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!

Community Involvement

For those who interested in providing social services while studying at IU, there are numerous chances for you to do so. Following the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, Bloomington has a total of 1,082 nonprofit organizations (NGOs) in 2001 with a large percentage of arts and culture nonprofits. These NGOs focus mainly on human services and religious development. Living in a vibrant Bloomington community where there is large number of NGOs, the demand for your help and involvement is huge. While nonprofits in Bloomington are actively seeking for your help, IU also has lots of initiatives to connect you with the local community.

Asian Center organizes monthly meeting at the center to connect local organizations with students who wants to become a volunteer/intern for these organizations. Last time when I attended the meeting, there were representatives from the United Way of Monroe County, the Middle Way House, Stone Belt, Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington, Interfaith Winter Shelter. These organizations came to introduce their organizations’ programs and recruit volunteers/ interns to work for their programs. The purpose of the monthly meeting is also to discuss ways you as well as student organization group can reach out to the community. There are various funding options for you and the student groups to do these kinds of activities. Besides, IU Center for Student Leadership Development also has similar programs to enhance the connection between IU students and community organizations.

Getting involved outside of the classroom not only supplements your traditional education, but also helps to prepare you for life after graduation. You certainly will get lots of real-life opportunities while you prove your responsible engagement with the local community in which you live. And very important, you will have lots of fun joining in these community activities 🙂

Reference:

Gronbjerg, Kristen  and Tennen, Patricia, Bloomington Nonprofit Dimensions, (2005), http://www.indiana.edu/~nonprof/results/npsurvey/inscombloomington.pdf

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.

Do you have kids? Finding childcare and schools in Bloomington

Once I was admitted to IU, there seemed to be an endless list of tasks that needed attending to before my family and I made the physical transition to Bloomington, such as arranging housing, setting up utilities, finding the grocery store and opening a bank account. For me, one of the foremost tasks on my list was arranging for childcare and school for my daughter and son, respectively.

When we moved here, my daughter was only 2 years old. As I quickly learned, finding childcare in Bloomington for an infant or toddler can be a challenge. This is not unlike many cities were infant care is in short supply, but if you have a young child, you should be warned that you will probably end up on several very long lists with other parents who are also looking for care for their young children.  As a result, I ended up looking for alternative sources of care for my daughter. As a grad student I could not afford an in-home nanny, but I was able to find an in-home group care setting for her. To do this, I used the following website to help me with my initial search for reputable, licensed daycare providers: http://childcareindiana.org/childcareindiana/ptq.cfm. This website allows you to search by zip code and also find out what violations of state regulations, if any, a licensed provider has had in the recent past.

When my daughter turned 3 (and was potty trained), we enrolled her in the local school district’s preschool program called Ready, Set, Grow. She really thrived there. The teachers were terrific, many of which were certified in early childhood education. The program has a curricula that includes academic and social skills development. My daughter not only learned the alphabet, but also built relationships with other children with whom she attends school today.

When we moved here, I also had to enroll my son in elementary school. The local school district, Monroe County Community School Corporation (or MCCSC for short), provides lots of information on their website, including how to register your child in a school: http://www.mccsc.net/subsite/dist/page/title-raw-nid-3. You will need to determine which school covers the neighborhood in which you live using the District Boundary Map and then go to that particular school to enroll your child. Although it depends on who you ask, the public schools in the area are good quality, and I have found the teachers and administrators to be very caring  and interested in the welfare of students.

In sum, if you have children, get started early arranging for their day care. Although Bloomington has many wonderful options, it takes a while to find the right place for them.

Year in Review.

The 7 year rule came into place as of August 2011, meaning I have 7 years from that date to complete my dissertation. So this year I primarily focused on getting my data organized and ideally I am looking to have a dissertation proposal very soon. In recent years, my department has had students complete their dissertation proposal having already completed their analysis–so I am trying to do the same. From now until very early in the fall this is my main focus. Next year I start a new graduate assistantship and ideally I’ll be writing up my dissertation as well as looking into faculty position openings. It will be a very busy year, hard to say it will be the most busiest. Each year my Ph.D. program has come with its own challenges from managing time spent in classes and on class assignments, working as an instructor, research graduate assistant and generally trying to balance life. The summer is about to start though and it’s the perfect time to reenergize a bit, visit with family, and to hit the ground running in terms of setting myself up to have a great start in the fall. Steady as I go.

Accepted program offer, now what?

