Year in Review.

The 7 year rule came into place as of August 2011, meaning I have 7 years from that date to complete my dissertation. So this year I primarily focused on getting my data organized and ideally I am looking to have a dissertation proposal very soon. In recent years, my department has had students complete their dissertation proposal having already completed their analysis–so I am trying to do the same. From now until very early in the fall this is my main focus. Next year I start a new graduate assistantship and ideally I’ll be writing up my dissertation as well as looking into faculty position openings. It will be a very busy year, hard to say it will be the most busiest. Each year my Ph.D. program has come with its own challenges from managing time spent in classes and on class assignments, working as an instructor, research graduate assistant and generally trying to balance life. The summer is about to start though and it’s the perfect time to reenergize a bit, visit with family, and to hit the ground running in terms of setting myself up to have a great start in the fall. Steady as I go.

Accepted program offer, now what?

So the next steps after having accepted a graduate program offer of admittance is to carefully consider all of the resources-networking available to you. Several examples include: banking, cost-of-living, parking permit, change of address information (i.e., mailing and all other correspondence), access to social and peer networks, and staying organized (i.e., good record keeping). Although I came to Indiana from another state, I made many of the appropriate transitions mentioned prior to coming to Indiana. I recall emailing, making phone calls, and doing a number of online searches to gather all of the information I needed so that as soon as I did arrive to Bloomington, IN I had taken care of most of my to-do-list in terms of making the transition from one state to another.

My best advice is to make a list of all the things that can be done prior to your arrival as well as once you arrive. In my own case, I came to Indiana in the July prior to the start of my first semester, this was primarily because my assistantship start date–but it allowed me enough time to be settled in before the start of my program. So, talk to current students, your given faculty, and ask plenty of questions as you outline your next steps.

Good Luck!

The Indiana University student newspaper is a good resource to find information on community opportunities, housing, the surrounding city of Bloomington, restaurants-entertainment and you name it. Check it out.


Ever traveled to Canada?

I know Canada doesn’t sound too exotic, right? I was recently in Vancouver, Canada attending the Society for Research on Adolescence’s Biennial Meeting. This was the conference’s 14th gathering to date and the first time it was held outside of the United States. I attended in part, because I was selected as a 2012 Junior Mentor–an honor that pairs current doctoral students with selected  talented underrepresented undergraduate students whom are about to transition into graduate studies. As a Junior Mentor, I attended  an all day pre-conference, served on a panel having to do with graduate school funding, and I primarily spent my time mentoring and networking. Overall, participating in this program was the highlight of my trip.

Although I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest–this was my first time visiting Vancouver, Canada. I will admit, Vancouver, Canada is a beautiful place. My trip was a reminder that when I complete my Ph.D. program, I would love the opportunity to find a faculty or university position in my home region.

Welcome to Bloomington!

So what is Bloomington, Indiana like? Ultimately, it is what you as a graduate student make of it. Depending on the year you are in within your graduate program (e.g., stage in Ph.D. program)–you’ll either have time to explore (often) or you will be so busy balancing school and anything personal that your time in Bloomington will be completely full. The campus is beautiful and the town is quaint. I wouldn’t consider Bloomington to be a major urban center and yet although rural by some standards, I wouldn’t consider it rural in the extreme. I think of Bloomington for what it is, unique for sure in the Midwest, a college town, home to a major research I flagship institution, and often attracting individuals from all over the world (i.e., a few reasons as seen below).

Proximity to…






Securing Graduate School Funding.

A few years ago, I gave a short presentation on securing funding to IU’s Hudson and Holland Scholars who were intending to pursue graduate studies. At a quick glance I thought it would be applicable here, see below for a summary and maybe something you read will catch your attention.

What is your eligibility? Experience (previous work, research, or internships); merit; retention of underrepresented population; duration of funding (entire time frame or renewable).

Internal Funding – Departmental & Institutional Often offered with acceptance letter and largely based on merit. Examples may include: fellowships in the form of merit-diversity-underrepresented groups; assistantships such as research-instruction-teaching assistant; work-study, similar as an undergraduate; grants that may potentially based on merit; the FAFSA based on financial need.

