Conferences and Networking

When applying for programs, you may find you’re self in this peculiar situation: you attend a conference related to your field, and you find out that folks from your favorite program, or more specifically, the researcher you want to most work with is at the same conference. What do you do? Do you go over and speak with them? Do you stay clear for fear of saying something wrong or ruining your chance as of ruining getting in to the program?

While it is ok to approach a situation such as this with some nervousness (after all, this is someone or a program who you are hoping to work with in the future), it is perfectly fine to look to speak with them. In fact, this is the perfect opportunity to do some very important things:

First, you can take this time to introduce yourself to them, and let them know that you are interested in their program. Ask them their names, ask them what they do or what they teach. Let them know why you are interested in their specific program. While these questions may seem simple, they are good, foundational queastions to ask of them to show that you have researched the program, and have taken the time to get to know these folks.

Second, you can also take this time to ask them more in-depth questions about their experiences at the institution, or at the specific department. Dont ask too many questions, as they’re also there to enjoy their time at the conference, and not be interviewed about what they do back home. But, you can ask simple questions for them to answer. What do you think is a strength of your program or institution? Why should someone come to study at said institution?

Finally, and most simply, just try to connect with them. Youre both at a conference, youre both there to learn, and youre both there to enjoy the company of fellow professionals. This is an opportunity to meet with folks and form your network for the future. Enjoy the moment and connected with them as fellow people and professionals.

Its Been a Week

It’s Been a Week: What can we do?
As I am sure by now you are aware, there happened to be a presidential election last week. The results of said election have brought about many questions and fear for millions of Americans: will I be safe today? Will my family be ok? Will I be able to be who I am, or do I need to hide part of myself?

Now, I want to start out with this: I am a person of incredible privilege. I am a White, heterosexual, cis-male from a middle class family who has gradauted college and will be finishing a masters degree come May 6th. When looking at privilege, theres not much more that I could have. These privileges ensure that I will never face the fears that many of these people (my friends, co-workers, classmates, students, or significant other) will face daily over the next four years. But, it does mean that mylself, and people like myself, have things to do.

When looking at exit polls, the majority of folks who voted to elect Donal Trump were white men, and white women. As a group we do not face the same realities that folks of minority identities do. And, in our current society, we reap the benefits of the systems and actions that oppress these minoritized groups.With this I do not intend to get into the argument that if you voted for Trump you are or are not racist. Rather, I intended it to mean this: Donal Trump’s candidacy was rife with racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, and basically every other ism out there. In voting for Trump, it does not inherently mean that you are racist. It does mean that you were, one the whole, ok with and complicit in supporting the hateful rhetoric and behaviors that Donald Trump represents. While it may be difficult for many of us with privilege to be able to recognize our privilege, and even harder for some to accept culpability for supporting the negativity and hate that we are seeing throughout the country, it is something that we all must do. If these last few days foreshadow what the next four years in the United States will be like, then we as a whole have a responsabilitiy to aid those who are without a voice, who are scared on a daily basis, and who are even now working to ensure a better country for all.

So, as a person of privilege, how can we help?

The first and easiest step is to be aware of what is happening. Read the news (not just one news site or source, multiple), learn about the current political climate, and educate yourself on the experiences of those without your privileged identities (dont just ask someone who you know how they’re doing or what their life is like, look up articles, research, books, etc. to build your knowledge base).

Second, learn about your local government and how to get involved. Call your state representatives in federal government and let them know what you believe, and hold them responsible for their conduct in their position. Join local groups that will get you engaged with politics and that can teach you about how to make a difference. If you are a person of privilege, then use your privilege: you are safer in making these claims, youa re respected in making these claims due to your privilege, and use it effectively and often.

And, while this not the only thing, be there for others. There is going to be a lot of things that come up over the next 4 years, and there will be a lot of people who need your help. Be there for them however you can. Support them whenever necessary. Be in protests. Listen. Anything.

What comes next no one can say for sure. But, “United we Stand, Divided we Fall.”
If youa re looking for resources to learn more about current movements, to support others, or become informed:

Did I say something wrong? Are there things not to ask current students?

