Problem-Solving Resources: Finding an independent study

I really enjoy the content and skills that I am learning in my Higher Education and Student Affairs grad program.  However, one of my research interests lies in Asian American issues and there was no specific concentration in my grad program.  So, how did I work my magic to find a mentor and discover my research interests?  Continue reading

Collaboration

When it comes to graduate school, most people’s first thoughts jump to experts in training in a narrow field of study, but further consideration might reveal the truth – graduate school, in fact research and teaching in general, is very reliant on collaboration.  It is a key component that differentiates the good scholars from the best, and is a skill that is carefully acquired and refined throughout a career.  If you need further evidence of this, just take a stroll around the IUB campus – you will see a building constructed especially for collaborative work, which is even named the Multidisciplinary Science Building II (or MSB II for short).

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The recently constructed Multidisciplinary Science Building II (MSBII) on the IUB campus. Photo by Ren-Jay S.

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Getting Involved – Graduate Student Organizations

Once you get into graduate school and arrive on campus, you’ll probably take a little time to get settled into the town, your program, and your routine.  After that though, what then?  Well, fortunately there are number of great student organizations that you can choose to become a part of.

As a graduate student, you are automatically eligible to join the Graduate and Professional Student Organization (GPSO), the official campus-wide student government body for graduate and professional students.  There are also programs such as the Emissaries for Graduate Student Diversity that work in a more focused manner to promote a more specific interest, such as diversity.  Some of these organizations are specific to graduate students and gives you a chance to interact with people outside of your own department, which is always a great opportunity to broaden your horizons.

SPHSG Fall2013 Group Photo 1

The 2012-2013 School of Public Health-Bloomington Student Government Council

Each individual school and department is also likely to have its own student government organization, which is a great opportunity to get involved, get to know other students and faculty, and share your input on a variety of topics that are important to your experience while here at IU and for future students.

Beyond organizations such as these there are innumerable other clubs and organizations that encompass almost any interest.  Many of these are open to both undergraduate and graduate students, so it’s a good opportunity to get to know more people beyond just graduate students.

When it comes down to it, getting involved is a great opportunity for you to balance your work and schooling with something that you’re passionate and interested in.  You can also meet many great new people and develop personal and professional relationships that can last far beyond school.  So go ahead and take a look to see what’s out there for you, who knows what doors will open when you get involved in a graduate student organization.

Finding time to connect

Keeping up with your family and friends is important. Having a Skype date once a week can help you survive grad school and remain connected with loved ones. Photo courtesy of www.http://laptop-computer-planet.com

One of the best tips I have received about grad school is to remain connected to your loved ones. It is certainly very difficult when you are juggling your other responsibilities, but making time to talk, Skype or write an email to friends and family will help you improve your mental health.

I made a terrible mistake during my first year Continue reading

Find Yourself by Finding Others

Photo from Walmart.com. Altered by Tiphani D

Photo from Walmart.com. Altered by Tiphani D

I am a firm believer that sweatpants, a T-shirt and an assortment of sugary snacks can be a human’s best friends, but sometimes these need to be abandoned in favor of finding your social and professional niche within the IU community. While it sounds daunting, and not at all as easy as blasting through a marathon of Law and Order: SVU, it is an extremely important skill. I will, in full disclosure admit to not mastering this yet, but it is important to make connections for professional development, and for you own mental health; grad school is hard, and having a circle of people you can talk to can make the process easier. Continue reading

Professional Conferences

Because of where IU Bloomington is geographically situated, it is usually only a few hours of driving by car or a quick plane ride to where you need to be.  For instance, I had the opportunity of going to the 99th Annual International City/County Management Association (ICMA) Conference in Boston and was able to get heavily subsidized through a scholarship made available for those students that went to this conference.  Networking always scared me, but being put into the situation where professionals are constantly trading business cards, it seemed like 2nd nature after those four days that I was even giving them to a couple of strangers on my plane ride back to Bloomington. Continue reading

You’re Old Now

As you walk around campus today, pass through buildings, and try to figure out the panini line in the IMU, you may have had a weird feeling in the depths of your soul—that’s right you’re officially old and you may want to blame an undergrad or seven hundred for that feeling.  While the undergraduate experience may still be fresh on a few of your minds, for those of us over twenty-five, four years out of college is a light-year in fashion, music, nostalgia (seriously what the heck is a One Direction).  You’re confused, maybe even a little tired because the coffee line is too long, but stay strong comrade, stay strong.

courtesy of youtube.com

Now before you go grabbing your cane and lecturing these young bucks about the good old days when MTV played music videos, eating dunkaroos, and long forgotten dance moves courtesy of D4L remember one very important thing; your parents, their parents, and their parent’s parents did the same exact thing to the generation that followed them.  No young person wants to be lectured, but they do want someone who will reach out to them as a mentor and ally.  Your undergraduate experience was transformative to your being and so will Indiana University be for theirs, don’t gripe if they seem apathetic or don’t immediately know how to network.  Don’t judge too harshly; reach out to a few of them especially if they share similar academic and career interests.  Learning is a reciprocal experience where as you provide guidance, the appreciation will come back two fold and hopefully they’ll be able to explain to you who the heck One Direction is.

 

Finding a Mentor

 

Clip art taken from http://smgworld.bu.edu/srmentor/

Clip art taken from http://smgworld.bu.edu/srmentor/

I’ve always envisioned a mentor as someone I would meet with on a regular basis; discuss what was going on in my academic and personal life. They would offer me their experience, serve as a sounding board and help me accomplish my goals. Sound a little too perfect? Maybe…maybe not. My experience has been that one person cannot always accomplish all of the above.

Finding the right mentor(s) can be an amazing asset as you navigate the complex world of graduate school; but what exactly should a mentor do for you, and how and where do you get one? While the following advice is not extensive, it will hopefully get you thinking about how to proceed.
First, what is a mentor? A mentor is someone who will be available to work with you to develop your potential, inspire and challenge you. Because you will need different people for different things, a mentor is not always a one-size-fits all. Finding multiple mentors for the various parts of your career or personal life is important; the key is asking yourself:

  • What can I learn from this person?
  • How can they help me maximize on my graduate school experience?
  • Does their mentoring style fit me?
  • Where to find one?

Mentors can be found in faculty, staff, and other graduate students. Again, the fit will depend on your interest and goals in maximizing your graduate school experience. Be aware of the different mentoring styles, and that some mentors will want to keep their communication strictly professional and not personal.

In short, create a network of mentors that fit your needs and goals, along with clear and realistic expectations.
For more on mentorship, check out the following presentation from Dr. Patrick Dickerson, “How to get the Mentoring You Need?” PLD GLASS 2013 Mentoring