Sunday, November 21
Maureen and I recently completed the interviewing process for the 2011 (wow, time flies!) cohort of McNair scholars. I am comfortable in speaking for the both of us when I say how much we enjoy this process. We love hearing each student’s story, we love hearing you talk about your backgrounds and how you have succeeded thus far in life, we love hearing about your goals and dreams and how a program like McNair can help get you there. It is truly inspiring! And, why we think this line of work is hugely satisfying.
I bring this up to remind each of you to think about these things. Think about these things when you are in the “thick of the application process” and amid end of the semester pressures. Think about how passionately you spoke to us when you were becoming scholars and think about how far you have come. It’s time to pull out the stops when it comes to handling the challenges of completing your applications and doing everything within your power to find a good fit in a graduate program. Besides the “nuts and bolts” of the applications, reaching out and making contact and visiting those top-choice schools (because you can, as McNair scholars) is probably the most significant thing you can do to get yourself there. It’s a lot of work – all of this – but keep going because you are making progress.
The work will pay off when you can think back to your McNair interview from the vantage point of getting ready to start your fully-funded Ph.D. program in the coolest and best place possible for you!
Saturday, November 13
How can the ancient tradition of Sabbath help you perform better at work and feel energized and much more creative? The ancient idea of Sabbath makes sense in mdern times, too, and not just in a religious way. How often do you set aside some time for yourself where you entirely alter your routines? That is what is supposed to happen on the Sabbath, or on a sabbatical, which comes from the same root word. Sabbaticals are sometimes necessary if we are to stay fresh and creative. A highly successful businessman I know took nine weeks off from his job. He called it a sabbatical, and he went to Maine where he designed a barn and took a photography course. When he came back to work, he told me that he was filled with new ideas and felt much better equipped to lead. Now, perhaps you are not in a position to take nine weeks off. But no matter how busy you are, you can build in some time for short sabbaticals, even if they are only two or three days at a time. Get off the main thoroughfare of your life and live in an entirely different way for a while! Walk instead of ride. Plant trees if you work in an office. Take a computer class if you plant trees for a living. You get the idea. You will find yourself feeling refreshed, revitalized and renewed. Try it and see.
--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute
Sunday, November 7
Fun memories from the summer....
Friday, October 29
I am also posting this Winner’s Circle since I think it underscores my point – spend time doing the things that are going to be the most effective and don’t get stuck just doing things because you think they need to be done. Yes, you need to take care of all of the details like requesting transcripts, letters of recommendation, etc. etc. But, putting all the effort you can into making contact with faculty is likely going to have the greatest impact in the long-run.
"Efficiency and Effectiveness"
Did you know that there is an important difference between efficiency and effectiveness? Let's talk about that difference and why it matters. Most businesses focus a lot of energy on running an efficient operation – efficient in the sense that things get done with a minimum of effort and motion. It’s low input and high output. In other words, efficiency is doing things right. But doing what things? Ah! This is a very important question.
You see, effectiveness, to me, is doing the right things right. And effectiveness is what you want to aim for, because you can be extremely efficient at doing the wrong things. You can practice the wrong technique or the wrong moves until you've got it down perfectly. And then you're going to wonder and worry about why you're not doing any better, why the business is failing, why your customers don't come back when everything is running like a well-oiled machine.
So when you visualize yourself or your business, don't just see yourself doing things right. See yourself doing the right things right. And remember that sometimes the right thing done imperfectly can beat the heck out of a flawless performance of the wrong thing. Edward Deming, the originator of the total quality management movement, once said that if you run a company on numbers alone, you are sure to fail, because the most important numbers are unknown and unknowable. I have a feeling one of the things he meant was don't worry so much about doing things right, and concentrate instead on doing the right things.
--Lou Tice, The Pacific Institute
Saturday, October 23
I invite you to follow Caitlin on her blog! As scholars looking to follow in her footsteps of becoming fully-funded in a Ph.D. program of your choice, I think you might find it useful, informative and fun! I encourage you to read over her blog from the beginning (meaning the part about the application process) or you may prefer to pick up from the beginning of the fall semester and see how Caitlin acclimated to the move, her starting work with her faculty mentors and her assistantship, meeting and getting to know other students in her program, getting to know the city, finding a place to live (she’s got some stories on that!)…etc. etc. I know time is limited and we all have to make choices about how we spend our precious minutes. I think checking out Caitlin’s blog would fall in the category of time well spent as aspiring Ph.D. students yourselves!