You’ve finally decided on a program, but what to know more about the student experience at the institution, and in the program. You’ve found some current students who are happy to answer your questions, and are waiting on your email. But, you start to wonder: what is appropriate to ask a current student? Is there anything I shouldn’t be asking?

Some questions do fall into the “taboo” category for many folks. Those questions usually fall into the benefits category of a students experience: how much are you getting in scholarships; how much are you getting paid if you have a job though the university; do you receive health insurance through the institute, etc. It is important to remember with questions like this that they are sensitive in nature, and can be information that many folks are not prepared, or willing to answer.

More then anything, though, I do want to address something which I was told when interviewing for gradaute programs: you can ask any question if you do it right, the worst they can say is no. The above questions are ones that many folks may feel are inappropriate or awakard to ask. But, for many, they are questions that you need to know: how much will you get paid if you’re paying for school yourself; your family doesn’t have insurance currently, will you be provided it. If you need to or want to know these things you should feel comfortable in asking them. But, what is critical is knowing HOW to ask these question.

Step 1: Don’t jump in

If this is the first time you’ve met someone, don’t jump right into a tough question. Get to know them, and discuss with them other components of their expereince before asking. Not only will this allow you to gauge whether or not it is applicable to ask the questions you want answer to, but it will also allow you to gain information related to the program and student’s experience you may not have expected. Getting to know the current students no matter what you may have to ask is critical for your future and success.

Step 2: Ask a lot of questions

No matter if you have difficult questions to ask, or simple ones, ask as many questions of students as you can. You may have a difficult question to ask, and that information comes out in response to another question, thereby eliminating the need to ask. No matter what, questions are helpful.

Step 3: The worst they can say is no

In the end, if you ask someone about their experience, and they decide that they dont want to answer the question, then that’s how its going to go. The worst someone can do is say they dont want to answer the question, or they dont feel comfortable to answer the question.

While, yes, there are some questions that fall into the “taboo” category (questions I will address in the following post), I personally believe that you should feel comfortable to ask any question of the current student. This is, at least, if you do so respectfully, mindfully, and understand that that person has the right to refuse to answer anything they do not feel comfortable answering. Asking very loaded or personal questions may be something that some people are comfortable answering, and others may not. Knowing how to ask someone these questions is, then, essential if one hopes to gain the information you seek. I would like to personally state that I am happy to answer any questions folks may have about my personal experiences or program if anyone has them: my name is Jimmy, and my email is

Civic Engagement; Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

This last weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. With the Civic Leaders Licing Learning Community. Student living in the Civic Leaders community are often members of the School of Public and Envrionmental Affairs (SPEA) and are interested in civic leadership, government, public service, and working with non-profits. This trip was planned in order to connect students to the federal government, as well as to give them an opportunity to meet with alumni living in the DC area what hey could discuss their current positions and opportunities to work in and around the federal government.

On the first day of the trip we traveled as a group to the Executive Building where we received a brief tour and then met with the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and several other members of their staff to discuss issues related to Black Lives Matters, the US prison system, the Its On Us Campaing, and college affordability. After visiting the the Executive Building, we traveled as a group to the Russel Senate building where students met with alumni of SPEA at an engagement. At the end of the evening, students were given free time to explore DC on their own.

The second day we woke early to travel to the Supremem Court, where we took a tour of the building and then had the opportunity to sit in the courtroom of the Supreme Court and to learn about the history of the judicial branch. From there we crossed the street to the Capitol building, and met with an economist, an editor from the Atlantic, and an Indiana senator to discuss the current election and hot topics related to college students in the United States. Free time followed these great discussions, and then was finished with a dinner at The Monocole near Capitol Hill, where students were introduced to current participants in the Washington Leadership Program.

On our final day in DC, we began with a visit to the Newseum where students were able to visit the exhibits, and followed by free time until we returned to the busses in order to return to Bloomington.

Throughout this trip, I was able to hear students say “this is exactly what I want to do after school,” or, “I cant believe that this is something I could do through SPEA.” These comments are what truly mattered about this trip. Students were able to see what they could accomplish with their dedication to academics and collegiate success. And to see the looks on their faces as they were introduced to these new avenues for their future was truly inspiring. It is rare that you are able to see students go through experiences such as this, and even rarer to be able to support those students in a way that could push them to achieving their dreams. I am excited, and ever so fortunate, to be able to work with these students for the rest of the year.

