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Creating a Research Agenda

by UW alumni Justin Reedy, Ph.D., Communication, and Madhavi Murty, Ph.D., Communication, in conversation with UW graduate students

Creating a research agenda should be a major goal for all graduate students—regardless of theoretical interests, methodological preferences, or career aspirations. A research agenda helps you orient yourself toward both short- and long-term goals; it will guide your selection of classes, help you decide which academic conferences (and within those, which specific divisions) to engage in, and steer you in recruiting mentors and research collaborators.

What is a research agenda? It’s a plan and a focus on issues and ideas in a subset of your field. You cannot study everything in your field during your time in graduate school, so decide what to focus on now, and what to defer until another day.

Research agendas are not set in concrete; they naturally change over time as your knowledge grows and as new research questions emerge.

Don’t be intimidated. Many students may start a graduate program with only a few ideas of areas they would like to study, or perhaps a few general research questions. Graduate courses, conversations with faculty and fellow students, and time spent reading the literature in the field can help you start to form a research agenda out of those ideas or research questions.

How to get started

  • Talk with faculty members about your general interests. Use faculty as a resource to find out which topics are over-studied and where additional work is needed.
  • If there are students with similar or overlapping interests, get their perspectives as well.
  • Read a great deal, even in the early weeks of your graduate work. Be open to reading research outside your immediate areas of interests and seeing how they link to your own areas.
  • Ask faculty for reading lists or copies of syllabi. Such resources help you familiarize yourself with the research already done in areas that interest you. Be sure to follow up on citations that are interesting or intriguing.
  • Identify key authors relevant to your interests. Read their scholarship and understand the work that has informed their research.

Advancing your agenda


  • Identify courses that will help advance your research agenda—both in terms of specific knowledge about the issues and relevant methods. Remember that the title of a class might not always fully describe it, so contact the professor to find out more about class content.
  • Look both inside and outside the department for classes—and look outside especially in your second year in the program. Graduate students in interdisciplinary fields, for example, may find very valuable classes in diverse departments.
  • Think specifically about the research questions you want to ask, and think about how you will answer them. Then pick courses to help you in reaching this goal.
  • Try to use class assignments to advance your research agenda. If possible, use each seminar paper as a way to focus on a specific part of your overall agenda —whether it be a literature review or a proposal for a study.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a course that seems somewhat outside of your agenda or your comfort zone. If the topics or research methods covered in the course draw your interest, you could find a way to incorporate those into your overarching research agenda.

Conference papers, colloquia, and research articles

  • Ask faculty members if they have research projects in which you can participate.
  • Work with more than one faculty member. Different faculty members provide different perspectives even if they are interested in the same concepts.
  • Talk to faculty and other graduate students about conferences you should attend (and conference paper deadlines). Use conference paper deadlines to pace your own research production.
  • Present your work at conferences, listen to others’ ideas, and solicit feedback on your research.
  • Consider working towards the publication of your papers. With enough feedback and guidance from faculty, fellow graduate students, and colleagues in the field, what starts out as a seminar or conference paper could turn into a journal article or book chapter.
  • Attend talks and colloquia on campus—both inside and outside your department. These talks can help you generate research ideas and help you see your research in a new light.
  • Recruit others to work with you on projects. Student collaborations are especially fruitful when the constituent members have similar interests, but bring different yet complementary perspectives and skills to the endeavor.

Be active: Be a part of the conversation in your field!

Graduating soon, and what next?

“I am a fifth-year doctoral student and will be graduating soon. I’m at the point in my graduate education where I am thinking about possible careers. What are some simple steps I can take to start my career planning?” –Anonymous

Lucky you, grad student, you get two answers to your question! One is from Catherine Basl, career counselor with Career & Internship Services. Catherine manages the center’s programming for graduate students. Another is from the Core Programs team, who support personal and professional development of grad students at the UW. You know what they say, two heads are better than one!

Catherine Basl, career counselor, Career & Internship Services:

Leverage your research skills for career planning! Aim for a mix of independent reading about options and connecting with professionals in coffee chats or at events.

