Networking and the courage to say “Hi”

Everyone knows the core principle of networking ☺ I think it basically means we make efforts to broaden our relations…Why? Coz relation is extremely important to our personal growth and professional development. There are different kinds of networking namely business networking, social networking… I want to mention about social networking under IU context. So how do we do networking? For me it starts with the courage to say “Hi”…

The hardest part to start a conversation with a stranger is to “break the ice” or “ice breaking”. This sounds very simple but it is not so easy. Why saying “hi” first? The “stranger” is certainly strange. He/she is so different from us…There might be no connection between us and “the stranger”…He/she might prefer to be alone…He/she might not be interested in talking to us …A bunch of “fair” reasons keep us silent and act as a stranger too. But…very often when I take the initiative to say “Hi” first, people open up immediately and we continue with very interesting conversations. These conversations provide me lots of good information about new school programs, community involvement activities, funding opportunities…I am here today to write this blog about networking thanks to a friend I met at the Graduate Lounge over lunch. That’s gives me the chance to meet with 11 awesome emissaries and we have so much fun working together…

We can say “Hi” creatively too. The most common I use are Heya, Halo and Hola. You could look up all kinds of foreign ways of saying hello and memorize them to impress your friends. I also see recommendations from another blogger who says if you’re going for humor, you can use famous lines from movies or characters. From Mickey Mouse Club, “Howdy, Howdy, Howdy” from Toy Story, and “Hiya Pal” from Mickey Mouse himself 🙂 There are millions of ways to say Hi starting with the basic ‘hey’ and ‘what’s up’. What are your ways of greeting people? ☺

I also strongly recommend joining the activities of students’ associations at IU if you want to broaden your network. Do you know that IU has more than 750 student organizations all founded and led by students? Those organizations gather regularly to explore professional interests, hobbies, sports and recreation, academics, religion, politics… In Vietnam we have a saying “you are rich because you have friends” and I hope you are always very rich ☺

IU: an institution that allows and supports collaboration across disciplines

A large research higher education institution as IU can be daunting as there are so many options. Everyone has a specific specialty and academic niche. There are a myriad of academic disciplines that students can choose from, and there are hundreds of academic research centers to wade your interests through. Although it can be overwhelming to some, it is a paradise to others who enjoy collaborating across disciplines.

I am studying higher education policy at IU; however, I am also a trained secondary education teacher and a lawyer.  From my old days as a lawyer, I still currently serve as Director of Disaster Legal Services, which is a partnership program between the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). DLS provides pro bono legal services to disaster survivors after a natural disaster strikes the United States.

After meeting Mike H., a fellow IU Emissary for Graduate Student Diversity, we talked about the things we were involved in.  Mike mentioned that he used to work for FEMA and was intrigued with my work through the ABA and FEMA.  After several discussions, we figured that we could collaborate with each other to find better ways our services could be delivered to disaster survivors.

Mike H., is studying for his master degree in Human-Computer Interface Design at the IU School of Informatics and Computing. Through my work and connections with FEMA, I was able to invite Mike out to Washington D.C. for our quarterly meeting with FEMA and his capstone project to design a mobile application to better deliver disaster legal services was approved.

This government/non-profit – academic partnership is possible because of the collaborative nature at IU.  Because of the varied disciplines and opportunities, Mike H.’s past experience with FEMA and his interest to build this mobile app for us as his capstone project will allow us to better serve disaster survivors.

Come and find out more about IU’s collaborative nature among students, faculty, and the community!



