Imposter Syndrome: Balancing Personal versus Academic Identity

I’ve heard the term “Imposter Syndrome” since the first semester that I arrived on IUB’s campus as a Ph.D. student. Essentially, “imposter syndrome” references the tendency that most faculty and students develop to perform their knowledge and proficiency in subjects of interest. It seems that “imposter syndrome” can even be performed involuntarily, with some prospective and new graduate students adopting this persistent intellectual performance in order to validate their presence in their respective programs to their faculty and peers.

My personal identity is not one that is rooted in ego, or the necessity to always be right. However, when I first began my graduate experience as a Ph.D. student, I felt the need to come up with something “smart” to say in my core classes with peers in order to please the professor, and to also prove that I had earned the right to be amongst the best and the brightest minds that surrounded me everyday. It was taxing and exhausting to say the least after the first year of doing it, and I realized that I needed to work on blending my personal identity with my academic identity more thereafter.

The truth is, many prospective and new graduate students are tempted to “prove” themselves and perform their intellect as soon as they arrive in their departments. But, what if each of us, the best and bright minds who earned acceptance into our programs, decided to celebrate the transitional moments and learning curves that come with beginning a graduate program? What if we dared to answer, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll look into it,” instead of “Well, if you consider…or insert author once said”? Don’t get me wrong, I strongly encourage everyone who knows a little bit about something or everything to share their knowledge, so we all can become better informed from it. As a tidbit though, as I’ve learned, you don’t have to start off as the “know-it-all” scholar in your programs, because most people have the same questions as you do, or at minimum hold similar anxieties about starting something new with new people.

I firmly believe that we become better learners when we decide that a good source for knowledge is important, even if that source is not us. Remaining teachable and authentic as a person will take you far beyond your graduate degree. And sometimes wisdom and temperament are more important to demonstrate on a regular basis than knowledge.

Black History Month Gala in Bloomington

Though Bloomington has a relatively small Black community (~4%), Black History Month is packed with celebratory events both on campus and throughout the city.  These events have provided opportunities for me to interact with community members and engage in intergenerational dialogue outside of campus. Wakanda aside, one of my favorite events this month was the  Annual Black History Month Gala. It was my first time Continue reading

Life in Bloomington by Thomas Elton IV

Not being from Bloomington and the state of Indiana in general there were adjustments that I had to get used to while being a graduate student here at IUB. For example, I am from northeast Ohio so my main grocery store went from Giant Eagle to Kroger. The price of a gallon of milk is about a dollar to sixty cents cheaper, and my favorite spring water brand, Deer Park, is not really available by the case here. The spring water brand here is Ice Mountain and it is bottled by the same company but the water comes from different springs based on region.  For this month’s entry, I am going to talk about housing and activities as a graduate student here at IUB.

Housing
During my undergraduate career, I stayed in a residence hall all four years. Coming to graduate school, it was time to finally lease my first apartment. I recommend taking a visit to the apartment/ apartment complex that you would like to lease prior to signing. This is what I did to make sure that I wasn’t going to be deceived with what was pictured and described through their website. In fact my first visit to Bloomington wasn’t for to visit the school it was to look at potential apartments. I chose to go with a furnished apartment that, includes appliances, a bed, a washer, dryer, internet, cable, and other amenities. I chose this because my graduate program is only two years, and I knew that it was a good chance that I would be moving from Bloomington after graduation. So in order to have less belongings to move, I went with a furnished apartment. The only thing that I have to pay for outside of my rent is for electricity. When looking at apartments, look at the location. My apartment is approximately a 1.5 miles from the school, but there is a free shuttle service that takes us to the school during the week days downtown so that we may enjoy some of the local establishments that downtown Bloomington has to offer.

Activities
In Bloomington, there is a restaurant for everyone. Around once a month, I enjoy one of the local restaurants with other graduate students that I have met during my time here. Some restaurants are local to Bloomington such as The Tap, Opie Taylors, or Mother Bears, Bears Place while others you may or may not have them where you are from such as BJs, or Cheddars. Some establishments have trivia nights, some have karaoke nights while others are just places to enjoy with your new friends that you will make here. Also the IUB theater has free movies for students, some are screened before they are released in theaters everywhere while others, are movies that you may have missed in theaters, but are not yet available to purchase or rent. All you need to attend is a valid student ID and the theater is in the IMU.

