University Survivalists


Having completed a PhD, I can empathize with academics everywhere. It’s a tough gig.  High levels of commitment and stress, relatively infrequent rewards, plus the pay packet is rarely fabulous.

Much effort has gone into identifying successful academic qualities, with most marketing being tailored to grad students as they are generally in an adjustment stage reflecting on their behaviours and process.

What academic workplace culture explicitly or implicitly emphasizes may radically shift a sense of competence and self worth in individual staff and students. For this reason taking a closer look at what qualities are actually useful and what qualities are culturally- Learning curve and adaptation. Maladjusted means learning cultural adaptation

– Learning curve and adaptation. Maladjusted means learning cultural adaptation


Historically, adaptive characteristics reflected someone who could be described as a competitive, obsessive, detached loner.  To illustrate, the following shortlist was compiled by Friedenberg and Roth (1954):

Historical Qualities of the Successful Academic
• Emphasise a scholarly detachment
• Motivated by competitive relationships
• Enjoy pure scholarship
• Human interactions are considered secondary to job tasks/goals
• Faculty preoccupation with their research is invited, not resented

Historical Qualities of the Failed Academic
• Comparatively dependent on other people
• Disturbed by competitive relationships
• Intellectual rewards of the job are trivialised
• Human interactions, including warmth and friendliness, are prioritised
• Dissatisfied by faculty’s relative lack of interest in individuals vs their research

Perhaps it is the feminist in me that thinks, well, patriarchal systems can be like this.


project management

interested, diverse collegiate support structures – perspective taking

informal mentoring

peer supports int he process informing what as well as how

being too goal focussed becomes tricky as other inversted people, such as supervisors, have their own goals

mutual balance between self obsession and academic university/supervisor’s obsession – where is the middle ground – balancing me and you



Characteristics of Success
• Prefer scholarly detachment.
• Favor competitive relationships.
• Express attraction to pure scholarship.
• Consider personal relations as secondary.
• Do not resent faculty’s preoccupation with their research.

Characteristics of Non-Success
• Disturbed by competition.
• Relatively dependent on others.
• Consider the intellectual gratification of their work as trivial.
• Consider warm and friendly human interactions one of their urgent needs.
• Tend to be hurt by what they consider a lack of faculty interest in students.