Why IU?

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Image courtesy of ampathkenya.org

AMPATH is one of the main reasons that I chose a doctoral program in Epidemiology at IU.  AMPATH, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare, was established in 2001 as a partnership between Indiana University School of Medicine, Moi University School of Medicine, and the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH). Continue reading

Too big? or too small?

Coming to a Carnegie Research 1 institution may seem daunting, especially if you are coming from a small liberal arts college.  However, there are many benefits to a large institution.  First of all, the resources and facilities are plentiful.  It’s easy to find the books and equipment you need.  Even if the campus does not have it, one of the other IU campuses may and it will be shipped to you for free!  In addition, the diversity of the student body allows you to interact with international students, those with different upbringings and backgrounds, and others in a field of study you may not have ever heard about.  Interdisciplinary work can be exciting at a campus like this!

Besides academically, there are plenty of options for extracurricular activities to participate in and get involved with.  Whether you are artsy, political, religious, or just plain ol’ wanna chill with your friends there’s something for everyone!  Don’t get frightened with the size of the institution.  Nothing can be TOO BIG, right?  Super size my graduate degree!! Well, maybe not like that, but a place like IU has everything for everyone (except for engineers ;))!

Collaborating across disciplines … be helpful without discrimination!

Always reach out with open arms! It is important in academia that you do not get stuck within your bubble.  The world does not work that way, so why should we?  Interdisciplinary studies and research is critical now more than ever as our world becomes more globalized and disciplines overlap to help solve society’s challenges.

As an academic, your success will be determined on how well you can be creative and innovative with your resources as higher education funding becomes more difficult to come by.  As a result, more collaboration and cooperation across departments and disciplines will not only enhance your own overall knowledge of your subject area but also show your ability work with others.

Here’s an example: my research concentration is in higher education policy, specifically in governance, funding, ethics, and diversity.  Although I am an education policy studies student, I collaborate with higher education and student affairs (HESA), informatics, and public health masters and doctorate students.  This kind of collaboration allows me to learn about other areas of academic interest that touches my area of research.

I encourage you to begin working outside of the box and collaborate with others.  Not only will it be helpful in your academic career but also your professional work.  It’s always good to be open, helpful, and embracing of others!

New Year’s Goal: Complete Qualifying Exams

Last Friday morning, I began the first weekend for my qualifying exams. As a third year student in my program, it is now my time to work towards completion of my degree. The qualifying exams for the Higher Education and Student Affairs Program consists of two questions spread over two weekends. I received the first prompt at 8:30 a.m. on Friday. My 20 page response (minus appendices and bibliography in APA format) was due on Monday afternoon by 4:30 pm. (Which means that in less than 9 hours, round 2 will begin!!!!!!!!)

Qualifying exams are designed for doctoral students to demonstrate the wealth of knowledge that they have received during their academic tenure. The purpose is to respond to an issue or problem using the tools that I am supposed to have gained in 2.5-ish years. As my second weekend approaches, I am certain that I have written wwwwaaaaaaayyyyyyyy better papers than that. However, I am confident that I demonstrated that I have learned and can apply the knowledge of my field.

I am so excited to finish this last semester of coursework. As I contemplate the next year or so of my life, where I will be writing my dissertation, I am confident that I have gained tools and have had experienced here at Indiana University that has laid a foundation for me to become a leader in my field.

Strong recommendation letters are a must!

When applying for graduate school, scholarships, fellowships, or internships, it is important to have strong letters of recommendation because this is one of the methods that application reviewers get to know you.  Many times, you will not able to impress them in an interview as there just isn’t time to interview everyone; as such, the letter of recommendation should portray what you have done and what others think about you professionally.

