WDGSDAD? Final Installment

For reasons that will be explained near the close of my post, this will be my last installment of “What Do Graduate Students Do All Day?” and I will compose some reflections at its end.

7.45 I wake and hop into the shower. I am certainly one of those people who can do their best thinking at the most inconvenient times (just before I fall asleep, while driving, and so on) and this morning was no exception. I still can’t say with certainty whether or not I shampooed my hair once or twice as I was mentally preparing for today’s meeting and totally lost track.

9.00 Leave home.

9.20 Arrive at the English department. As I am about to start reading emails in a friend’s office, I notice my water bottle has leaked over my bag and have to rescue my possessions, including many of my dissertation notes.

9.40 Slightly less flustered than I was a few minutes previously, I meet with the Associate Director of the Writing Center.

10.20 We head over to share our resources and answer questions at a department faculty meeting. It was wonderful to hear about their graduate students and how they are currently supporting them as well as to consider new initiatives.

11.05 After the meeting, Kathleen and I debrief over coffee. This is also a rare opportunity to hear from an academic I highly respect about her career and her family. As I anticipate several babies joining me along the road to becoming a tenured professor, it matters so much to hear about other people’s experiences. I am grateful for my colleague, Sarah Moon, who was another inspiration for this blog with her incredibly powerful account of a usual day as a graduate student with a small child.

12.25 Stopping by the department office, I get the opportunity to catch up with some colleagues about life beyond our work.

1.10 Head home to enjoy some lunch and relax.

2.00 I spend around half hour working through both Writing Center and research-related emails.

5.30 I am back on my laptop for around forty minutes to contact the kind colleagues who will be covering our writing retreat tomorrow. My original plan for Saturday was to document how the Writing Center runs these events and how I am able to use them to write myself, including some information on what drafting a chapter might look and feel like. However, I will instead be travelling out of state tomorrow to visit my partner’s family as his grandfather is extremely sick. The boundless generosity of my colleagues in jumping to my aid means more than I can say.

Work for Writing Center: 3 hours 40 minutes

 Research time: 15 minutes (+ possible reading time this evening)

Total: 3 hours 55 minutes

I won’t really be able to illustrate my average working week, and won’t even attempt to by summing up these daily hours, because a more productive day today and tomorrow would have brought these numbers up considerably. For example, a usual retreat involves around 2 hours of work for the Writing Center and 6 hours for research time.


The weeks that I didn’t blog about can certainly look like this comic from Piled Higher and Deeper 

One number I also want to share, however, is my step count! I find it difficult to find the time and energy for exercising during the semester so I’m an avid walker. I’m pleased that my days on campus this week all averaged around 5000 steps as my average for October was closer to 4000 steps per day, according to my iPhone.

During our conversation today, Kathleen reflected on how women’s time, in particular, can be scrutinized and this is especially true of academics. Why would I or others blog like this if we didn’t anticipate a prurient interest?! However, this exercise was not designed to provoke guilt in either myself or others, although the former certainly happened. So many other ways exist of quantifying my week that might be more productive and certainly the qualitative aspects matter even more. I may try this again in the future, despite how very exposing it felt to make this information public. We could all benefit from appreciating the many and diverse ways of living an academic life, and I hope my example leads to others with very different life challenges following suit.

Thank you for watching The Eleanor Show. Good afternoon, good evening, and good night!



When I woke up this morning, I had to check because I thought I had only dreamt that the Cubs won the World Series. But it was true and 108 years of hurt are over. Good morning, Chicago: how’s your hangover? Apparently, UConn’s very own Jonathan the Husky got caught up in the celebrations. I had somewhat of a “meeting hangover” this morning but luckily I was able to take some time for myself today.

9.25 Arrive at the English department to open our Writing Center in that building for the day. I read and respond to emails, and do some preparation for a meeting tomorrow.

