learning / mentoring / planning / reflecting / writing

Alumni Tips

Today we had our first alumni panel come to chat about their experiences in the MAIS program. Katy Anderson and Cesar Rangel shared challenges and tips!

Common Difficulties

  • Getting focused & getting the title
  • IRB takes forever!
  • Dealing with multiple languages
  • When courses don’t connect with thesis
  • Getting feedback from multiple reviewers (too many cooks in the kitchen)
  • Not clear on who to please (committee, advisers, chair, reader)
  • Need to change committee members because of difference in style/method/personality
  • When there is only one way to right, but there is no foundation on how to write it…
  • Losing faith in self & abilities
  • Doing the interdisciplinary stuff
  • Finding one’s academic voice & owning one’s research
  • Going against the grain (of academic work)
  • Managing the writing
  • Getting through all the reading
  • Synthesizing it all
  • Dealing with the logistics of managing the people, planning, and writing.
  • Trying to write one section at a time
  • Understanding methods when there are a variety of them – interdisciplinary
  • Figuring out how to organize sections, chapters, methods


  • Naps are good!
  • Don’t lose your voice!
  • Style, format, writing expectations are up to the committee
  • Know what the committee wants from you (by asking)
  • You expect the committee to be in communication, but they aren’t
  • It’s your responsibility to contact committee, make sure they are in contact
  • You must ask for help and be straight up if you are lost
  • Recognizing connections and moments when they arrive
  • Using 2 screens, laying out the work on paper
  • Keep the sections organized—messy disaster
  • Just do it—trial by fire
  • See the connections between everything
  • It’s worth finishing it because it is never a bad thing to invest in your education
  • Embrace the structure or find a way to speak within it (and not lose your voice)
  • Be respectful and listen to what your advisers say
  • You can disagree, but diplomatic about it
  • Recognize that your committee are here to support you and help you
  • Everyone will connect with different people; find your people
  • Keep asking questions
  • Don’t be “those” people
  • Take your time; don’t rush it
  • You will find a way to describe interdisciplinarity to the world (especially in terms of work)
  • Kept scraps of paper around to track thoughts: journaling, stickie notes, lots of notes
  • Identify your writing/reading spaces & where you feel most comfortable
  • Know the rituals needed for your writing process (clothes, music, food, environment, etc)
  • Keep the commitment to yourself to get it done
  • At crunch time, you have to commit to it to get it done.
  • Allow your thesis to happen, don’t fight it.



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