Coordinate This

I really had no idea what I was getting myself into becoming the graduate coordinator. Sign some papers, answer some emails, make a few decisions here and there, try and do so with promptness and a smile. There is very little training for such a job of course. I am human resources, making decisions about who will be an incoming student (with help from grad admissions committees of course). I am psychologist and therapist (completely untrained), working with faculty and students who carry unbelievable amounts of stress through their (our) days about our careers, our hopes, our wonderings about science - sometimes this leads to conflict, sometimes to tears, sometimes to great things and celebrations.

Graduate coordinators answer to their department - both faculty and students - and in particular to the administration. The administration is the Department, the graduate school, the university and all of its needs. We are supposed to grow the numbers of students, but take care of the ones we have in the best ways possible. We don’t want to lose any unnecessarily. We evaluate progress and have to write kind but firm emails, over and over and over and over.

Sometimes we have to pull strings, to make things work that otherwise don’t on paper - there are too many details to be explained by a few rules. We know all the dramas, we know too many secrets. I can tell you, I wish I didn’t. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the job: if I must be an administrator, I’m happy to do it on behalf of the graduate students. Most of the creativity and enthusiasm I see among scientists comes from that same awesome exuberant youth that is associated with great rock and roll, amazing inventions, the desire for athletic greatness. And we have that drive in truckloads around here!

Still, I’m just saying, it is hard. It takes a lot of time. It means I’m handling responsibility for so many people, and I’m almost guaranteed to mess up from time to time. I give it my best - and then breathe a sigh of relief as each one makes it to their defense and moves on toward even greater success. Have to breathe deep because come fall I’ll be holding my breath to see how all the new students fare.