Dr. Ansley Abraham tirelessly dishes out support, advice, and love as he helps students succeed. He has spent decades mentoring hundreds of doctoral students as director of the SREB Doctoral Scholars Program. He has seen it all.
The three pieces of advice that he offers are:
- Develop multiple strong mentoring relationships to provide guidance
- Find a community that provides support and honest dialogue
- Don’t wait to ask for help when you are in trouble
More about Ansley Abraham is at the end. Let’s get to the advice.
What is a “slow graduate student”? That is what I puzzled over while reading The Slow Professor. Taking inspiration from the Slow Food movement, this book advocates embracing the principles of Slow, to reduce stress and reclaim faculty control over their work.
Two themes of slowing down in academia are particularly applicable to becoming a Slow Grad Student. The first is mindful, deliberate doing, which necessitates doing less. This theme is revealed in the book’s subtitle, “Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.” Relatedly, Slow Academics also prize collegiality and community.
The authors “advocate for deliberative, imaginative and reflective thought as definitive of a professor’s work and life. Creativity and contemplation … can’t be multi-tasked,” summarized one thoughtful review. You can also read about the book in Inside Higher Ed and University Affairs.
How can graduate students adopt these principles and practices? What is “the slow graduate student?”
Two effective forms of dissertation writing groups are those dedicated to quiet writing in the companionable presence of others and those that focus on support for the dissertation writing process. This post describes ways to make both types successful.
A third kind of group is structured to share writing and provide peer feedback. I wrote about them in Dissertation Writing Groups | Feedback and Motivation.
Dissertation writing can be an isolating experience. The magnitude of the project can overwhelm. Dissertation writing groups—comprised of fellow dissertators who provide feedback—are a lifeline.
There are three kinds of writing groups:
The dissertation feedback groups I participated in as a doctoral student were instrumental in my success. They certainly improved my work. My productivity increased. In this blog post, I reprise and update the advice I compiled shortly after I graduated. 
Creating her own structures was the critical key to success in grad school for ecologist Sasha Wright. Memories—some of difficult episodes —came rushing back when Wright was formulating her advice. “What helped me to handle those struggles?,” she pondered.
Her three pieces of advice for thriving in grad school are:
- Invest in your grad school community
- Develop close academic relationships with at least three advisors
- Set short term goals and achieve meaningful benchmarks