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What happens to candidates when their advisers leave? (Humanities)

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Hi all, I'm hoping you can shed some light onto a situation that I'm sure happens, but I've never seen or experienced until now.


There is a fairly well-substantiated rumor that my adviser will be leaving the university for another academic job.  I am a PhD candidate in the humanities, past exams with my prospectus defended, but with 1-2 years left of research and writing.  My adviser has the most graduate students of any professor in the program, but most aren't advanced to candidacy yet.  All in all, my experience at this university has been very poor.  My adviser is really the saving grace of the whole endeavor, and I chose this program specifically because of her.  I worked for her as a TA and have a fellowship for next year, so I'm no longer financially dependent on the program for my funding.


Do advanced students ever follow their advisers?  There is no possible substitute adviser in the department.  Two other profs work in my area, but one is on intermittent medical leave for ongoing health problems and the other is a new, totally overwhelmed professor who is unlikely to survive 3-year-review.  The university is on a hiring freeze so they'll bring in a lecturer first, not a new TT.  I also have no real desire to keep an affiliation with the university once the prof holding up their program leaves, but I know I might be stuck there since I don't want to start over.  I have no idea what happens to students who are fairly advanced in their program but not going to finish before the adviser leaves.  Adviser is currently abroad and out of contact, so I'm interested in what's happened to others so I know what I might hear from her when she returns in a few weeks.

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I'm not in the humanities but, I can offer some insight since I'm personally in a similar situation. This may be a bit jumbled so feel free to send me a PM if you have additional questions.


My advisor started a new job in the fall and my scheduled graduation date is December 2013 as of right now. None of his current students chose to follow him. Actually, he never even really presented it as an option since, to get funding, we'd have to be admitted as grad students to his new department and that's unlikely since we didn't do our coursework or exams there. Only two of his students hadn't advanced to candidacy and both now have since he left with him as their advisor. They are both going to be taking on a co-chair that will work with them through the completion of the dissertation and, in one of those cases, my advisor is going to just become a committee member. For the 4 of us that had already advanced to candidacy, we had all either collected our data or were in the process of doing so when he announced his decision to leave (it was March 2012 when he told us). So, he's staying on as our advisor and we have a university-imposed deadline of December 2013 to defend and file our dissertations. None of us should have any problem meeting this deadline. Our university hasn't hired anyone to replace him or the other faculty member we lost last year, so there's been a scramble among students that weren't yet through their exams to devise new committees. And, even of those that did their exams this year, there will be some sort of scramble to find new advisors and flesh out committees since many of us lost two committee members due to the two departures. 


So, none of us followed him. Most of us haven't taken on a substitute advisor. I'm not planning on doing so, though I may take on an additional committee member and will likely rely more on some of my current committee members for the day-to-day stuff. But, we're also all really used to having limited time with our advisor because he used to have a lot of students and then he started taking on more administrative roles within our department, which meant it was harder to meet with him about stuff. That hasn't changed, though it's maybe gotten a bit trickier. 


I hope this helps. Like I said before, feel free to ask me any questions via PM or on here. I'll try to share what I know.

Edited by msafiri
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I've definitely heard of students following their advisers, especially in the sciences, but I've not heard of an instance in the humanities where a student who was 1-2 years from finishing the dissertation, totally done with coursework from their original program and through exams with a whole dissertation committee declared, made a move and received a degree from the new institution.  Does this happen?

Edited by fossilchick
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This is a black box situation where only you can talk to your adviser about this.  But I can throw out some scenarios based on stories I've heard.


Unless you wish to take candidacy exams all over again, you will have to keep your current affiliation.  As long as you don't have to teach or do any work to maintain your funding at your current university and are taking dissertation hours, you do not have to physically stay where you are.  You can move to wherever your adviser has her new job in order to take in personal contact (but then you'll have to deal with your committee members to some extent, depending on their particular roles in shaping your dissertation).


To be affiliated with the new university, you and your adviser would need to have a conversation.  Did she negotiate to bring along any of her graduate students?  If so, how would they be part of the program (usually applying to the department as part of formality) and be funded?  And for how long?  It may be possible that the new department/university told her that she could not bring her graduate students and she have to make a choice.  And she may be choosing not to take any graduate students.  Usually advisers will bring along those who are very early in their graduate work, take the "best" one if s/he could only bring one, or not at all.


There are just too many variables and a conversation can be the only way you will get a straight answer.  Try to be patient and she will get back to you as soon as she able to.

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