A few ideas for getting started:

  • Talk to one alum of your graduate program who works outside of academia in an area of possible interest. Graduate Program Advisers could be a good resource for finding alumni.
  • Attend an event on campus (Core Programs and the Career & Internship Center host many) that is focused on employer connections or exploring options.
  • Reflect on your time here at UW. Consider all of the roles you have held as a graduate student (TA, research assistant, mentor, tutor, lab manager, writer, coder, etc.). Looking at each role, what were the tasks and activities you enjoyed most? Least? See if patterns emerge across roles. For an example of this activity, see pages 8-10 in the Career Guide.
  • Paula Di Rita Wishart’s article on Career Callings also provides some great activities for reflecting on your graduate school experience and next steps.
  • LinkedIn’s Alumni tool shows you where actual UW alumni work and you can sort by location, employer, and field of study to see possible career paths.

Some notes:

  • Looking at job postings when you aren’t sure what you want to do can be overwhelming. Job boards become much more navigable when you have established criteria for what you want in a position. The same goes for large career fairs.
  • Gather multiple data points. That means talking to more than one person, reading about career options on more than one website, and testing out the information you hear.
  • Realize career planning is like all research projects—sometimes things fall into place quickly and sometimes you encounter roadblocks along the way. If you feel stuck or would like someone to brainstorm with, consider booking an appointment with a career counselor and checking in with mentors.

A few more resources for exploring:

Core Programs Team:

Dear UW Grad Student,

Thank you for reaching out! This is a great question, and one we hear frequently from graduate students who are further along in their degree programs and thinking through different career paths. Whether you are thinking about working in industry, non-profits, government, or academia, there are several resources that can help you do intentional career planning (many of which we’ve learned through collaborations with partners at the Career & Internship Center).

First step: do some self-assessment work. Where are you with your skills, strengths, interests, passions? Then, use a planning tool like an Individual Development Plan (link) to start to map out possible goals and steps you can take toward them in the next few months. You can also utilize this helpful career planning guide from the Career & Internship Center that provides several clear, proactive steps you can take towards finding that job you’re passionate about.

To explore and open your possibilities, do LinkedIn searches for professionals with jobs you’re interested in learning more about and set up informational interviews to hear more about their unique career trajectories.

Explore different career options within academia and/or job sectors outside of academia with the amazing resources on the Career Center website.

We totally get that you are 100% focused on your dissertation work and graduation – it’s a lot! And, we know that setting aside 1-2 hours per week (starting right now) to explore, research, draft, attend something that helps you refine your career search will really help you identify career options and opportunities for your next steps. It’s worth it – give it a try!


Core Programs Team

Postdocs, Know Your Rights!

Along with key partners such as the the Career & Internship Center, and UW Schools & Colleges, the Office of Postdoc Affairs (OPA) works to support over 1,100 postdocs at UW. The benefits and rights of being a postdoc vary based on your funding source and position. We want every postdoc to know your rights, as the University of Washington has worked hard to offer fair benefit packages to postdocs – in most cases, commensurate with the faculty. We want to support you in getting your benefits, and Academic HR can always help as well. We created a new one page resource to outline the basics, and we highlight a few key items here. When in doubt always consult your department administrator.

Salary/Stipend: All postdocs’ salaries are recommended to align with the NIH NRSA salary scale where possible. The NIH NRSA scale is adjusted yearly and has increased by 20.9% since August 2012, including increasing the minimum salary/stipend in December 2016, and accounts for years of experience.

Health Insurance: For all postdocs funded through the university, health insurance is the same as other Academic Personnel. Information can be found online.

Holidays: Postdocs are usually not required to work on the 10 university holidays. An alternative day off should be given if the postdoc is required to work.

Leave Benefits: Postdocs with appointments of Research Associates or Senior Fellows are eligible for 90 days of approved paid sick leave for an illness or injury during each academic year. Paid sick leave covers your own serious health condition as defined by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), temporary disability due to pregnancy, childbirth, or recovery therefrom, and to take care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Leave Without Pay (Partial Leave): In limited circumstances and for a limited period of time, a postdoc employee may be permitted to take a partial leave of absence without pay for reasons related to family obligations.

