Social Networks in Graduate School

In the continuing theme of socialization in graduate education, I recently read Processes of Socialization in American Graduate Schools, Making Elite Lawyers, and Scientific Elite. In the first article, Gottlieb shows that graduate students change their career preferences based on the opportunity to discuss one’s plans with faculty and the consequent cues given to the students – though not always in the way one would expect. Those who have a chance to substantively interact with faculty are more amenable to change. The cues are of being told they have a “flair” for research or teaching, in eclectic and single-minded departments. Interestingly being told one has a flair for teaching in a single-minded department by a researcher is more likely to change the career preference towards research than not being told anything!

In the second text Granfield considers the career preferences of Harvard Law students in light of the odd observation: there is a disjunction in that many students enter wanting to work on issues of social justice, and become even more radical during their tenure (Granfield 1992:46), but leave to become corporate lawyers (Granfield 1992:48): only 5% enter government or public interest organizations upon graduation. A possible explanation is that through the law school socialization students become cynical about the ability of law to effect positive social change. This happens through the intense socialization and being taught how to win an argument on either side (Granfield 1992:58), which disorientates many who came to law school hoping to find “justice” – those with a firm conceptualization of justice aren’t so shaken.

In the final text Zuckerman considers the interesting characteristic that Nobel laureates are very much “related” via master/apprentice ties: in 1972 48% of winner had worked with Nobel laureates themselves (Zuckerman 1977:99). He notes that this is probably the result of a “mutual search,” where good apprentices and masters aggressively search each other out (Zuckerman 1977:107), and socialization, wherein the apprentices reproduce elite master behaviour (e.g., ‘taste’) more so than actual content (Zuckerman 1977:135). The most interesting factoid was that 68% of female Nobel Laureates were husbands of Laureates! This sort of structure is perhaps indicative of scale-free networks by another name: the “Mathew Effect” in education whereby the “rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.”

Gottlieb, D. 1961. “Processes of socialization in American graduate schools.” Social Forces 40:124-31.

Granfield, Robert. 1992. Making Elite Lawyers. New York: Routledge.

Zuckerman, Harriet. 1977. Scientific Elite: Nobel Laureates in the United States. New York: Free Press, Ch. 4, “Masters and Apprentices in Science.

Comments !