Activities for Parents

I have a young daughter. Being in Bloomington has afforded me the opportunity to start her life in a fairly safe, comfortable place. There are so many activities for parents and children. Here are a few to consider:

1.  Parks

There are many parks in take children to especially when the weather is in your favor! My favor is Bryant Park because there are three different play grounds, a walking area that is .8 miles for me to exercise, and wonderful landscaping for picnics and friends.  For more information about parks in Bloomington visit:  http://bloomington.in.gov/sections/viewSection.php?section_id=8

2.  Wonderlab

This is a small gem in this town! Wonderlab is an interactive science lab/museum for children as young as 1 year old to 100. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to visit as an adult.  WonderLab encourages children to interact with the world around them using various elements, equipment, and creativity.  For more information, please visit:  http://www.wonderlab.org/

Visiting the IU Campus

I always wanted to attend a college with grass, trees, and brick buildings as an undergraduate student. When researching graduate schools and after visiting a few VERY urban campuses, I realized that this was an important criterion for me. I like the grassy, pillows and blankets, trees, and frisbie catching experience that green space offers on college campuses. Yes, this may sound very traditional, but that was a quality about the IU campus that appealed to needs that I did not know that I had. As a graduate student, the traditional feel of IU has encouraged several things: relaxed environment to work in, less traffic and challenge of the fast life, as well as interacting with undergraduates while walking to class. This has enriched my experience as a graduate student.

You should visit the IU campus because it does offer many traditional aspects to college life. As previously mentioned, green space is very important to this institution. The campus highlights this by providing programming, fairs, and other activities to engage with other students. And, there is usually free food in Dunn Meadow when it is warm and sunny on a regular basis! :)

Visiting campus as a graduate student is ideal. You may be here for longer than four years. You might have a family that would be using campus facilities. It might impact how you fit into your department or even with other graduate students. Whatever are your specific needs, I strongly encourage you to visit to evaluate if this is the place for you.

I was sold on my first visit and have never regretted it since!

The Waiting Game

I remember what January of 2010 was like.  I had sent in all 5 of my applications. I had focused so much energy and time, produced so many drafts of the “perfect” personal statement, paid so much money in application fees, and had sent too many emails to my recommenders.  Although this may seem like a time where you should worry, it is not.

There is nothing eloquent that I can write about this waiting game. Nothing heartfelt or rhythmic.  I only want to encourage you that now is where the confidence in all of your hard work, your academic experiences, your decisions to select the schools to apply to, all of the internet and soul searching, every sacrifice that you have made, and the strength that it took to take a leap of faith to actually begin the application process is going to pay off. You will succeed.

Indiana University is an amazing school and definitely a place where you can thrive and learn and grow into a better academic and professional. And, if this is your choice, I look forward to seeing you at future GPSO events. Don’t worry about shoulda, woulda, couldas….worry about the  ”I wills” and the “I can’t waits!”

Relax. Go about your daily routines. Wait for the email notification. And, be patient. The confirmation is coming your way!!!!

New Year’s Goal: Complete Qualifying Exams

Last Friday morning, I began the first weekend for my qualifying exams. As a third year student in my program, it is now my time to work towards completion of my degree. The qualifying exams for the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program consists of two questions spread over two weekends. I received the first prompt at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. My 20 page response (minus appendices and bibliography in APA format) was due on Monday afternoon by 4:30 pm. (Which means that in less than 9 hours, round 2 will begin!!!!!!!!)

Qualifying exams are designed for doctoral students to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge that they have received during their academic tenure. The purpose is to respond to an issue or problem using the tools that I am supposed to have gained in 2.5-ish years. As my second weekend approaches, I am certain that I have written wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy better papers than that. However, I am confident that I demonstrated that I have learned and can apply the knowledge of my field.

I am so excited to finish this last semester of coursework. As I contemplate the next year or so of my life, where I will be writing my dissertation, I am confident that I have gained tools and have had experienced here at Indiana University that has laid a foundation for me to become a leader in my field.

