Life Advise

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Life Advise

Postby Guest » Sat Mar 30, 2019 5:57 pm

Hello everyone,

I need some advice about my current situation in graduate school.

In short, it is not going well. I am a masters student studying physics. I was recruited to my university to conduct a research project that is no longer feasible.

We use a software package that is good at generating figures; however, its processing tools are buggy and, in my case, broken. The analysis of my master's degree relies on this software, and there is no other public version available that can do the analysis I need. The software library I need is broken in versions 4 and 5 of this software. It doesn’t exist in early versions. Version 6 is in Alpha right now, and all the tools should be fixed; however, it will be released sometime next year. I met with my advisor and was informed that we would be waiting for the version 6 release. It has taken me five months to convince him that I cannot work through this without considerable help. To top this off, My advisor has been using this software for the majority of his ten-year and was unaware of the fundamental problems, until I pointed them out. I have considered a commercial software; however, I was told I would not be awarded my degree if I use a non-publicly sourced software.

I am a masters student, and the summer will be the end of my second year. I think it is unreasonable to ask me to stay and wait for this software to be released. It might add a year or two. I need a change.

Here are my questions:

•Has any other grads have some seasoned advice?
•Has anyone transferred schools with this scholarship?
•I have been set up to fail at my current institution. How can I get out of my contract without taking on debt?
•What can I do to improve my situation?
Guest
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby Bobbonickles » Sat Mar 30, 2019 6:46 pm

Let me preface this with an apology. Many professors are quite honestly exploitative of their grad students in a way that virtually any other career field would accept, and colleges are often unwilling to help.

Can you switch degree types? Most colleges are willing to award master's with just classes which I assume you've already taken, it's usually just a slightly different degree type. Your facility would have to authorize the change of degree but I don't see any reason why they wouldn't allow you to do so.

If you can't change your degree, you need to keep elevating your issue past your advisor to the department chair or perhaps further to the academic dean. If you tap every higher authority and nobody will budge, contact either the grad student association or the alumni association of your university. The alumni association has no authority but it does have pull and may be able to work things in a positive direction for you.
Bobbonickles
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby OP OG » Sat Mar 30, 2019 7:18 pm

>Let me preface this with an apology. Many professors are quite honestly exploitative of their grad students in a >way that virtually any other career field would accept, and colleges are often unwilling to help.
-----
I have noticed this too. It is nasty at my school. My advisor made me so insecure about my issue I thought it was just me and my inability to see through my problem; However, thankfully I can say that despite everything it wasn’t my fault. I was set up to fail.
-----

>Can you switch degree types? Most colleges are willing to award master's with just classes which I assume you've >already taken, it's usually just a slightly different degree type. Your facility would have to authorize the change >of degree, but I don't see any reason why they wouldn't allow you to do so.
-----
My SF would support a degree change as long as it is close to the same field. They recommended the engineering college; however, only 9 of my credit would transfer. I would be playing catchup because I don't have the background. I could transfer and start over.
-----

>If you can't change your degree, you need to keep elevating your issue past your advisor to the department chair >or perhaps further to the academic dean. If you tap every higher authority and nobody will budge, contact either >the grad student association or the alumni association of your university. The alumni association has no authority >but it does have pull and may be able to work things in a positive direction for you.
-----
I have told the department chair however my issue has not been taken seriously. My school has a bad habit of keeping students around. The average length of a masters degree is four years. A college-wide issue I was not aware of until I got here. My complaint is the norm.

Would it be worth reaching out to the SMART admin? I like my SF and the people there; however, I have been set up to fail. I don't know if there is a clause in my contract for students like me.
-----
OP OG
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby Bobobnickles » Sat Mar 30, 2019 8:29 pm

4 years for m.s. track students is insane.