Professional Development: Given the dual nature of postdoc positions as employee and trainee, a reasonable amount of a postdocs’ paid time may be used for career development activities, even when hired under a federal research grant.

Appointments: Postdoc positions are intended to be temporary positions to advance research careers. National guidelines recommend no more than 5 years in a postdoc position. Currently the majority of UW postdocs are in appointments intended for no more than 6 years after confirmation of terminal degree. Exceptions must be approved by Academic HR.

Appointment Termination: Termination of Research Associates should be notified at least 6 months in advance. Termination of Senior Fellows should be notified as soon as possible, with at least 60-days’ notice required. Termination, or non-renewal of contract, can occur for documented performance reasons or documented loss of funding.

Grievances: The OPA and the Ombud can provide guidance on strategies to resolve conflicts informally. Research Associates may be eligible to pursue grievances through the faculty code process. Senior Fellows may be eligible to utilize their school-based grievance process.

Individual Development Plans (IDP) and Annual Evaluation: OPA highly recommends every postdoc develop and implement an IDP, and the supervisor is encouraged to review and discuss IDP with the postdoc. Postdocs will also receive at least one written progress evaluation each year, and have the right to receive expectations that serve as the basis of these evaluation. Postdocs, along with other Academic Personnel, are eligible for annual merit raises based on this annual review.

Non-Discrimination: As members of the UW community, postdocs are protected against, and may have remedies for, instances of discrimination and sexual harassment by addressing these situations through the University Complaint Investigation and Resolution Office (UCIRO) and/or the Title IX Office.

Time and Effort Commitment: Postdocs have a 12-month appointment, and are expected to work 11 months (eligible for one paid month off per year). Arrangements for time off are made beforehand with their supervisor. Postdocs work at least 40 hours per week. In keeping with professional standards, the OPA suggests that work schedules must be reasonable and related to research needs.

Health and Safety: Postdocs should have access to a relevant health and safety training, and should refuse a hazardous assignment until it has been remedied or determined to be safe. UW Environmental Health & Safety can assist with necessary training or workplace needs for chemicals, substances and equipment. For other campus safety issues, UW SafeCampus is available 24/7.

Should You Pursue An Academic Career?

“So what do you want to do when you graduate?” There is no better way that a well-meaning family aunt or uncle strikes fear into the heart of an unsuspecting grad student or postdoc over slices of turkey at the holidays. Although this question is well meant, it often makes you squirm and feel uncomfortable. Here are some tips to help you think about this quest:

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
About the answer to this – I will tell you what I tell my own students: “I have good news and bad news for you …” The good news is that you aren’t alone. On most days, I’m in the same boat with you, still trying to figure out what I want to be (n.b., please do not tell my department chair!). The bad news, however, is that if you don’t give this some serious thought, you run the risk of missing out on key opportunities in your immediate future.

NOT “Can I Become Faculty?”
Importantly, there is an absolutely wrong question to be worried about: “Can I become faculty?” I can’t emphasize enough that the question is not “can I do it?” The answer to this is an unequivocal “YES.” You already earned a Ph.D. and a postdoc at a world-class institution. If you are willing to put in the work to find mentors, network, learn the rules of the game and be disciplined about executing a plan, then you can do it.  

BUT “Should I Become Faculty?”
This is the far more interesting question to ask. Consider your time as an undergraduate and reflect upon your experience with faculty. Now think of life as a graduate student and  your interactions with professors. Finally, postdocs can do this exercise yet again. How have things changed? Faculty, perhaps more than most other professions, wear many different hats, usually at the same time. You have viewed the faculty experience up close, leading to an important conclusion: you may not really know how a professor spends all of their time. I highlight this simply to say that before you make one of the most important decisions of your life, you should learn more about the life of a professor.

