Grad School

 

My Own True North - Grad School

Life as a grad school addict. I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I know an awful lot about graduate school.

Pick up tips and strategies to add value to your graduate or doctoral program. Or, commiserate and read on for more follies, fails, and exasperation…. see exactly why you are not alone!

Coffee. Lots of coffee. Annual changes in prescriptions for eye glasses. Tears. All the tears. Euphorias and eurekas. Then failed data analysis and committee rejections, and constantly hearing it will be worth it in the end. I’m here to say, yes, it will!

A Few of My Favorite Things | August – Saying Goodbye to Summer

Where has August gone? The days are still long but the garden harvest is beginning to dwindle. It won’t be long before my tomato fix must be met with mealy fruits picked from chilled grocery shelves instead of my garden. Summer is beginning its farewells. Soon, monarchs will begin their migrations South. I’m, alas, still not ready to migrate myself South of the border. I miss Mexico. For now, painted ladies and swallowtails eat their fills from backyard peonies, zinnia, and basil blossoms. 

August Eclipse Highland Kansas My Own True North

When I drove back to Kansas two weeks ago, I passed field upon field of cotton crops. Alabama surely was standing high in her cotton. In a couple of months, the pale yellow blooms will burst into the bright white bolls. Yes, Autumn is on her way.

How About That Eclipse?

Were you able to get outside to see the eclipse this month? My stepfather’s sister and husband have a farm in Highland, Kansas. This is noteworthy because their home is – er, was – directly under the path of the Great American Eclipse for totality. It was a gas! Even Edie had solar approved eye wear. About 50 members of the Johnson, and extended, or Johnson by proxy (i.e. me), descended to this tiny farming community in Northeast Kansas. It was awesome in every legitimate dictionary definition of the word.

  August Eclipse Highland Kansas My Own True North

Until clouds moved in the way and blocked visibility of the “diamond ring” effect. I bet that halo was just amazing, though. A phenomenon I had heard of but never witnessed, though, was the effect of the wildlife. As totality neared, birds and insects were humming and busying themselves as if it were dusk. The speed of approaching totality created some sort of frenzy. Birds were diving to their nests.

And then, silence. And darkness.

Sure as scientists promised, day turned into night. And as quickly as totality came upon us, nature’s activities of dawn greeted us with the returning sun.We spent hours idling on two lane country highways to make it back to the capital. Despite missing the halo effect, midday darkness was worth the sacrifice of the day.

After all, what else would I have done? Stayed home to… edit? No thanks. Speaking of edits….

Something I’m Loving….

PhD progress is… happening.

My committee and I are finally starting to come to agreement about what my re-analyzed chapters and conclusions should look like. It’s taken me long enough. I will probably be kicking my own butt later in this year, but I’m hesitant to apply for some of these jobs I find that are appealing because Ph.D. ABD just isn’t the same as PhD. Listing Ph.D. ABD is just a fancy way for saying you quit. Is my opinion… in the academic community, though, ABD isn’t something to broadcast.

If you happen to be struggling with your proposal or draft edits, remember this: the dissertation is a means to an end. The end goal is your Ph.D. The dissertation is a means goal, not your end goal. The dissertation is a way you can prove you are a vetted, successful researcher.

My dissertation, in its approaching final form, is so far from the initial problem statement and hypothesis I created. Choose your battles with your committee. Even though it may not always seem like it, they really do have your success and your best interests in mind. They’ve been down this path, before. You know the subject, best, but they know the process, best.

Patio Jenga

Giant Jenga My Own True North

My summer dabble with woodworking was a narrowly averted disaster. I gave up many freckles and even a slight sunburn, heat exhaustion, and sweated through so many clothes while standing in that blistering August sun cutting, sanding, and staining this giant Jenga game.

The final outcome is something I am so proud of, but I now appreciate the cost people want to charge for a handmade patio Jenga game. I chose three different stains and love the variance in colors.