So you’ve decided to apply to Grad School…

First, congratulations! You’ve decided to apply to a gradaute program. You have decided to take the first step in an incredible journey. But, as many folks discover, this process is not as clear as one would expect. Rankings, areas of study, thesis or no-thesis, professors, interviews. Where do you even being?

Do the Research

Selecting programs to apply to is important for several reasons: 1) Its where you’ll be spending a significant amount of your time and energy and going to the right program is crucial, and 2) applying to schools, and interviewing when necessary, is EXPENSIVE. To avoid attending an institution that you may not connect with or may not have the opportunities you were looking for, and to save on the various fees that come with graduate applications, do the research. Find out what the school is known for and how they do it: what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses, how do they teach it to you, etc. Look into what the instructors do in their work: what research do they complete, how many of them complete research, what are their focus areas. And finally, talk to current students! This one may seem like the most obvious, but it is crucial for your own preparedness. Sending emails, going to campuses if they are close by, discuss the student experience with a current student is one of the most important factors in helping you decide on a program.

Get Started Early

This is a two step process: find out what is needed to apply to the program, and keep yourself organized and on track to apply. While many programs may have similar requirements for application, they are not always exactly the same. Thus, it is important that you look into the requirements of each program early. Starting early means that you can revise essays, can contact references well in advance of deadlines, and cut the “pressure stress” that comes with looming deadlines. But, in order to get started early and stay organized throughout the process, make a checklist! Whether you do this as a word document, or in an excel sheet, or in a notebook, writing down what you need to do is important. Not only does this show you what you’ve done and what you haven’t done, it keeps you on task as well: over the weeks it can take to complete the applications you have it can be easy to forget what you need to do, and to be lax on deadlines. But, having a list can help motivate you to continue on even when it may seem tough.

Talk to Someone

Applications are tough. And there will be moments where you doubt yourself. Where you doubt what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. And while you might think that you can do it on your own, having someone there for you can make all the difference. Whether that is a significant other, your friends, parents, siblings, whomever that may be, establish that relationship and share with them your experience!

While these are just several simple steps, they can be quite helpful when it comes right down to it! In sum, good luck to you on the beginning of this grand journey! There is a phrase in Higher Ed that we often use during interviews: Trust the Process. It will all work out for you, and it will all be ok, and you will make it through.

Reaffirming Experiences


There are days where a graduate program will seem long. With papers to write, articles to read, and the ever looming thesis or job search ahead, it can often feel like your world is a long series of checklists and “ok what’s next.” But, there will also be things that happen throughout your time in the program that will be completely unexpected, wonderful, and remind you of why you’re there.

One such moment happened to me this last week. As a part of the Higher Education and Student Affairs program, masters students are required to have a position on campus working in student affairs to connect and practice those responsible skills learned in class in a professional setting. I have the opportunity to work as a Graduate Supervisor for Residential Programs and Services (RPS). Within this position, I get to work with 20 incredible undergraduate student leaders who serve as Resident Assistants (RAs) within the Residence Hall. One particular RA and I had the opportunity to discuss how they worked with their floor during a difficult situation.

Throughout this last week, many members of the floor community had reported to the RA that they had been woken up at all hours of the morning by their neighbors or other members of the floor being loud. With this happening, it has been difficult for anyone to get a full nights sleep, which has been impacting their ability to attend class, study, and be successful overall in their college experience. In an attempt to discuss this issue with the floor, the RA scheduled a floor meeting early in the morning Continue reading

Starting the Second Year


So you’ve finished your first year of a masters program, spent the summer working in an internship that you loved, and now you’ve returned to your bustling campus for your second year. But, what does that second year have in store? Your first year brought with it changes in your life: new school, new classmates, new town, dietary habits, and even possibly a new partner. But now the second year? Mentors and friends can prepare (if one can be prepared) you for the first year, but hardly anyone talks to you about them second year.

As an aspiring second year masters student, this is where I now sit: Continue reading