Take a couple of classes outside the department, or at another school through the consortium.
The consortium can be sort of a hassle to navigate, so talk to Rati about it early. Plenty of people do it, but it takes some time. But there are a lot of great professors at the Graduate Center! While you’re still working out what your possible focus is going to be for your dissertation (and there’s a good chance this will change, but that’s another issue), “shop around” for other professors you might want to work with outside of sociology. Of course don’t forget to make and maintain relationships within the department, but going beyond the discipline you’re familiar with can really add depth to your thinking and work.
Who are you going to work with?
You don’t have to know this right away, but some time in your second or third year it’s good to start thinking about potential orals and/or dissertation committee members. Be strategic about this. Having a balanced committee is important. Have members with different strengths: theory, methods, regimented, mellow, hands on, hands off… Know what you want from your committee members and have your committee reflect that. The most important thing is that you get along well and respect each other’s work, even if your work is in different areas. Who will give you the feedback, criticism, and support?
Submit to them and present at them. Organize one. Be aware – going to conferences is expensive. If they’re in NYC, that’s great, but the membership dues and registration fees can be very expensive (often $200+). So consider which ones make the most sense for you. Don’t just go to ESS because it’s “easy” and a good starter conference. Ask others about their favorite conferences and why. I like AAG (geography), CSA (cultural studies), and Allied Media. There are also a lot of smaller conferences organized by departments or graduate students that often don’t have fees, or at least very minimal ones. ALWAYS apply for the $300 in travel money as soon as they start accepting the forms (usually early Feb for spring and Sept for fall… I think). Google “graduate center conference support” to find the form, it’s the only way I ever can. Or Rati will usually send it around.
But organize a conference! Since you’re not quite at the orals stage yet, and not at the proposal stage, you probably have some time to do something else. You can apply for money (up to $700) through the DSC. There are small $95 start up grants for doing events like a master class, talk, film screening, etc, and development/cultural events grants for larger events or projects. I’ve done large grants more than once, and they’re usually quick with decisions and easy to work with. (That’s another thing – get to know the DSC folks!) Either work through a student group or the department or on your own with a couple of other students. If you need more than $700, ask for co-sponsorships from departments (which take much longer to reimburse, be aware) and student groups (which don’t have a lot of money, be aware). And know this! You have to front all of the expenses and then get reimbursed through the DSC. They are VERY quick with disbursements (usually a week), but just keep it in mind if you’re taking this one with just a couple of other people.
Doctoral Student Research Grants
Apply for this! It’s generally up to about $1400 and is a great way to go to a far away conference, do some preliminary research on a topic you might consider for your dissertation, or just do a small stand-alone project. You can apply every other year, so apply early! The great part is that you’re given a check, so you don’t have to front the cash; you just provide receipts after the trip/project.
Make an effort to hang out and keep in touch. These are your colleagues you’ve taken classes with and gone to conferences with and worked on papers with and studied for exams with. It get harder to get together after you’ve started going in different directions, but make an effort. They’re a lot of your support and inspiration.
Go out for drinks with professors.
Self-explanatory. If a professor is going out after class and invites everyone, go. Also, propose going out after class some time. It’s where the best conversations happen. Usually at O’Reilly’s, but there are a lot of bars in the area (with cheaper drinks).
That’s all I can think of for now. Hope it’s helpful! – erin (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Last updated 7/2/13)