Is Being Faculty A Good Fit?
I advocate that instead of worrying on the details of the future (Will I get hired? Will get I tenure? Will I get funding?), you spend time trying to learn if being faculty is a good fit for you. The happy news is that faculty love to talk about themselves, and if you do a bit of informational interviewing, you can learn a lot about how faculty you admire (and aspire to be like) spend their time. While you already know they work a lot, you should find out how they spend their time, what they like about their job, and importantly, what they don’t like. Try to do this with several faculty you admire; if possible try to do it with faculty at different types of institutions and with faculty of different rank.

Imagine YOUR Life As A Professor
This process works to create a clear picture of what YOUR life as a professor would look like. This is the easiest way to answer the question of whether you should do it or not. Being a professor is an awesome job, and I truly love it. But I recognize it is not for everyone. My last piece of advice is this – once you decide that you should become a professor, don’t waste any time! Put your full effort into making your dream become a reality – I already know you CAN do it, why not prove me right?


Acknowledgement: This guest blog post was graciously provided by Dr. Jim Pfaendtner, Associate Profession in Chemical Engineering, who was the keynote speaker at OPA sponsored professional development event Set Up for Academic Success: Getting Funding For Your Research Program in April 2017.

Beyond “Plan B”: Crafting Your Career Journey

With today’s careers, it is more common than ever before to change directions multiple times in your life. This can happen in the course of a graduate program where perhaps the career you came looking for now looks different to you as your experiences have grown.  We have an on-going theme in Core Programs of exploring diverse career trajectories.  Below, we emphasize a few lessons shared by Philosophy alums at a recent panel, who are working in very diverse sectors.* Whether or not you are in a Humanities, Social Sciences, or a STEM field, these insights may be of use to you:

Beyond Hoops.  We know there are many obligations and milestones to completing a graduate program.  Rather than (only) thinking of these requirements as hoops to jump through, take some time to reflect upon the career skills you will gain from them over time—transferable career skills you can utilize for many jobs inside and outside of academia.  For example, even when it’s not apparent to you at first, one skill set you develop when completing a thesis or dissertation are project management skills.   Skills under project management can include, organization (outlining and prioritizing tasks that need to be completed), time management (setting up and meeting deadlines that are realistic), synthesizing complex ideas and details succinctly (writing up your project), and communication (meeting with advisors to state, clarify, and/or revisit your goals and expectations).

Beyond Job Titles.  Instead of focusing solely on job titles during your job search, consider the kind of work you want to do and the kind of setting you would like to work within. What strengths do you have, and where are those best expressed? Recruiting expert Christian Lépolard offers these guiding questions to help you think expansively about your job search, “What is your ultimate career goal, inside and outside of your current organization?  What hard skills (practical and theoretical), knowledge, and soft skills do you need to possess in order to get there? What skills do you already have and which ones do you need to acquire?  What skills will this next role bring you?” Read more from Lépolard’s article.  We would also add, what kinds of tasks and projects fuel your passions? What contribution do you want to make? How do you prefer to spend your time? Reflecting on these questions can help you find a range of ways you might be able to do your best work, rather than limiting yourself to certain job titles.

Beyond a “Career Path.”  If we shift our thinking away from the idea of a “career path” (often imagined as linear) towards the notion of a career journey, then we open ourselves up to change, flexibility, and opportunity.  Sometimes you just need to get your foot in the door at an organization or institution.  Start out with a short-term internship (or in other instances, see if there are volunteer positions), as this experience will help you determine if you will enjoy working there and if the work and the workplace culture allow you to thrive. The right kind of entry-level position can open more doors quickly once you shine. It may not be a straight shot through to your dream job, but you increase your professional networks and get to showcase your talents along the way!  Also, think broadly about a range of jobs that match your technical and transferable skills.  Career strengths assessments such as this free one can help you do just that.

Spring can be a job search season for you, or perhaps a chance to line up more growth opportunities once summer arrives.  It can also be a time to consider making a 1-1 appointment with a UW career advisor who can help give you feedback on your resume or CV.  We are cheering for you – let us know how it is going!


Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan

*Acknowledgements to panelists Summer Archarya, Dustyn Addington, Karen Emmerman, and Ann Owens from the Philosophy Branches Out event.  This event was held on February 28, 2017 at UW Seattle and was co-sponsored by the UW Philosophy Department, the Simpson Center for the Humanities, and Core Programs in the Graduate School.

