grouperlab

Get, share, and use information well

Category: Advising

Guidance, Navigation, and Communication

This is the most normal contact I’ve had today.  Thanks for this bit of structure.

 

While this was not how or where I expected this blog entry to start, after a long absence.  However, these comments are especially notable for me, since they came not from one, but two different people in two different online meetings in two distinct research project contexts.  They were notable not because I was doing something uniquely innovative or novel, but exactly because I was doing something relatively mundane: regular weekly meetings with my students, and regularly scheduled project updates with my research team.  Yes, there were a few technical hiccups, as there often are, but for the most part, they functioned as we always expect them to function.

And that, in a nutshell, was what was most appreciated today.  I think it is no exaggeration to say that very few people alive today remember a similar period of rapid shift from normal to unprecedented, with such a sense of vertigo as we collectively stare into a social, economic, and cultural abyss.  But that is not where I want to focus my emphasis in this entry; there are plenty of places to talk about that.  I want to talk more about what we in the lab have been learning this year, which has become unexpectedly one of the most valuable possible lessons for me (and maybe others, but I will let them be the judges of that).

Fall 2019 was really busy.  I was teaching my two courses (Perspectives on Systems Engineering, or PoSE, as well as Work Analysis and Design) with a bit over 200 students in total.  Two students were finishing their dissertations (Megan on Cybersecurity Incident Response Teams, and Jordan on Spaceflight Mission Support Operations Teams), and three more grad students (and an undergrad) were joining—two from a different department with different cultures and traditions of graduate progress.  I was also faculty advisor to the professional society student chapter.  Add that to my normal level of travel (Japan in August, London in September, Washington DC and Seattle on consecutive weeks in October), and our regular habit of individual meetings (written as “1:1” in my calendar) just sort of fell by the wayside.  We were making progress overall, and I was still having (most of) our weekly GROUPER meetings, so no problem, right?

Well, not quite.  New students need orientation and support to start a new program—even if they are simply completing their BS degree and starting an MS/PhD in the same program.  The culture of a lab changes significantly when the “veterans” leave and the “newbies” come in.  If all the veterans are leaving at once (and living in other cities or even time zones as they finish), who is most responsible for managing the communication and socialization of the important aspects of the organizational culture?  The advisor, of course—even if the lab is fortunate enough (as we have been) to have a set of new student “onboarding” documents.  Thus, it was easy enough for me to think, “well, this is just a little schedule shift,” when postponing 1:1 meetings, it’s HUGE for someone just starting on a new path in a confusing feudal environment.

So, among the last gasp efforts of the overwhelming Fall semester, we made sure that we put a priority on making sure everyone had a regular 1:1 meeting, and that such meetings were a priority when possible.  (Sometimes, from February Frenzy through March Madness and April Anarchy, we might not have 1:1 meetings for everyone at their regularly scheduled time, but we know to discuss that with the travel schedule weeks in advance.)  I was even able to welcome a new international visiting student, and within her first week on campus, we had 1:1 meetings for her as well.  Everyone remember to breathe…

Within the first three weeks of the new semester starting in January 2020, the difference was obvious to the students, and to me as well.  Yes, it helped that I wasn’t teaching in the classroom (“A Professor is ALWAYS teaching!”), but each week, significant progress was being made in the crafting and focus on research projects, social and psychological development, and understanding of what I’m looking for and how to get there.  As a result, when I asked for a “Captain Kirk to Scotty” response from the lab, not only could I get one, but the response seamlessly added into the discussions of each individual’s projects as well.

Scotty-using-communicator

Figure 1.  Scotty: “I need at least three days, Captain.”  Kirk: “You’ve got an hour.”  image from https://movieplus.news/25-false-things-about-star-trek-that-everyone-believed/

Since the lab has been experiencing “distributed operations” for at least four years (remember the students in other time zones part?), we have frequently had at least one member of the lab (including me, when I was working in Washington, DC for a year) “dial in” remotely via Webex, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, ….  It’s not weird, it’s just that not everyone makes it to the same room every week.  So, if there is an illness, or travel, or simply a schedule conflict, “Can we do the 1:1 remotely next Monday?  Sure.”  In essence, regular contact, regular discussion, regular updates had all become… regular.

