Up close and PERSONAL: Crafting Your Best Personal Statement

It’s that time of year when potential graduate students are diving deep into the graduate admissions process. Application after application…expanding your vocabulary and learning the meaning of every word humanly possible for the GRE…exchanging emails with faculty who will sell you to the committee by saying all of these TRUE, wonderful things about you…pulling together writing samples to show that you can hang with the best of scholars and have something to contribute to the field…updating CVs/resumes with your highest of high honors, publications and service initiatives. And what else? Ah. That personal statement.

Your personal statement is one of the most critical components of Continue reading

Xicanita on the Move

The majority of people are always in shock when I tell them that I am from California. The conversation usually goes like this:

“Hey where are you from?”
“What are you doing here!? Usually people want to leave Indiana and move to California. People in California are so chill and you guys have awesome weather!”

And I usually laugh and smile because I have lost count of the times I have heard people say this. But the truth is…I’m a Xicanita on the Move. The same curiosity that led me to study abroad during my undergraduate years is the same curiosity which led me to IU.

I know what you must be thinking, “Indiana is in no way as “cool” as traveling abroad.” But once you have had a taste of the unknown…of placing yourself in uncomfortable situations and learning to grow from them, then you are changed forever. You my friend are  Continue reading

Research potential graduate school programs – what exactly does that mean?

When one is asked to research potential graduate school programs, what exactly does that consist of?  Similar to researching for an undergraduate institution, this process is just a level above as the decision you make could help catapult your career.  The three things people most commonly should look for are:

1. Does the school have the program that you want?  Make sure the school has the department and program that most interest you.  You also want to make sure that the institution you are considering has at least 3 professors (or advisors) you would like to work for, just in case your top choice is unable to take you for any reason (i.e. loss of funding, does not have enough space to accommodate you, denied tenure, etc.).

2.  Location, location, location.  When drafting a list of potential schools, know what states or countries will be compatible with you.  Remember, this program will last anywhere for 4-7 years so make sure you pick a place where you can deal with the weather and cost of living.  A trap that some students get caught up in is the stipend amount; make sure to take into account the cost of living.  For example, if you are offered a place in Indiana with a stipend of $24,000 a year and offered a place in California for $27,000 a year, even though the California position is offering more money, you will get more “bang for you buck” in Indiana due to the cost of living.

3. Know the rank of the institution.  It is important to know how the programs you are interested in ranks nationally.  While you should not limit yourself to only ranked programs, getting your degree from a nationally recognized institution in your field can give you an edge when it is time for you to start applying for jobs.  The ranking of various graduate programs can be found here:http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools.

Other concerns such as having a family, medical conditions and job restrictions may also add into your choice for a graduate school.




Summer Job with Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs

I became a PhD student in the Department of Communication and Culture at IU after “retiring” from a career in Information Technology. IT was fine and the money was good but it didn’t give me the opportunity to grow intellectually. That said, IT work is still reasonably interesting to me and it has given me access to decent jobs around Bloomington when during the summer when my AI teaching stipend runs out.

This summer I have been working for the the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs* (DEMA) doing some web maintenance and updating work. While doing so, I got know the folks over at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program which is a program to help non-traditional and underrepresented minority students succeed in college. They offer tutoring, mentoring, special skills courses (for credit!), and a great community. One of their big events is  Continue reading

iGraduate School

The Journey Ends so It May Begin

Do you remember how, throughout your entire education people have always said, “You have to learn this so you’re ready for Middle School. If you don’t understand so and so or you won’t survive in High School. If you can’t read this many pages and write this many words, college isn’t for you.” And every time you made it up one tier up, you were always like, “Man, this isn’t so bad.” Take all those times people were trying to prepare you for something and bring them together. Graduate school is what they were trying to preparing you for. You have finally made it.

This Isn’t so Bad

Okay, hopefully that freaked you out a little bit, but not too much. Graduate school is what you have been preparing for your entire academic life, but you are prepared for it. It’s amazing, preparing all that time has actually made you prepared? How strange.

That’s not to say it won’t be tough. It will be. Graduate school is demanding, but it’s also fun—if you’re here for the right reasons.

