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PhD student hanging out with MA students?


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Hi everyone,

I am doing my PhD at a university that has a rather small PhD student population overall. My department itself has less than 10 PhD students, most of whom are not in my subfield (so we take mostly different courses, attend different talks because of our divergent interests, etc). And we are also outnumbered by a relatively larger MA program (most of whom do not end up writing theses, but doing an internship option which allows them to get internships in the government).

As a result, there are very very few opportunities for me to socialize with PhD students in my field (and the same goes for socializing with PhD students in other fields -- since there are very few inter-departmental events, etc.). I've often had to hang out with MA students. But lately, I've been feeling that I'm kinda "above" that crowd. There's been a lot of drama among the MA students, and I have had strained relations with a few of them myself. I feel that they are, in general, rather immature and childish, and that we really don't get along all too well. Most of them are still in that childish / undergradish partying/gossiping/badmouthing phase (actually, one of the PhD students still is, too), which really is not my kinda scene (I prefer hanging out with friends and having discussions and debates over beer, etc).

Do you hang out with MA students in your program? Should I avoid them in general? Do you feel like a PhD student who hangs out with MA students in general, gives the wrong impression to faculty, etc.? I mean, I don't mind hanging out with serious MA students. There are 2 MA students who have told me they don't like hanging out with their MA peers because they're immature, and prefer hanging out with the more mature/serious PhD crowd. What are your thoughts on hanging out with MA students? Also, what are your thoughts on getting involved in the department's graduate student association? Is that something that MA students usually do and PhD students don't? I'm kinda involved in that, but I'm wondering if I should withdraw from it? Do you think PhD students should distance themselves from MA students, and act more formal with them?

I'm aware that it varies by the kind of university one is attending, the nature of the program and the size of the department, etc. My department is fairly small (not counting the undergrads, of course) compared to other departments. My university is in a big city, located downtown, so yes, there are opportunities for socializing outside the university, but I'm interested in socializing with the university crowd.

Anyhow, your thoughts are appreciated.

Edited by TheSquirrel
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Hi everyone, I am doing my PhD at a university that has a rather small PhD student population overall. My department itself has less than 10 PhD students, most of whom are not in my subfield (so

Superior in what way? Superior in rank? Absolutely. If MA and PhD were one and the same, they wouldn't be called different things. There's a reason why, in my field at least, people are rarely if ever

Blanket generalizations never serve anyone well. They certainly are not helping you demonstrate that you're not elitist. If you can't be friends with people and not get dragged into their drama, then

My answer may not be all that helpful because my program is structured differently than yours. People do the MA then typically continue on to the PhD. That said, I'm a PhD student that hangs out with MA students and was an MA student that hung out mostly with PhD students. When I started my PhD, I made three friends really quickly, one of whom was a MA student. Now we're both PhD students but that hasn't affected our relationship or how often we hang out or anything like that.

I don't really understand why you think faculty would think less of you for befriending or hanging out with MA students. Obviously, they are deemed academically qualified or they wouldn't have been admitted. If you tried, you could probably find common interests with at least some of them.

Also, why would you want to distance yourself from MA students and act more formally with them? Do you think that somehow being friends with a MA student will taint you academically or diminish your career?

If you want to get involved in the grad association, you should. I'm not involved in ours because it's run by a three-headed monster that doesn't care what anyone else thinks. But, it's good to get involved in governance/leadership if you can, since having an elected position is something you can put under "Service" on your CV. In our department, the grad student association is run by PhD students, primarily because they have a longer institutional memory.

I think you're too concerned with what other people might think. Be friends with the people that it makes sense for you to be friends with, whether that's MA students, PhD students, or mostly people outside of your department.

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Hi rising_star,

Well, I don't have a problem befriending MA students per se. I'm good friends with two MA students who are in the thesis option and are very serious and intend to apply to PhD programs. My beef is with MA students in general, and how immature many (if not most) of them are/can be. I feel that being too involved with them, yes, diminishes my standing, because it drags me into fights/drama that I think serious PhD students would avoid.

I remember how, during my undergrad years, my TAs (all PhD students) were very serious and based on what I saw at my department back then, never really hung out with MA students, and actually mostly kept to themselves when at school. To me, that's what PhD students are "typically" like, and what I saw at my current university is entirely different than what I had expected to see, and somehow, it feels strange / not right. I don't know if my TAs were different outside the school environment -- could be. My question was about both hanging out with MA students while at the department as well as socializing with them outside the academic environment.

