A different approach to picking an advisor/mentor

When selecting a faculty advisor, many students chose someone based upon shared academic interests.  While that is certainly one way to go, I suggest a different route.  Choose someone you simply get along with, someone whose office you’ll enjoy popping into once in awhile.  When it comes time to do your qualifying exam and dissertation, you’ll be seeing plenty of those you’ve chosen to work with academically.  You can still put this person on your committees, as I did.  One my favorite people in my department is Kip Schlegel.  His area of expertise is white-collar and organized crime, which isn’t a perfect match with my research areas, bullying and LGBT issues within the criminal justice system.  But he and I have a unique shared interest: I grew up farming and raising cattle; he and his wife currently run an organic beef farm just outside of Bloomington.  While I could talk to him all day about farming, I also sincerely appreciate his insight and opinions on my academic work.

Every department is a little different, but you’ll probably be meeting with your advisor a few times per year to discuss which classes you should take, which minor is right for you, how your teaching is going, plans for completing your program; etc.  So don’t worry too much if your academic interests aren’t aligned perfectly; just pick someone you feel comfortable talking to, which will be really nice for those hectic graduate moments.