Are there any rumors in your department that might indicate that your advisor is leaving? In graduate school you can’t be complacent about personnel changes in your department. Your advisor’s possible absence should raise a red flag for you.
As a graduate student who wants to finish his or her degree, it’s important to know and keep abreast of what is going on in your department. Simply disappearing to write your dissertation and return when you are finished is not prudent. Your professors have a substantial amount of duties and responsibilities to the university. These responsibilities include grant writing, teaching courses, serving on campus, professional, graduate student, and university wide committees, writing and reviewing journal articles, grading and advising. To say that they are busy is an understatement. Nonetheless, as a graduate student it is your responsibility to keep the lines of communication open especially if you want to graduate.
A sabbatical is somewhat of a vacation for tenured faculty, sometimes it’s a working vacation. During a sabbatical you advisor might or might not want to hear from you. During a sabbatical a faculty member might just want to relax or might just want to focus on getting his or her publications out the door. To that extent, contact with your advisor might be limited. Before your advisor goes on sabbatical you should ask what manner of communication if any is possible. The available technologies allow you to stay in touch with your advsor. You can video chat with Gmail, Skype or ooVoo.com. You can chat on-line also with gmail or yahoo. You can create a blog and give your advisor access. It is important to schedule a workplan before your advisor leaves the department. To do that, build a positive relationship with your advisor and you need what is going on in your department.You should also find out how long the sabbatical is for. You should also have a back up plan to deal with getting some immediate feedback if you need it. Will you contact another committee member?
Is your advisor “visiting” another university for a semester or more? Keep in mind that it is possible that your advisor might not come back. While visiting another campus or institution might provide your advisor with an opportunity to flex his or her intellectual muscles with others, you should be aware that he or she might be simply looking for another job. If you are early in your academic career you might have the option to simply follow your advisor to the new university. However, if you are writing your dissertation, know that the clock is ticking. If your advisor officially leaves your university for another, generally speaking, you have 1 year to finish your degree with this person as your advisor. If you have not finished you will have to find a new advisor. If you have a new advisor; don’t expect that he or she will just pick up where your advisor left off. You might have to select a new topic even if your old one was deemed viable and or even considered exciting, new, and or brilliant. Each advisor wants to put his or her stamp on his/her students’ research.