Will you be my thesis chair?

It happened so quickly I didn’t realize it had happened until I was in my car. My class ended and I was walking with my professor to the parking lot.

“So, how is the novel coming along?” She asked with sincerity.

“It’s coming. I was actually wondering if you would take a look at what I have so far since I’m thinking about making it my thesis.” There were other words exchanged that I can’t remember but suddenly I was saying, “I wanted you to look at since, I was going to ask you to be my thesis chair.”

She looked at me surprised, but agreed to be my thesis chair saying, “it’s still early and if you change your mind don’t feel bad.” I couldn’t stop talking and if my car had been parked in the same lot as hers I might of continued.

Because of my inability to use a filter when I speak, I now have a thesis chair. I’m stoked because she gets booked quickly and I no longer have to worry about the awkward meeting that I was going to have come fall. Some of my friends in the program who are a year ahead of me, graduating this spring, told me about how terrified they were to ask their professors to be their thesis chairs. They feared their professors would say no or that they were too busy. There is also a process with asking, you’re supposed to make an appointment, go their office, find a reason to be there before you casually ask, sweating, your hands shaking, “I was wondering if you’d be my thesis chair.”

I have to say that, although I went about the whole thing casually and in an unconventional way, probably against the good advice of my peers, I have the thesis chair I want and I don’t have to have a stress attack in the fall. Instead, my professor can help me get my thesis/novel ready sooner.

I’ve heard horror stories from my friends, some of whom have been rejected by professors and I’m glad I didn’t sit in my professor’s office nervous. I’m horrible with words when I’m nervous, I can’t articulate what I’m trying to say and just sound crazy. I wonder now if I should have waited until the fall to ask my professor. Did I miss out on a right of passage by not sitting in her office sweaty and rambling?

What do you all think? Should I have been patient and asked formally? I would love to hear some of your stories about your thesis committee.

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5 comments

  1. I can’t think of a way to ask the chair formally as I asked mine by e-mail. I was working with him for a while, though.

    Before that, I took it for granted that I would have someone else as my chair, but the professional relationship soured and that professor then became a first-class douche. Prego per niente, Professor K, is all I can say to him.

    Regarding the person who chaired my thesis, it worked out for the better. MFAProgram politics may have thrown me in his direction, but he was much better for my project than Professor K ever was.

    Congratulations! You have someone to chair your project. You’re good to go when it’s time for the thesis semester. Forget about the rite of passage; you have a blessing to proceed. That’s gold.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I’ve heard some stories similar to yours about professors and students not getting along and then having to find thesis chairs. Sounds horrible and stressful.

  2. That whole time was horrible and stressful. Strangely, Professor K’s favorite writing topic is terrorism, and all I wanted to do was throw eggs at his office and such at the the time. Thankfully, decency and self-control prevailed.

    I look at it this way – the other person who became my chair was better for my project. He always talked about reading, not to be condescending, but as something to help the work. He pointed me to some interesting things for sure. Professor K was well-read as well, but I didn’t benefit from it as much as from the other guy.

  3. I asked mine at a department dinner. His wife (also a professor) is a friend of mine and I was talking to her about my proposed thesis project, and she suggested I go ask him.

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