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CuppaMatcha

Contacting Professionals for Thesis Advisory Committee

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I'm done writing my thesis proposal, and I'm working on filling out the RTAF for the graduate school. I've selected two faculty members for my thesis advisory committee but I need at least one more person to serve on my committee. I've found an archaeologist who worked at the site I'm interested in, but how do I go about contacting her to ask if she'll serve on my committee? Is name-dropping acceptable? Would it be best to include a CV/resume and a copy of my proposal, or would this be perceived as annoying fluff? What form of communication is preferred? Any and all information is appreciated! I constantly overthink things which is good for a thesis but not so good for explaining to people why I'd love to work with them and what I'm interested in, so I want to get these initial communications right!

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I think sending out an introductory email with some basic information about yourself is a good start.  Briefly explain your project and your interest in the site, and let them know who the other committee members are.  If they're interested they will probably want you to send along a CV and a copy of your proposal, but I wouldn't include those in your first email. It might also be worth asking your committee members and/or anyone else in your department if they know this archaeologist - they might be able to introduce you via email which would be better than contacting them out of the blue.  Best of luck!

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3 hours ago, CuppaMatcha said:

I'm done writing my thesis proposal, and I'm working on filling out the RTAF for the graduate school. I've selected two faculty members for my thesis advisory committee but I need at least one more person to serve on my committee. I've found an archaeologist who worked at the site I'm interested in, but how do I go about contacting her to ask if she'll serve on my committee? Is name-dropping acceptable? Would it be best to include a CV/resume and a copy of my proposal, or would this be perceived as annoying fluff? What form of communication is preferred? Any and all information is appreciated! I constantly overthink things which is good for a thesis but not so good for explaining to people why I'd love to work with them and what I'm interested in, so I want to get these initial communications right!

Before you cold-email anyone, I think it would be advisable to run the name past the people who are already on your committee to get their general okay to run with it. You don't want to have personality clashes on your committee, so make sure the person you add is someone your current committee members are happy with. Once you get their approval, either ask them to put you in touch with the person, or send a short email to ask for a meeting. The email can say something like "I work on X and Prof Y suggested that I reach out to you, as someone who [has expertise in blah]." I would only ask her to join your committee in person and not in an email. You then provide whatever information she asks for -- the proposal, your CV, old papers, etc. 

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Second everything fuzzy wrote. 

If this is a person that you would be able to chat with in the near future (either in person or via Skype) and time is not of the essence, then I wouldn't make the committee request via email. I would still hint at it in the email though, explaining your dissertation work and that you would like to talk with them further about it in person or via Skype or something. After you talk to them, if you still feel like you want them on your committee, then you can invite them to join. If you are asking in person or via Skype, I would suggest that you make the initial information, don't expect them to answer right away (as it could be a lot of work) and instead, tell them that you will send them more information in an email and await their reply. In the email with more information, you should talk to your advisor to find out what responsibilities a committee member has (do they need to attend annual committee meetings, your defense, etc. and does your school pay for these travel?) and let them know. Another good strategy is to check with the Committee Chair or your Advisor first, and then say that they can contact Committee Chair or Advisor for more details if they have questions.

In my case, I wanted to invite someone to my committee that was joining the faculty in another department at my school in a few weeks, but I wanted to have my committee meeting in 6 weeks. So, I cold-emailed someone to be on my committee and it worked out. I also intended to work with them on a side project. My initial email was to introduce myself, my interests, and say that I would like to meet with them when they started so that we can work on a project and whether they would like to be on my thesis committee as well (with the relevant info I wrote about above). I didn't know this person directly but we are collaborators-of-collaborators and there is significant overlap in our interests so it made sense to do this. I ran this idea by my advisor of course!

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