Black History Month: Celebrating the People Who Changed IU

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the month-long celebration of African-American culture and black contributions in the US and across the world. Origins from the Historian Carter G. Woodson and others, “Negro History Week” celebrated black excellence and our rich contributions to advancing America’s history1. As elementary students we are familiar with Harriet Tubman leading slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad and the writings of Frederick Douglas. We touch on the peaceful teachings of civil disobedience of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and remember Rosa Parks’ resistance to relinquish her bus seat during the fight for Civil Rights.

However, arriving on most college campus, there’s a shift. It as though the teaching of black history, diminishes. African-American’s at Indiana University have a rich history of perseverance and accomplishments all their own that we should take pride in learning. A few notable Black achievements from the Bloomington campus are mentioned below and by all means this is not an exhaustive list.

Dr. James P. Holland2 Dr. Holland received his PhD in zoology-endocrinology from Indiana University (IU) in 1961. As Professor of Biology for more than 30 years at IU, he received the Herman B. Wells Lifetime Achievement Award as well as over two dozen teaching and service awards. Dr. Holland was a seven-time recipient of the Senior Class Award for Teaching Excellence in Biology and Dedication to Undergraduates, an award voted each year by the biology senior class, in which faculty rarely earn the designation more than once. His love and passion for teaching was apparent and appreciated by those around him. As a mentor and role model for all students, not just underrepresented groups, he championed higher education in the sciences helping to form the Mathematics and Science Scholarship Program which was renamed in his honor to the Holland program in 20032. The Dept. of Biology honors Dr. Holland every year with a fall lecture series. An endowment awards a 1st year fellowship to support underrepresented PhD students studying life sciences which I proudly received the first year of my doctoral studies.

 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall3 Marcellus Neal and Frances Marshall, were the first African Americans (man and woman respectively), to graduate from Indiana University. Marcellus Neal graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in 1895 while Frances Marshall earned her English degree in 1919. Thus, the namesake inspirations for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center (NMBCC). A beautiful building on campus that hosts special events and provides access to computer labs, study rooms and lounge space to promote community building across the IU campus.

 Kappa Alpha Psi (ΚΑΨ) 3 – Created January 5th, 1911 the ten founders of the Alpha chapter established the first Black fraternity on a predominantly white campus. Due to inability for interracial housing and combat racial discrimination, this group of men came together to support students and rally political activism early on at IU.

Information was gathered from these sources, click for more details

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/black-history/black-history-month
  2.  https://biology.indiana.edu/about/alumni-giving/holland-fellowship.html
  3.  https://blackculture.indiana.edu/about/history.html

Ms. Sofia

The Color Purple (1985)

Graduate school can be a challenge at times, and we need breaks to revitalize and re-center ourselves. During one of my study breaks this weekend I watched the Color Purple for the umpteenth time. However, during this viewing I was particular struck by Ms. Sofia. She was a Black woman who defied parameters during a dangerous time to be Black and a woman in America due to threats from the internal community and external societal. I would argue that she was one of the most self-assured characters in the work. She loved herself enough to not allow anyone to diminish her self-worth. And even though she had a season of silence, when she returned she chose to continue to live her life by her standards. I challenge all of us to see her as an example of true self-love. As we continue on this process to refine and hone our skills as members of the academy, we should maintain a sense of appreciation and love for ourselves. Embrace the “flaws” that have been highlighted by others and see them as an opportunity show the beauty of scars.

Self-Care in Nature around Bloomington

Sometimes grad school can get tough sometimes and it happens to everybody, no matter what they say otherwise. Everyone has felt a little overwhelmed or out of place during their time in grad school. In order deal with this, it is important to have self-care for yourself. Self-care can mean many things to each individual person.

I recommend spending time outdoors. Here are some of my favorite places to go.

Leonard Springs

It is nice to go at different seasons because you can see the landscape change especially in Fall, Autumn, and Spring.

Griffy lake

There are easy to moderate trails available at Griffy Lake. There is a very popular trail by the parking lot that is a good trail to do for your first time. If you want a more solitude trails I recommend one of the shore trails (look online for map). I recommend hiking in the Fall and the Spring.

If you are not a hiking person then I suggest renting a Kayak or canoe to spend some time on the lake. I think the rentals are closed for a portion of the year, so check online.

Brown County State Park and Nashville

They are right next to each other. Start your day with a small hike and finish it off with half a day walking around the small town. It has a lot of tiny shops of almost anything you can think of.

Grad Life Glimpse

So how would I describe my average day at  IU as a graduate student?

I like schedules and being successful in graduate school requires some scheduling.

I wake up in the mornings at 6:45 am to feed my dog. Yes, I have a pet in grad school, which is not recommended, but he is very helpful of keeping me on schedule and being mindful. Then I prepare my stuff and watch a bit of news.

I get to work around 8 am and look at my to do list for the day. Usually I prepare the list the night before at work. The next 11 hours are a mixture of running reactions, analyzing results, reading literature, answering emails.

        

Of course, I take a lunch for break. I like to leave the Chemistry building at least once a day.  I use it to clear my head, which I highly recommend to anyone in graduate school. I finally go home and have dinner at around 7pm and decompress from my day. Interacting with my dog reminds me to be mindful and present and not to dwell on my mental to do list for the next day.

Day-to-Day Life in Bloomington

While all graduate students have different schedules, I thought for this blog entry I would share what my typical week looks like as a Ph.D. student in Education Policy Studies. Please note, my schedule for this semester is 10x better than it was last semester!

Mondays-Class 9:30AM-12:15PM, Work 12:30-4PM

Monday morning classes are rare in my program, but this year there was no avoiding it. While I enjoy the course, it is a bummer as I must return to Bloomington by Sunday evening in the event that I go out of town for the weekend. My part-time job is with the Balfour Scholars Program and, fortunately, I can set my own hours so I choose to work Mondays after class is out.

Tuesdays-ME DAY!

I rarely leave my apartment and avoid scheduling any meetings or appointments on this day. It is nice waking up on Tuesdays knowing that I do not have to go to campus and am on my own schedule. I tend to complete several assignments on Tuesdays.

Wednesdays-Teaching 4-5:40PM

For the first eight-weeks, I only teach one section but the second eight-weeks I will teach two sections. It is really convenient that I was able to have all of my teaching on one day. I also try to do some grading on Wednesdays. I am an Associate Instructor (AI) for the Student Academic Center (SAC) and it is a great place to work! If you are in need of a graduate assistantship and are interested in teaching, check them out.

Thursdays-Bible Study at 7PM

The only time I have to leave my place on Thursdays is for bible study. As a result, I tend to put in a few hours at the Balfour office prior to bible study. Since I already have to leave my apartment, I am more flexible with scheduling meetings and appointments on Thursdays than I am on Tuesdays. I also use Thursdays as a reading day for my Monday class.

Fridays-Staff Training at 1PM

Each Friday, the SAC has a staff meeting for our undergraduate teaching interns and I am often charged with leading the meetings. After the training is over, I usually stay at the SAC to finish my grading for the week and run copies for my next class. In the evening, I usually get together with friends. Last Friday, a group of us went to IU Late Nite which featured karaoke and free bowling.

Weekends

Saturdays are mainly work days during the morning and afternoon and then I hang out with friends in the evening. Sundays are mainly work days after I get home from church.

I should also note that this semester I have a weekend class. We only meet 5 times throughout the semester: three Saturdays from 12-5PM and two Sundays from 9AM-2PM. It is actually a pretty good deal and frees up my schedule during the week.

I hope this day-to-day has given you somewhat of an idea of what life may be like for you as a graduate student!

Garrett

Student Academic Center
Photo by Garrett Carter

 

January Entry: New Year, New Me. Really!

Congratulations, you have made it through your first semester of graduate school. It’s the start of a new year, and of course, a new semester. Many people have used the phrase “new year, new me” as a means of declaring to better themselves in the new year and learn from their past mistakes. As a graduate student, it is definitely possible to improve yourself in the life of academia, but it starts with learning how to handle your classes as well as taking care of yourself.
The first thing that graduate students should do before a new semester begins is to reflect on your experiences in the previous semester. In doing so it will help recognize what you need to do to help make your life as a graduate student less stressful. The first thing one should reflect on is their coursework. It’s important to recognize the difficulty level of classes you’ll be taking so you can determine if more study time will be needed or not. Doing so will help you prioritize courses that may need more attention than others if you find course material difficult. Another factor that can be crucial is working with other classmates more frequently in said courses. Lastly, visiting the professor during office hours can be more beneficial in understanding the material better, especially if you didn’t do it that much last semester. Next we will talk about the importance of taking care of yourself outside of the lab or classroom.
Grad school can be a very stressful environment and while it’s important to stay on top of your coursework, it’s equally important to care of yourself. One way to help reduce stress in your academic career is by surrounding yourself by people that are going be a positive influence in your academic journey. Whether they be professional colleagues, professors, or classmates, have people that can encourage you to keep going can help make the stress more manageable. Other ways to reduce stress can be a form of recreational activity or something as simple as working out in the gym. Speaking from experience, going to the gym a couple times a week and running on the treadmill usually helps me ease any stress I have going on during the week. There may be times you may not to be able to commit to a certain number of days working out or any other sort of activity, but having something to do that’s not academic related can help make graduate school become less stressful.
Starting a new semester of graduate school can be seen as an opportunity to improve oneself. Learning from your past experiences and repeating certain practices that helped you in your journey over the ones that were more of a hindrance can help make life in graduate school that much easier. So in conclusion, as a certain Vulcan from Star Trek once said (Spock): “Live long, and prosper.”

Pursuing the ‘Dream’ in Bloomington

When I made the decision to visit Bloomington during the fall of 2014, it was a cold and rainy day. I was nervous because the “look” of a place can really impact how one perceives its value. I tried not to judge right away, and so I went about my next two and half days meeting my future department faculty, staff, and students with a smile on my face. I knew I was pursuing a dream when I came to IUB. This was a reoccurring dream that I had as an adolescent. I wanted to earn my Ph.D. in African American and African Diaspora studies to teach the world the magnificence of the Black diaspora, especially to the members of this often oppressed and marginalized community of people.
In the end, I decided to attend IUB, and am approaching the end of my third year now as a Ph.D. candidate. I couldn’t be more excited to write my dissertation proposal and my dissertation project, and feel like I’ve grown so much over the past couple of years. The weather or seasons that most non-native Hoosiers experience while attending IUB can take a while to get adjusted to. I am originally from Miami, FL, so we pretty much had one season year-round. In leaving my home city when I was 17 years old to pursue other educational and professional opportunities, I realize how metaphoric the weather in Bloomington is to life in general and my growth as a person.
During the winter months (late Nov.-mid March) it takes a lot more dedication to maintain energy, self-care practices, and motivation. It snows sporadically, and can be harshly cold on some days. On those kinds of days, I give myself lots of extra time to get my day started and completed. I also find that investing in some winter coats is helpful during your first fall semester in Bloomington, before the cold really starts to impact your commute to campus. I watch the weather daily to schedule meetings with advisors, professors, and students on “good days” versus harshly cold days where the snow may not have melted yet.
The late spring and summer months are really pleasant in terms of weather. Although new graduate students may visit the university too distracted to notice the weather, it is an important indicator of productivity and preparedness while living in Bloomington. The metaphors in Bloomington’s seasonal weather can be applied to the graduate experience as encouragement to stay the course and excel. When it is cold, and you want to just stay in bed, think about what being perpetually dormant can do to your future goals and health. Its important to stay mentally and physically active during the winter, so that you don’t end up feeling guilty when its time to shed those layers or turn in those final projects.
During the summer and early fall, the weather is beautiful. Don’t distract yourself on purpose to get off course. Rewarding yourself for the previous semester’s accomplishments need to happen as soon as the successful semester is over. Then on to the next. As the seasons change, so must we, and hopefully that is always for the better as we pursue our academic dreams.