Finishing Up the Semester…

This week: 30 pages. Next week: 45 pages. Next month: qualifying exams. Tonight: Sleep. It’s finals. Graduate school is definitely a different experience from undergrad. There is more emphasis on self learning and self-discipline. Self-discipline is what you rely on when you have nothing, but a syllabus with three sentences to guide you to finish a final paper worth 50% of your grade.

As I finish up my final fall semester of classes EVER as a student, all I can do is fight off the urge to do the bare minimum. This is not an option at this point. It has been a long 16 weeks of classes for me. The nine credits I signed up for this summer are definitely not fitting the idealistic notion that I created in my head. Rather, this has been the most challenging semester of my entire academic career (including kindergarten).

What have I learned from this?
I have learned that I will finish. Haha! Although this seems so simple, when it is 11:06 p.m. and your paper is due in 53 minutes (11:59 p.m.) you realize just how much willpower and drive you have to meet the deadline. The difference from undergrad is that I have been working on this research since the first week of class and STILL am working up to the last minute. This does not happen for everyone, but I do appreciate the fight that I still have up to the very end.

What will I do next semester?
I will finish. Same answer, different question. I am looking forward to being A.B.D. next year. I am looking forward to finishing up all of my classes. I am looking forward to conducting research. No matter what I am looking forward to, each responsibility will require me to meet each goal that I have set at the highest level possible. That is self-discipline: striving to finish strong despite the numerous responsibilities one must meet.

So, I encourage you as you think ahead to next year or later what you will do during your first fall semester. Consider what are the realistic goals that must be met to finish the semester, develop new and useful skills, and increase your knowledge in your field. Just know that in the end you will finish. : )

Once You Submit Your Application(s)

Once you have submitted your applications, it becomes time to breathe. You may not know what the future has in store, but reading the tips from my colleagues, I hope you have been able to gain some insight into what a successful resume and CV looks like. Hitting the submit button or mailing the package is not the end of your journey. I remember sending off the five completed packages and trying to move my mind to something else. Yet, I know that is important for you now to move on to the search for funding options. There are many options that you should consider when looking for funding:

1. Institutional funding opportunities. This can be found on the graduate school website that you have applied to. Additionally, you may find information listed on your program website. Look for fellowships, grants, and scholarships. Be sure to meet the deadlines and do not hesitate to pick up the phone to ask questions.

2. Look for outside organizations that support graduate students. Organizations such as Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) offer free applications and other forms of support. It is important to recognize these early in your search and remember them throughout your educational experience.

3. Make sure that you understand the changes that have occurred with loan processes in the U.S. If this is an option for you, be sure that you recognize the penalties, fees, and restrictions.

Although this is a short list, I hope that it encourages you to make sure that you increase your knowledge of your funding opportunities.

When I graduated with my master’s degree, I was a happy recipient of a graduate assistantship. It allowed me to consider a doctoral degree as a strong possibility.

The Switch: From Resume to CV

Last year I decided to take what I thought was the ultimate professional plunge in academia:  the switch from a resume to a CV.  I took a few weeks to glance over my peers’ and mentors’ CVs to get ideas on organization, style, verbage, length, and detail. The process was ongoing for me as I prepared to apply for fellowships, scholarships, and professional conferences. I even googled CV examples for me to determine what was the best or what was considered appropriate for my field.  In all of my searching, I came to a major decision:  there is no right way.

I spent so much time thinking that the design of my CV was the most important piece of it; that if it did not look like my colleagues that I would automatically be out of the running for whatever I was applying for.  However, the content that you have, the experiences that you share, the highlights that you select to include based on your experiences are of the utmost importance on your CV.  Take my advice:  simple is better. Do not get lost in the font style, size, or headings. Just make sure that you tell the readers of your CV what are the most important parts of your prior experience that make you the top candidate.

In all of the trial and error, I did come to learn that having a professional AND academic mentor/professor read over my draft copy was the best thing to do.  They will correct the mistakes that make not follow what is acceptable in your field. Just be wise. Be honest. Be concise. Good luck!