Back in February, one of our research project teams was having its quasi-monthly meeting.  It’s hard getting people from four universities and a federal agency together for project updates, but we were able to find a mutual window in the schedule: March 23. We don’t know much else about the news and research environment ahead (our project had been already upended by a Sunday morning news story), but we do know that.  As the possible impacts of “shelter in place” and “social distancing” were discussed in early March, GROUPER made a fairly simple decision on March 11, two days before Purdue’s Spring Break: “We’ll just assume all meetings starting March 23, for the first two weeks after Spring Break, will be electronic rather than physical.” At least it seemed simple at the time.

GROUPER studies how people get, share, and use information.  We focus on elements of information sharing, knowledge exchange, and task coordination.  We’ve talked about differences between physical interactions and online communication, and how we manage and moderate our expectations of those online information flows, for over 25 years.  (See here, and here.)  But today, there was an additional value to doing things we do regularly, in a way that we could recognize as familiar and repeated.  And yes, there was a value to me as well.  Guidance and navigation aren’t just for spacecraft, but for explorers of all types; communication is not a luxury, but a human need.

 

 

Weekend Balance #1: Learning the Right Things

Approximately 5:30 Friday (yesterday) evening, I told my unit chief that I was headed out for the evening and weekend.  That was not only okay, it was expected; I’d been heading into work 11 hours earlier to work on a very active set of reports from the day’s activity in Japan, which I summarized and sent out to our colleagues.  (Ah, the joy of nearly 24 hour coverage due to time zone differences: the Japanese Embassy in Tokyo starts to wind down about the same time that the first folks in Washington are getting on the Metro to start their work day.)  He surprised me by encouraging me not to think about work for a couple of days as I went to a concert and planned for a quiet time at home.  Well, those who know me will recognize an immediate disconnect: Barrett to not think about work for whole days at a time?

Well, that is a challenge these days, for multiple reasons.  It’s actually something that we discussed in a couple of our (distributed, online) lab meetings last fall, about finding appropriate forms of balance and mechanisms for taking care of one’s internal resources.  Now, it would have rung hollow if I were to take 3-4 hours on Christmas Day to write up a blog entry on work-life balance.  (Don’t worry.  I spent much of the day with a roaring fire, computer games, and lots of cookies.)

When I woke up this (Saturday) morning, I was looking forward to coming out to the kitchen to a waiting blanket of snow, to make some tea and settle in for a quiet day… of typing up notes and responding to Purdue emails and designing new projects.  That is a day off?  Well, it is a day away from reading media reports of Japan – Korea tensions or considering meeting preparations for trilateral engagement.   But on the other hand, the truth is that I have somehow set myself to try to manage two full-time jobs.  How does that really work?

img_4769

McPherson Square, with the first snow of the season: a good day for learning.

One of the first recognitions is the difference between what I want and what is, and if there is a gap between the two, what do I want / choose to do about it?  The truth is, I specifically chose the Jefferson Science Fellowship opportunity as a unique experience to expose me to activity and opportunity that I could not get in my past patterns at Purdue, with a few grad students and departmental responsibilities and a few obligations to the state of Indiana.  Those aren’t bad things, but there was a gap that needed to be addressed.  (When I return to Purdue, there will be another gap, because for me to return to exactly the set of activities I left this past August would be a waste of this experience, no matter how familiar, or comfortable, or well-prepared I am for them.)

I am seeing this recognition in another context when I think about the experiences of my students.  To be here, in Washington DC, is more than anything an experience of learning.  And sometimes, learning takes up all of my time: it is one of my primary job tasks.  Learning is also a task that takes focus, and discipline, and patience.  I’m not just talking about the process of collecting a bunch of facts for later regurgitation, which is what most students think of in the context of taking a class for a grade.  I mean a deeper learning, about context and discernment and recognizing what aspect of this pattern is important, and real, and valuable for me to integrate into a larger whole.

Well, that can be a process of life discipline, which then applies to everything.  Learning is about noticing how I balance on one leg during morning exercise, or how well I could run through the cold last night to catch the bus or rail, or… how I improve the management of the lab.

It’s often been suggested that I have a casual approach to managing the lab.  Actually, this is not true.  I could insist on clocked hours, minimum amounts of in-person time in the lab, weekly reports, and any number of other rules.  Some people actually have de-selected the lab because I don’t have lots of those rules.  As I experience this year as an immersion in this bureaucracy, I recognize that it’s not that students don’t learn anything if I impose such rules; however, it’s clear that they can easily learn the wrong things.  Did you reflect on the task, or simply put in the time?  Did you embrace the difficulty as a form of instruction, or simply as a burden?  Do you examine the situation as a system with gaps in design or execution of objective functions, or just complain about how “they” don’t care about (fill in the blank with whatever you feel is important from your local perspective)?  Do you even think about what the various objective functions are?

