Graduate Assistantships and Portable Funding

Funding graduate school

Finding funding is an integral experience of most graduate students’ post-baccalaureate endeavors. The majority of funded graduate students earn appointments as graduate assistants. In fact, some programs will not admit a student unless they secure a graduate assistant position. Similar to most other job searches, many graduate assistant positions require an application, record of previous employment, statement of skills, and an interview. GA positions, as they are commonly called, frequently appear in job listings as teaching appointments (as associate instructor or an adjunct), administrative work in a campus office, or research. Graduate Assistantships are often institution specific, some are even departmentally assigned. (For help finding Assistantships at IU, visit or contact the GradGrants center .)

A more flexible, and accordingly much more competitive, source of funding exist as portable funding. Portable funding refers to financial assistance that is not tied to a specific institution and thus may be used at any institution accepting the funding.

See the following list of websites to find and further explain portable funding:
* US News & World Report –
* Grad schools website has a page dedicated to portable funding –
* The National Science Foundation offers multiple fellowships each year –

Living on a graduate stipend

Get a loan.
Unless you’ve worked full-time and stored up a considerable amount of savings, then you will more than likely need a loan to supplement your graduate assistantship. Some positions pay better than others. My assistantship as a ten month associate instructor is pretty common for doctoral students. The assistantship allows for a 97% fee remission for up to 12 credit hours in the Fall, 12 credit hours for the Spring, and 6 hours for the summer. Thus, 3% of the fees is still mine to cover. To help pay for that portion of tuition fees and help with living costs, I get a stipend that covers, just barely, the rent, food, and personal bills. During the Fall and Spring, the stipend is enough for just living, but not exactly enough for books and going out; moreover, it is no help at all in the summer. In which case, graduate students do a scramble every summer to find work for the two months we’re unemployed. It can be difficult, but doable. To survive the summer, I teach math for Upward Bound high school students and serve as a counselor for any other summer program I can find on campus. Additionally, I room with two other graduate students to keep the cost of living low. To avoid such hardships, most other graduate students get loans and live comfortably.

Finding a mentor

Finding a mentor may initially seem like a difficult task. Approaching someone you don’t know, someone you imagine is very busy, someone you view as a professional while you perceive yourself to be a novice–seems daunting. I offer you this suggestion, approach finding a mentor the same way you do finding someone to follow on Twitter.
I’m pursuing someone currently to be my mentor and possibly a member of my dissertation committee, so I can expound on my process, or better yet, let me give you a checklist:

*Identify someone who is relevant in the field/discipline you’re pursuing, and has characteristics with quick you may be able to connect.
*Begin reading some of this person’s work: conference presentation transcripts, published articles, books/book chapters, stories on this person in the periodicals and websites
*Now that you’ve gotten to know this person on paper, you may begin looking for their social media presence–is this person on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, WordPress, have their own personal or professional website? If so, friend them, follow them, subscribe to their website(s) and YouTube channel(s).
*At this point you should either be reaffirmed that you want this person to be your mentor, or you have let this person go from your possibly mentors list and gone back to bullet one of this checklist.

*If you are reaffirmed you want this person as your mentor, you are more than likely so familiar with their work that you can send them an email informing them that you’ve read some of their work, that the _____ argument/topic/theme really spoke to you, and then ask an informed question about that topic/theme.

*If the person responds, reply back soon with signs of gratification and another question.  If they respond to your second email.

*Then ask if there is a time you all can meet or speak more over the phone.

*If you get the “call back”, you are basically being interviewed at that point to be that person’s mentor. You have read all a lot of their work at this point, and you should have some idea of the things your are interested in (it does not have to be a dissertation or thesis topic, just simply state what you’re interested in at this point in your matriculation or career) that you can share with this perspective mentor.

*From there it is history, butter, a slice of cake, and you have yourself a bonafide mentor.


Graduate Student Emissaries at Work

Along with blogging, giving student tours and being successful Graduate Students the Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity also give presentations. Three emissaries gave a presentation on “graduate school preparedness” at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program LEAD Conference on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Bloomington Convention Center.

Carl D., Zelideh M-H., and Alfonse P presented two workshops on “Graduate School Preparedness” at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program LEAD Conference on Saturday, February 2, 2013 at the Bloomington Convention Center.

~ Photo taken by David N.

End of the year grind

African American and Africa Diaspora Studies PhD student types paper during finals weekJournalism PhD student Katrina studying in IU's main libraryStudying is one of the best things you can do to get into graduate school. It doesn’t depend on anyone else, you can do it in class, after work, before hanging out, right before and after sleeping. Studying is on you, and if you don’t do it before grad school, you may still get in, but it will be difficult to keep up with your colleagues, your cohort, and your professor’s expectations. I didn’t read much before graduate school, and it negatively affected my GRE score, which in turn decreased my chances for funding. Had I read in undergrad, the verbal portion of the GRE wouldn’t have seemed so foreign to me. Had it not been for my strong math background, I wouldn’t have broken 1000 (old GRE scale, back when 1200 was the high).

