The process of picking an advisor begins with what we jokingly call sped dating. Actually, we don’t pick an advisor so much as we limit the possibilities from among the many. And I guess it technically begins long before the speed dating, as we spend the early days on the rez in a casual frenzy pumping fellow students for information on the advisors we might be considering.
It’s an information exchange worthy of Cold War espionage. You need quality intel, so you need to trust your source. You need to branch out of familiar sources and hunt down those you might only know casually. Who did you have last semester? How did that go? I had So-and-so. Yeah, it was good, it went like this… Then you catch a glimpse of conversation nearby, you shift your attention, listening for an in to crash the conversation yourself. You reevaluate unfamiliar and contrary sources I don’t know that I trust this person’s opinion, but maybe they’ll have a contrary view that will help round out the picture, or maybe even add something I hadn’t considered.
So many ways to triangulate the intel.
Next, you need to gather material first hand. You visit faculty at assigned meeting places. You toss out where you are and what you’re hoping to work on. They counter with their working methods, strengths, possible suggestions. Like a mating ritual, a flourish of color and a flash of feather, a call and response. Five minutes, ten tops, get a feel for the situation, trust your gut, move on to the next one, do the dance all over.
After having done the ritual twice before there are people you can automatically rule out, people you’ve interviewed before, people you simply need confirmation on one way or another. There’s usually one stand-out but it’s best not to put up hopes because therein lies madness. The process, you are constantly told, is arbitrary, yet you’ll end up with the person you need. No one believes this, even if it’s true. It makes no sense. Why bother to interview and select people only to have the final decision be so arbitrary? You’ll end up with one of your choices, but if you truly end up with the person you need would that still be true if you listed those people you truly did not want? Would the fates make the necessary corrections? Would an intervention take place?
Dating over everyone reconnects their conversation, moving and thinking forward. Who did you interview? Who are you thinking about? Who would be your first choice? Our choices are collected by lunch, decisions made and discussed by the faculty by dinner, and we learn sometime later in the evening. Then will come the official greeting, a proper first date, a course plotted, and an agreement for a future date. Is this any way to become a writer?