10.00 My first tutoring appointment hasn’t been booked so I use the time to continue skimming Coleridge’s letters. It’s hard to know whether to count this as Writing Center or research time as I am “on the clock” and, if I was paid hourly like most of our tutors instead of via my stipend, I would still be paid for unbooked appointments. I have to always be prepared for walk ins and to (wo)man the receptionist desk, after all.

11.00 My next appointment is booked, however, so I work with a student on a critical reflection essay: it’s about a play she saw about abusive relationships so I spend much of my time prompting her to analyze her reactions in more depth. After a forty-five minute appointment, I take the last section of the hour block to write up a “tutor note,” a summary of the session that is sent to the writer and—if they wish—their instructor.

12.00 We’re finally getting to a quieter time in the semester so again I don’t have an appointment. I was fully booked until some last minute cancellations so I’m partly relieved and partly disappointed. My shift last week was one of the best ever so I’ve been feeling more energized about my tutoring hours. I finally finish my current volume of Coleridge’s letters as he returns from a trip to Malta.

12.15 I start working on an outline of major ideas for the dissertation chapter I want to start drafting this weekend. Using pen and paper, I am able to materialize much of what has been circulating in my head for weeks.

1.00 I have an (re-scheduled) individual consultation with a seminar participant, including a detailed review of his article’s introduction.

1.40 I walk to the Student Union to grab lunch (my treat after packing sandwiches or leftovers so far this week!) and bump into a former student. He tells me he’s been accepted to the study abroad program for which I wrote him a recommendation letter, which is very exciting.

2.00 My afternoon of freedom begins. As I’m coming to campus for all of Saturday, I need some taste of a weekend! I run errands, including getting my car’s oil changed and picking up dry cleaning. I also stop by a friend’s house for tea and a catch up.

5.50 Back home, I transform into a domestic goddess: putting away laundry, making dinner, and doing dishes.


I forgot to take a photo until making dinner so you all get to check out my quick risotto

7.45 Start this blog. I haven’t decided whether or not to read for some of this evening, but more likely I will take a breather so I have energy for writing after my meetings tomorrow morning.

Work for Writing Center: 2 hours 15 minutes (+ 2 potential hours counted below)

Research time: 2 hours

Total: 4 hours 15 minutes

I know I have been lucky enough to gather some readers for this blog so please let me know if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or reflections. As I look toward the end of my seven-day exercise in transparency, I know what I am learning, but what about you? How does this compare to your experiences or understandings of graduate school?


Hump Day.

7.00 In shock at quite how dark it is this morning and, for once, I look forward to the clocks going back.

7.30 An email from a seminar participant prompts some revision of my plan for today’s session.

7.40 I find out that I know as much about Jane Austen as my mother.

8.15 Head to campus. I read the news on the shuttle bus from the parking lot.

8.40 Arrive at the English department, stop by my office, and then head to the classroom to set up.

9.00 The third session of the current Graduate Seminar in Academic Writing begins. Today was very focused on writer activities so I avoided hovering over them too much by triaging emails, reviewing a Writing Center conference’s call for papers, and reading a few work-related articles online. I still hovered (helpfully?) a lot.

11.10 Individual consultation with a seminar participant.

11.40 Send some emails and then walk over to the library.

12.00 I eat lunch during the Writing Center leadership team’s weekly staff meeting.

1.10 Again, I check emails.

1.15 In what will prove my only real break during this work day, I decide to venture out into the sunshine and grab a smoothie. I bump into a friend which makes this even more of a valuable time for self-care.


A rare day of November sunshine, viewed from a conference room in the library

1.40 Back in my office, I grab the opportunity to look at more of Coleridge’s letters. He complains about swellings of the testicles repeatedly but also thrills at the birth of his daughter.

2.00 My office hours begin: I meet with two students from the seminar and conduct an intake meeting over the phone.

4.00 I head up to the Humanities Institute to hear a colleague’s presentation on iconoclasm in Renaissance literature. As always, George impresses with his clarity.