My strained relations with a few MA students has left me wondering if it was because I stooped to their level of immaturity in hanging out with them? I don't know, just thinking out loud. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the elitist kind -- if I had been, I wouldn't have befriended them to begin with. But some of my experiences with some MA students has left me wondering if it's better off being disliked for not being social enough, than being disrespected and laughed at and badmouthed, after being too social?

I don't know -- I just wanted to hear other peoples' views about this, and their experiences with it.

Edited by TheSquirrel
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I guess this thread really links up with my post in one of the other threads, about profs looking at PhD students as soon-to-be-colleagues, whereas MA students are typically viewed as, just out of undergrad, or, at best, as aspiring PhD students. My profs talk to me differently than the way they talk to MA students. It's quite obvious that they consider us as almost their equals, whereas MA students are mostly seen as, well, students.

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I realize that appearances are important in academia (or any other work environment), but honestly, you seem way too preoccupied with them. Why in the world would faculty look down on your for socializing with master's students? What's wrong with being in the grad student association?

I'm also bewildered at what you're describing - at my undergrad university, it was pretty common for undergrad, master's, and PhD students (and young alums) to be part of the same organizations and even socialize together. Obviously professional life has hierarchies, but why should that hierarchy carry over into social life? Be friends with people who have common interests with you and modes of interaction that you can deal with. People whose company you enjoy. Even if they turn out to be *gasp* undergrads. I had good friends who were seven or eight years older than me when I was an undergrad (I eventually married one), and now that I'm a bit older, I still have good friends that are seven or eight years older, and also friends that are six or seven years younger. If you don't like the way that the master's students in your department interact, don't hang out with them, but realize that it's not about their being master's students, and don't drop them just because you think you'll look bad.

One way to meet people outside your department is to join a student group. Maybe you'd be interested in College Democrats/Republicans (or the Canadian equivalents, since it looks like you're in Canada), or a club sport, or a community service club, or a university-wide grad student union. Or anything else that the university has.

I am an MS student, by the way, applying for PhD programs this fall. A lot of people on here are master's students.

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To be honest, I think it's kind of silly to throw all the MA students under a single label. Who cares whether they are MA or PhD or no degree, find people who you get along with, make friends, and don't worry about what it looks like to others. I sincerely doubt anyone is noticing or caring too much about who you are hanging out with, unless you are hanging out with drug dealers or something.

Despite you claiming not to be elitist, these posts make you sound like you are, just based on your "Me vs Them" description of the situation. The fact is, they're students just like you, and they're probably only a few years younger than you. If certain behavior bothers you, avoid those students. But to lump all the MA students together seems kind of silly.

Edited by ktel
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TheSquirrel,

I see no need for you to feel as though you are somehow superior to MA students just because you are a doctoral student. Your post comes off a bit condescending with assumption that MA students are somehow not as serious about their studies in comparison to doctoral students. In my own experience as a MA student last year, I did notice this ill-informed judgment made by doctoral students, and their refusal to associate themselves with MA students really made the department a hostile environment at times. As someone who will begin a doctoral degree, I definitely will never make it a point to separate myself from people just because I am seeking a higher degree, especially since I have been on the other side.

Creating this artificial divide between you and and other members of the department is absolutely unnecessary...you miss out on meeting interesting people if you take that route.

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Well, for those who accused me of elitism even though I clearly pointed out I was not talking about all MA students:

I have a friend who was, until 2 months ago, an undergrad student at my university. He's 30 and just finished his undergrad and is starting his MA at another university in the fall. I don't think I have any elitist views toward him, or that I think of myself as smarter than him. I used to hang out with a small group of students from my department (none of whom are PhDs, btw), two of whom were undergrads (including that guy who just finished his undergrad), and we played board games once a week during the summer, and every now and then during the fall/spring semesters.

It's not like I'm gonna stop being friends with my undergrad and MA friends. My question was really about whether or not I should continue hanging out with the broader MA crowd because experience has shown that *most* of them happen to be busying themselves with gossipping and badmouthing more than with writing those papers they ought to be writing. Those who are busy being grad students are not around campus often enough, and, by the looks of it, prefer not to socialize with *that* MA crowd either.

Edited by TheSquirrel
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I see no need for you to feel as though you are somehow superior to MA students just because you are a doctoral student.

Superior in what way? Superior in rank? Absolutely. If MA and PhD were one and the same, they wouldn't be called different things. There's a reason why, in my field at least, people are rarely if ever accepted into PhD programs straight from BA. In science fields that may be the case, but in my field, where you're supposed to have done tons of reading, yes, there is a huge difference between MA and PhD. And, for that matter, between a PhD student and a PhD candidate. If you think hierarchies don't exist in academia, you're mistaken.

