Re-enrollment Part 1

August 26, 2015
So here I am, ready for the new school year, but not even enrolled. You see, I can't be enrolled in grad school without an adviser, and mine dumped me in June. Since then I've been reaching out to people and seeing what my options are, but everyone's a bit weary of taking on a cast off grad student like me, and the University administration doesn't feel like they owe me much of anything.

While I was writing my thesis (I'd finished all my classes) I got a job offer. In Germany. Working for a University (as in, not as a grad student or intern, as a staff researcher). Too good to pass up, right?

My adviser agreed that I was close enough to being done that I could take it and finish writing while I was in Germany.

Things seemed to be going well for the first few months, but then it petered out. Germany did not treat us as well as we'd hoped, and almost everyday was a struggle. That September (about 8 months after we moved) I flew back to the US and reconnected.

But things kept going down hill. He would reply in full to my emails, only addressing one or two things out of a long list of discussion topics. He never contacted me first, never helped me set any deadlines, or send me corrections. Eventually I asked another professor in Germany who was in a quite different STEM field if he would help me at least with getting a draft done. He did, and February 2014 I sent my advisor a finsihed first draft!

A couple of days later I got an email from him saying he'd read it over the weekend.

I never heard anything from him.

About 6 months later I sent it my committee members, one of whom said he'd read it and never replied either, and the other read it and said it was good. I asked him if he could find out what happened to my adviser since I couldn't get a hold of him.

That seems to do the trick, but I only get vague responses about how it's not there yet, I'm misunderstanding "something", etc. He tells me to do a sensitivity test, I do one and send him my method results and some discussion in it. I never hear back.

Finally, I decide not to renew my contract in Germany (I wasn't happy there, anyway) and move back to finish my thesis. I figure this has got to be simply an 'out of sight, out of mind' situation. He says he'll meet with me and if I still want to pursue my degree he'll work with me, but he'll be away until September.

But I don't want to just leave it at that, I ask him if he can leave me some feedback to work on, and he emails me that I may want to rethink my trajectory when it comes to graduating. I ask him to clarify what he means, and .... nothing.

So at that point I get in touch with someone in the administration about what I should do next. I'm really desperate to finish, and I think I have something worthwhile done, but my adviser won't even speak to me?!?!

She gets in contact with him, and he emails me to say that he doesn't want to work with me anymore.

So that left me adviser-less, and officially I had dropped out of grad school when I left for that job. Despite my adviser telling me he'd help me finish, he has no responsibility towards me, no requirement to be upfront about what leaving would mean, no duty to advocate for me at all.

But it's not that easy to get rid of me.

Now I'm in the process of re-enrolling with a new adviser. But - because of intellectual copyright it looks like I'll have to start a new research topic completely from scratch. I can't even publish the work I had done because I did it on my previous adviser's grant money. So I guess it'll just hang out on my hard drive unread until it breaks.

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