Here’s the link to Caitlin’s blog: http://loveistheteacher.tumblr.com/
Friday, October 15
The other tidbit I want to put out there is something Andy talked about in his monthly – basically how cool it’s been to get to know faculty in the biology department, certainly his mentor, and how he is beginning to feel more and more comfortable with the idea of himself becoming part of that community of researchers. It can sometimes feel like faculty are on an entirely different level, but they are just people who were in the same place as each of you at one point in their career. The fact that most faculty are generous with their time and make themselves accessible by mentoring students is terrific. It’s part of the cycle, for sure. Seeing you guys have realizations like this makes this line of work very satisfying.
Here’s what Andy had to say:
“….an interesting rite of passage type experience has occurred for me in the past year or two. Early in college, the professors and pretty much anyone with a doctoral level degree seemed on a pedestal to me. They were unapproachable with anything unrelated to biology and were something I had no chance or even desire of becoming. That feeling has obviously passed, and I am now taking the first steps to becoming part of that group. Actually getting to know a few professors on a personal level has been an eye-opening experience. On several occasions I have related past experiences in my life to nearly identical occurrences in one of my professors’. I see myself acting in similar ways, asking similar questions, and having conversations both scientific and social. Three years ago this would have all seemed so foreign to me, and even now it seems a bit crazy at times. I feel like part of the group already though, so hopefully all that’s left is to actually get my degree!”
--Andy Harris, 2010 McNair Scholar
Monday, October 11
Finally, I sincerely hope that at least some of you have stayed with the "Winner's Circle" listserv - there are such great nuggets of wisdom delivered on a daily basis - they are short and sweet, but I find them profound. On Friday, Lou wrote about instead of being overwhelmed by a huge task at hand (i.e. applying to grad school!) that you should just take small steps and do small things that will help move you forward in the process, rather than remaining stuck. Great advice! Here's that post:
Sometimes, "a lick-and-a-promise" is a lot better than nothing and can keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I'll tell you what I mean. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by a huge task that is facing you? Do you ever feel paralyzed because you can't see your way through to the other side? Henry Ford once said that any task, no matter how large, is manageable if you break it down into small enough pieces. A very busy and wonderfully efficient woman I know says she belongs to the "lick-and-a-promise" school of housekeeping: because of her busy schedule, she doesn't have time to thoroughly clean things very often. So, instead, she takes a minute here, a minute there and does what she can. "You'd be surprised," she says, "how many dishes I can wash in a minute – and there are many, many times throughout the week that I have a minute to spare, but almost no times that I have a free hour.... so I do what I can when I can, and play catch-up later." This philosophy makes sense to me, and applies as well to troubles as it does to tasks. Don't stand around wringing your hands when there's trouble and you're not quite sure of the best thing to do. Wade on in and get to work on some part of the problem, even if the full solution isn't apparent to you yet. When we rouse ourselves to action, it builds our confidence, which can lead to more action and a better handle on the solution.
--Lou Tice, Pacific Institute
Sunday, October 10
The students come from high schools that are participating in the program. That means that these kids have time set aside in school just for them to complete their icouldbe assignments. They go through the list of available mentors and choose which one they want. They go through a self-chosen curriculum- there are different paths they can choose, like college or vocational prep. What my job is as a mentor is to review each assignment they complete and give them comments. They can't move on to the next assignment in many cases until I pass them on the current one. For example, one of my mentees just finished her first unit, and the capstone activity for this was to write a professional email. However, the social aspect is also really important. My mentees chose me mostly because I'm in college, and because I wrote in my profile that I'm low-income like them, so it's my job to help them through applying to college, getting financial aid, etc.
This is a great opportunity for all of us as McNair Scholars because we're exactly what many of these kids aspire to be. I think right now is a great time for us to mentor because not only were we all in their shoes four years ago; we're also going through exactly what they are AGAIN, at the same time as them! This is an awesome experience to put on your CV, but it's also a great way to impact someone's life- in many cases, these kids probably wouldn't go to college if they hadn't had a mentor to help them through it.
If you decide to apply to be a mentor, just go sign up at the website. You have to answer some questions, and then it took me about 3 weeks to get confirmed because I think they ran a background check on me or something. Then you just wait until you get chosen as a mentor, but since school has been in session for a while now, you would probably get picked pretty soon! I hope at least a few of you decide to take advantage of this program!
Sunday, October 3
"Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood." -Helen Keller
"It doesn't matter how many say it cannot be done or how many people have tried it before; it's important to realize that whatever you're doing, it's your first attempt at it." -Wally Amos
"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect It's successful outcome." - William James
"The significance of a man is not in what he attains but in what he longs to attain." -Kahlil Gibran
Thought it would be fun to conclude with just a bit of commentary:
- Bianca - Your presence is strong and self-assured.
- Kayla - You take your work seriously and it shows in your command of the information.
- J.J. - I am *most impressed* with your evolution from spring to fall - you came across as smooth and confident!
- Bryan - What comes to mind is a cool, calm and collected professor.
