Grad Students- Nix the Snacks

As a graduate student I never brought snacks to my committee meetings.  It was definitely a thing in our department though- the bakers would prepare homemade cakes and pies, the I-can-burn-cereal-set would pull out the fruit and cheese, and the coffee lovers made sure there was a very full pot for the whole committee.  And although I can bake, I felt like my committee meeting was not the place to show off that skill.

My reasons for not providing snacks are the following:

  1. The poorest person in the room is not responsible for feeding the people with full time pay and benefits!
  2. Everyone is an adult who can feed themselves.  (And you as a polite person did not schedule this meeting over breakfast, lunch, or dinner.)
  3. Snacks distract from the reason for the meeting- you and your progress and helping you reach your goal!

Point 3 is the big one.  Everyone on your committee is a professional and should be able to have a snack while talking about your progress.  However, some people may want to spend that precious one hour per year ohh-ing and ahh-ing over snacks instead of talking about your progress and ways to improve on deficiencies.  That’s a waste of time, especially yours.  Moreover, some people talk with their mouths full, and do you really want cake flung across the table at a business meeting?!  (True and gross story.)

But some students want the diversion that snacks create.  I always knew this but it really hit home the other day as I was wrapping up reading group with graduate students.  We were going over who would lead the next few meetings and one student said he would bring muffins so we would be distracted and it would make it easier for him to present.  Oh dude, you just gave away the game!

It’s critical to remember that no one will grade or confer an advanced degree on you because you are nice and brought snacks.  (Nor will endless service to the department get you there either.)  Nope, just hard work and productivity in your area of research.  So the time you spent planning, shopping, and baking could have been spent reading the literature or preparing for your big committee meeting.  I’m in no way saying that baking/cooking as a hobby or for stress reduction should be avoided, only that using those activities to avoid prepping for a big meeting or presentation is counterproductive and transparent.  Walking in prepared is the best thing you can do.

I know in some departments there is an expectation that students will bring snacks.  But you don’t have to (especially if it’s a strain on your budget), see point 1 above.

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