18 June 2017
This is Bob. Bob is a stand in for all graduate advisors. I have started a wiki written to Bob.
Over my graduate school experience, particularly my PhD years, I have thought again and again about how I could have done better, what I wish people had told me. I have often tweeted how my experiences as poor, Southern, first generation, have impacted me. My teaching, my scholarship, and how I react to others especially graduate students, is all informed in many cases by how I wish I'd been treated, the help I wish I'd received.

As a teacher since 2001, first at the high school, then community college, avirtual school, then university level, I have more than a passing interest in the lives of my students and what impacts them in and out of the classroom. I believe that my background, both with the variety of my teaching, and growing up poor and the child of a single mother, informs me about the lives of many of my students and the challenges they face.

As a grad student I have found myself drawn not only to the issues of my students but the issues and challenges of graduate students. To that end, I've created several resources to try and help:
  • I noticed that many graduate students have little teaching experience, and in many cases are given little training. So I created a basic "How To" manual that covers everything from how to time your lessons, to planning units, to grades, to your teaching persona.
  • Last summer I started a wiki called "How to Grad School While Poor." The idea was, what were all the things I wished I'd know starting grad school about how to do it coming from a poor background. It turned out I was not the only one, and over the last year the wiki has grown, and I hope, provided a great resource to people. It still remains an open wiki, that all can contribute to, and I've started to think about ways we could maybe crowdfund to support graduate students.

If the "How to Grad School While Poor" wiki was about what I wish I'd known starting out as a graduate student many of these letters are what I wish my graduate advisors, administration, and professors, had known. In many cases these issues, or events were not mean-spirited and did not come from evil intent, or a hatred of students. I'd like to believe that the events in many of these letters and stories come from faculty having very different realities than their students.
These letters were inspired by the #followfirstgenerationacademics on Twitter (the thread is storified here: as of 11 June 2017
In the spirit that many faculty perhaps don't know all the challenges their students face I hope hearing stories of what impacts us will help them better serve us and those that come after.
One thing that came up again and again on the hashtag was that our first generation status impacted not only how we dealt with our students but our desire to specifically work with these students in our higher ed environments.

While this is technically a wiki, I've written them as letters to Bob because I think the format lends itself to what I want to do. While there is pain here, and hurt, there is also truth. While most of these are based on my experiences, I have also had people contact me with ideas for letters.
While this is not a true "wiki" I welcome ideas of things you'd like to see here, and as always, feel free to contact me about anything!


Karra Shimabukuro