“Appreciation” seems an inadequate word for thanking Grad Student Labor

We are still in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, and my university has declared this week to be Graduate Student Appreciation Week. I think this is a wonderful move, both for graduate students and faculty, because it helps anchor us to each other and reminds us of how much we really, crucially depend on each other, especially in a R-1 setting. I think this is a wonderful move, not just because it foregrounds the social connections that remain crucial despite the physical distancing measures presently in place, but also because it emphasizes that this dependence is not just the resource-based variety (as in, “I need you to collect data for me,” or “I need you to write a letter of recommendation for me”) but involves emotional investment and labor from all parties — perhaps too much of it, at times. At the same time, this recognition invites further introspection about the lived experiences and conditions of our graduate students, challenging faculty to think beyond the staid (and quite possibly rose-tinted) nostalgia of “in the days when I was a grad student…” to listen to and act in response to their concerns. Whether this is about grad student stipends, housing, diversity and inclusion within the department, bureaucratic red rape, bullying, … the list goes on (sadly).

Because of these reasons, the word “appreciate” — although I thoroughly appreciate having Graduate Student Appreciation Week — seems to me somewhat inadequate.

I depend on my wonderful graduate student advisees and collaborators. And I plan to be ever-more vigilant to safeguard their interests and well-being.

  • I depend on your drive to learn.
  • I depend on your questions and critiques.
  • I depend on your hard work and diligence.
  • I depend on your creativity and critical thinking.
  • I depend on your taking the lead on projects when I’m swamped.
  • I depend on your joy and enthusiasm. But I also depend on you to tell me when you’re disappointed, discouraged or demoralized so that I can try to help.
  • I depend on you checking my privilege.

Thank you.

Dorothy Feltner, Sandaruwan Mudiyanselage, Christine Nyawaga, Will Cooper, Lacey Brim, Kelsey Mesmer, Mostafa Aniss, Nubia Brewster, Johnny Ricks, Jacinda Gant, Najma Akhter, Stavros Glitsos, Samantha Most, Erika Thrubis, Ariel Achatz, Kevin Hardges, Jason Revoir, Elizabeth-Ann Pandzich, Caleb Mims… for being my advisees and/or research team partners. (Apologies for not having pics of all of you in my collection… yet!)

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