Kim's Journey to Find her Purpose

Kim's Journey to Find her Purpose

Deciding to return to college after twenty years or more was a decision that did not come easy. I had a full-time job, three kids, a husband, I was contemplating becoming a dog owner, but not really thinking about returning to school to pursue my PhD.

I am an avid learner, but from an early age I was challenged in school. I typically performed below average on standardized tests and was often placed in remedial classes. Still, I loved school. At an early age my mother, who dropped out school in the tenth grade, told me “You’re going to college.” She was a single mother raising five children on a housekeeper’s salary and my number one advocate! Towards the end of my high school journey, she had a massive heart attack and died. I was devastated, but I never lost my love for learning. I enrolled in college and developed my four-year plan. On my commencement day, my sister told me “Now you must get your master’s degree.” With the support of my family I persevered and graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Master’s in Public Administration. Prior to graduating from my master’s program, I got married, moved to Texas, and started working.

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Fast-forward twelve years later, I had been working for several years as a human resources professional and life was grand! By the time I reached forty, I had a three beautiful children, a house, and a fantastic career. But, I kept feeling like there was something else I should be doing.  I would often reflect on my mother’s wish for me go to college. I would think to myself, okay mom, I did it, and I got my degree. Plus, I had my master’s degree. However, there was still something missing. So, I did the unthinkable: I left my lucrative human resources job. I took a job at a local university in DFW as a Research Associate in the School of Public Health and yes, I found my purpose. I labored unconditionally in underserved communities across DFW providing health education programs on disease prevention and wellness and enjoyed every moment of the job.  Five years went by quick, I began researching PhD programs and remember asking myself, “What are you doing?!” Nevertheless, I keep searching. I applied to a few programs and was not accepted, but I was determined to live out my purpose and purse my PhD in public health. I began working with faculty at a local DFW University and discovered their Health Studies program focusing on Health Education and Health Promotion. I was accepted to the program and just completed my first year of doctoral school.

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Karina’s Path to Grad School

Karina’s Path to Grad School

My name is Karina.  I am in my second year of doctoral studies and enjoying the learning process.  Being in graduate school has been my dream from the first months of college.  There were many college professors who challenged me to grow and think outside of my immediate culture.  Some of them started controversial class discussions, taught concepts using performance art and others were really patient teachers.  I wanted to teach like those inspirational professors, so I decided to pursue doctoral studies. {eblogads}

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Your First Conference: Part 2

Your First Conference: Part 2

DURING THE CONFERENCE

What should I bring to my presentation?

First, always double check your room location.  Sometimes room locations change or floor plans can be confusing, so try to physically visit the room if possible. Second, almost all rooms are set up with projectors and screens, but you will need to bring your own laptop if you want to utilize a visual presentation. If possible, test to make sure your computer works with the technology provided before your presentation. Third, you may want to bring hard copies of your paper or of key points that you wish to emphasize as part of your presentation to hand out upon request.

Prepare an “elevator speech.” You should have a short, roughly 30 second version of your speech explaining your research that can answer the “so what do you do?” question that you’ll get at the conference.

Send copies of your paper to your panel. This provides the discussants with what they need to give you feedback after the presentation. In turn, respondents should always provide you and the other presenters with written feedback as well as their presentation response. However, keep in mind that your paper should only be sent to the panel chair if the conference requires it.

Dress comfortably, but conservatively. Adhere to the formality of the conference when choosing your conference attire. The dress code for conferences are a little different than for a job interview or other events that require business professional attire; think business casual. Some great go-to options for anyone are:

  • Pants: Khaki or navy pants, neatly pressed are safe business casual for both men and women.
  • Shirt: Polo shirts, blouse, or a pressed long-sleeved, buttoned down shirt are an appropriate choice for this sort of environment.
  • Shoes: Be sure to wear shoes that are in good condition and comfortable. Athletic shoes and flip flops are not acceptable, and heels are uncomfortable during long periods of wear.

How do I get to know people?

Do not spend too much time alone. Mealtimes and snack breaks are a great time to network and meet scholars in your field. If there’s someone you’ve been trying to meet with, see if you can go with them to lunch. If you don’t know anyone, ask to join a group that’s headed to eat. Even if their topics of interest end up being outside of your research interests that can still be a good opportunity to practice your elevator speech, as well as a way to meet different people in your field. Additionally, there is sometimes a specific event for graduate students to meet, so plan to attend if there is one being held at your conference.