- Helena - I can see you presenting on a major breakthrough in your research that you have at an international conference.
- Blaise - You would never know of your challenges with your project - super confident and very smooth, and relaxed, I might add.
- Freddy - You can tell that you are passionate and very knowledgeable about your work!
- Andy - You're the cool guy that gets down into the muck, literally! Great connection about the technicalities of your work and what it means in the bigger picture.
- Lindsay - Nicely poised and very relaxed, I can see you in a clinical setting.
- Jenn - Through the chaos, you emerge cool, calm and collected.
- Josh - True enthusiasm and dedication to the field. Makes for a fun and thought-provoking presentation.
Friday, October 1
Saturday, September 25
So, what works well for you? How do you find that you study best? Oh, the article also stressed the benefits of studying things “a little at a time” instead of cramming the night before – but, of course!
Check out the article and share your thoughts and experiences!
Friday, September 17
"The workload. It's a lot A LOT of reading, but I don't feel overwhelmed. I just got out of one of my classes and I really learned a lot in that class just in the last 3 hours! So I am loving this. I also noticed a shift in my everyday thinking. I don't leave class and talk about random shit, I leave class and talk to my friends about the information we learned. We have more in-depth discussions and I think that really contributes to my breadth of knowledge about everything. It's just a totally
different academic atmosphere, but I like it."
--Sam, McNair '09 (you guys met her this summer)
Can't wait to hear more about Sam's adventures in her Ph.D. program at Illinois! And, I can't wait to hear about each of yours! :-)
Thursday, September 9
“It is great to see that now that I have made it a habit, my weekly blog postings are a reality! The scholars are enjoying these tidbits and responding with their own, and as a result, they are feeling more connected with the cohort. Even though we can't always see each other in person, it's nice to have this be a place we can just check in and connect when we have a few spare moments in the day.”
So, how is everyone feeling? Busy! That’s probably the word that comes to mind. Yes, yes, yes. And you are probably feeling like the summer zipped by with just work, work, and more work… While that is true, I hope that you do feel like your work was worth it and that you did sneak in some time for rest, reflection and rejuvenation along the way. Isn’t that how we are supposed achieve balance in life? Right!
If I may put this out there, try to keep a focus on your big picture, even as you deal with your classes, work, activities, friends and family and on and on. Especially as it relates to grad school and your prospects for continuing on with your education and developing an awesome career after you get your Ph.D. Try to think about all the work you did this summer from this perspective. Think about the big picture and prioritize your time so that you can implement your action plans little by little, making some progress with your applications each week. Even if you aren’t applying this fall, you can continue to develop your “grad school mindset” in this way….staying involved in research, continuing to research grad programs and so on. Try not to let the “big picture” overwhelm you, but instead, keep your eye on the prize as you take consistent steps toward getting yourself to where you want to be.
Sunday, June 20
Anyway, as I sat on the boat staring at my line in the water, the reflection of the setting sun bathing my family in shades of pink, yellow, and blue, a peace settled over me. The birds sang all around us, their music as beautiful as a symphony. This experience reminded me of how desperately I love nature and how it energizes me. With a touch of sadness, I also realized how little time I have set aside for such experiences.
Since I put a lot of value in self-reflection, I have decided that although I do have to do some work over our mid-summer break, I will definitely spend time with my family allowing the beauty surrounding us to replenish my flagging energy.
WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING OVER BREAK!!
Monday, June 14
The intensity of the summer fostered the development of bonds that continue to move me even now after 3 years of little to no contact with my fellow scholars. Although we have all been very busy, there are the occasional moments when our lives touch and I am reminded of the fun times and adventures we shared. There are friends that have been in my life longer but only some have impacted my life as strongly as my fellow scholars.
I am so glad that you are experiencing the same with your cohort.
Thank you for sharing your stories.
Saturday, June 12
To top it all off, you follow the advice of someone with more experience than you, someone in charge, and end up bombing an assignment so badly the shock feels like a physical blow. Your first reaction is to curse and then it feels as if the horror will come in the form of tears, pumping raw emotion out of your chest with the force of a blown BP oil well belching millions of gallons into the once beautiful gulf. Then comes the realization that you must step back and re-evaluate in order to move forward. If you stay in the place where it feels unfair, where you want to fight the system, where the anger makes you feel defeated, you may be unable to effectively move forward. You may be stuck fighting the past when the rest of the world has moved on without you.
How to do it though when you are experiencing all of the above mentioned feelings in paragraph #1? Keep it all in perspective I guess. I don't have to get all A's in graduate school, right? I have heard that B's make Ph.D.'s. Do I strive for top marks, yes. Am I defined by a letter grade, no. Can I truly change anything by complaining about how I was graded, not likely. Should I voice my feelings of unfairness, absolutely, but with the realization that it may not (and did not) change a thing. Finally, accepting that shit happens and if I allow myself to get wrapped up in the diaper with it, I cannot move forward.