And yes, there is a reason that profs interact with undergrads one way, with MA students another way, and wih PhD students/candidates yet another way. Whether you like it or not, it all changes, depending on where you are in the field. So I've been wondering if part of the disrespect dished out by some MA students has to do with the fact that they saw me as too desperate for socialization.

I really admire MA students who want to hang out with PhD students, and I view them as equals. Other MA students who are engaged in petty fights and gossipping? Not so much. Call it condescending, it doesn't change the fact that those MA students shouldn't have chosen academia anyway. Actually, most of them have not, because they just view grad school as a stepping stone to a government job (the ones who do the internship option in my program). Your MA crowd might be different than mine -- I'm wondering if anyone whose program has a similar internship option for students not interested in continuing further in academia, has any input on this?

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Hi rising_star,

Well, I don't have a problem befriending MA students per se. I'm good friends with two MA students who are in the thesis option and are very serious and intend to apply to PhD programs. My beef is with MA students in general, and how immature many (if not most) of them are/can be. I feel that being too involved with them, yes, diminishes my standing, because it drags me into fights/drama that I think serious PhD students would avoid.

Blanket generalizations never serve anyone well. They certainly are not helping you demonstrate that you're not elitist. If you can't be friends with people and not get dragged into their drama, then that's a personal issue. No need to project that onto your MA student colleagues.

I guess this thread really links up with my post in one of the other threads, about profs looking at PhD students as soon-to-be-colleagues, whereas MA students are typically viewed as, just out of undergrad, or, at best, as aspiring PhD students. My profs talk to me differently than the way they talk to MA students. It's quite obvious that they consider us as almost their equals, whereas MA students are mostly seen as, well, students.

Honestly, I wonder how you know this. Are you sitting in meetings between MA students and their advisors?

To be honest, I think it's kind of silly to throw all the MA students under a single label. Who cares whether they are MA or PhD or no degree, find people who you get along with, make friends, and don't worry about what it looks like to others. I sincerely doubt anyone is noticing or caring too much about who you are hanging out with, unless you are hanging out with drug dealers or something.

Despite you claiming not to be elitist, these posts make you sound like you are, just based on your "Me vs Them" description of the situation. The fact is, they're students just like you, and they're probably only a few years younger than you. If certain behavior bothers you, avoid those students. But to lump all the MA students together seems kind of silly.

Agreed. Honestly, as a PhD student, I'm probably younger than you. But that doesn't mean you should automatically label me as immature and wanting to get drunk all the time and drag you into drama. Individuals are different. Lumping all the MA students together is silly, just as it is silly to lump all the PhD students or faculty into one category.

Pick your friends based on common interests, not based on where they are in a degree program.

Well, for those who accused me of elitism even though I clearly pointed out I was not talking about all MA students:

I have a friend who was, until 2 months ago, an undergrad student at my university. He's 30 and just finished his undergrad and is starting his MA at another university in the fall. I don't think I have any elitist views toward him, or that I think of myself as smarter than him. I used to hang out with a small group of students from my department (none of whom are PhDs, btw), two of whom were undergrads (including that guy who just finished his undergrad), and we played board games once a week during the summer, and every now and then during the fall/spring semesters.

This statement is just like saying "I'm not racist! I have a black friend!" That is, it only serves to further the argument of those accusing you of being elitist. You set yourself up for that through your blanket generalizations.

It's not like I'm gonna stop being friends with my undergrad and MA friends. My question was really about whether or not I should continue hanging out with the broader MA crowd because experience has shown that *most* of them happen to be busying themselves with gossipping and badmouthing more than with writing those papers they ought to be writing. Those who are busy being grad students are not around campus often enough, and, by the looks of it, prefer not to socialize with *that* MA crowd either.

Honestly, I can hang out, go out for dinner/drinks, gossip (or just catch up with what's going on), and come home and write my papers and grant applications. You're too quick to judge, TheSquirrel. I get the sense that you made relatively quick judgments about the MA students in your department, without actually getting to know them as individuals.

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Rising_star,

And that's the sad reality of academia -- people who think they can do all that (gossip, badmouth, etc.) and then come home and write papers, and then get a professorship, and continue doing all that (gossipping, badmouthing). That's exactly why, sadly, academia is such a place of backstabbing and badmouthing, rather than collaboration.

As for your comparison with racists -- I frankly knew that was coming, but decided to write it anyhow. I have never seen a racist who *actually* has a black *friend*. A black person they may have talked to once or twice? Maybe. But that hardly makes people friends. So I think you're just as guilty of jumping to conclusions about my alleged elitism as I allegedly am of jumping to conclusions about MA students.