I think the best thing to do, now that you've exhausted all options is reach out to the SF. Make sure to preface your conversation with 1. your desire to honor the terms of the service agreement, 2. All steps taken to reason with your advisor and the department to receive the degree and 3. How long the school/advisor expects to you to stay. There may be a possibility to arrange for your SF to hire you without your master's just at a lower grade than you would receive with the master's degree. Ask your SF if that would be possible.

If SF says no then next would be the program office. The program office has ranged from being extremely accommodating in the past to be exceedingly obtuse. It may be a challenge to receive help, but the only thing that you can do is fully explain your situation and your desire to fulfill the service agreement. They may be willing to help.

If nothing else, then there was some talk there that anywhere within the DoD would be acceptable as part of your service agreement, so USAjobs may be your best bet there.
Bobobnickles
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby Sisyphus » Tue Apr 02, 2019 2:38 pm

OP OG wrote:>Let me preface this with an apology. Many professors are quite honestly exploitative of their grad students in a >way that virtually any other career field would accept, and colleges are often unwilling to help.
-----
I have noticed this too. It is nasty at my school. My advisor made me so insecure about my issue I thought it was just me and my inability to see through my problem; However, thankfully I can say that despite everything it wasn’t my fault. I was set up to fail.
-----


This is why SMART has no business funding for either a research based MS or gods forbid a PhD...it is simply not set out to allow for the kinds of varied disasters that often happen in any research based program. SMART literally views MS and PhD programs as if they were as deterministic as undergrad, and treats its charges accordingly in their procedures and rulings.

OP OG wrote:>Can you switch degree types? Most colleges are willing to award master's with just classes which I assume you've >already taken, it's usually just a slightly different degree type. Your facility would have to authorize the change >of degree, but I don't see any reason why they wouldn't allow you to do so.
-----
My SF would support a degree change as long as it is close to the same field. They recommended the engineering college; however, only 9 of my credit would transfer. I would be playing catchup because I don't have the background. I could transfer and start over.
-----


Check to see if your SF actually cares whether or not you have a thesis or non-thesis MS. If they don't care that would be your best bet to just hammer out any extra course work with an extension and then graduate with a non-thesis MS if it exists for your program. You owe nothing to your shitty advisor or anyone else to complete your work, just get out as intact as you can.

Other alternative is to literally just shop around the MS degree list and find the pareto front of "courses in common"-"most similar degree" and do the math and how long each would take and run them by your SF to see if anything works. Again, non-thesis option only because there is no way in hell SMART would permit you enough time to finish if it required starting over even on MS thesis grade work.

OP OG wrote:>If you can't change your degree, you need to keep elevating your issue past your advisor to the department chair >or perhaps further to the academic dean. If you tap every higher authority and nobody will budge, contact either >the grad student association or the alumni association of your university. The alumni association has no authority >but it does have pull and may be able to work things in a positive direction for you.
-----
I have told the department chair however my issue has not been taken seriously. My school has a bad habit of keeping students around. The average length of a masters degree is four years. A college-wide issue I was not aware of until I got here. My complaint is the norm.

Would it be worth reaching out to the SMART admin? I like my SF and the people there; however, I have been set up to fail. I don't know if there is a clause in my contract for students like me.
-----


Real talk: SMART doesn't give a shit about you. You are a product to them and deliverable to your SF. If you can't make something work on your own they won't care and will at most maybe give you an extension if you can make the case you can finish an alternative plan quickly enough and in manner that satisfies both SMART and your SF. Otherwise they will throw you out in the cold and set you up to repay an obscene debt in an unreasonable timeframe.

Worth keeping in mind, SMART has literally no power and authority to do anything about your situation at your university because your university doesn't care if they're paying your way. If their money stops and you have to leave they'll find another sucker to con into the credentialist ponzi scheme that is graduate education on the modern university.

Something that puzzles me slightly is this:
OP OG wrote:I have considered a commercial software; however, I was told I would not be awarded my degree if I use a non-publicly sourced software.


