My approach to the doctorate is that it’s an apprenticeship. Yes, you are here in part as a student; however, the best way to prepare for the work you want to be doing in the long run is to start doing it now. I will help you get the skills you need to succeed professionally. At the same time, I’ll help you carve out ways to think long thoughts and ask weird questions; it’s not always about the bottom line. We’ll do some neat projects together, but my ultimate goal is for you to figure out your unique strengths as a scholar, and to find ways you can connect them to the questions you care about.
Here are some of the things I’ll expect from you as we work together. That said, be aware that as one of my first students, we’ll be building a lab together, so some of these things may change as we learn what works best.
(And don’t forget to check out some of the things that you can expect from me!)
Collaborate across programs and disciplines. Our lab will be working closely with masters students at the ETC, with faculty members across CMU, with scholars from other institutions, and with partners from outside academia. This should sound like an exciting opportunity to you rather than a chore!
Treat others fairly and respectfully. This is not optional. I can advise you about how to handle some situations that are unique to academia, but you should plan to bring your ethics to work with you every day.
Show up during core hours. It’s important to be around your colleagues, face-to-face. We’ll define a set of core hours during which all lab members will be physically present; outside of those hours, be as flexible with your schedule as you like. Expect core hours to run 20-25 hours a week.
Meet with me regularly. I prefer brief but frequent updates on your progress. Even a few minutes multiple times a week can help us catch potential problems early.
Make meetings effective. Even if our planned meeting is short, come prepared with a list of what you want to talk about. Bring printouts. Arrive on time. Be prepared to take notes. Email me a list of action items afterward, so that we know we’re on the same page.
Keep your word. If you tell me you’re coming to a meeting, be there. If you tell me you’re going to deliver a prototype, deliver it. If you tell me you’re going to write a paper, write it. I need to be able to trust what you say.
Communicate early and often. Doubly so if there’s some kind of problem, so we can make a plan together. With any luck, the combination of core hours and regular meetings will make this easy!
Respect my time constraints. I am not available for anything short of an emergency after 9pm on weeknights, or from Friday evening until Sunday morning. Plan accordingly.
Get things done. I expect you to take the initiative in identifying and solving problems. I’m always available to help you, but I’ll want to hear what you’ve tried on your own first.
Iterate rapidly. Fail fast. Learn from what you’ve done. Then do it again, better.
Be productively wrong. Being wrong and making mistakes are essential to growing as a scholar. Perfectionism will not serve you well; neither will an inability to critically evaluate your own ideas.
Document. Document your research methods. Document lab practices and procedures. Document your game designs. Document your code. Plus, I’ll expect you to keep a research journal so that you can track your ideas and evaluate your progress as a scholar.
Teach others. You’ll come in with some areas of expertise, and you’ll develop others as you go. Expect to help other people learn what you know – including me!
Standardize on lab tools. We’ll select a standard set of tools and processes that make it easy for us to collaborate. Bonus: as one of my first students, you’ll get to help me figure out what digital and non-digital tools our lab will standardize on.
Be broad. We’ll strive to be both intellectually and aesthetically broad. Expect to read, play, and study things that don’t fit neatly into mainstream game culture. Similarly, expect to read, play, and study things that don’t fit your own pre-existing preferences and ideas.
Take care of yourself. You can’t do your best work if you’re miserable and exhausted. Graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint. You know better than I do how to take care of yourself in the long run; I expect you to follow through and do it.