How do I know that profs view MA students differently than they view PhD students? Because I've been with them in the same room, and have seen them interact, and have also talked about MA students with my prof (I recently asked my prof if he had a RA opportunity for my friend who is a MA student), and he told me that, frankly, he doesn't want to hire a MA student, even though they get paid much less compared to PhD students. That they (the ones at my department, that is) are mostly not efficient time-wise, and not as reliable when they are needed ASAP. Again, that might be different at other universities, given that my university has a non-thesis MA option (internship), which is what most MA students do.

I've gone out for drinks many times with said MA students. I know them well enough. I'm not close friends, obviously. But I think I know what they're all about, judging by their actions. Having some of them around is just like having a walking-talking tape recorder that records everything you say about anything, and then uses it against you when you "stray" from their childish agendas. That's not exactly in tune with my definition of maturity. Maybe it is in tune with your and others' definitions of maturity.

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At any rate, if anyone here whose program/department has an internship option for MA students would care to comment about his/her relations with MA students, I'd highly appreciate it.

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As for your comparison with racists -- I frankly knew that was coming, but decided to write it anyhow. I have never seen a racist who *actually* has a black *friend*. A black person they may have talked to once or twice? Maybe. But that hardly makes people friends. So I think you're just as guilty of jumping to conclusions about my alleged elitism as I allegedly am of jumping to conclusions about MA students.

Maybe I should just quote myself. I wrote, "This statement is just like saying "I'm not racist! I have a black friend!" That is, it only serves to further the argument of those accusing you of being elitist. You set yourself up for that through your blanket generalizations." That is NOT the same thing as saying that you are elitist. I said that you are furthering the arguments of those that say you are elitist when you write that comment. So, I'm not sure why you're accusing me of jumping to conclusions. It seems to me like perhaps you should re-read what I posted.

How do I know that profs view MA students differently than they view PhD students? Because I've been with them in the same room, and have seen them interact, and have also talked about MA students with my prof (I recently asked my prof if he had a RA opportunity for my friend who is a MA student), and he told me that, frankly, he doesn't want to hire a MA student, even though they get paid much less compared to PhD students. That they (the ones at my department, that is) are mostly not efficient time-wise, and not as reliable when they are needed ASAP. Again, that might be different at other universities, given that my university has a non-thesis MA option (internship), which is what most MA students do.

So you're just as guilty of gossiping about the MA students as they are of gossiping about others?

If you have problems with how academia works, why are you in it? Personally, I enjoy shooting the shit with my colleagues over drinks as much as I enjoy writing a cool paper or doing research. If that lifestyle isn't for you, why are you pursuing it?

At any rate, you strike me as the obstinate sort who just wants confirmation of his/her decision not to interact with MA students beyond required classroom interactions. Do what you want. Do whatever makes you happy. If you want to isolate yourself, do that. If you want to hang out with people, do that. But, do what makes you happy and stop worrying so much about what other people are going to think!

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So you're just as guilty of gossiping about the MA students as they are of gossiping about others?

I did not say anything about MA students to the prof. He brought up the topic after I asked if he had money for a friend of mine, who was short for money, and wanted to do research with him. He talked about MA students, and I just listened, and told him that I'd tell my friend that he didn't have any research opportunity right now. That's all. You strike me as someone who jumps to conclusions very quickly, based on unsubstantiated assumptions.

If you have problems with how academia works, why are you in it?

I'm interested in research and teaching, something that seems to be at the very bottom of many academics' list of priorities, by the looks of it.

Personally, I enjoy shooting the shit with my colleagues over drinks as much as I enjoy writing a cool paper or doing research. If that lifestyle isn't for you, why are you pursuing it?

I hang out with colleagues and we whine about some things too -- about the way some things are, and not about people. It's all good and fun, until a MA student decides to use anything that comes out of your mouth against you.

At any rate, you strike me as the obstinate sort who just wants confirmation of his/her decision not to interact with MA students beyond required classroom interactions. Do what you want. Do whatever makes you happy. If you want to isolate yourself, do that. If you want to hang out with people, do that. But, do what makes you happy and stop worrying so much about what other people are going to think!

Nope, I don't want confirmation of my decision. In fact, I have not made any decision at all. I was just asking for input from PhD students, based on their experiences. It seems some people jumped the gun and took my post as elitist, and took the entire thread in another direction. I don't see why people would post a reply when they don't have anything to contribute to the discussion/question at hand. Maybe they hadn't had their share of trolling or something. And actually, my question was directed at PhD students, not at MA students. At any rate, thanks for your input.

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Anyone who badmouths fellow students to a professor doesn't belong in a doctoral program...how very unprofessional. Its the pot calling the kettle black.