Welcome All! Tips for Preparing for the Fall Quarter!

Core Programs in the Graduate School extends a warm welcome to all new and returning graduate and professional students to the UW—Bothell, Tacoma, and Seattle.  Whether you are enrolled for a year, a few years, or several, we acknowledge that it takes time to settle into a new city, work rhythm, and culture. Even for those of us who have lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years, we are still discovering new places and making new connections.

For those of you who are returning to campus, we truly hope you had opportunities to re-energize during the summer so you can move forward with your academic, professional, and interpersonal goals.  We also appreciate that many of you are dreaming about and planning for life beyond graduate and professional school.

At Core Programs, we are here to root you on and support you as you work towards your goals — #UWGradSuccess. Here are some tips we hope you find useful, as you prepare for the first week of the new quarter:

You don’t have to know everything.  Your Graduate Program Advisors are doing a fantastic job of organizing departmental orientations and welcome events, and they are sharing a wealth of information about your program requirements and campus resources.  This is important for you, so you can plan ahead for your academic and professional goals.  At the same time, we encourage you to acknowledge that you don’t have to know everything right now.  Prioritize only the most important information and tasks you need to learn and do now and make time to re-visit information about your program and campus resources later (next week, next month, next quarter, etc.) Use an Individual Development Plan (IDP), so you can set goals for yourself with notes like “explore…” or “find out about…”. It takes one step at a time to make progress and figure out what’s next.  Be open and curious.

Find your community.  The University of Washington is a big place, with three campuses and multiple offsite research locations.  We know that a feeling of belonging is critical to your success as graduate and professional students.  It makes a difference to find and connect with people that can support your whole self—and not just your role as a graduate or professional student.  To help you find your community, check out the list below of upcoming welcome events and orientations.

Practice asking for help.  Throughout your time at UW, seeking guidance and feedback on your studies, professional pursuits, and interpersonal goals is also vital to your success.  The trick is knowing when and how to ask for help.   Maybe you’re unsure if you’re critically engaging with course readings in the most effective and efficient ways.  Be proactive, and send an e-mail to a second or third year student in your program, and ask if they can meet for coffee to go over your understanding of one of the readings.  You might learn new study tips that will make your life easier.  When you’re a new student, reaching out to a peer can be a more comfortable option rather than approaching faculty.  Just remember that you were selected out of many applicants to be in your department, so know that you belong here.

You will be hearing from us every two weeks with these e-newsletters. Add to your e-mail contacts, to make sure our newsletters arrive in your inbox. You’ll also be hearing from the Graduate School every other week with the Graduate School Digest–a fabulous collection of events, resources, and quick tips for making the most of your graduate student experience.  Check out our Core Programs facebook page and the UW Graduate Student facebook page for more.

Best Regards,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Talking with Faculty About Diverse Careers

Spring quarter is full for everyone, and we also know that many of you are in different stages of reflecting on your career goals.  You may be thinking about what you want to do upon degree completion, starting an internship, preparing application materials, or deepening your expertise in a job you already have.  Throughout this process, some of you have asked: “How do I initiate a conversation my faculty advisor(s) about my professional goals?”

Do your research.  It can be anxiety-provoking to think about approaching your faculty advisor or mentor about your career interests, especially if those interests diverge from you becoming research faculty at a college or university.  One of the best ways to initiate a conversation with your advisor is to be prepared beforehand.  Here are some tips to help you gather the baseline information you need for that conversation:  Assess your work-related interests, strengths, and values to develop a more holistic awareness of who you are as a professional.  Utilize the UW Career Center’s comprehensive guide on building resumes and cvs, career advice, interviewing, and job searching. Understand how the skills you are developing in graduate school are indeed transferable across fields and industries.  Peruse job postings (and volunteer opportunities) that resonate with your self-assessments, whether they are based in non-profit, industry, or government sectors.  Research professional associations affiliated with the fields you are interested in, and contact their members via their websites or LinkedIn.  Set up informational interviews with individuals from professional associations, or with employees from companies and organizations that you can imagine yourself working at–to grow your networks.