Giant Jenga My Own True North

Something I’m Listening to…. Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and ft. Justin Bieber – Despacito

Oh my goshhhhh…. Yes. Yes! I am all over this song. I can’t even keep count of how many little zoom videos I made with Edie and this song. It makes a great mid afternoon break away from the desk slump.

I know about 70% of the translation to the song when I sing it. The misses in translation on my end now create some empathy and understanding to judgment I passed on a friend I met in Chiapas. I asked my friend why he had “ugly boy” tattooed on his arm. He wailed as if in pain then proceeded to tell me the saddest tale ever about how he and his buddy misheard the lyrics to a Black Keys song. And they are ugly boys, now, not lonely boys.

Something I’m Reading…

How these women are taking up space every day in their lives.

My memory fails me as to where I discovered The Happy Reader. That is a moot point, however, because I am having so much fun with this “bookish” magazine. Bibliophiles, consider yourselves put on notice.

The Happy Reader August 2017 My Own True North

Now that August says “goodbye,” how are you winding down your summer?

XO, Jennifer

August Great American Eclipse My Own True North
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How to Manage Reading for Grad School

You took the plunge and are starting graduate school. Congratulations! Have you noticed your reading list, yet? The length can be intimidating… welcome to grad school! You can expect to read numerous articles and chapters each week. Yes, you will study and work differently in a graduate program than you did in your undergraduate degree. This includes how you approach reading for grad school.

The bar has been raised and you already made the decision to step up to the occasion by virtue of arriving. But you’ve got this!

For your time you are in grad school, you will be – and should be – reading, constantly. Always read, read, read. Be insatiably curious.

There’s no way to make the lengthy list of readings go away. Make no mistake; you’re going to read more in this program than you probably ever have before in your life.

But there are numerous ways to make the most out of your reading time and tackle these titles more efficiently. Here are some of the strategies I recommend for my grad students that I tried and found to be true through both of my master degrees and my PhD.

reading for grad school

Scholarly/Academic reading is a different process than reading for pleasure.

One of the largest mistakes students will make in their approaches to assigned readings and research is to approach them as if they are leisurely reading. Scholarly reading requires a different approach. Be prepared to take notes, look up supplementary and related reading materials, and even rereading paragraphs.

Start at the abstract.

At the start of your chapter or article, review the abstract and the first two to three paragraphs. This helps you orient and assess what you want to learn as a result of reading the article (and is also why creating strong thesis statements and introductions is important in scholarly writing). Scan all of the headings and review the concluding paragraphs. You may find that your use of that article is complete – you may have discovered what you need or you may have realized the article is not valuable to what you need to learn. The latter will occur quite often when you are researching for your assignments.

When you are reading a textbook, flip to the end of the chapters and read the questions scripted at the end. Those are great insights into what you want to hone in on when skimming the chapter.

Make multiple passes.

Don’t read from start to finish. Scan the article numerous times, paying attention to the headings, tables, captions, and anything in exaggerated font style.

Begin to read more.

If you determined the article is valuable for your assignment or project, now you can read it. Read the introduction and conclusions, then go through and find out what was the method and how the authors approached finding their conclusion. Review the discussion portion of the article and examine the context of how the authors interpreted their results.

reading for grad school

Be noncommittal.

Remember that you can stop reading the article if you obtained all the information you need or if it is not valuable for you. This isn’t Harry Potter… sometimes all you need is a skim.

Be a problem solver.

Look at the article in the way you typically would a puzzle – outside in. Once you use the introduction, conclusion, and headings to create the framework, then begin to fill in the rest of the picture. Sometimes you will need the full article to see the picture, and sometimes you don’t. Approach textbook chapters and articles from a strategic vantage point, and once you’ve found the information that is valuable and necessary to you, move on.

Using these strategies will be a significant game changer in whether or not, or how much, you feel overwhelm. Get ready to “hack” everything you currently know about reading to get the best use of your energy and your time. You should intend to read a lot, but read smart. Identify the general theme of the required reading or research article then apply these targeted reading strategies to build your knowledge.