5.25 Having chatted with George and a professor about metaphor and Edmund Spenser, I walk back to my car.

5.45 I make it home and relax for the evening. Plans included some excellent chicken and a bonfire.

Work for the Writing Center: 6 hours 45 minutes

Research time: 1 hour 45 minutes

Total: 8 hours 30 minutes

Let me end with a moment of reflection. It is easy to become swept up in the minutiae of another busy day, but this is not how we count our days. Today, and indeed the last few days, have brought far more significant challenges and joys than I can recount by telling you about the details of my labor. The sun shone blindingly today, and it is what blinds us with tears of joy and grief that stays with us. I know I’m lucky to do what I love and be with who I love. I feel that more intensely than ever as I come to the end of a day that will never come back again.

WDGSDAD? Day Three

Apparently, I spoke too soon by blogging so early last night. I spent around 20 minutes reading work-related blogs after I posted and then, after some recuperation, I did some more work related to my professional goals, as detailed below.

8.15 Receive suggestions from a colleague on the abstract I drafted, which I then revise and submit.

8.45 Submit a packet for a creative writing prize at my institution and compile some initial ideas for a poetry reading I’ll be doing on Monday.

9.05 Retire for the evening for the second time.

This brings up my totals for Monday to a more representative amount.

Research time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Total: 7 hours 10 minutes


Now, let’s turn to Tuesday!

9.00 Awake and very much not raring to go.

10.10 Drive to campus.

10.30 Check emails in my Writing Center office.

10.35 Read more of Coleridge’s letters. I was particularly intrigued to see how he circulated an early version of “Dejection: An Ode” to his friends as though it was addressed to Wordsworth, when the original letter in verse was actually addressed to Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, Sara Hutchinson.

11.00 Meet with a seminar participant. We talk through possibilities for the conclusion to his paper and he is even so kind as to hear a little about my research. I send a follow up email with my suggestions for revision.

12.05 Check the “tutor notes” i.e. summary reports from some of yesterday’s Writing Center appointments that I helped to set up.

12.10 Send a few texts and check Facebook before walking over to the English department and having lunch in the graduate lounge.

1.00 Talk to two colleagues who are strategizing for their general exams at the moment.

1.15 Meet with my advisor to discuss my prospectus.

2.15 Get coffee; receive good luck wishes from some kind colleagues.

2.30 Attend the colloquium for my dissertation prospectus, which was approved.

4.00 Feeling a little overwhelmed about what comes next with my dissertation, I head home.


The Bermuda Triangle of my project, so succinctly depicted by one of my advisors.

4.35 Arrive home. Demand a hug and a compliment on my new shoes from my partner.

4.40 Make some minor edits to my prospectus, including reformatting the bibliography to conform to the latest, controversial version of MLA style.

5.15 Review the notes I took on feedback presented during the colloquium; add several items to my range of different reading lists.

5.45 Register for the 14 Day Writing Challenge, with an eye to the chapter I’m working on.

5.50 Skim an article on how the chapter came to be (by a critic recommended during the colloquium) and another article on haptic knowledge (forwarded to me by a colleague).

6.05 Head to the grocery store.

6.40 Arrive back on campus, snacks in tow, for a salon arranged by the Graduate Association for Literary Artists at UConn. I’m the treasurer and have brought some newer poems to share.

7.50 Leave campus and, after stopping at home briefly, head out to celebrate with my partner and a friend.

11.00 Back home from the bar. An email from my advisor prompts a few more revisions to the prospectus. I’ll need to print it out in the morning and submit it to the Graduate School.

11.15 Begin this blog before turning in for the night! It was an exhausting day.

I definitely checked my emails and “triaged” while we were out this evening, and I also should note some thinking time over the last few days. I often draft sentences for writing projects when my brain is moving toward or away from sleep.

Work for the Writing Center: 1 hour 20 minutes

Research (and service) time: 6 hours

Total: 7 hours 20 minutes