Name One Thing with Tracy Holt | Advice on Mentorship, Adjunct Teaching, and Co-authorship in graduate school

Banner image for the Name One Thing Series of Exclusive Interviews, providing sage advice for graduate student success. Image shows a graduate student in cap and gown, back to the camera, facing a blackboard and making a triumphant pose.

Name One Thing: Advice for graduate students from those who’ve been there.

Welcome to Name One Thing the interview series where I ask academics, researchers, postdocs, and other professionals what they wished they’d known when they were in in graduate school. Today’s guest is Mx. Tracy Holt, a senior statistician who shares vital wisdom on mentorship vs. advisement, cautions on adjunct teaching, and tips for successful co-authorship.

About Today’s Guest

Mx. Tracy Holt declined providing a photo, so this photo shows a graduate's silhouette in cap and gown as a stand in.

Name: Tracy Holt (They/Them)
Degree: M.S. Mathematics, M.P.H.
Current role: Senior Statistician, focused primarily on Psychometrics for clinical research.
Find Them at LinkedIn: /tracy-holt-34870650/

1) Name one thing you wish someone had told you when you were a graduate student.

The importance of mentorship. The best researchers don’t always make the best mentors. It is more important to have someone who is interested in your professional development. During my first master’s degree, I didn’t know to look for any particular qualities, though I was fortunate and received some good mentorship. Unfortunately, I completed that degree in the middle of a recession. During my second master’s degree, I knew to look for that mentorship and found it in more than one place which helped prepare me for my career. In both programs, I had classmates who were with more prestigious researchers and had to work harder but didn’t receive good mentorship. These advisors did not seem invested in their student’s success, and it led to burnout for more than one.

Adjunct teacther points at a blackboard while reading from a book held in their other hand.

2) You have worked as an adjunct faculty member at a community college and a university. Name one thing you think graduate students should know about teaching as an adjunct.

Teaching as an adjunct is not a good pathway to being a full-time faculty member. While it can be an opportunity to develop skills in the classroom, I have known very few people who were able to go from teaching as adjunct faculty to full-time positions either at the same or other institutions. In my own experience, having four years of teaching experience between teaching as an adjunct instructor and as a G.A. instructor seemed to carry little weight when applying for full-time positions. There also may be very little oversight or guidance. I taught classes for both a university and a community college. At the community college, they provided that oversight and guidance, and I had a supervising faculty member who was there to guide me. With the university, any guidance that I received, I had to seek out myself. I don’t advise teaching as an adjunct as a primary career choice, or primary source of income, though it can be good to make some money on the side.

3) You have co-authored multiple peer-reviewed journal articles. Name one thing about the publication process that you think most graduate students are ill-prepared for.

Reviewers aren’t experts. They are people who have authored related research. Not all will take the time to understand your research. Some will provide useful feedback, but others will fixate on things that are less relevant. When I am revising publications, in many cases I make revisions to placate the reviewers even if I don’t think they are useful changes. In other cases, it may be sufficient to explain why the changes are either not appropriate or not plausible. One catch-22 is around statistical analysis. Ideally, you should do the analyses that are most appropriate for the context of your research which may not be what is commonly used in similar research. However, if you are not using what had commonly been used, you will have to be more rigorous in providing justification for using it. Reviewers will often challenge approaches they aren’t accustomed to seeing, whereas they will not question commonly used approaches even if they are less appropriate for the specific context of your research.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Tracy! I just had a similar conversation with Dr. Rios, over at the Grad Student Academy about the differences in mentorship and advisement with another graduate student. Many prospective Ph.D. students are starting to consider advisors as they prepare to apply to graduate programs this fall and this is such vital and timely information.

Wishing You All the Best in Your Academic Success.
Dr. Cristie Glasheen, Your Graduate Student Success Coach.

Interview Disclaimer

We aim to share diverse perspectives and experiences. The views, opinions, and experiences shared by our guests in this interview series are solely their own. Their participation is not an endorsement of our services, products, or views, nor does it imply an endorsement of their services, products, or views by us.