In order to have a strong letter of recommendation, consider these ideas:1. find someone who has known you for a while because you want someone who can speak to the depth of your abilities; plus someone who has known you for a while is a more credible recommender than one who has only known you for a limited amount of time; 2. find someone who has some clout; as much as it is important to find someone who knows you well, reach out in your connections someone who has some clout in the community, either academic, professional, or otherwise; 3. find recommenders that provide variety in your application; if you have one academic recommendation, then find another one who can speak to your professional abilities, etc.

Being able to place your foot forward through your recommendations is key, and your recommendations can serve to be the one big push to get you accepted or awarded.  Good luck!

Faculty mentors are critical to success in grad school

Mentorship is important to being successful in all that we do.  It is no different in graduate school.  It is important to find good and compatible faculty mentors to help you succeed and progress through graduate school.  I have been very fortunate.  Both of my mentors have been very involved in my academic work and development to enter the professoriate.  I have been able to collaborate on scholarly research with my professors, and I have been introduced to academic and scholarly conferences through them also.  While attending a conference where I presented, my professor was very gracious to introduce me to other colleagues, get me involved in the association’s activities, and she helped me feel welcome. These activities and opportunities have helped me get closer to the professoriate, and I attribute it to my faculty mentors!

Do you consider joining a student organization at IU?

Knowing that IU is a very big university, I was still very surprised to find out IU offers more than 750 student organizations. Can you believe it? 750 student organizations—nearly 1000 options to choose from! These student organizations all founded and led by students. Each student organization works in a different areas but their common goal is to connect those who of the same interests for experience sharing and mutual development. On a campus of 40,000 students, involving in a student organization is a great way to feel connected and improve yourself in multiple ways. And yes, like IU, these organizations are very diverse. Their activities are categorized into 15 groups including:

  • Academic and Professional
  • Advocacy and Political
  • Arts and Entertainment
  • Environmental
  • Fraternity and Sorority
  • Governance
  • Graduate
  • Honorary
  • International & Multi-Cultural
  • Religious & Spiritual
  • Social
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Service and Philanthropy

So why joining in a student organization matters? Here are the analyses by IU Student Life and Learning Center:

  • Joining in a student organization provides students with real-life opportunities to practice problem solving, teamwork, ethical decision-making, and responsible engagement with the local and global communities in which they live.
  •  Participating in a student organization can help you gain experience in a particular field of interest, find an outlet for recreation, or learn about something completely new to you.
  • Getting involved outside of the classroom not only supplements your traditional education, but also helps to prepare you for life after graduation.
  • Joining an organization will enhance your college experience.

Student organizations have their own bank account provided by IU and they can request a specialized office for meetings or group activities. IU also has lots of support services for student organizations especially when they want to organize events. Those services include venue, security, stage light, projectors…Almost everything you need to organize an event is supported by IU as long as your student organization hosts the event. Every year, Office of International Students (OIS), Asian Center, International Center, etc organize programs like IU World Fair, Mr & Ms. Asia…to connect these student organizations together. Those are great events that student organizations gather to do cultural exhibitions or cook their traditional food to offer to visitors. I attend these events every year and they are all GREAT!!! You should DEFINITELY not miss these events.

For those who are interested in establishing your own student organization, that is easy! IU encourages you to do that! All you need to do is following the instructions given by Student Life and Learning Center. Regarding the funding for student organizations, IU has its own grants targeted specifically to student organizations. Other than the funding from IU, you can also look for funding from other sources like banks, community organizations, foundations based in Bloomington. For instance, Chase Bank provides us (the Vietnamese Student Association) funding annually to organize Lunar New Year (we call it “Tet”). As long as you want to get involved, there are unlimited resources around for you to mobilize and support your group. Application procedure to get funding is very convenient and easy: You need to submit a proposal and a financial budget for your group activities (please make sure to submit at least 03-04 months before the date of the event). The grant officer will review your proposal and make decision. Very often you will get the grant, as IU wants to spend money on you and your group’s development

For further information about student organizations, here is the link: https://myinvolvement.indiana.edu/sissastd-prd/p/organization.do?methodToCall=orgSearch#p