 

sound strategies to maximize your time and tackle your list of reading for grad school

 

sound strategies to maximize your time and tackle your list of reading for grad school
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My Favorite Coffee Shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I found my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas. Two things for which San Cristobal de las Casas is known: alpine chill in the air and out of this world good coffee. San Cristobal de las Casas is the heart of Mexico’s coffee industry.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

For real, I thought the local coffee in Oaxaca was delicious. Chiapas has best coffee on lock! Cold nights lead to chilly mornings that warm into exquisite days… It’s like a perpetual mid-March/early-April even when not raining, which is another climate specialty of this sky high city. Both elements contribute to a perfect environment to drink hot coffee and chocolate to my heart’s content.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Whether a frequent tourista or a digital nomad, us wanderlust afflicted ladies know the value of wifi. One of my first searches upon finding a new city landing spot is where is the good wifi. And just as importantly, where is the good coffee?

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

If you have to sacrifice some of your vacation, or “vacation,” to work, it might as well be in a beautiful space with fast wifi, spectacular coffee, and a jamming play list. Frontera has all of this in spades…

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

While I call it my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal, it is possibly my favorite. Coffee. Shop. Period.

Reclaimed wooden and glass doors function as tables. Linen upholstered wingback chairs frame a bookshelf stacked with board games and books. A Chippendale sofa upholstered in cobalt blue offers a perfect vantage point for people watching or reading up on the history of Zapatistas. Windows and skylights ensure the lighting is perfect for selfies. And working. Circa 1994 Counting Crows meets Bel Biv Devoe meets Cigarettes After Sex’s cover of Keep On Loving You. And the patio… … …

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

Oh, but the coffee, right? In addition to the tried and true espresso press, local artisan coffee can also be extracted by Chemex (my favorite), Aeropress, French Press, and Dripper. All of the coffee beans are from Chiapas, fair trade, and organic. And delicious! Holy roastery Batman. Amazing!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

United Airlines is going to need to forcibly remove me from my seat. Frontera is the coffee shop of my dreams and for the time I have remaining in this magical little city, is hands down my favorite coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

I love to say the name of this city so much… San Cristobal de las Casas. You know, it wasn’t part of my original plan when I moved to Mexico. I’m so glad I cut into my Oaxaca time and came here. My regret is I only have one week.

The artistic and creative energy that this place emanates is crazy strong. If I were a better and more inspired writer, I think I could write a novel here. At least, I was able to finish my dissertation chair required edits here? Committee approval and defense, I’ve got you locked in my cross hairs. Finally!

Frontera coffee shop in San Cristobal de las Casas

What elements do you look for when seeking your coffee mother ship? XO, Jennifer

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Happy Thanksgiving! Something to Enjoy | Cranes in the Sky

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the very purpose, to me, is about giving thanks and fellowship with your family, friends, and community. Around food! I may have had two – significantly sized – pieces of red velvet cake… with cream cheese frosting so stacked I am certain if I were only a centimeter tall I would need snowshoes to get across the width of that cake. This is my first post since arriving in Alabama. I’m so happy to be here, but so exhausted. But oh so happy. It’s been forever and some days since I shared my thoughts and what I found to be something to enjoy, 2,246 some miles, later.

Something I’m Listening to…. Cranes in the Sky by Solange Knowles

Holy cow, it’s been out for several weeks now but have you heard her new album? Wow, wow, wow. So much in love! The song, itself, is frigging amazing – I don’t have the words – but you must see the visuals in her video to accompany the single. The artistic direction for all of the visual accompaniment to her latest album practically blows my mind.

 According to her Instagram, Cranes in the Sky was a project eight years in the making. Seriously, stop and run this through twice. Once to watch this full beauty unfold, and then again with eyes closed to help you develop all those delicious feels.

