Decisions, Decisions: Graduate School?…or Nah

This morning at 8am, I joined my U215 students (freshmen Hudson & Holland Scholars) in our discussion section where we engaged in a very robust conversation regarding the “college for all” crusade and the question of whether or not a college education is really the “golden ticket” to success. My students, who are extremely bright and vocal, shared their various opinions, but by the end of the conversation, they all reached the same conclusion: college is definitely worth it.

As a graduate student, there are times when I ask myself, “Is this thing called graduate school really worth my time, effort, sleepless nights, MONEY, and all of the other sacrifices I have given and continue to give for this PhD?” Even though I have these moments that sometimes manifest themselves in the form of griping and complaining, I still manage to draw the same conclusions as my students: It really is worth it!

If you are grappling with the question: “To go or not to go to graduate school?'” because of the major costs involved (in terms of dollars and cents and the intangible things like time), do not let those thoughts deter you from pursuing a graduate degree. Yes, it’s important to count up the cost, but do not get so wrapped up in the costs that you negate the benefits, both tangible and intangible. Be your own cheerleader and encourage yourself as you prepare your application. Speak to mentors, faculty members, others in your field about your decision. Extra affirmation is always a good thing. It’s simple. If you really see yourself conducting research, diving deep into areas of interest and informing the work in that field, go for it!

Scheduling a Committee Meeting  

Students beware, getting faculty together is one of those impossible things that must be done if you want to graduate.

In my department, in order to graduate, I have to have an oral defense with my committee. A committee is made up of at least three professors, usually two who reside within the department, who meet to discuss your work. While this function is in their job description, many faculty look at it as “something extra” they have to do. What this means for a student trying to get them into the same room, is that they are only going to give you their time if it is convenient to them.

Convenient for them does not mean convenient for you. Add this to the fact that you have at least three committee members and you have yourself the kind of fun lamented by graduate students everywhere. This process is jokingly impossible, but it can be done without too much fuss.

The solution: Doodle. Get a doodle to them as quickly as possible and give lots and lots of options/times. If you are lucky, they will find a common time with the first go. If you are unlucky, try, try again. Other methods involve going to faculties’ office hours (if they tell you their office hours) and if that fails, you wait outside their classes (this is a last resort, of course).

I am giving you an example of the worst case scenario, but the big take away is that scheduling faculty meetings is its own assignment. Some will ask you to write your own exam questions, sign their signature, pass your e-mails to someone else, or even bring them an actual calendar. Whatever pitfalls you find yourself in, remember, you are not alone. Many students have had the same challenges you have.

Finally, if all else fails and you have put in as many man-hours as you are willing to give, contact your departmental secretary. They are usually skilled in diplomatically reminding faulty of their duties. Remember, however, this is a passive aggressive strategy and once a bridge is burned you have to rebuild it.

These have been my experiences and they are not shared by everyone, but during my time in academia, I have found diplomacy and bureaucracy to be very good friends. Treat people like people first, but some tact can go a long way.

Getting Your Hands on That “Mean Green”

Money money money money…some people gotta have it, some people really need it. It’s only fitting to begin this post with the lyrics of renowned soul group The O’Jays from their hit song For the Love of Money. These lyrics definitely describe graduate students’ sentiments regarding funding our graduate education. Graduate school is not cheap, and it sure is not free! But don’t be alarmed! What’s the best way to fund your education? SImple. Get someone else to pay for it.

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A Better You Meets a Better Graduate Student

Wake up. Go to school. Go to work. Go to the library. Go home. Study and write some more. Wake up the next day. Do it all over again. Food? Sleep? Who needs those, right? WRONG! With the scholar grind at an all-time high as a graduate student, it is easy to get so lost in the hustle and bustle that we forget to look out for someone very important: ourselves. No matter how overwhelming the challenges, always keep YOU in the front of your mind. Sometimes, ok most times, this seems impossible to do, but it can be done! How…you ask?

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Nom Nom Nom

Photo by me (LaNita C)

Photo by me (LaNita C)

The picture above is my weekly meal prep time. It may look like too much food but its an easy way to save money and time for anyone and everyone, whether you are a graduate student or not. Clockwise from top left I have tilapia, pork chops, chicken and potatoes, ground beef and salsa, and steak burgers. Cooking in bulk will save you time because you cook one time for the whole week.

Just a few pointers/tips so you can experiment with meal prepping:

#1- CROCKPOTS I have 2 and I will put meats/veggies in them and let them cook on low or high for hours. EXAMPLE: chicken breasts or drumsticks with some garlic, salt, pepper, and cajun spice and chicken broth on low for 6 hours. Then you can just broil them for a few minutes to get the skin crispy.

#2- EGGS I hard boil about 10-12 eggs for easy breakfast or snacks. I don’t have time to scramble eggs everyday.

#3- FISH So you cant make a ton of fish and expect it to stay fresh- but it will last a day or two. I love tilapia for breakfast. I buy a ton of frozen tilapia fillets. Thaw them and put some cajun or chipotle seasoning on it. Heat a bit of olive oil in non-stick pan and sear it. Adding green chile sauce to it while its in the pan. Easy, fast, lean protein.

#4- LOTS OF TUPPERWARE Yep you need a lot to save in fridge or freezer and to take with you everywhere.

#5- MRS DASH SEASONING (no salt) Great and easy seasoning. I have a cabinet full. Most spices and marinades are full of sodium.

These are just a few suggestions to make life easier when schedules are chaotic!

Having Fun Isn’t Hard When You’ve Got a Library Card: The Movie

I have never been a fan a libraries…don’t get me wrong, I believe they should exist like traffic lights and a big burly bouncer when a brawl is about to go down, but Landon personally would never step foot in a library if I did not have to.  Thankfully the Indiana University gods bestowed IUCat upon us.  I am almost certain that I have mention IUCat before, books are available to be read online through our university’s online library.  In the event that they are not, you can request the book you’re looking for to be delivered to your own personal carrel.  Carrels are graffiti laced desk within the library that you can reserve during the duration of your academic career at Indiana University.  Whenever you need a book you can have it delivered to your carrel via IUCat or you can have the book delivered to any of the libraries on campus to pick up and use in the safety of your own home, coffee shop, or particular zen study space.

Personal bias aside, the library staff is always available to help you in person or online.  This is what makes visiting the library bearable, you are always guaranteed to receive proper assistance and leave feeling a little more confident about your research (unless you’re researching Cosbynomics).

“Toi Toi Toi”


Photo from

Photo from




I know lawyers and doctors (MD and PhDs) and public officials all from my time here at IU, but none are possibly as interesting as the vocalists I have met that are pursuing advanced degrees. Not only do you have the chance to attend Jacobs School of Music operas at The Musical Arts Center for discounted student pricing, but you get to see fellow graduate students showcase their hard work and talent on stage (as well as the musicians in the orchestra pit).

Operas are dynamic, fun, and exciting. It’s also a far more complex world than I originally thought. Imagine singing for 3+ hours! Imagine learning songs in French, German, or Italian! There are altos, tenors, baritones, counter tenors, sopranos and mezzo sopranos, contraltos, and bass baritones to name a few! I am no opera aficionado, but I absolutely love them and take advantage of every opportunity to attend a performance and learn more.

Just like attending your first IU basketball game, going to the Lil 500 race, playing cornhole (I never heard of this in Los Angeles), and experiencing the Taste of Bloomington– I think attending an opera (at least once) should be on everyone’s list. Who knows, you just might become a season ticket holder! After all, Jacobs School of Music is one of the most renowned in the nation.