Choose to “Bloom” in Bloomington

As I sit here reflecting on my final semester of graduate school, I am thinking about how the physical space has made me feel while pursuing my doctoral degree. Although I am not from the Midwest, and find it hard to cope with the very cold winters here, I can appreciate that Bloomington, Indiana has its own seasons that come and go quickly. You see, we don’t tend to think of our lives as students in seasons, especially when we are knee-deep in the trenches of our studies. In light of all of this, what has helped me to personally push through as a doctoral student and resident of the Bloomington, Indiana and Hoosier community has been my intention to grow or “bloom” into the best version of myself no matter the obstacles that I’ve faced each semester.

Each day, week, and semester I made a conscious choice to work through obstacles and seek redeeming opportunities to validate my presence in the space. Sometimes, the opportunities that I needed came directly to me because I placed myself in the right places and the right times, which is a blessing. I realized during my first very cold fall semester in 2015 that Bloomington, Indiana was a place where I needed to find moments to enjoy as I sat in class or walked through campus going to academic events. I learned to appreciate spaces like the Neal Marshall Black Cultural Center, the workout facilities, IU Auditorium, and my department home in Memorial Hall before we transitioned to Ballantine not too long ago. These spaces were more than just a plethara of academic rooms, offices, and elevators to me. These spaces contained communities of people and events that I assumed solidarity with, and also presented peers and students that I could learn from through interpersonal communication and fellowship.

What has made Bloomington a great place to grow for me has been both the unfrequented and comfortable spaces which I’ve occupied in my time here. Some of the unfrequented spaces where I did not journey through everyday, but were welcoming to all students was the Tudor Room, Alumni Hall, rooms reserved for GU2IU prospective students, the bookstore, and other spaces reserved within the union where we attended departmental events. I was also happy to spend 8 weeks in the newly renovated Global and International Studies building while I was completing my foreign language requirement for my doctoral degree during a summer here in Bloomington. In general, my reflections about living in Bloomington as a space have certainly been intentionally curated.

Choosing to “bloom” in Bloomington was something that I was determined to do, no matter how tough the seasons or tides got during my doctoral studies here. To close, I’d like to encourage all current and prospective graduate students to set a personal intention to receive tough lessons and seasons as investments of wisdom. Just changing our perspectives, or the way that we see things can catapult us into unforeseen, and limitless heights beyond the degrees that we earn.

 

 

5 Ways to enjoy the (campus) Staycation

 

Who isn’t excited to have a little time off? But often as graduate students we don’t have the option to bail on teaching and graduate responsibilities during breaks. Whether it’s because traveling is too expensive or have an approaching deadline for a project you will, on occasion, find yourself in town during a school break. Staying in town when the majority of the student body vacates can seem disheartening, but have no fear, here are five hidden ways to enjoy your campus staycation.

1) First, appreciate the silence. Ok maybe not complete silence, but the bustle of cars, buses and people everywhere tends to settle down during long breaks.

2) Remember that you’ll have a more flexible schedule. The demands of seminars, attending meetings and/or teaching courses are reduced (if not eliminated) thus allowing you to be more flexible with your days. Perhaps you can take the opportunity to sleep in or leave campus early.

3) Get out and explore the town! Our schedules are always jam packed, so we rarely have free time to explore. Go ahead and try a new restaurant. The wait times are usually non-existent during long breaks, so treat yourself to that new place you’ve been wanting to try. This is also a great time to catch a movie, go to the gym, library or other campus hotspots that can feel overpopulated during regular semester hours can be easier to manage during the breaks.

*FYI* Check operating hours as businesses may adjust times or close for repairs due to fewer patrons.

4) Resources are abundant, whether trying to use the campus printing, valuable office space, or the machines that always seem to be taken. It is highly unlikely you are the only one around, but there are far fewer people everywhere making it easier to access shared equipment.

5) Lastly, you are not alone. There are tons of other grad students in the same boat. Plan to meet up with people you don’t get to see regularly because of your busy schedules. So use the time to reconnect with old buddies or if you’re new to campus, use it as an opportunity to make new friends.

Summa Summa Summa Time…

Where has the time gone?! I’ve always thought the spring semester flew by compared to the fall. And that has truly been the case this semester. I feel like it was only yesterday that I was making vision boards with my sistah-scholars to bring in the new year. And now, it’s April! Spring is here! (Well, the cold temps may indicate otherwise…). But as I look at my planner for the remainder of the semester, it hit me that summer comes after spring…

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Summer Job with Diversity, Equity, and Multicultural Affairs

I became a PhD student in the Department of Communication and Culture at IU after “retiring” from a career in Information Technology. IT was fine and the money was good but it didn’t give me the opportunity to grow intellectually. That said, IT work is still reasonably interesting to me and it has given me access to decent jobs around Bloomington when during the summer when my AI teaching stipend runs out.

This summer I have been working for the the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs* (DEMA) doing some web maintenance and updating work. While doing so, I got know the folks over at the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program which is a program to help non-traditional and underrepresented minority students succeed in college. They offer tutoring, mentoring, special skills courses (for credit!), and a great community. One of their big events is  Continue reading

Love nature, art, and microbrews?

One of the Nashville shops selling trinkets and homemade snacks. Photo courtesy of www.browncountyshops.com

Nature, art, and microbrews are just a few minutes away in Nashville, IN.  This quaint little town is located about 15-20 minutes west of Bloomington in Brown County.  I especially love going to Nashville, IN Continue reading

The non-academic portion of my summer

Dexter, my chosen handful of surprises.