Graduate school is not a place to come and hide. It’s not a place to run away from the economy. It is a place to come to truly learn about yourself. If you haven’t ever taken time off, away from school, then it is the time you will become an adult. You are building your career in these walls. You are pursuing something that may encapsulate you for the rest of your life, and you are in one of the best places in the world to do it. High school was not the best years of your life, this might actually be.

The Ritchea Experience

That last comment had a lot of weight to it so maybe I should explain myself. I am a pluralist who believes that vocation, or our calling in life, is the summation of all of our experiences and is the story of our lives rather than the plot (syuzhet over fabula). What I mean when I say that graduate school may be the best years of your life, is that graduate school can help you define your vocation. It can help you down the road that will accumulate into your journey.

I’m currently on my second year, and if I told you everything that I have done in just one year it would come off as bragging so, suffice it to say, I will simple state that I backpacked Europe; something I would have never done without graduate school.


Now that I’m back, I’m on fire. I feel alive and ambitious. I feel like I could tackle anything that comes. Again, bragging, but I’m trying to get you jazzed. See, graduate school is a fellowship of like-minded people who have put education over money. These are intelligent human beings who are always asking questions, questions that can get frustrating at times, but questions nonetheless.


Currently, I am working with a group of twelve graduate students and some forty undergrads on a transmedia, mutli-collaborative, meta-narrative, installation project in the school of Media (Telecommunications for the time being). In this class I am leading discussion groups and writing teams to develop a massive narrative for a at least five other production groups. I’m getting hands on experience, professional know-withal/how-to, and stress—lots and lots of stress. But it’s good stress. I go home feeling refreshed rather than defeated, and I owe it all to graduate school.

The other class I am currently enrolled in is transmedia novels—I’m actually writing a novel for a class. It is insanely difficult but one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Graduate school offers you many doors. You can party, you can work, you can play, you can socialize, you can network, and you can learn. The sky truly is the limit. I’m trying to get to space–metaphorically. I hope you will too.

Technology on Campus

Using every and all forms of technology is completely acceptable and recommended in grad school. Indiana University makes it easy for people like me to understand new email interfaces, citation management softwares, setting up wireless printing, and more.

  • University Information Technology Services – the technological support and services for the entire university. I have taken classes on Excel and HTML for my graduate assistantships to help me learn new skills and brush up on others. There are various workshops and trainings you can sign up for through the university.
  • After I purchased my pride and joy, bane of my existence, laptop I had to download some appropriate software such as Office for MAC, Adobe, and the wonderful Endnote. These software programs and many more are available through the university.
  • Questions or issues with software, internet logins, pass phrases not working, or email servers giving you trouble…well the campus support center will answer questions by phone, email, in person, and by chat.
  • There is even a place to purchase hardware on campus right in the Indiana Memorial Union and discounted items through IU Surplus.

What I have described here is only a small part of the tech services and support here on campus. I am still learning about new tips and tricks all the time.


Playbills and Ticket Stubs !

Photo from business week.com

Photo from www.businessweek.com

Putting down my books on a weeknight can be difficult and turning off my laptop on the weekend can be even harder. Breaks are necessary for a graduate student in coursework, studying for qualitative exams, writing proposals, and dissertating. I wrote a previous blog about the Musical Arts Center and the performances featured there, which are usually student centered including ballets, operas, and orchestral concerts.

It wasn’t until 2013 that I discovered exactly how amazing the IU Auditorium is. Working as a Co-Chair of the Committee for Fee Review (a committee of students across IU Bloomington campus that reviews the fee allocation for all student groups and auxiliary units on campus) I met Doug Booher, the Director of the Auditorium and learned some very important things about this institution on campus. It is an award winning and nationally recognized university auditorium, as well as being a top student employer on campus.

The yearly calendar of events and performances is impressive to say the least and student pricing is pretty great too. I’ve seen Bill Maher‘s stand up and most recently the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the IU Auditorium. There are even season ticket options to make sure you take those necessary breaks and enjoy a play, musical, dance concert, or public lecture!!

You are not alone…

Sometimes, writing a dissertation can be exhilarating.  There is nothing like that day that you check something major over the ToDo list.  On other days, however, it can be lonely and/or boring.  On those days, it really helps to reach out to others who have been where you are.  Here are links to a few of those blogs:

I hope they help you remember that you are not alone.