Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Following My Footsteps? Not a Chance [update]

In the afterglow of the APSA and with a dissertation proposal defense this morning, I started thinking about my grad students past and present, and the thought that keeps coming to mind--how little their research and orientation overlaps with mine! This is not a bad thing: I am definitely not producing clones of myself.

My first student came the closest and the most recent one is most distant: let me take a jog through my PhD students (only those whose dissertation committees I chair).

  1. Sam S.: Ended up studying the impact of the environment upon ethnic conflict--so his dependent variable is the same, but I have never spent much time applying green-itude to my own work.
  2. Brent S.: He sought to understand how identity affects foreign policy in the Middle East. I did once write a piece on ID and FP in the Middle East, but it was the conclusion to an edited volume. What I know about most ME countries is not much (a recurring theme).
  3. Jonathan P: He actually chose my exact research topic--before he met me. And spent his dissertation trying to prove me wrong.
  4. Suranjan W: Scapegoatability--why there is spatial variation in the targeting of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Yet another country of which I have little knowledge.
  5. Amy C: Why do communities vary in their support for terrorist groups? Quebec, Northern Ireland, and Corsica. I live in Quebec--hence my expertise.
  6. Sarah-Myriam MB: When will peacekeepers be successful, using Sierra Leone and Liberia as her cases. She did cross the border into Somalia--so I guess we share common research interests.
  7. Ora S: Why the choice of strategy (material vs. non-material) affects the destinies of militias? Focusing on those fighting Israel. Her touching on the international support side does mean she gets to cite me, but that is about as close as it gets.
  8. Aisha A: Explaining the success and failure of Islamic parties in failed states.
What do they all have in common? I don't know. Why do students choose me despite my lack of research in their area? Maybe they are modeling after me, since my adviser did write one piece on ethnic conflict but is almost entirely an International Political Economy guy with an eclectic theoretical viewpoint.

At Texas Tech, I only picked up one student, partly because few students studied IR there and mostly because I had higher standards than my other colleagues. Does having more grad students than most of my colleagues here at McGill mean I have lower standards? Hmmm. Or it might just be the result of a series of independent decisions that they made?

Of course, the benefit to all of this is that I get to learn a lot about places and dynamics beyond my usual comfort zone (the couch, How I Met Your Mother, Star Wars parodies, Bejeweled and Pokerstars). And, thus far, each of those who have finished have found long-term employment.

Update: I knew I jinxed myself. I write a post on ph.d. students and the same day I add another to the mix. Sigh.

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