Get in the habit of career planning over time.  The strategies noted above are part of a larger process of intentional career planning.   This is a lot of work, but well worth the effort.  Intentional career planning is necessary, if you want to move forward in both knowing and reaching your professional goals.  Break your goals up into smaller tasks, and work on them for 30 min. to an hour each week. You will move forward one step at a time, rather than trying to tackle it all at once.

Develop and bring materials with you.  When you do talk with your faculty advisor, you can bring a simple one page proposal of the career exploration you are engaged in, including sources you are researching and near-term plans for learning more about different options.

Prepare for different responses.  You may reach out to one faculty advisor or several.  In fact, we encourage you to meet with more than one mentor on your team to widen your potential for support.  Practice role playing scenarios with a trusted colleague or friend, where you engage in a conversation about your career interests.   Ask your friend to mimic the most unsupportive response to the most supportive response.  Utilize these mock responses to gauge what your next steps will be.  For example, maybe you find out your advisor has no interest in talking about diverse career opportunities with you but is still fully supportive of your intellectual and technical growth as it pertains to your discipline only.  Whom else can you identify (within or outside of your mentoring team) that will advocate for your need to explore diverse career paths?

Help your advisor help you.  It is highly likely that your faculty advisor was trained to be a teacher and researcher first and foremost, so they may not have the experience to guide you in exploring diverse career pathways.  Share with them your knowledge of all the professional development resources you are accessing (networking, professional associations, social media, UW Career Centers, etc.).  Forward them information about campus events, such as job fairs, the Core Programs community college careers panel, or workshops sponsored by the Career Center like How to Find a Job Outside of Academia for Humanities and Social Sciences PhDs.  By doing this, you’ll be facilitating a reciprocal learning process about your professional development with your advisor.

All right, we’re totally rooting for you!  Please feel free to follow up with us, and let us know if these strategies worked for you.  And let us know if you have other suggestions.

Jaye Sablan, Kelly Edwards, Ziyan Bai
Core Programs, UW Graduate School

Mentoring 2.0: Finding and Working with Faculty Mentors

Throughout the year, we offered you strategies to get the mentoring you need to thrive in graduate and professional school—and we will continue to do so. We have suggested that building a mentor team of peers, faculty, departmental staff, friends, work colleagues and community members can help you recognize and meet your needs and goals as a whole person—not just as a student. We know that “finding a mentor” and “building a team” isn’t as simple as it sounds. It is actually pretty common to hit some bumps on the road as you identify and build working relationships with mentors on your team. We hope the following tips will help you address those concerns:

Difficulty finding a mentor. Depending on your degree program, you may or may not have been assigned a faculty advisor or future mentor (there is a difference between an advisor and mentor). Maybe you’re a little introverted and shy about approaching faculty. Or maybe you just don’t know where to start.  Try out these strategies: (1) Ask peers about faculty mentors whom they work with and why. Ask them about the qualities they seek in mentors, and see if their responses resonate with your needs. (2) Re-visit faculty web profiles—including those outside of your degree program—and identify shared fields of interest. (3) After completing steps one and two, make a list of the faculty you’d like to work with, and send them an email to set up a meeting. This guide has helpful tips for setting up that first meeting. Bringing your first draft of an individual development plan (IDP) to this meeting can help you and your new mentor visualize—and plan for—the goals and experiences you’d like to have at the UW and beyond. The conversation may just be an informative 30 minutes to guide you along your path, or it may lead to a longer term working relationship.

Committed to mentoring, but unavailable. You’ve identified a faculty mentor who is excited about working with you. You’ve had a few meetings where you’ve built momentum and plans of action to get things done. You both get along great! Then suddenly it’s gotten difficult for you to meet your mentor for a range of reasons. They’re about to go on research sabbatical, added more projects to their plate, planning for retirement, experiencing life stressors that you are not privy to, etc.  You’ve unintentionally fallen off their radar; it isn’t about you, but it’s still frustrating. What should you do? Get back on their radar by setting up a check-in meeting. If your mentor isn’t responding to your e-mails for whatever reason, figure out an alternative method for communication. Leave your cell number with departmental staff and request that your mentor contact you. When your mentor responds, just calmly note that it has been sometime since you connected. You can ask directly if anything has changed to impact the work you are doing together.  You may find that you’ll both need to re-visit your mentor/mentee agreement, the frequency of your meetings, or that you’ll need a new mentor depending on the circumstances. The circumstances could be temporary, and sometimes just resetting a communication plan, or using different communication tools, can help.