As a result, I now have a much deeper appreciation of what choices are being made when one of the members of the lab considers taking on a full time job at various stages of her/his graduate professional progression.  These are not trivial decisions, and there are various reasons why someone may need to choose to work at a job during one’s graduate career.  And I’m not casual in my feelings about this.  But I need the student to learn the right lessons, and I have learned (with both students, and children, and other organizational participants) that the right lesson comes from a well-designed combination of the teacher, the student, and the lesson (there is an interesting book on this called The Seven Laws of Teaching, originally published in 1884.  Read widely, question deeply.)

One of the lessons is that getting a PhD is about learning to think about questions, and developing answers, that others have not done so.  If you can’t work your way all the way through your own dissertation topic and method and analysis and interpretation, you really don’t deserve the PhD.  Yes, your advisor can help you, but if you need your advisor to give you all of the steps, then it’s not your PhD.  (Thanks, I already have my own, and I don’t feel the need for another.)  Another lesson is that very few people outside of academia, or those who do not have a PhD already, really understand what that first lesson is about.  There is just a different way of thinking and working going on.  Not bad, not good, just different.  So, if you’re used to approaching the world with one set of priorities and tools, and you move to another place where people don’t approach the world that way, you’re going to have to shift back and forth… and most people don’t shift back and forth among ways of thinking that well.

On the other hand, given how much I think about rules and lessons and managing and studying humans for a living, if there is a rule or insight or lesson I try to share, it’s usually not just for the sake of the rule.  (See above.)  That’s not casual either.   If there is a disagreement between myself and a student on a dissertation topic, or methodological approach, or insight available from a course, there is a possibility that the student is right and is operating based on information not available to me.  (In other words, they are good and working in an alternative domain.)  However, one observation of learning the right vs. wrong lesson is when I see students trying to fulfill the letter of a rule, but miss the spirit; or try to avoid the rule because it’s not ideal or fun or convenient (or “fair”?); or argue with me about how my accumulated experience is not relevant for a particular case.  Again, there may be reasons why any of those is correct.  But, to be honest, that’s not likely, and what concerns me more is, what lesson is the student learning or trying to execute?

So, as I move forward through 2017, there are lots more lessons to learn, and quite a few gaps to examine and determine how I might want to resolve them.  I admit that I am nowhere near content with my resolution of how to perform both Purdue vs J Desk jobs ideally.  (One lesson is, I really want to do this J Desk job really well, because that is the priority and opportunity available to, and surrounding, me now.  I care about the Purdue version / job, but it’s hard for me to do that full time too, and still care for my health and sleep and eat properly.  So it slips in priority right now… but I know that’s only for a year, not for an indefinite shift as a career.  That’s a lesson also for the students.)

Lessons are, in fact, about resolving gaps—not just gaps of factual knowledge, but gaps of how experience can affect interaction with the world.  I continue to explore how to find the right gaps, and resolve them in good and effective ways, to solve the right problems.  That’s a fairly comforting and happy thought for me as an engineer.  And although we didn’t get as much snow as I might have hoped, I can improve my recognition of what gaps were most important for me to close today.

 

 

Excellence in April

After Madness, comes Anticipation. In the sports world, April is a period of eager awaiting: as baseball teams take to the field, and professional football and basketball leagues highlight their drafts of college athletes, while colleges engage in “signing day” expectations and celebrations. Winter sports crown their champions. Hopes are fulfilled, or dashed.   While academics are seen as a very different world than athletics, I really don’t see it that way. In fact, graduate research programs have their own version of “signing day,” when offers of graduate fellowships are committed, and prospective students choose their new institution, advisor, and advanced degree emphasis. I am the Chair of our Graduate Committee, and I am highly sensitive to this process, from multiple perspectives. Over 400 students applied to Purdue Industrial Engineering for the Fall 2014 semester. Just over 100 have received the “happy letter,” indicating an acceptance of the application and an invitation to become part of the Purdue Rethink IE experience. Even fewer receive a “happier letter,” which includes an offer of fellowship support. Those are extremely challenging and competitive, and represent some of our expectations of who can be an outstanding contributor—not simply within the School of IE, but at the level of the College of Engineering or the University as a whole (where many of these fellowships are decided and awarded).