Can you show where I said that I said anything about fellow students to a prof? Let alone badmouthing them?

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Sounds like the real problem is that you haven't found your niche and may be lonely. How are the other PhD students in your program? Do you get along?

I recommend being cordial to everyone. It tends to make the program a better experience and you'll have more support from your fellow students as a result. If you feel like these individuals bring out the worst in you, then yes I would stop socializing with them as you don't find their company enjoyable. If you need to work with them either in class or on a research team, it is best not to engage them in the behavior that you feel is immature and childish. Keep on redirecting it back to the task on hand. This tends to work well for everyone you may encounter-- students, professors, staff, etc. I know it has been stated a couple times but unprofessionalism and immaturity don't magically disappear as you age. All groups of people have immature individuals. Your best bet is to learn how to cope with them effectively.

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phd or m.a or b.a or b.s is only your academic title, it has nothing to do with how you are as a person or a friend... why should who you befriend has ANYTHING to do with their title whatsoever is beyond me... I'm a undergrad going into a phd program and I have friends who are my age, phd students, post docs, professors etc etc. and I'm fully ready to befriend whomever that I feel like I can have a good time with and I can trust, regardless of their academic interest or achievements... I mean... is a phd student more capable of carrying on a conversation? more fun? more loyal as a friend? this title of the thread just seem offensive to me to be honest. in addition, you guys do realize that a LOT of people that make decision to go PhD or Masters do not make that decision based on ability but rather, interest or other facets of life.

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Wow, you are an elitist.

You never miss an opportunity to badmouth people, do you? How does that indicate elitism? I wanted to see what other PhD students think about interacting with MA students, not what MA students think about interacting with MA or PhD students. If you don't like my question, don't take part in the thread, as simple as that. I think you're just trolling.

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phd or m.a or b.a or b.s is only your academic title, it has nothing to do with how you are as a person or a friend... why should who you befriend has ANYTHING to do with their title whatsoever is beyond me... I'm a undergrad going into a phd program and I have friends who are my age, phd students, post docs, professors etc etc. and I'm fully ready to befriend whomever that I feel like I can have a good time with and I can trust, regardless of their academic interest or achievements... I mean... is a phd student more capable of carrying on a conversation? more fun? more loyal as a friend? this title of the thread just seem offensive to me to be honest. in addition, you guys do realize that a LOT of people that make decision to go PhD or Masters do not make that decision based on ability but rather, interest or other facets of life.

I think the last bit of your post indicates that you missed the entire point of this thread. Who said anything about ability??

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How do I know that profs view MA students differently than they view PhD students? Because I've been with them in the same room, and have seen them interact, and have also talked about MA students with my prof (I recently asked my prof if he had a RA opportunity for my friend who is a MA student), and he told me that, frankly, he doesn't want to hire a MA student, even though they get paid much less compared to PhD students. That they (the ones at my department, that is) are mostly not efficient time-wise, and not as reliable when they are needed ASAP. Again, that might be different at other universities, given that my university has a non-thesis MA option (internship), which is what most MA students do.

You said that you have talked to professors about MA students in this paragraph....which I assume meant that this discussion with your professor was not one-sided. The way you talk about MA students on this thread and your disrespect towards posters here working on MAs only reaffirms my belief that you have been actively participating in badmouthing master students.

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You never miss an opportunity to badmouth people, do you? How does that indicate elitism? I wanted to see what other PhD students think about interacting with MA students, not what MA students think about interacting with MA or PhD students. If you don't like my question, don't take part in the thread, as simple as that. I think you're just trolling.

I'm not trolling, and I take offense to that accusation. An MA poster decided to give you advice...instead of just thanking them for input you felt the need to mention that this thread is only for doctoral students.

I am on your case because I find your attitude very disrespectful, and as someone who did do an MA, I take offense to your blanket generalization that master students are inferior or substandard. Shame on you for that generalization, and I will continue to call you an elitist.

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You said that you have talked to professors about MA students in this paragraph....which I assume meant that this discussion with your professor was not one-sided. The way you talk about MA students on this thread and your disrespect towards posters here working on MAs only reaffirms my belief that you have been actively participating in badmouthing master students.

Yes, I talked to my prof about my MA student friend, and his financial difficulties, when I asked him if he has any RAship for him. How does that indicate that I've gossipped or badmouthed any student? I believe you've just gone on a witch-hunt.

How did I talk about MA students in my thread? By indicating that not all MA students are like the ones i'm describing. That this could be a feature of my program, as most MA students in my department are in it for the internship option, etc. Yes, such vile things to say about MA students!

I think your reaction provides a textbook example of the type of MA student I was talking about.

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