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