 

Every Spring, we in the lab discuss the culture of the lab, and what we need to do and think and be to maintain a focus on excellence, innovation, and productivity. Several years ago, I initiated a model of “360 recruiting,” where existing members of the lab are involved with the visits of prospective students who are invited by the School of IE to spend time on the Purdue campus and explore their options at an outstanding “full-service” IE program. I don’t commit lab funds to anyone right away, for two reasons (both due to experience). Some students find, after arrival, that our projects and my advising style may not work for them. Others may be searching for a project, but in fact are searching for financial support. Neither one of those types of students can effectively contribute or be well suited to the lab, and that lack of effective matching can hurt the overall productivity of the lab. While that first reason is strategic and philosophical, the second reason is more practical. GROUPER supports student professional development, not just research output. The students are not just workers in a research machine. Thus, we might not have funding for the project that a particular student wants to do when s/he first arrives… or they may not know which project they want to pursue. As of Spring 2014, there are six PhD students in GROUPER—not one is working on the specific project they identified in their application, or thought about during their first semester on campus. Four are working over the summer at internships in industry and government. These internships, rather than “interfering” with the research, provide additional opportunities for students to explore areas of professional and research growth, and identify areas they may want to work after graduation (or not—finding out you don’t want to work somewhere is also a successful outcome of an internship).

 

Nonetheless, GROUPER feels like an elite team. We try to “draft” well, and we try to develop and promote and sustain excellence in our performance. I was very pleased to learn that two of our “hopefuls” were offered Purdue Doctoral Fellowships for Fall 2014. I’m ecstatic to have received acceptances of both offers, meaning that our next set of GROUPERs can continue a history of diversity and excellence in doctoral development. Current members of the lab are also recognized awardees. Today, I get to celebrate Omar Eldardiry’s Outstanding Service Scholarship, due in large part to his excellent work as a teaching assistant and instructor (including his support for me with the senior capstone design project course last fall). And of course, I cannot finish this entry without once again celebrating one of our “First Team All-Americans”: Michelle (Shelly) Jahn, who was awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. This makes two consecutive years that a member of GROUPER has been awarded a fellowship through the NSF GRFP. (Last year, the winner was undergraduate GROUPER Natalie Benda, who is working in Patient Safety and will be attending the University at Buffalo for her PhD.)

 

Excellence in research and student professional development. This is an ongoing source of tremendous pride, and the heart of a continuing commitment to improve how people get, share, and use information well.

Who’s Your Team?

(After a recent entry entitled, They Got Game, you might think that this is turning just into a sports blog.  I promise: neither that entry nor this one is only, or even primarily, about sports.)

 

After a glut of sporting festivity, the college football bowl season and first round of NFL playoffs are now history.  (Because of the winter storm and “polar vortex” that deposited 10 in / 25 cm of snow, followed by temperatures of -22F / -30C, my satellite receiver has been offline since midday Sunday.  Supposedly, there was a fairly entertaining football game on Monday evening.  I hope someone enjoyed it.)  People who know me know that I’m a fairly intense sports fan, and I have followed both college and professional football (and college women’s basketball) for most of my life.  I have also lived in a number of locations and developed attachments to quite a few teams.  (I’m going to assume that at least a few current or alumni GROUPERs were pretty pleased with the outcomes of the Rose and Orange Bowls.)  So, it’s not surprising when I’m asked, Who’s your team?

 

This was an interesting philosophical question put to me by a close friend while we were watching one or another of the various games.  It became a philosophical question when it was pointed out to me that I was getting more upset at the commentary by the announcers than who was actually winning on the field.  It’s understandable to be disappointed when the team you’re rooting for is losing.  However, my friend pointed out that I was annoyed even when I wasn’t cheering specifically for one of the two teams playing on the field.  Suddenly, I realized that this might not just be about sports.  Fortunately, my friend and I prefer very analytical discussions, so we started to analyze it.  When I have a team that I feel an affiliation to (I consider them a version of “us”), I want them to win.  (If I don’t have an affiliation to the other team, I am perfectly thrilled to have “us” win by a large margin, in what might otherwise be seen as a poor matching of teams.)  But more importantly, I want the game to be exciting and entertaining.  I want the officiating to be consistent, appropriate, and responsive to the rules as they are currently in place.  (Like many fans, I comment about the officiating.  However, I also will frequently observe the penalty and announce both the penalty and penalized player, before the referee does so.  Did I mention I’ve been an intense fan for a long time?)  I don’t like it when the official misses calls.  But I will frequently accept that “we” had a bad play instead of always assuming a “bad ref” when a penalty is called against “us”.  Why is this?  If I want the referees to do their job appropriately (without bias or favoritism), I feel obliged to acknowledge and “own” our errors as well.    I respect good announcers who point out important elements of the game play.  However, I found myself profoundly upset when an announcer would shift from one bias to another just based on the most recent event, using general references that they’ve heard as “it’s generally known” or “everybody thinks that”… (Using trite catchphrases, especially with wrong or mixed metaphors, will always draw specific ire from me.)