Who exactly told you that? Because that seems quite frankly bizarre; commercial software is used all the time in various aspects of research for different problems and disciplines. Your best shot to not just have to abandon ship program wise is attacking this standard (if it isn't just something your advisor/department is lying about) at higher levels in your university because it is quite frankly insane.


Last option that springs to mind is shopping around at OTHER universities for degrees that either match yours or are close, would take transfer credit (at the MS level you'd probably need to email the department and ask about what would carry over) and again offer non-thesis options. I can't stress the non-thesis part enough, because as you seem to describe it your current research is at a dead end indefinitely (and even if not captured by your shitty advisor) and there is just no way in hell to restart that process without triggering SMART's wrath.


Good luck. I hope you escape the fate of winding up in the Debtor's Discord in the future.
Sisyphus
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2018 12:40 pm

Re: Life Advise

Postby Guest31415 » Tue Apr 02, 2019 3:11 pm

I’m really sorry. This is terrible and you should not be dealing with it. That being said, let’s approach it practically.

1) I agree with and second/third/fourth everything said above. Academia is often abusive and this is one of those cases.

2) Talk FIRST to your SF. On the phone if possible. They officially control your fate- if they say no changes to the scholarship program, then that’s all SMART cares about. You will then not get permission for changes. You want them to see you as a human, and a human they want to hire.

3) did your advisor tell you that “no commercial software” thing in writing? If yes, elevate this immediately. Your university should have an ombudsman office. Their job is to help advocate for students. Start there! If they’re half reasonable they’ll know what to do next.

4) don’t discount this community. Please set up an email/blog/some kind of something where we can receive more information about what you need for your project, be specific. It sounds like it may literally be code to process and plot data, an I wrong? I for one would be happy to write some Matlab scripts if that would help, and post them as public so you technically fulfill the requirements. Sounds like your advisor wants to be able to keep things public and I would suspect it’s for copyright reasons. Many of us here have been totally screwed by both grad school and SMART and would be willing to help prevent another victim.
Guest31415
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby GooglyHeim » Tue Apr 02, 2019 4:06 pm

I'm so sorry you're having to go through this. :( I also agree with everyone above saying graduate school can be abusive.

Maybe I understood my liaison wrong, but I am under the distinct impression that SF liaisons exist to handle situations like this. Mine was very clear when explaining that advisors enjoy the free labor and sometimes students need liaisons to strong arm advisors into moving students through the program. He even discussed a few meetings he had had with past advisors. Is this something your liaison can take up with your advisor?
GooglyHeim
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby GooglyHeim » Tue Apr 02, 2019 4:08 pm

I also use commercial analysis software all the time for my research. I've never heard a rule like that in my life.
GooglyHeim
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby OP OG » Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:31 pm

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for my delayed reply, I have a few updates.

I have spoken to the graduate school, the department chair, and the dean: they have all basically said the same thing, "we would like to see you finish here, but we support you switching advisors or transferring." There are a few other advisors here I have spoken to about switching projects and I have had one positive response but I basically have to reapply and compete with incoming applicants. I have two applications out for non-thesis programs. Some of my classes would transfer but I could finish up in a year if I really try.

I have spoken to my SF. They support my choices and are more interested in bringing me and less focused on what degree I get. This is a huge relief to receive their support; however, I am still worried about my timeline well switching. In a way it is progressing me forward more by stating over a project. I hope SMART will be merciful with the funding, there has been the weirdest extenuating circumstances surrounding this project and, well, my education under my advisor.

About the software. My advisor has a distaste for GUI(s) including ArcGIS. If is not in an API or done on the command line, he does not believe it can be accurate because you cannot see how the data is processed. It is old school. The software I have proposed using is expensive even for an academics; however, its use would save this project. It is too expensive for me to afford even with my "amazing SMART scholarship stipend". My advisor has told me to forget about this software and focus on what is at hand. This was done verbally. Because of this, the project is completely stalled there and there no way for me to work on it until the next release of the publicity sourced software.

