Being Married in Grad School

Copyright (Jorge Cham, 2015)

It is often said that Graduate school and Marriage are similar in many ways.

  1. Time Commitment – Typically grad school commitments are between 5-7 years (Ph.D.) which is a substantial amount of time given the usual 3-4 years of high school and college. However, for marriage you make a life-long commitment, but during that time is included the years that you do research, take courses, and work with your advisor. So you have an overlap of graduate school and personal time, but this can be of benefit as being married to someone who is supportive can be the best catalyst to finishing the Ph.D. in a timely manner and avoiding the dreaded perpetual ABD status.
  2. Partnership – When you decide to attend grad school you are paired with an advisor/mentor so that during your time in the program you have someone to guide you. This emulates being married in the pairwise relation between two individuals with a common goal: earning a Ph.D., publishing research, and being ultimately being happy. It takes “two to tango” is true for both your Ph.D. journey and life as a spouse. There is no “I” in Team so you both have to work together to achieve your team and individual goals. If this partnership does not work, then nothing will get done.
  3. Productivity – I find that as a newly married doctoral graduate student, being married and committing to spending the rest of your life with another person can often be the greatest support for your dream of a  rewarding career in academia. Most often having another person(i.e. spouse or advisor) encouraging you in times where you need to be productive can make the difference between submitting a mediocre or excellent paper.

Final Thoughts: Given the benefits of being married while in grad school, do not be dissuaded of making a commitment to the one you love when you are faced between the rigor of grad school. The benefits typically outweigh any potential limitation.



The Name of the Game is Research

I am an avid fan of boardgames. So many of the lessons that I have learned so far in my PhD journey can be tied back to particular experiences shared around the gaming table.

One of my favorite board games is Settlers of Catan. If you have never heard of Settlers of Catan, I recommend that you create a new tab, go to Amazon, and buy it immediately.

Settlers of Catan is a strategy resource management game in which the objective is to gain resources (wood, sheep, wheat, brick, and ore) and build/settle on the island of Catan. Pretty simple, right? Well, as with many things in life, it is not as simple as it seems. In the game, you must trade with players in order accomplish your goal of building as many settlements as you need in order to win. This can make the game quite an experience.

As in Catan, you must be diligent in research as you bring together your resources (data, time, subjects, ideas, and finally publications) to be successful. An excellent element of the game is that collaboration amongst the players is almost always required to be able to win. This means that learning from your advisor and peers on how to improve your research should be considered a resource that will allow you to become a winner (i.e.  published first author on an article/chapter/book, snag an awesome postdoc,or whatever the goal is in your field).

However, you must keep in mind that everyone around the table wants to win, so YOU must be resourceful and meticulous in your strategy/approach. Make sure that the people you align with have your best interests at heart, and don’t be afraid to invest in others as well.  Research is important, so make sure that you utilize and maximize your resources to ensure that you achieve a win!

Here’s to playin’ the game. I’ll see you at the board.