 

This suggests that there is another level of affiliation going on; this other affiliation applies both to the active participation in research at GROUPER and the spectator role for a football game.  It’s not just about sportsmanship, although that’s part of it.  Let’s call it the search for The Better Rule, Well Applied (BRWA).  As you know, academics have their rankings, the equivalent of the Coaches’ Top 25 poll.  The analogy is pretty strong: the rankings for the top US IE graduate programs are voted on by the department heads of those IE programs.  So, I can be excited or upset that Purdue is #10.  But wait.  Let’s look at MIT, ranked #3.  I have an affiliation with MIT, so I should see them as “us,” right?  They don’t have any degree program called Industrial Engineering.  How about Stanford or Cornell?  Great universities.  But there are more people in human factors in Purdue IE than at the corresponding programs (again, not all IE) in those three universities combined.  They don’t do IE human factors.  This issue challenges how we might use the rankings.  I’m actually less concerned about our actual ranking than the distortion.  Hence, this is an issue of BRWA, not just whether we’re better than the (logically nonexistent) competition at a specific other department.

 

Over the past several years, I’ve had a number of students trying to pick their dissertation topics.  Some of the topics were exotic; others were relatively mundane.  However, I am concerned at how often a topic is considered unworthy because there’s not enough funding in that area.  “Well, you need to compete for, and obtain, competitive grant funding.  You need to show your colleagues at the highly ranked programs how much money you’re bringing in, and place your students at those programs.”  But hold on, my BRWA affiliation screams.  The program at XYZ university doesn’t, and won’t, have an opening in human factors.  My student would rather work in (and is better suited towards) industry or government than a research academic position.  Isn’t graduate training about seeking out creative and innovative solutions that push the frontiers of knowledge and understanding?  Isn’t the PhD supposed to be about supporting the student’s career development, more than mine—in other words, preparing them for what suits them, and appropriately emphasizing their strengths towards their best fitting pathway?

 

Sometimes, it feels like it is playing a different sport.  Some football folks talk about “winning at all costs”; others talk about integrity and sportsmanship.  They’re supposedly playing the same game, but in reality, they’re not.  In sports, and in research, maybe I’m not just playing for “winning”.  It feels like I’m playing for Truth.  In the lab, what sport are we playing?  Which “Game” do we need to bring?  My sport seems to be University (knowledge, understanding, career preparation), and I want to be a starter—or even captain—on the special GROUPER squad on the BRWA team.  Our team colors include Consent and Connection. …

 

This may not even be recognizable to other people.  It could sound like I’m rooting for the Montana team in the NFL playoffs.  (Um, not only is there no professional football team in state of Montana, there is no NFL team in any US state that borders on Montana.  Alberta and Saskatchewan have Canadian Football League (CFL) teams.  The CFL championship was played last November.)  How do you recruit for a team in a sport that others might not even see as the right sport to be playing?  Again, this is an interesting philosophical point.  For instance, why is the team BRWA, instead of GROUPER?  GROUPER can’t answer all questions, about all subjects—we specialize in human factors and systems engineering, and you need more than that to do well in University.  These questions aren’t irrelevant to working at Purdue in IE, even if they seem to be ignoring “reality”.  If we don’t ask the question, or consider the options, we never make our team or our sport better.

 

(By the way, the 2013 CFL Grey Cup Most Valuable Player was Kory Sheets, who was a running back for Purdue.)