I have spoken the SF academic lesson, and told them the full story. They support my choices; however, they basically told me I have to get my degree, without switching the degree name. This has made switching programs a little difficult.

Things are improving, I am not staying with my advisor and I am determined to switch.
OP OG
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby OP OG » Sun Apr 07, 2019 2:51 pm

4) don’t discount this community. Please set up an email/blog/some kind of something where we can receive more information about what you need for your project, be specific. It sounds like it may literally be code to process and plot data, an I wrong? I for one would be happy to write some Matlab scripts if that would help, and post them as public so you technically fulfill the requirements. Sounds like your advisor wants to be able to keep things public and I would suspect it’s for copyright reasons. Many of us here have been totally screwed by both grad school and SMART and would be willing to help prevent another victim.


I have been working with my SF really closely to try and get something going but we haven't been able to. I will try to set something up and post about it later.
OP OG
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby Bobobnickles » Mon Apr 08, 2019 1:45 am

OP OG wrote:Hi Everyone,

Sorry for my delayed reply, I have a few updates.

I have spoken to the graduate school, the department chair, and the dean: they have all basically said the same thing, "we would like to see you finish here, but we support you switching advisors or transferring." There are a few other advisors here I have spoken to about switching projects and I have had one positive response but I basically have to reapply and compete with incoming applicants. I have two applications out for non-thesis programs. Some of my classes would transfer but I could finish up in a year if I really try.

I have spoken to my SF. They support my choices and are more interested in bringing me and less focused on what degree I get. This is a huge relief to receive their support; however, I am still worried about my timeline well switching. In a way it is progressing me forward more by stating over a project. I hope SMART will be merciful with the funding, there has been the weirdest extenuating circumstances surrounding this project and, well, my education under my advisor.

About the software. My advisor has a distaste for GUI(s) including ArcGIS. If is not in an API or done on the command line, he does not believe it can be accurate because you cannot see how the data is processed. It is old school. The software I have proposed using is expensive even for an academics; however, its use would save this project. It is too expensive for me to afford even with my "amazing SMART scholarship stipend". My advisor has told me to forget about this software and focus on what is at hand. This was done verbally. Because of this, the project is completely stalled there and there no way for me to work on it until the next release of the publicity sourced software.

I have spoken the SF academic lesson, and told them the full story. They support my choices; however, they basically told me I have to get my degree, without switching the degree name. This has made switching programs a little difficult.

Things are improving, I am not staying with my advisor and I am determined to switch.


Definitely good idea to switch advisors. Contact the academic sales for the company that makes the software and explain your situation and means over the phone with a representative (not email). They may be willing to provide a reduced cost academic copy. I know that's grasping at straws but it couldn't hurt.
Bobobnickles
 

Re: Life Advise

Postby Xristos_317 » Fri May 10, 2019 4:49 pm

That sounds like a really awful situation. A good relationship with your advisor is absolutely critical to successful graduate studies. If you've already completed your coursework, then this seems to be an issue with your department.

I agree with the suggestions above that you should elevate this issue if you believe you are being unfairly treated by your advisor. The most immediate contacts should be your department chair and graduate advisors. If you need to proceed further, there should be the Dean of your graduate school, etc.

I also use a commercially available software to complete my research. It seems really strange that you have to use a "specific software" for your research unless some funding source contractually obligates that.

It should be much, much easier to figure out how to expedite a Masters degree in your own department at your current university, even if you have to switch to an other advisor within the department.

Good luck!
Xristos_317
 
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri May 10, 2019 2:54 pm


Return to Recipients

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Welcome. The Unofficial SMART Scholarship Forum is fully supported through this banner add. In the past, I have relied on this income to pay for all hosting and domain charges, but it has only covered half of my expenses in recent years. If this is the first time you are seeing a banner here, it is because an adblocker has prevented it from appearing (I don't blame you). If you have found this forum valuable, I would appreciate it if you consider supporting its upkeep.

Thank you for being a part of this community.

-Chris