What I Do to Have a Balanced Life…

My sole purpose at Indiana University is to graduate with my Ph. D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs. Yet, I seriously doubt that I would be able to be as successful as I am without friends (new family) and extracurricular activities to help keep me sane.  In many blog posts on this site, my colleagues and I share many ways that we have found to connect to the larger Bloomington community. I, too, like to stay active in the Bloomington community with my church, the Farmer’s Market, and shopping. Additionally, I have found myself very connected to students, my peers and undergraduates.  Perhaps it is the nature of my degree, but I enjoy the connections that I have with my peers and students.

I serve as the adviser to the undergraduate chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the NAACP. This is my second year and I love the opportunities that I have to advise, mentor, and learn from these amazing students.

Members of the NAACP Executive Board

We have a very active chapter of the Black Graduate Students’ Association or BGSA here on campus. From social events to  networking nights, since my tenure at IU students in this group have celebrated birthdays, births, graduations, defenses, and so many other life altering events together. This has been a great way for me to connect to others across various disciplines.

BGSA friends. Taken by Tomika.

When the honeymoon is over…

The first six weeks of classes have now come to an end. This can be a beautiful or challenging time depending on how well you have prioritized your life. One key piece of advice that I would like to is to take the time to reflect. The excitement of new opportunities, classes, professors, and peers makes the beginning of the school year sounds like an academic vacation! Build from that excitement and start early. Begin to order your prioritize your academic, personal, and professional life. For me, I begin with my personal life, then my academic, then my professional life. It is all about a customized schedule that helps you to function efficiently and successfully as you meet your individual goals.

I look at the first six weeks as the honeymoon phase because it can be easy to forget that the entire semester is 16 weeks of progressive responsibilities. Each challenge you face is able to be accomplished, but graduate school requires a new approach to tackling life.
Before you get to campus, consider what is most important for you to succeed and create strategies to help you to work towards your goals. My first year at IU was definitely challenging because I wanted to take advantage of ALL the opportunities available in research, professional development, working with students, and extracurricular activities. Things changed dramatically when I hit one week where every responsibility required something from me. I was overwhelmed and stressed out which made the fact that I was prepared to handle my responsibilities disappear.

Take time to reflect throughout your time in graduate school and learn to adapt new strategies to assist you in meeting the challenges you may face. Remember, obtaining your degree is the ultimate goal, but requires a dedication that you can never imagine you had to give. But hey, the journey is worth it!

Rankings, Only One Criterion

During the last two years I was in undergrad, I remember scowering through websites, books, mentors’ brains…anything that would help me to select the BEST graduate schools for me to apply to. It did not take long for me to figure out which schools were appropriate for me: they were listed among the top schools in the rankings, they were the alma maters for my mentors, and/or they were the institutions where well-published research was generated. During those last two years of undergrad, I made a list of potential graduate schools almost every week. Then, I took a year off. I am smiling right now as I reflect over that year. All of the research that I conducted during those last two years still relied heavily on published rankings from several sources. In retrospect, the rankings were not a horrible resource; rather they limited my thought process.

During the summer and fall after undergrad, I hopped in my car and drove to some of the campuses I had considered for graduate school. I am grateful for those trips. I remember pulling into a parking lot of one institution, after being lost for two hours in traffic, exhausted, frazzled, and irritable. I missed my campus tour, got a parking ticket, and suddenly, my number one lost its appeal. Yes, that was a wretched experience, but I learned that I wanted to go to an institution that was not located in a large metropolitan area, that had plenty of grass, and had a lesser number of one way streets. These were the aspects of my future “home” that the rankings were not able to illustrate.

The point I am trying to make is this: rankings help you to figure out what a majority of people may consider is best in a graduate school, but it will not make the decision about what you consider is best in a graduate school. I still applied to some of the top (and currently attend one) institutions in the rankings, but half of them never made my list until I started visiting campuses. Rankings are a great way to start the graduate school application process, but campus visits, discussions with alumni and current students, and a grasp on where the best research/researchers are will solidify your decision.