Some thoughts on starting year 5 (and French comics)

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Information Processing

The image below, from the French comic book Carnets de thèse (“thesis notes”), has been on my mind as I begin my fifth year of grad school. I bought Carnets de thèse as a present for myself for my last birthday, expecting it to be an educational glimpse into the French grad school experience and a dose of humor to get me through the rest of my own studies. Jeanne Dargan, the protagonist of the book, begins grad school with an excitement to begin her studies, a surefire plan to finish in three years, and a clear idea of what she wants to write her thesis on. However, as the picture below shows, the next five (not three) years end up being a slow descent into grad school madness punctuated by an annual tradition of changing her thesis topic. After finishing the book, it should come as no surprise to the reader that the author wrote and drew the book after leaving her own graduate studies. If they were anything like Jeanne’s, I can’t blame her.

I’m happy that I’m excited to be going into my fifth year, and not just because it means the end is in sight. Even though my dissertation topic has also probably changed once a year, I haven’t had to deal with the lack of support, the obstructionist secretaries, the unfairly-revoked salary, and the disintegrating relationships that turn Carnets de thèse into a very dark comedy (if it can still be called a comedy). I feel privileged, fortunate, and blessed to be able to say that, and I feel a great obligation to make sure the grad students I mentor in the future have an experience more like mine and less like Jeanne’s.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.