Basic Guidelines for a Great Start

Things to do as soon as you start your PhD program
1) Set up a support system around you, both academic and non-academic. Meet with your cohort, go out to grad student events, meet with your professors, and start a good relationship with your advisor. Let your family and friends know that will you need their support too as you start this new phase of your life.
2) Manage your time wisely. Being a grad student involves juggling a lot of responsibilities! Start identifying what works and doesn’t work for you, and work around your strengths and weaknesses.
3) Continue/Start networking. It’s never too early to start. Ask your advisor what conferences are good to attend, set up meetings with faculty members that you share research interests with, mingle with the advanced students and post-docs (these are good people to look for mentorship too)
4) Start looking for and applying for grants/funding. The more you do it, the better you get at it, and the higher the probability of you getting something.
5) Start looking into what you can do to build up your CV. Applying for grants is a start, but you can also start planning conference presentations and joining professional organizations.
6) Get into good writing habits. Our job as PhD students is to learn how to conduct good research, AND to be able to communicate it (after all, what good is research if nobody knows about it). Writing takes a good chunk of our time, but there is no good system in place within the PhD student process to make people good, habitual writers. Join a writing group, ask advanced students to talk to you about the writing process, and start a daily writing habit. This will really help you out in the long run!

Finding a Faculty Mentor

What’s up team? My semester has kicked into high gear; but in the midst of chaos, I wanted to take a few moments to discuss a topic that is very important. The topic is finding a faculty mentor. Now let me say first that the procedure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, but there are some common themes that transcend your discipline. So I will share my story and then of course leave you with your fabulous FREE TIP OF THE DAY.

Let me begin by saying that you should already have a couple of mentors in your life, without them it will be very difficult to navigate the grad school process. For me I knew that I wanted to pursue a PhD in Higher Education and Student Affairs. The first thing I did was ask my mentor what are the good programs and what do I need to do to apply. He gave me a list of schools to research and somethings to look for in any program that I was considering. The process was several months longs; we went back and forth discussing the merits of each program.

Finally I ended up at IU… Currently I’m in the process of picking a mentor, and this leads me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY. Pick a mentor as soon as possible. The easiest thing to do is talk with a faculty member who either shares your research interest or is doing work that you may be interested in doing as well. Remember that they are human and they enjoy and appreciate students that have a genuine interest in their work. HAPPY HUNTING!

Tips for applying to external funding

Most of my colleagues have talked about the most common source of funding for graduate students: research and teaching assistantship. However, I am going to take a different route and share some tips that helped get a highly competitive external fellowship.

Tip #1: Find someone that received a competitive fellowship and ask them if they will be open to share their materials with you. To be honest, most people will say no, but all you just need if for one person to agree. Once I got a successful application, it was not difficult to identify what I was missing.

Tip #2: Identify one of more faculty members that specialize in the area you are interested, and ask them if they will be willing to give feedback on your proposal. In my case, I approached a potential adviser and his comments played a fundamental role in improving the quality of my proposed research plan.

Tip #3: Apply to at least one fellowship that provides feedback to all applicants. Therefore, even if you get rejected, you will receive feedback on your application.

Tip #4: Keep applying until you are no longer eligible. If you applied Tip #3 you will get a sense on which fellowships to re-apply and those that you should not bother. Do not get discouraged!

Good luck!

Here is a link to some external awards:

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Last week, I attended a workshop for graduated students entitled “Statements of Teaching Philosophy: Critical Reflection About Teaching Practice” sponsored by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL). The workshop was outstanding; for instance, we received strategies for reflecting on teaching as well as information about the qualities of effective statements of teaching philosophy. Moreover, we analyzed several statements and received reflection guides for getting started.

CITL mission is “to provide leadership and expertise that support efforts to innovate in the curricula, to implement effective pedagogies in and beyond the classroom, and to enhance student learning and engagement”. I encourage all graduate students interested in academia, or teaching and student leaning to check the center out.

For more details about Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning visit:

Doctoral minor and Pedagogy and Professionalism Requirement

Many, if not all, Ph.D. programs offered at IU has two refreshing requirements: doctoral minor and “Pedagogy and Professionalism” course. To be honest, I find each requirement quite useful, rewarding and unique, specially if your degree is on an highly interdisciplinary field.

