On Choosing Colleagues

By Ruth Wagstaff

There appears to be a lot of advice about how to choose the right supervisors, the right
research topic, and the right research questions. But, I think it is time to talk about choosing the
right colleagues. Colleagues are those PhD candidates who extend the hand of friendship and make suggestions about who to contact when.

During the week, it struck me just how important colleagues are. Some have become close
friends who I hope to keep in contact with until the day I die. Even though not all colleagues are
close friends, I respect each colleague equally because each one has contributed something critical to my life. Collectively, they are the reason that I continue to persevere with research.

And … it is likely many of them do not know how important they are. They are important
because they share the same study space, they say hello, make me laugh, share a bar of chocolate, or offer to make a hot drink when they make one their own. They do these things without thinking, but, by doing these things they remind me of how interconnected we are.

This interconnection is essential because study, especially at the level we have reached, can
be very isolating. This isolation can be overcome through interconnection with others. The most
important interconnection occurs through supervisors and colleagues. Supervisors provide links to our futures and colleagues provide links with our present. Colleagues link us with the present because they are in the unique position of understanding and supporting us in the day-to-day struggles, triumphs, and joys. It is the day-to-day support that separates them from supervisors.

Supervisors do not have the capacity for day-to-day support, but it is our colleagues who do.
I am blessed with incredible colleagues. They listen to my to my concerns, put up with my
jokes, and cheer me on when I lose hope. Some of these colleagues work in the same lab as me, but others do not. Not all have the privilege of their own study space at uni so connection is through Facebook, phone calls, or other colleagues. They study full-time or part-time, come from different faculties and schools, and are at different stages of their PhD. These differences make each colleague incredible, inspirational, and important.

I chose to undertake my PhD at USQ. I took the first steps in securing my supervisors, but I
did not choose my colleagues. They chose me, and I have chosen to accept their support. I am
honoured that they have chosen to reach out and included me in their day-to-day lives.

My hope is that I support them as well as they have supported me.

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