Not the mentor you expected. There are numerous reasons why a mentor isn’t a fit for you.  These can include personality differences, conflicts that are unresolvable, or the feedback they are providing no longer supports your intellectual and professional growth. At this point, it’s critical that you reflect on a plan to change advisors so you can continue your work towards your graduate or professional degree. The first thing we suggest (if you haven’t already) is to seek advice from a trusted peer, faculty member, or department staff to help you think through ways to move forward. The point is to keep yourself from feeling and being isolated as you navigate the process. Second, check out these recommended suggestions for changing mentors or advisors from the UW Graduate School.

Additional Resources

It is also good to be upfront and clear about both of your expectations throughout the mentor-mentee relationship. Take a look these check-lists on expectations for mentors and mentees from the Doctoral program in the UW Department of Physics.

Being Intentional Throughout the Spring Quarter

It never hurts to do some intentional planning and mapping out of the most important tasks and goals that lie ahead of you.  This is especially true for Spring Quarter as we know that many of you will be graduating, seeking internships, taking the next step in your program, and transitioning into a variety of career paths.  So why not welcome spring with some intentionality, and start out the quarter on the right foot?  Here are some tips to help you do just that:

Set goals.  You can’t do (and be) your best while attempting to do everything at once.  Your first step?  Take a step back.  What?  We know this is really hard to do in the midst of a tsunami of work, but it really does make moving forward possible.  Make a list of short-term goals that will help your reach long term goals—for the coming week, month, the end of the quarter.   Identify time constraints that are out of your control versus deadlines that you can manage and set for yourself—you’ll have a more accurate picture of a schedule that is actually yours.  Try out the following resources and see what works for you:  individual development plan, decision making, and SMARTER.

Be resourceful.   It’s true—in many instances, completing goals and projects are ultimately down to you.   They run the gamut from writing a thesis or dissertation to gearing up for multiple job searches.  But this doesn’t mean you have to do this work in isolation, nor should you.  Create opportunities for you to get and/or give support.  Co-organize a writing accountability group with peers, who are inside or outside of your field. The important thing is making a commitment to each other.  Check out these guides for writing accountability and dissertation support groups. Seek out opportunities for networking, job shadows, or informational interviews.  Schedule meetings with advisors or mentors (community, professional, academic) that you trust, so they can be your sounding board and help keep you on track.

Make commitments. Sometimes we need an extra push to move forward in our work, and creating external deadlines to participate in events that help us grow intellectually and professionally can help.  We’ve had graduate students (Masters and Doctoral) say that participating in Scholars’ Studio really helped them organize their thinking about their research in important ways.  Just like taking a step back, it can help to pull yourself up from the weeds of your work and communicate with others about it.  Whether in a rapid exchange with peers, a lightning or research talk, or ways to showcase your engagement with service and leadership, get inspired or refreshed by participating or attending UW events happening this quarter at all three campuses.

Stay present.  We know what you’re thinking, “Yeah right!”  Because it feels like crunch time, this can coincide with persistent worrying about the future.  Taking time for yourself to slow down at several points throughout the quarter prioritizes your health and takes focus and energy away from anxious thoughts.  This can look like doing only one task at a time (as multi-tasking never works), spacing out time between tasks and appointments (so you’re not rushing all the time), decompressing by going for a run or doing yoga following several hours of work-related tasks, or doing absolutely nothing for a few minutes (try focusing on the rhythm of your breath or visualize a soothing image).  The purpose of these activities is to help re-ground you and bring you back to your intentions and the present moment.


Jaye Sablan, Kelly Edwards, Ziyan Bai
Core Programs Team