So the next steps after having accepted a graduate program offer of admittance is to carefully consider all of the resources-networking available to you. Several examples include: banking, cost-of-living, parking permit, change of address information (i.e., mailing and all other correspondence), access to social and peer networks, and staying organized (i.e., good record keeping). Although I came to Indiana from another state, I made many of the appropriate transitions mentioned prior to coming to Indiana. I recall emailing, making phone calls, and doing a number of online searches to gather all of the information I needed so that as soon as I did arrive to Bloomington, IN I had taken care of most of my to-do-list in terms of making the transition from one state to another.

My best advice is to make a list of all the things that can be done prior to your arrival as well as once you arrive. In my own case, I came to Indiana in the July prior to the start of my first semester, this was primarily because my assistantship start date–but it allowed me enough time to be settled in before the start of my program. So, talk to current students, your given faculty, and ask plenty of questions as you outline your next steps.

Good Luck!

The Indiana University student newspaper is a good resource to find information on community opportunities, housing, the surrounding city of Bloomington, restaurants-entertainment and you name it. Check it out.

 

Getting sick

….is not a good time, especially when you’re trying to complete all of the tasks you’ve assigned yourself.  Just to get this out on the table: I tend not to slow down when ill, even when it’s serious.  Many years ago, while studying in a foreign country, I refused to see a doctor for what I felt sure was a bad cold.  It turned out–when I finally agreed to see one–that I had bronchitis and walking pneumonia, and was about a week away from a collapsed lung.  Since then, when I feel illness coming on, I take a break.  Actually, no, I don’t.  But–the moral of this story is–I should!  And so should you.  If there’s an upside to being sick, it’s that we’re forced to move at a slower pace, to take more time doing things–and maybe even to find balance (see my last post) in our hectic lives.

On balance

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about balancing all aspects of life in graduate school: academics, relationships, health (mental and physical), etc.  While I can’t offer an ultimate solution for achieving a perfect balance between all of these (equally critical) elements, I do think it’s important to try to do so.  I admit that I’ve never been the best at finding a happy medium–and that instead, I tend to swing from one extreme to the other.  However, the older I get (and hopefully, the wiser), the more evident it becomes to me that if you let one aspect of your life overrun all the others–in the end, you’ll “feel it.”  At this point in my life, I try to build elements of everything that I find important into my day.  I don’t always succeed, but I’m determined to continue to try.  Balance is important.

Grad School – The Great Balancing Act

I hope you’ll all excuse a little silly home photography. I thought it would illustrate a point I have to make.

If there’s one thing I wish I understood better when I was starting grad school, it’s that grad school is a great balancing act. Of course everyone knows that it’s tough to divide their time between family, friends, careers, education, hobbies, relaxation and all other kinds of pursuits. Graduate school has definitely solidified this lesson for me. But more specifically (and here’s that insider tip for soon-to-be-grad-students) I’ve learned that balancing long-term goals with short term goals is one of the most important – and difficult! – parts of grad school. As a graduate student, it’s really easy to stay focused on the day-to-day and week-to-week goals, like getting your lesson plans together for that class you teach or finishing your class readings on time. The immediacy of those goals makes them loom huge in front of you. Meanwhile long term goals, like submitting an article for publication or putting together a panel for a conference, tend to fade into the background.

So what to do? If I could go back, I would set myself one or two long term goals each semester. Then, instead of letting them occupy one lonely space at the back of my calendar/planner, I would dedicate one weekend each month to putting in some quality time on those goals. My husband has a new motto: “Well begun is half done.” Even dedicating a little time to those goals can make a big difference down the line and prevent you from having to play catch up. In the end, a good balancing act might mean you’re more competitive for a job or that you aren’t on a frantic search for funding – and in considering that, it might not be so bad if your desk stays a little messy or that knitting project takes a little longer.

And now the gag reel…

Happy juggling!

New Year’s Resolutions

Work hard— the goal is to have material for a dissertation by the end of this year

Exercise– I feel like I’ve been getting less and less of this as I get closer to finishing

Save money– I’m getting a pay cut this fall because my fellowship ends… eeek!

Travel less– this is mostly so that I can get more work done, and partly to save money. So far, this one is not working out so great, I already have 4 trips planned that I HAVE to make :\

Figure out what the next step is—- I know I want to do a post-doc, but I have no idea with who. It makes me nervous that I don’t know, because I should be trying to talk to people already….!