Thursday, February 21, 2008

Recruitment weekend

When i am bored and have nothing better to do, or when i want to avoid work, or at times like these when I can't sleep and no book helps, I log into my old univ account to check out whats going on in lutom, in my old department. I still get mails addressed to the listserv, and while its mostly "does anyone have a little bit of such-and-such i can borrow", sometimes there are small discussions that can be fun to watch as an outsider. :)

Right now there is an upcoming recruitment weekend going on. Basically, prospective grad students for this Fall semester are flown in from all over the country to interview and be shortlisted for admission to the grad program. This was one of my least favourite events in grad school. It reeked of superficiality, an over-enthusiastic attempt to sell ourselves and reminded me of some stupid promotion event by a company. Imagine the slight amount of stress one has when one is entertaining guests: you want to make a good impression, you want everything to be tip-top, AND you are slightly inconvenienced by it all but cannot show it. Well, recruitment weekend was like that, only worse. Anywhere from 15 - 20 students are invited, and are put up at host students' places for the weekend or at the campus lodge. A huge effort is made to make the weekend fun-filled and activity-packed- they have to get a good feel of our research, or town, our social fiber and basically be convinced that this was the best school to go to. There would be breakfasts and dinners organised, everyone was bullied or emotionally blackmailed into attending and showing up in big numbers. The pressure to put up your best side was just annoying. Faculty would be dripping with saccharine sweetness and extra bright smiles all weekend long. Now i am all for being a good citizen in a community and partaking in such activities. What put me off was the overkill, the whole "Show" that was put on. Frankly, social activities in our department were pretty limited to faculty/student recruitments and an annual retreat of some kind. God knows that people tried at various times (including me) to extend this kind of socializing to happen more regularly, but it met with varying degrees of success. Typically, the same crowd showed up to all dos and the ones that remained holed in their labs working on their experiments never came out. The few that spearheaded the efforts soon got tired of it and was never sustained. Now, given this very rare social interaction, when a bunch of people (Scientists, no less), are forced to spend time together outside work and be all schmoozy, they run out of things to talk about pretty soon. So we are left with really bored to death people who'd rather be doing their own thing or working away in the lab. Instead, they have to put up this whole show about being a super-friendly department and the charade just begins to stink at some point. Then there is this huge pressure to go out of your way to be nice to the recruits, no stepping on their toes, watch everything you say...blah blah blah.

The sad bit was that our dept was a great place to work in. People are generally friendly, helpful with your science, good buddies, and the town was a nice place to live. There was really no need to put on an act because we were pretty cool the way we were. I never understood the reason to go out of our way to prove it to these kids in that span of two and a half days.

This rant really had no point, but I was just reminded of how much I hated this dog and pony show of a recruitment weekend.


aequo animo said...

"When i am bored and have nothing better to do, or when i want to avoid work, or at times like these when I can't sleep and no book helps"--
At such times, one should get out and meet people or call people or run like sky is falling on ones head or hunt wild boars or deliver menhirs or make magic potions or write autobiography or read calvin and hobbes But NEVER EVER READ BORING emails. :D.

sepulchritude said...

Too true. It's such a contrast compared to what Indian undergrads, for instance, have to go through in order to scrounge up morsels of information about each department, group and professor. If only they'd give us a paid vacation of sorts to visit all these campus recruitment weekends...

Sakshi said...

While we too had such events, we were never under pressure to sell. It was one of the things I liked doing. You could honestly talk with future graduates and let them know what was good/bad about the department. The department also counted on us for feedback. And it was free food. What else would a Grad student want?

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

a a,
erm, at 3 am? the checking boring email worked, it put me to sleep right away! (After ranting ;) )

can we call you something else? thats a very long name. how about boyzone?

yeah, i know what you mean, us internationals have it so different.

i enjoyed the interaction, giving feedback and ofcourse the free food. but i hated the charade. good that you guys didn't have to put one up.

Anonymous said...

Free food - often dinners at one of the classy restaurants in town that would be unaffrodable on a stipend ! Unfortunately, they abused it, but for a year or two we even had free booze for much of the weekend!! So obviously, I dont remember much else from the recruitment week :)

(not much pressure, but we were told to try to 'convince' certain prospective students).

The_Girl_From_Ipanema said...

hi palscape!

hehe. i can imagine..the weekend ends up a blur, eh? yeah, we got lots of the free booze (later curtailed) and fancy eating places too.