Read name tags. Pay attention to attendees in the audience, sitting next to you at lunch, or standing in the hall and consider approaching them. The best way to do this is by showing interest in them and their research instead of trying to sell yourself, make your conversations about them, not you.

Don’t be afraid to approach researchers. A good way to meet people, especially for graduate students/first time conference attendees, is through an introduction. Remember, every researcher was once a graduate student and know what it’s like. If you’ve read a researcher’s book or paper, it’s easy to start a conversation with them by saying that you’ve read their work, and sharing how you found it meaningful to your own research. If you want to get feedback on your research from them, don’t be afraid to ask.

Look for people who look like they don’t know anybody. Keep in mind that people at the conference are in the same situation as you. Look for people who look like they don’t know anyone either and introduce yourself. They are usually easy to spot and often first time conference attendees as well.

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RESPONDING TO AUDIENCE QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS

Answering audience questions and responding to comments is often the most anxious and dreadful part of the presentation, or even the entire conference. There can be many misconceptions among graduate students about panelists or audience members verbally attacking student presenters—in fact, it’s the opposite. Most conference attendees and researchers want to support graduate students, and often ask helpful questions and make positive remarks about their presentations. However, the best way to prepare is to practice and get feedback from advisors and other graduate students before attending the conference.

What do I do if someone asks me a question and I am uncertain of the answer?

Ask the questioner to restate the question in a different way or provide an example that illustrates what they are asking. This will give you a few moments to think of an answer and the questioner may be clearer in a restatement. Another option is to politely say that you are uncertain and suggest that another panel or audience member may have a good answer; and hopefully someone will be able to offer a good response. If not, the panel chair should interrupt and move the Q & A session forward.

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Your First Conference Part 1: What to Expect

Your First Conference Part 1:
What to Expect

Conferences are a great way for graduate students to learn about academia and expand their network. The conference environment is uniquely suited to providing a forum in which one can present original research and offer feedback, or debate among members of the same field. This is a great opportunity for graduate students to present their own research and gain some valuable feedback.

Below are some tips to help you prepare for your first conference presentation. Keep in mind, the best way to prepare is to check with the chair or respondents of the panel well in advance of the conference so that you can organize according to their suggestions.

PRIOR TO THE CONFERENCE

How do I get accepted into the conference?

The conference website has all the information about the submission process for that specific event (as requirements may vary). Be sure to examine the registration form and the submission instructions so that you know what is expected of your proposal when you sit down to submit. Most importantly, you need a basic idea articulated clearly in an abstract with an appropriate title. Keep in mind the timeline between your submission and the conference date(s) to ensure that you can cover the points made in the abstract.

How should I decide which sections to submit my proposal?

Again, consult the conference website, there will usually be an invitation to submit that describes the year’s conference theme. Your abstract should reflect the conference theme. Although you likely have a general sense of which panel would best suit your paper based on your abstract topic, the sections listed will be more specific.

Should I volunteer to serve as a discussant or chair of a panel?

No. Neither of these roles are suitable for graduate students. Chairs must assert their authority to keep presentations to their allotted time, and discussants critique others’ work (neither of which a graduate student has nearly enough experience for). However, in rare cases, you may be contacted by a panel organizer to serve in one of these roles if you have particular expertise or to be a part of a discussion among other graduate students.

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Can I get funding to attend the conference?

Consult your department about institutional funds available and relevant deadlines/eligibility requirements as early as possible each semester.  You can also look into academic societies (such as Phi Kappa Phi) or related groups at your school who will also help with transportation or lodging assistance.  However, some do require you becoming a member first.

Where should I stay during the conference?

An association can sometimes get the meeting space for free if enough attendees stay at the host hotel, so conferences usually encourage attendees to stay at the hotel where the conference is being held. However, if the conference has to pay for the meeting rooms, then the registration costs go up. For a graduate student on a limited budget, it makes financial sense to stay elsewhere. Keep in mind though, that planning ahead and finding some conference roommates can be a great way to bring costs down no matter where you stay.

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What is an Academic Coach? Do you need one?

What is an Academic Coach? Do you need one?

 

Academic coaching is an interactive process that focuses on the personal relationship created between the student and the coach. The coach challenges the student to think about his or her personal and/or professional goals in order to relate them to his or her academic/educational goals. In this learning process, it is important for the coach to encourage the student to become more self-aware by understanding his or her strengths, values, interests, purpose, and passion.” -National Academic Advising (NACADA) 

According to a 2011 study by Eric Bettinger and Rachel Baker, “college completion and college success often lag behind college attendance.” Bettinger and Baker say that a reason students struggle to succeed in college is they often lack key information about how to be successful.