Reference:

http://studentaffairs.iub.edu/sll/student-organizations/

Finding the right match: Top, Middle, and Safety Net Schools

I think the best analogy of finding the correct graduate school or program is; think about picking out a pair of pants that you have to wear for the next 4-6 years. I say this because you want your program to fit you perfectly. You have to consider the academic standpoints that are important to you but you also weigh that against the environment that the campus is in as well as the character of the department. Now that you have to consider so many different factors you will appreciate the tier system of school applications. In my personal opinion a good number of schools to apply to is 6. 2 top schools: these are the dream schools, where if you got into them you would take off work for the rest of the day. 2 middle schools: these are schools that if you get into them you are happy about it, you cleared the hurdle and you are happy with how the next phase of your life will go. 2 safety net schools: now these schools are often misinterpreted as “bad” schools. Let me get this clear never apply to a school that you would not want to go to. Safety net schools are good schools that have probably sacrificed one of the lower list of requirements but still maintains the academic standards that you have set for your graduate education. So if location is somewhat important for you but not a deal breaker then your safety net schools will be academically sound but be in places that you wouldn’t have picked to live first choice but still wouldn’t hate to be. Last but not least it is very important when you are placing your choices into the tiers that you are realistic. There is nothing worse then putting two top schools in your middle category and not getting into any of your top choices. Now you are left with your safety nets and probably not happy about it. So be self aware and break things into categories and best of luck. Where do I fit in?

Graduate School Prepping: It’s all about the timing

There are many resources out there about when to begin studying for exams to when to begin narrowing down your options. I’m concentrating on resources that give you a timeline based on your current situation/status.

  •  If you are in undergrad checkout sites that break down the checklist by semesters (i.e. what you should be doing during undergrad), like the one below

http://www.bw.edu/career/graduate-schools/Graduate_School_CHECKLIST_AND_TIMELINE.pdf

  •  Specific for international students—Happy Schools Blog has a 15 item checklist along with other tips and resources

http://www.happyschoolsblog.com/checklist-for-graduate-school-application/

  •  Idealist.org, Princeton Review & Dr. Ron Martin via U.S. News has a timeline that highlights what you should be doing during the next 12 months.

http://www.idealist.org/info/GradEducation/Resources/Preparing/Timeline

http://www.princetonreview.com/grad/application-timeline.aspx

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/graduate-school-road-map/2012/11/12/grad-school-application-checklist-12-months-out

And finally, because not everyone thinking about grad school is an undergrad, single, and/or working part-time …Expand the timeline! While the timelines above include the major details and important months for most programs, you should customize the timeline to fit YOU with your own individual schedule. This may come in the form of an excel sheet or a calendar on the wall that spreads over 12 + months.

Good luck!

Your academic family: to colleagues in your department to those you meet at conferences … it’s a small world

It may seem like a big world out there; besides your colleagues that you see and work with everyday in your academic department, your academic family can extend to others in your discipline.  Whether you see or interact with each other daily or even weekly, because of technology, the world is a much smaller place than you think.

It is important to meet and get to know others in your academic department.  The wealth of knowledge from your colleagues will help you explore areas that you may not have thought of or even known.  More importantly, this allows for collaborative efforts in teaching and research.  In addition, others in your department can help you network and navigate the larger world in your discipline.

I have had a benefit of professors at the IU School of Education to encourage me to collaborate with them on research and attend academic conferences with them.  This opportunity not only strengthens my academic portfolio for later employment, but it helps me make connections with other colleagues.  By being involved, the large and scary realm of academia becomes much smaller, manageable, and personable.  It all becomes your family!

Every person has something unique about them.  If you spend time to really get to know them and understand their life experiences, you will be amazed of what you can learn.  Reach out to your colleagues now; either those you work with everyday or those you see once in a while, you will be surprised of how much you can learn from each other.