So what can you do now, read. Take the GRE again to get the higher verbal score, and submit that with your application. Read, and mention the books and articles you’ve read in your application and personal statement. Read, that’s half the PhD process.

Identify how you read best, do you retain more when you are listening to music, alone in your room, swiping through pages on your nook, kindle, or ipad, listening to books on tape/cd/mp3, or reading in a group; find out what works best for you and get started.  Reading required texts for your program can become boring, so take the time now before starting your program to read books and study subjects outside of your field.  Read some fiction, poetry, and a novel or two.  It is always a plus to be well-rounded, and regardless of how much money you have, with access to public libraries and the open web, anyone can be well-read.  Every book includes a new word, a different approach to an idea, or even a new concept that you can learn and draw upon when writing your personal statement or taking the GRE. Do not discredit or underestimate the power and significance of simply reading. Many current graduate students will tell you that you only need to skim articles in graduate school, but that advice comes with the assumption that you already did plenty of reading before entering the program.  Study now, read now, it will make graduate school much more accessible and manageable for you in the long run.  It is the end of year, grind it out in the library and read.

Relevant Recommendations from Royalty

To present an undeniable application package, show the program that you are currently participating in the very activities in which they expect their current students to be involved.  Aiming for a PhD program, highlight any research that you may have conducted in a masters program.  Make mention of the refereed journal articles you have read and how those articles have influenced the way your approach your research or even altered/reinforced your research interests.

Otherwise, you can take the approach I did: get relevant recommendations from royalty.  Three high ranking administrators/professors from my undergraduate/masters institution (I got both my BS and MEd from the same university) wrote the recommendation letters for my PhD program.  To reflect my academic prowess and scholastic accomplishments, I had the director of the Honors Program, with whom I both taught and taken classes,  write my first recommendation.  Because I was applying for a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs, I got my second recommendation letter from the president of the university.  As an added bonus, he also happened to be an alum of the institution to which I was applying. Finally, as mentioned earlier the program has Student Affairs in its name, so I had the Vice President of Student Affairs write my final recommendation letter.

It is kind of difficult to deny someone admission to a Higher Education program who has recommendations from the King (president), Prince (vice president), and Dutchess (Honors Program director) of a kingdom (research university).  In which case, I suggest finding the heavy hitters in your field, and ask them to write your recommendation letters.  Of course, this works best when you first have a relationship with these scholastic celebrities.  Understand that they may not necessarily be the leading researchers in your chosen field, but getting a recommendation from the highest ranking professors on your campus still speaks volumes about your potential.  It means someone who actually has a lot to lose feels confident enough in your abilities to put their good reputations and credibility on the line.

Not much time is left before graduate school applications are due, ask a member of your academic field’s royalty for a recommendation today.

Customized Victory

The Resume’ v. C.V. debate simplified.

Much has been offered on the merits, uses, and differences between resume’s and curriculum vitae; in fact, the coverage currently on this blog provides an amplified version of the Resume’ v. CV debates. I will take another route and present my perspective of resume’s and CV, this version can be aptly considered the simplified version: no diagrams, no pictures, no filler.

Resume’: “though we have only met once, this enlarged business card may remind you at least of my name”

CV: “Please allow me to re-introduce myself, my name is HOVE!”

The resume’ to me simply allows a prospective employer to remember your name and possibly a little background information such as your school, academic program, and/or your most recent job(s). It does little to make a difference in the big scheme of things, but does allow for your name not to be forgotten, like exchanging nametags at a conference or business cards at a networking event.
The CV on the other hand provides one with the opportunity to present themselves faultless, without stuttering, sweating, a loose handshake, or a crooked tie/wrinkled blouse. While the resume gets a foot in the door, the CV puts one’s whole body (body of work) in front of the reader. While one’s style (attire, tone of voice, demeanor, and overall swag) may be communicated to an employer or graduate program recruiter in a conference career fair, one presents their substance through actual conversation with the recruiter, and that is what seal’s the deal. One’s resume’ is like style, it could serve to attract or distract. One’s CV, however, is equivalent to one’s substance, a CV reopens the conversation without you even being present.
In the game of getting funding, a job, or accepted into a gradaute program, a resume’ is you saying “hey, remember me” in hopes that if the recruiter remembers you, then you will have a chance of being picked. The CV, on the other hand, is your way to customize your victory, to align what you have done to what that company or program aims to accomplish, to fit your piece exactly into the jigsaw puzzle of their enrollment goals.
Resume – you may remember me, and thus I have a chance to win
CV – here I am, choosing me is definitely a win for you
Giving someone your resume in today’s job market is like buying a powerball lottery ticket.
Giving them your CV is Customizing your own Victory. The CV allows you to establish how you want to be remembered and where you want to be placed in the research lab, graduate program cohort, or new job.

My President Looks Like Me

Post-Election Day, My President still Looks Like Me.

Exciting collaboration between the Black Graduate Student Association, Black Culture Center, and the undergraduate chapters of the IUB National Pan-Hellenic Council for President Barack Hussein Obama’s re-election watch party.

After the re-election for Mr. President was confirmed, everyone took celebration pictures because for another 4 years, the president looked like us.