Grad School Mentorship: Kate Drabinski, PhD

Grad School Mentorship: Kate Drabinski, PhD

August 22, 2017

Kate Drabinski wearing a green shirt and glasses

Your Rockstar coaches help you wade through the stress and expectations of academic life, and impart the skills you need to thrive in your careers and beyond. Through the Grad School Rockstars community, they help you become your best self. So why not get to know them a little better? In this series, you’ll get to know our resident Rockstar coaches: Cathy Hannabach, Kate Drabinski, Terry Park, and Julia Jordan-Zachery will share their thoughts on community, mentoring, careers, and more. This week, Kate discusses carving a unique path from within the one you’re on, biking as an act of bonding, and resisting the urge to hide behind being busy.

What does mentoring mean to you?

For me, mentorship means helping mentees figure out what approach they should take to meet concrete goals. We often think we are just ‘that kind of person’: someone who can only write in huge blocks of time, someone who gets derailed by negative feedback, or someone who just can’t possibly get it all done. I help mentees see that we can change our habits and establish new ones that help us meet that deadline, get those words out, and deal with the bumps along the way. My approach to mentorship is ‘let’s try new strategies, find out what you really want and what really works to get you there.’

What advice do you wish you’d received as a grad student?

I wish someone had told me to keep living my life. I put so much on hold when I was a grad student. I thought I was so busy. So much of that busy-ness turned out to be the fear of being judged, of not being smart enough or good enough. It took years to get back the confidence I lost to that ‘busy,’ and I wish I’d kept up with things I loved doing before I entered grad school.

What is your favorite way to build community?

When it comes to forging bonds, I like to take bike rides together, connect online regularly (so many people I love are scattered all over, thanks to years of itinerant academia), and plan things together. I’m currently working with a couple of artists on a lesbian popcorn cart project. It has been so much work, but it has helped me build the strongest community I’ve ever had.

What has your career journey looked like?

I’ve had a lot of roles in academia, first as a graduate student, then an adjunct, a tutor, an adjunct again, a teaching postdoc, and a lecturer. Now I’m exploring other ways to write, think, and be in public. I want to build my next career from inside this one. It hasn’t been a straight shot to a tenure-track job, and that means I’ve had to be more creative about what I want my career to look like, and I’m grateful for that experience and skill.

What do you love most about being a Grad School Rockstars coach?

I like meeting new students, seeing new work patterns and learning from them, and learning about the exciting research folks all over are doing. I like watching Rockstars navigate grad school so much better than I did, supporting them as they learn to be and stay whole people in the midst of it all.

What makes you feel confident?

Meeting small daily goals, making people laugh, and getting lost on my bicycle and finding my way home again.

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