Years have passed and Dr. Terence P. Hannigan, Texas A&M International University's director of Student Counseling Services, still recalls the panic at having to complete his doctoral dissertation. He remembers the feelings and frustrations of the task.
"You never forget the terror. I wish there had been a group around to bounce ideas off," said Dr. Hannigan
Texas A&M International University graduate students will benefit from Hannigan's experience because Student Counseling Services is now offering a Masters Thesis Support Group. Hannigan will direct the group and convey tips and techniques for thesis writing, overcoming procrastination and other common pitfalls in a supportive, friendly environment.
"The idea behind group work is finding out that you're not alone or weird in your fears. That can be very helpful to students. A group struggling with the same monster creates group cohesion; we find that students often do work because they want to be able to report to the group what they did this week. They don't want to let the group down," Hannigan said.
The group also offers the opportunity for students to give each other suggestions and peer-to-peer support.
"Students can give each other ideas on problem solving; peers helping peers. If your fellow student gives you ideas, you are able to identify with them and feel you can do it too, which may not be the case if a perceived expert, such as a professor, offers the suggestion," said Hannigan.
One of the greatest obstacles to completing a thesis is procrastination, Hannigan said.
"Many times students are just really put off and frightened by the task. It sounds mystical and impossible. A lot of the work of the group is to demystify and break down the thesis into bite-sized pieces. Writing a thesis is a big task; I don't think you can start too early. If you begin now, you can get connected to a network of people doing it--you can absorb ideas," said Hannigan.
Graduate students must also learn to create and write original thoughts.
"Students report what everyone else has said but their advisor comes back and says 'but what do YOU think?' Finding one's voice in writing is a new task for many of the students," said Hannigan.
Hannigan will be encouraging students and listening for clues to help the group.
"I'll be listening to the needs of the group. Problems that individuals are struggling with may actually be thematic problems and it will help everyone to talk about it," said Hannigan.
The group is forming now and will meet weekly at a time to be determined by the group members. Hannigan hopes to have between six and 12 people but explains that all can be accommodated.
Student Counseling Services is determining if there is a need for more groups. Other ideas include a support group for middle-aged and returning students and one for University students not from Laredo. Hannigan said Student Counseling Services would love to hear any other topics students are struggling with.
To join the Masters Thesis Support Group or for more information about Student Counseling Services, please contact Hannigan at 326-2230, visit offices in Dr. F.M. Canseco Hall, room 312, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
University office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday.