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.

Social Life in Bloomington

They call New York City (NYC) the city that never sleeps, there is always something to do and/or something open. New York City is my hometown, so when I moved from NYC to Bloomington, Indiana I knew I was in store for a transition.

After I settled into my assistantship and course work, I began to seek out social outings in Bloomington. Back home I went to a lot of poetry events and was searching for that in Bloomington as well. I thought I would have to pause my passion for poetry, but I was able to find a monthly open mic and poetry slam right downtown. This was a monthly event, created by people of color that brought together various communities for communal storytelling. Whether it be a monthly slam, an informal gathering at someone’s home, or a night out at the bar, I always find comfort in these spaces. Graduate students of color take ownership of our experience here at IU and create the communities and bonds we want to be a part of. There is always a gathering happening somewhere with graduate students of color. I am able to engage with different graduate students from different disciplines and full-time professionals in Bloomington. I never knew when I came to IU that I would find a strong community of graduate students of color that would play such an integral role in my social support. Bloomington is no New York City, but I still manage to find spaces that rejuvenate and refresh me.

Spring Semester Thoughts and Tips

Now that we’ve had another break and are settling in to our spring classes, I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts on what I do to adjust to a busier lifestyle after each academic downtime. You know how it is–break comes, we have all these plans to read our research materials, visit with family and friends, and organize our study spaces. But, if you are anything like me, I spend the first two days wandering around my apartment and inside my head, trying to figure out exactly how to structure my life for a few weeks. Graduate school is intense at any level, and I know when I don’t have pressing deadlines and meetings hanging over my head, I feel a little lost for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have the break, but I’m so productive during the semester in comparison that I always feel disjointed and even somewhat guilty for being so “lazy” for the first few days of a break.

Then, reality of my free time hits and I’m off and running. To be honest, however, I only get about half of my “break to-do” list completed before I realize that the next semester starts in a few days. You know that feeling–panicking in my head over the “should-haves” instead of appreciating the “what-happened”. And before I know it, the weight of a new semester re-settles on my shoulders and that to-do list now becomes a Spring Break list lol.

You know what, though? It’s all good. What used to stress me out so strongly has become a way of life for me. Regardless of whether I’m working on my academic responsibilities or on my life outside of my studies, I have learned this one thing: Some way or the other, it will get done. Maybe not on my expected time frame, but when push comes to shove, I will accomplish what is needed. I have made it this far, one step at a time, and I will continue to work my way through it, one step and day at a time.

So, as far as adjusting to a busier life after each break, I have learned to take time for me outside of academia. Whether that is to take an hour or two to sort out my bedroom–which, trust me, can easily become a mountain of books and papers–to go to a movie on campus or at a public theater, or to exercise. If given a choice, personally I like to exercise the most, as it helps elevate my mood and ensures I will still fit into my clothes lol, but not all the time. Sometimes I just like to sit and watch a show that has little to do with what I am researching. In my opinion, I am always learning, no matter what I chose to view, and since learning makes me happy, then movies are justifiable. I am very introverted and don’t need much social time, but I can truthfully attest that spending time with others doing what makes you happy is one of the most productive ways academics re-coup and re-center.

Basically, nothing I’ve said is what you probably don’t already know, but it is so easy for us to forget. Take time for yourself. Be patient with yourself. And above all, put yourself first. You’re the only You you have:)

Love and Peace,

Amy Aiyegbusi

 

A New Semester!

With a new semester beginning on Monday, I thought I would share some steps and tips that I take to prepare myself.

Purchase color-coded notebooks and folders-Maybe this is because I am a former middle school teacher, but I still purchase the same color notebooks and folders for each class. This small trick makes organization a bit easier.

Say no as needed-The beginning of the semester always seems to bring a ton of meetings, appointments, etc. Say no when you need to. The new semester can already be overwhelming with new classes so you may need to focus on your studies and hold off on scheduling non-urgent meetings and appointments.

Schedule time for yourself-It may not happen if you don’t! If going to the gym is important to you, put it on your schedule as if it is a class and make it happen. Same goes for massages, seeing friends, weekend getaways, etc.

Happy New Year!

Photo by Garrett Carter