Something I’m Reading…. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

 

Irreverent, funny, and in my face. I picked this up, on a whim, when Edie and I were in Carmel last month. “When Edie and I…” I could consider getting a life. But I’d need to finish my dissertation to do that. Her chapters are fast reads and perfectly sized to consume in quick gulps. Yes, this is “self help,” but I promise you’ll be having too much of a great time to care. PROMISE!

Something Pretty for My Self Care…. Ok, several things this week

  1. Thanksgiving, of course! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. For me, the occassion is an opportunity to come together with family, friends, and share our love, joy, fellowship, and collectively be thankful. I am particularly contemplative of my gratitude. Oh, and hello, the food! My doctor didn’t call me out for gaining (now over) 22 pounds this year for nothing! I had two – not small – slices of legit, homemade, not oily, not scary red, red velvet cake. I dared my pancreas to not send me into pre-diabetes (which I should not laugh at because several older generation family members developed Type 2 in their lifetimes – knowing family medical history can be a wet blanket at times).
  2. My road trip came to an end but I had several “firsts” that I can’t wait to share with you! Running barefoot and nearly chilled as a popsicle through the sand dunes of White Sands with Edie, Carlsbad Caverns, traversing the entirety of Texas, camping under the super moon, glamping in Marfa. Glamping! Oh, and letting Edie the Beast loose in NOLA, teeth and all. Soon, I promise. I have a long list of posts to create and share with you. But, first, I MUST finish these final pages of my draft. Codes are not my friends.

Something New…. Strangers – a podcast by Lea Thau

I’ve been about as obsessed with some podcasts for a while with a similar dependency that some women have to The Bachelor and any of the Real Housewives. But, right before I left Phoenix I discovered Strangers. I downloaded the entire series and binge-listened to Strangers episodes throughout the majority of my road trip East. GAAAAA it’s SO GOOD!

Your turn…. How about you? What is something you particularly enjoyed this week? What is something you have planned for the rest of your holiday weekend? Comment below and let us know! 

Happy thanksgiving! Something to Enjoy

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Something to Enjoy: A Weekly Round Up | Only You

This week was a rather quick whirlwind of news and activity. I have a new tentative move date, but this one brings more certainty than past ones. I fully am in the analysis phase of my research, and defense of my dissertation will be as quickly as I can write. That ball is fully in my court, and I have been waiting on this stage for far too long. I am tired. Tired like that exhaustion that hits at mile 20 in a marathon. I am close enough that there is no way I am going to do anything other than push through! As quickly as the week came by, I have something to enjoy. 🙂

Something to Enjoy: A Weekly Round Up | Only You

Something I’m Listening to…. Only You by Yazoo

I cannot get enough of this song! Anything 80’s pop synth gets me all dreamy and mushy. In fact, one of my favorite things to do with an old boyfriend of mine was to listen to his old 80’s records playing on his fantastic stereo  – Roxy Music was a big feature – drink luxurious wine from his collection, and debate each other with our contrary social and political views.

Something I’m Reading…. Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

I loved the movie. I was curious about the book. It is not flashy or quirky but is absolutely splendid and deeply touching.

“The human heart has a way of making itself large again even after it’s been broken into a million pieces.”

Something Pretty for My Self Care…. Ok, several things this week

  1. Edie’s Barkday! For four years I have enjoyed – and endured – the fur and fury of my little monster. No barkday parties this year, but I’m going to give a little throwback to her last barkday party at OHSO. Before I moved out of my condo I would ride my bike along the canal the distance between my home and OHSO with Edie in her jump-proof basket. We’re actually heading there for brunch this Sunday with one of Edie’s best “aunties” for what will likely be our “goodbye” brunch if my departure date remains on schedule.

Barkday Party

2. A woman in line behind me at Paradise Bakery picked up my bill for my lunch. Just because, and asked me to pay it forward.

3. Despite my urgency to complete Chapter Four before I begin the extended road trip to move East, I went to the first general membership meeting for Junior League of Phoenix. It felt really great to see so many women who are my friends. Friendships that are meaningful and mature, and formed through coming together within JLP. As our hashtag says, #IamJLP.

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