External Funding – Multiple Options Outside of your department; similar as opportunities as mentioned above, but may or may not be closely related to your field or area of study.

Initial search for External Funding – Institution’s Graduate School; position openings within another department; supporting organizations in your field; national organizations within your city or community that you reside in.

Strategize – Submit simultaneous applications, when you apply to the graduate program, also apply to potential funding sources with the idea in mind that you anticipate admittance into the graduate program; ask about opportunities for funding.

Admitted to program and offered internal funding – Q: Will I be supported each year or is there a time limit? Stipend, tuition remission (reduction), other (insurance).

Admitted to program, yet no internal funding offered – Consider the rankings and prestige of program that you are admitted to; not obtaining an offer initially does not suggest you will not get one at a later time in your program (half way through your first year or in your second year)

You’ll have to ask yourself, what challenges may arise if you do not obtain internal funding initially? Attaining funding may require concentrated organization – Keep in contact with faculty and departments; forward your resume/vitae and coverletter to prospective openings; make a list all possible opportunities; check *eligibility & *deadlines; applications may suggest applying in the spring for upcoming academic year; applications may open in the fall and a response may be given in the spring for summer or subsequent year; create a folder for each application.

Understand all of your options – Here are some institutions/programs to help you start your search Graduate office and your department; research centers specific to field and related fields; Trio programs (McNair); Fulbright programs; Ford Foundation; Spencer Foundation, Gates Foundation; William T. Grant Foundation; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute of Health;; National Science Foundation; Hispanic College Fund; Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Office of Minority Health; *review other’s CVs; join professional organizations to access listserves/information.



Schedule A Campus Visit.

I highly recommend that you do visit your potential graduate school institution, it is a smart decision. Simple put, a visit can go a long way in your own personal ranking of a program.

When you schedule a visit: 1) be sure to take a tour around campus, 2) meet with faculty in your intended program, 3) come prepared to ask questions and seek out opportunities to meet with current graduate students, 4) keep in mind what the cost of living will likely be, and 5) do as much research ahead of time to give you a head start & also make time to have some fun on your trip.







Graduate School Applications.

Here are some hints to consider, there are definitely more—but this is a start.


Be as specific and to the point as possible in terms of research direction and faculty you are interested in working with. Note how your experience or training can contribute to research currently being conducted or potential research that may be conducted once you arrive.

Submit a completed application as soon as possible, meeting the application deadline. Keep records, a file of every school you apply to.

Ask plenty of questions while preparing, during, and even after the application process. Know all your potential funding sources and how to access them.

Be assertive and do your research on schools and locations. Explore your options by gathering as much information about each school as possible and make a campus visit.



Expect opportunities to simply present themselves.

Submit anything without having made sure you have copies of the particular application component.



I recently attended a McNair conference and I was impressed with how much work the McNair Scholars put into their research endeavors. As I spent time sitting in on presentations and reviewing poster sessions, also encouraging students to consider Indiana University for graduate studies, I immediately thought to myself that these students in attendance are the future of academia. When considering the present state of affairs in relation to retention and recruitment of underrepresented student populations, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as faculty of color in higher education, programs particularly such as McMair play a significant role in diversifying the academy. The early access to career and professional development was clearly evident in the quality of work presented by students.




Strong (Quality) Letters of Recommendation

As one of several key components already mentioned by the emissaries, the catch word is quality and I would say the only way anyone will receive a quality letter of recommendation from faculty would be by having built a strong rapport with a faculty member. Before you approach the potential recommender, gather yourself appropriately by having a strong resume or CV as well as an overall record of engaging with your potential recommender. Essentially, as long as you give your recommender at least a 3 week notice AND have been consistently communicating with him or her then they will more than likely do their part and write a great letter.

The point is that by having engaged your potential recommender already, he or she may have an easier process in writing about your abilities and potential. Have confidence, be assertive, and set aside some time to have a serious conversation with your potential recommender and let him or her know ultimately how much the recommendation would be beneficial to you and what your own expectations are. As a general note, I would have several potential recommenders and consider how each could speak to your specific capacities to progress through graduate school.

For a summary see the link below to a recently released webinar specific to recommendation letters. Enjoy.

University of California-Berkeley: Letters of Recommendation Strategies