For instance, I am a Computer Science PhD student, and my Bioinformatics minor enables me to gain additional expertise on a relevant area to my research interests. Complementary to the doctoral minor, we have the Pedagogy and Professionalism course requirement which provides doctoral students with an overview of teaching philosophies, teaching portfolios and other teaching resources. This is a great opportunity to get formal training in college-level teaching. Therefore, the doctoral minor and pedagogy and professionalism course requirements give an edge to our graduates which might prove to be the difference in the current job market.

To visit or not visit…that is the question

Hey friends it’s that time again. That’s right you guessed it. It is time for your FREE TIP OF THE DAY.

This week’s FTD is sponsored by our good friend Billy Shakespeare, who was so gracious as to provided us the wonderful existential quote from Hamlet that we’ve slightly modified and made way less morbid. So the time is coming (if not already here) for you to make a decision. You’ve applied and have been offered acceptance to several schools, and now you are making the decision as to whether to visit the school or not. How do you make the decision? Well I’m glad you asked.

The answer depends on several factors. The most important being financial, if you have the money (and time) I’d encourage you to visit as many schools as possible. There is nothing more helpful than to be on campus and to get the feel of the faculty, the city, and the students. But if you don’t have unlimited finances I encourage you to think strategically about where you can afford to go. Some institutions will offer “virtual visits,” take advantage of those visits and if you like what you see. Spend the cash and make the visit.

And this brings me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY. Some universities have funds available to bring prospective students out for the weekend to visit. I’d encourage you to investigate both the program’s website as well as the university’s graduate school office. Don’t be afraid to call either. Most offices are looking to help you out. Take advantage of it.


Thanksgiving Celebration

For 28 years of my life I spent Thanksgiving with my family in Texas at my grandmother’s house. Last year was the first time I EVER spent Thanksgiving away from home. It was a great experience. This year I did the same. I spent it in Tennessee with my significant other, and we went to this wonderful place call SWIRLS.

It is BYOB painting, and I absolutely love it. They provide you with wine glasses, canvas, and paint. Then during the course of about two hours you they take you step by step through a painting. I constructed the master piece below. The whole session was very relaxing… And this brings me to my FREE TIP OF THE DAY.

The tip for today is take time to relax. The pressures of being a grad student often times can leave you feeling as though you can’t take time for yourself, but you have to. If you don’t your body will break down, and then you will have to stop. That’s all I got for today friends… take care (literally).

I ‘Recommend’ you check me out

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Hey friends! Can you believe it’s November already? I can’t. I realized today that we are more than half way through the semester, which means that these next few weeks are going to be chocked full of reading, writing and CAFFEINE. But before they get too crazy… let me break you off with the… FREE TIPS OF THE DAY! (That’s right people I said tipS… plural… you’re welcome). Today’s tips are about everyone’s favorite thing… Recommendation letters. 

1. Follow instructions: If the school you are applying to asks for a letter of recommendation from a faculty member then be sure to provide a letter from a faculty member. I used to be an admissions counselor and nothing made me angrier than when students tried to go “above and beyond” – providing 70 rec letters when we only asked for three. Generally I would throw away 67 and keep only three. The idea is to do only what is asked and do it well. Coincidentally this brings me to my second tip.

2. Quality NOT quantity: Recommendation letters give programs the opportunity to how others in your sphere of influence perceive you. Choose people that know you AND can articulate your strengths well.

3. Give your recommender three weeks and a resume: Typically three weeks is plenty of time to write the recommendation. The resume helps emphasize your strong suits as an applicant. It also shows thoughtfulness and fore planning on your part.

4. Give the recommender an early deadline: We know that people are busy and sometimes things slip their mind. So I would encourage you to give your recommender a deadline that falls at least a week or two before the application information is due. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Finally…

5.  Send thank you notes: People love to be recognized for the selfless work they do. So be classy and send a note.

Well folks that’s all the tips I got for today. Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know think or if you have any suggestions of your own to add to my wonderful list. Have a great week!