The longer I am in this world the more I learn about letting go of things that I cannot control so that when I move forward, progress is not the result of emotions fading away or forgetting about past challenges and hurts. Instead, progress is the result of making a conscious decision to move forward with full knowledge of the consequences of staying stuck in unresolved issues.
When finally you find yourself at the end of a difficult period of time, when you look at what lies behind you, maybe then you rediscover your passion and remember why you are on the path in the first place.
Tuesday, May 25
So I miss all of you and I am wondering how everything is going in Illnois.
I am sure your brains are on overload but you must be strengthening semi-new relationships and meeting new people as well. It is my hope that at least one of you, or preferably many of you, will add comments to this post and let me know how you are doing.
Take care. Oh, and I do know you are in Indiana, just kidding with you.
Sunday, May 23
I had been sitting at the computer for hours searching for GRE vocabulary builder games online to make their studying a bit more enjoyable. Alan was outside doing God only knows what when he came in the house looking for an empty butter container, at 11:45pm mind you, and apparently he was catching his own bait for his upcoming fishing trip.
He was crawler pickin' in the moonlight, you know, you walk across the wet grass with the light of a flashlight partially concealed until you happen upon a slimy body glistening against the grass. You reach your hand out quick at lightning to nab the little guy before he darts back into his/her hole, and then slowly, patiently pull him from the ground.
Of course after hours at the computer, even crawler pickin' sounds fun so what did I do? I followed Alan out to the back yard and showed off my crawler pickin' talents. I proved to be quite talented in that department. I will have to keep that in mind if the economy doesn't pick up and I need a steady job.
Lost story short, I filled a butter tub full of crawlers tonight annnnnndddddd found several good resources for the scholars to check out when they return.
Friday, May 21
Today I am pleased to say that I am not feeling much discomfort, only a little in my triceps, but tomorrow will be the real test. If you are reading this blog, let us know how you are feeling today.
Wednesday, May 19
Along the way I reflected on the process of graduate school often and have come to the conclusion that it is not a question of whether I am CAPABLE of earning a Ph.D, instead, what am I willing to sacrifice to be a member of the 1% of the population who reach that level of education? Am I willing to sacrifice adequate sleep, exercise, balanced meals, personal time... apparently. What am I not willing to sacrifice, my family. My children are an amazing reminder that there is life outside academia. They help keep me centered and striving for balance.
Have I found balance? It depends on which part of the semester you ask me, "Maureen, do you have balance in your life." Reply: (beginning of first semester) "Why, yes, I do have balance in my life. I am a mother, spouse, employee, mentor, student... and I am home to cook dinner every night." (end of first semester) "Ummm... not currently but I will take what I have learned from this experience and apply it to achieving better overall balance next semester."
Sometimes life gets in the way of preparation: (second semester) "Balance, what is balance? I was sick for two weeks over Christmans break and began the semester already tired, got behind mid-semester due to many variables beyond my control and played catch up the remainder of the semester. I slept little the last 4 weeks, very little exercise, on campus many evenings...." No balance there.
Determination and acceptance go a long way in helping you achieve balance on the way to reaching your goals. I am determined to use part of my summer to prepare for fall semester so I can be at home most evenings to cook dinner and listen to my children chat about their days and I will accept that there is likely no such thing as perfect balance in life. Life is ever changing, just when you think you have found balance, your dog vomits on the pant leg of your suit as you are leaving in the morning thereby setting in motion a chain of events that delays all scheduled activities for the day causing you to miss lunch and evening exercise.
Note to self: A doctoral program takes a great deal of commitment. Just accept that there will be times of imbalance and learn from those times. What are you willing to sacrifice and what are you unwilling to sacrifice? When you get a break, reflect on what you can do to achieve greater balance the next time around.
Monday, May 17
Taking the MBTI is an eye opener, not because I learned something shocking about myself but because it affirms that people can challenge themselves, step outside their preferences to become more extraverted (introverted), thinking (feeling), etc... If at first it is not comfortable to step outside our preferences, with practice, with experience, we can get to a point where we are truly "in the middle." It is difficult to remember why I used to have trouble starting a conversation (my former introverted self) but now I feel that I could talk to anyone but still long for my alone time (extraverted <- ME -> introverted).
Isn't it amazing that life provides us so many learning opportunities. I learned today that I am in the middle on several "type" dimensions but I also learned that I do not, and should not, take advantage of ALL carbohydrate opportunities offered throughout the SRI. That final milk and cookie opportunity was one I should have passed on.
Sunday, May 16