Southeast Asian University Consortium for Graduate Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC)

The Education and Collective Learning Department (ECLD) of SEARCA organized the 3rd GSID Conversations on 27 May 2022 (Friday), 10:00 AM (GMT +8:00) to specifically tackle how scholars can navigate their postgraduate studies. The webinar is part of the scholarship package provided by the Center which includes academic and extracurricular learning events that serve as tools for the scholars to complete their academic requirements and support their social well-being. Dr. Ng Siew Imm, Associate Professor at the School of Business and Economics and Associate Editor of the International Journal of Economics and Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia, served as guest speaker for the event and provided expert advice on managing the scholars’ academic journey towards graduating on time.

Amidst the unique pressures thrown by graduate school, Dr. Ng Siew Imm inspired the scholars to envision their end goal which is to complete their studies and graduate. But to get there, the scholars need to manage three areas of their postgraduate lives – manage their time, their supervisor, and themselves. Dr. Ng Siew Imm shared an acronym to help the scholars remember her tip: "I DO" stands for "get In, get Done, and get On with life”. She explained that they will not move forward with the rest of their goals if they are not proactive in finishing their studies. The longer they stay with their MS or PhD studies, the higher the chance for them to lose momentum and abandon getting a degree.

Dr. Ng Siew Imm suggests that students manage their timeline by knowing the academic calendar, semestral requirements, and the administrative process of their respective graduate schools. By managing their timeline, students will know if they are still on track with the required milestones per semester that would lead them to finish their studies on time. Writing one paragraph a day helps and sticking to a timetable will assist students to get through with their research. Dr. Ng Siew Imm also recommends conducting research that meets the requirement of the degree and saving the more ambitious studies after graduation. This way, students can complete their thesis within the maximum number of semesters as the scope of the study is manageable. Getting a job while studying may also be detrimental to postgraduate studies as the workload can get in the way of completing academic requirements. If possible, and if resources will permit, studying full-time will help students graduate on time.

Dr. Ng Siew Imm also shared an article by Lynch (2008) where most postgraduate students chose the supervisor as the most vital factor which influences their research and the completion of their studies on time. Dr. Ng Siew Imm, however, highlights that there is no dream supervisor. The student's relationship with their supervisor could make or break their entire postgraduate journey. Based on her experience as a supervisor, students need to be specific regarding their plans, expectations, and progress whenever meeting with her. This way, both can manage their time wisely and discuss important matters that would contribute to the completion of the research. Dr. Ng Siew Imm also recommends that students address the comments provided as well as monitor the quality of their work. She reminds students not to expect the supervisor to revise or write for them and that postgraduate studies require a degree of independence on their end. Students need to show ownership of their research and not always turn to the supervisor for an easy solution without exploring all other options. Dr. Ng Siew Imm shared that for them as supervisors, the relationship with their advisees can be strengthened if they can see the hard work, effort, independence, and diligence in the student.

Besides managing their academic timeline and their relationship with the supervisor Dr. Ng Siew Imm highlights that it is also important for students to manage their life and enforce self-discipline. This includes allocating time for their studies while also setting aside time for ample rest, avoiding procrastination, and refraining from isolating themselves. She encouraged the scholars to mix with the right people and expect that not everything needs to be perfect. They can always work on their personal and professional development, skills, and knowledge even after graduation. But as students and scholars of the region, they have the responsibility to finish their studies first. As Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of FaceBook shared, "Done is better than perfect."

Lynch, S. (2008). Happy days: Why PhD students need a helping hand from their supervisors.

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