Finishing with the Start in Mind

Hmm, Caldwell, that’s not how the Stephen Covey Habit goes.  Yeah, I know…

 

It’s not that the summer has parboiled my brain — I’ve had several pleasant vacations and focused quite actively on the concept of taking time for myself and prioritizing my own relaxation and recovery.  And in fact, we talk a lot in the lab about the excitement of connections and possibilities that come from having a bold imagination.  However, the steps involved with getting from being a brand new grad student to a freshly minted PhD combine a bit of imagination (beginning with the end in mind) with a lot of perseverance (focusing on the next step).  It’s great to have a great goal and imagine all sorts of wonderful outcomes… but as the Taoist Lao Tzu said, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, with a focus on the ground immediately below one’s feet.

 

As a systems engineer, I also think of the world as a set of nested feedback control systems.  This weekend, I am getting ready to complete the graduation ceremony with placing the doctoral hood on my new PhD GROUPER alumna Marissa Vallette.  The joy of the weekend also has me thinking very intently about how Marissa arrived into the lab.  In our exit interview a few weeks ago, that initial meeting was the source of a very rich conversation.  Every student is different, with a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses (“opportunities for additional development”).  Marissa is one of the ones who, by all accounts, is likely to want to organize your files, keep track of the calendar, and ask several times exactly what is meant by that correction in paragraph 5 on page 73.  (This is by no means a complaint.  Sometimes, when you’re working on a dissertation, that’s exactly what you need to focus on.  And I am indebted to Marissa for taking on the role of organizing the GROUPER lab calendar and several of our lab documents for two years.)  And, please recall, GROUPER works on a somewhat unusual recruitment and selection model: existing members of the lab are strongly engaged in interviewing and providing feedback on potential new members.

 

I am amused when people ask Marissa how she started in GROUPER.  One version of the answer is that BSC passed the interview.  Yes, she started with a list of questions for me (reproduced with permission from MAV):

 

  • On average, how many years does it take to graduate an M.S. and/or Ph.D. student?
  • How many M.S. and/or Ph.D. students have you graduated?
  • How many M.S. and/or Ph.D. students do you currently advise?
  • Are you tenured?
  • How do you incorporate your background (e.g., research, industry experience) to industrial engineering?
  • What other commitments do you have both on- and off-campus?
  • What is your advising style? For instance, is it guided or un-guided?
  • What is your availability? For instance, how quickly do you respond to e-mails? How frequently would I be able to meet with you one-on-one?
  • Aside from departmental requirements, what is your philosophy on selecting a committee (for an M.S. and/or Ph.D. defense)?
  • How do you run your research lab?
  • What are your/the lab’s current research interests?
  • What are your/the lab’s current research projects?
  • What, if any, are the requirements/expectations of your graduate students? For instance, do you require them to publish journal papers and/or attend conferences? Are there lab meetings?
  • What funding opportunities are available both inside and outside your research lab?

 

Overall, not a bad set of questions, and if you are a student who considers themselves in need of a bit more “active involvement” from their advisor, you really want to get answers to these questions.   I admit that I would have had trouble answering these questions as a brand new faculty member—both because I wouldn’t have had positive answers to many of the questions, and because I wouldn’t have been able to articulate my philosophy as well then.  But, as Marissa said, it was good that a) I did have answers to these questions, and b) that I didn’t mind her asking them.  I certainly want to have a good fit and ongoing relationship with my students, and it is definitely not the case that my students are all reproductions of me.  I want that sort of interaction, and a mutual agreement on goals and priorities, because it is that sort of agreement that helps manage the rough patches of the graduate experience.

 

In retrospect, she’s not even the first (or last) member of GROUPER to have interviewed me with such questions.  For the new crops of students about to start their graduate careers in the next few weeks, I would recommend that they come up with their own list of questions, for themselves and for a potential advisor.  In the long run, my grad students can be seen as “colleagues displaced in time” (a phrase I adopted some years ago to reflect my desire to have a strong professional relationship with GROUPERs as they continue on in their careers).  In the short term, I have an exceptionally powerful and controlling role and responsibility for their progress and completion.  That’s not boastful egotism.  That is a recognition of the way academia works in a doctoral-granting research program.  In all of the research conferences I’ve attended, one of the most frequent questions asked (sometimes just after “Where’d you go to grad school?” but sometimes even before that) is “Who was your advisor?”  Those relationships are vital, and can easily make the difference in your life for decades after you leave that grad lab for the last time.  So, I am quite pleased that I was able to have this time, on this graduation weekend, to reflect on lessons I got to learn with a brand new doctoral student and her questions at the beginning of her GROUPER program.