I’ve already explained to you the academic portion of my summer. Even though it took up most of my time, I did manage to squeeze in two trips back east. The first was to go home for my sister’s birthday and for family BBQs. That was also the first time I brought my dog Dexter home. I am from NY and I didn’t want to pay for a plane ticket for my dog I decided to drive. The trip from Bloomington, IN to NY, NY is about 14 hours depending on traffic. I’ve driven it several times, with friends mostly and alone once. I mention this because when I decided to drive it was probably the week before it was time to leave. I hit up some friends to see if anyone needed to go to NY and within a day or two I had a full car, 3 people and two dogs in a 4 door. The drive was still long but it went much smoother because the dogs could entertain each other and we rotated driving so no one had to drive tired. It was a good reminder to me that no matter how focused you get into your research it is very important to keep your social life alive and healthy.

The second trip home was for my line brother’s wedding (I am in a fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi and a line brother is one of my fraternity brothers who joined at the same time as me). That was an amazing trip for two reasons. The first being that I he got married and it was a beautiful ceremony. It was in Philly and even though I had been to Philly before I had never been to that part and It was very beautiful. The second reason it was an amazing trip is because it was the first time in 4 years that all 8 guys from my line were together again since we joined. We love spending time together but two of us have moved out of state (one is in the marines and I am in grad school), two more have kids (one just got married and the other is engaged) and everyone works full time somewhere. That being said scheduling is a bit difficult. But the time spent with them was fantastic and even though I was still working through my exam my summer was still amazing simply for that one trip. Once again I want to stress that you must keep the balance between your 9-5 and your 5-9. You are in school to accomplish something that most don’t have the desire, determination or drive to complete. However your friends and family are the ones who will keep you grounded and help you bounce back when things get rough, and they will get rough. Grad school is an amazing experience that you wont want to do again. At the end of the day you can do it.

My line at Chris’ wedding, the groom is kneeling in front.

How Did I Spend My Summer? Reading, Relaxation, and Preparing for Quals

This summer was a transition for me in a variety of ways. As I finished the spring semester, I realized that I was, “running on fumes.” I desperately needed a break. So for the first time, since 2004, I gave myself a summer vacation. Actually it was a “stay”cation.  No teaching, no grading, and no classes….well, there was one small class in early May. It was a course on Critical Race Theory, and it was great! So I will give that a pass. However, other than this one course, my summer was completely devoted to giving myself some “me time.”  During my relaxation staycation, I created a nice groove in my couch by watching re-runs of my favorite television shows. I also got the chance to see movies that I planned to see once I got a free moment.  At first, I was nervous about this decision. However, it was the best thing for me. As graduate students, the desire to engage our respective curricula, or the drive to complete degrees in a specific timeline can take over our lives. To compensate, sacrifices are made to ensure that the goal of graduation is accomplished. I think that it’s good to be focused; however, it is crucial to one’s mental, physical, and emotional health to make sure that he or she takes the time to recharge.

As I was embracing my staycation, I was also preparing for my qualifying exams.  When I first entered my program, this rite of passage seemed so far away.  However, starting August 17th, I was going to enter the trenches.  Though I dedicated time to relaxing, I also took the time to collect and read resources.  Now having finished my qualifying exams (I turned in my final response August 27th), I really appreciate that I took this summer to relax.  Qualifying exams were very intense.  In addition to this, classes started back (AHH!!!).  I’m still getting my bearings, but I’m prepared to start the semester.  So Fall 2012…let the games begin!!

Rites of passage

http://chelseavose.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/is-evolution-real/

I spent more time than normal this summer in Bloomington (not necessarily a bad thing). This summer was spent trudging through something every PhD student must go through, Quals. This word will certainly evoke a reaction from most graduate students. One of three to be precise. The first is one of blissful ignorance, “what’s quals?”. These students are new and don’t need to worry about Quals yet. The second reaction is similar to a depressed shake of the head. These students are either approaching their Quals or currently working through them. The final reaction appears like they are remembering a bad taste. These people have taken their Quals and although they aren’t fond of them they respect the process and understand it now. No matter the program we all must pass a test to prove our worth if you will. It is difficult but it is worth it. A hurdle on the path to the next plateau of higher learning. As I finish a summer filled with more reading / writing and less bench work than I would prefer I am ready to jump back into my project and continue this journey. Remember as long as you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life.

Summer daze…

Where did the summer go? In academia, summer is usually a time to catch up on work. During the school year, it can be hard to set aside time for all those side projects (publishing an article?) or long-term projects (building a teaching portfolio?) that get pushed aside during the school year. Hopefully, a little relaxation sneaks in there too. This summer, I did an internship with the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, developing an audio tour focused on musical instruments from around the world.

Rhythms of the World audio tour at the Mathers Museum

This internship was actually not my first choice of opportunities for the summer, but when the other options did not pan out I was very happy to have the chance to work with the Mathers again. The project turned out to be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. It also taught me the importance of having a backup plan and making the most of the opportunities you are given.

And for fun… my husband and I finished out the summer with an amazing road trip to Maine, complete with waterfalls…

Waterford Glen State Park (NY), Moss Glen Falls (VT), and Taughannock Falls (NY)

ice cream…

roadside ice cream in Vermont, ice cream at a harbor in Maine

hikes, sailing, and historic sites.

the shoreline at Hermit Island, sailing off coast in Maine, and Fort Knox (Maine)

We love to camp, and it was a wonderful away to get away from school, work, and email. We traveled through some amazingly beautiful parts of the U.S. that neither of us had visited before, spent time with excellent friends, and ate a LOT of lobster. All in all, a perfect vacation. Of course, I don’t expect that kind of trip every year, and next summer we might stick around Indiana. But don’t worry – there’s plenty of relaxation and outdoor enjoyment to be had quite close to Bloomington…

floatin down the river at Turkey Run State Park