Academic coaching is a service provided for undergraduate and graduate students with a trained academic coach who can help you improve your study skills and performance. An academic coach will listen to your needs and concerns as a student and work closely with you to develop personalized academic goals and suggest tools, resources, and strategies to assist you in reaching those goals. Investing in an academic coach improves the odds that students will make the best use of their time in college. Graduate and undergraduate students are expected to be able to manage themselves and their time independently and to be prepared for more rigorous academic challenges.

Academic Coaching versus Tutoring

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IRB Review Process

IRB Review Process

The Institutional Review Board (IRB) at any given institution (higher education or other) is responsible for determining the acceptability of proposed research in terms of institutional regulations, applicable laws, and standards of professional/ethical/societal conduct and practice. The Board evaluates the potential risks and benefits to participants outlined in each proposal. The IRB also examines subject recruitment procedures, proposed compensation, and the informed consent process. In addition, when the IRB reviews research involving a category of vulnerable subjects (e.g., prisoners, children, or individuals institutionalized as mentally disabled), the Board will include in its reviewing body at least one individual who has expertise regarding the welfare of those subjects. IRB reviews can be long, tedious, stressful, even confusing for anyone submitting a request to their institution. So, here is a general overview of how the process works.

Review Criteria

In light of the information provided in the proposed research plan, the IRB determines whether protection of human research subjects is adequate and in accordance with the following criteria:

Subject Choice

The IRB will determine that the choice of subjects is justifiable by considering the purposes of the research, the setting in which the research will be conducted, and the population from which subjects will be recruited. Where some or all of the subjects are likely to be vulnerable to coercion or some sort of influence, the IRB will determine that appropriate safeguards have been included to protect the rights and welfare of all subjects.

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How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

How to Write a Proposal: For a Master’s Thesis or Dissertation

Note: Many thanks to fellow PhDStudent blogger Ryan Krone for his contributions and insight to this post.

Your thesis/dissertation proposal provides an overview to your committee of your plan of research; including the general scope of your project, research questions, methodology, and significance of your study. Most universities offer guidelines for their dissertation and theses requirements with information about how to set up and organize the document. Most dissertations are organized into four or five chapters. The proposal generally consists of the first three chapters because it is designed to justify and plan the project as well as explain how it contributes to existing research.

Understand and accept that the proposal will be a scrutinized document that will most likely be redrafted and resubmitted before approval. Think of the proposal as an introduction to your thesis, bridging the gap between existing work and your research. Remember that the proposal is not binding or meant to limit your ideas- you will likely modify and refine your scope, argument, and methods throughout the submission process.

Parts of a Proposal

Theses and dissertation proposals across different programs generally include some form of these sections:

Title

At this stage in your proposal, you need only provide a working title. Don’t worry if you compose a lengthy title, the aim of a title is to convey the idea of your investigation. A good title should:

·         Familiarize the audience to the topic.

·         Indicate the type of study to be conducted.

Abstract

If required (since some fields and universities do not require abstracts), the abstract should provide a brief (350 words for Dissertation, 200 words for Thesis) overview of the proposal that gives the reader a basic understanding of your proposal. The abstract should summarize your introduction, statement of the problem, background of the study, research questions or hypotheses, as well as methods and procedures.

Introduction

Your introduction should put your project in conversation with other similar projects and provide necessary background information that establishes the purpose of your study. A good introduction establishes the general territory in which the research is placed and includes some references to existing literature (which will then be looked at in a later section called the Literature Review).

Statement of the Problem

This section may be incorporated into your introduction or stand independently (ask your advisor for the most appropriate format). Regardless of placement, you need to clearly identify the problem or knowledge gap that your project is responding to. To do so, be sure to limit the variables you address while stating the problem.

Purpose/Research Questions

Like the “Statement of the Problem,” this section can be included as part of the introduction or it can be separate. The statement of purpose/research objectives involves a description of the question(s) the research seeks to answer or the hypotheses the research seeks to advance. Once you begin your research, you may find that your questions or hypotheses may change- so don’t stress. What is important for you at this point is to specify your study’s focus and concisely explain the goals and research objectives. When doing this, however, remember to show how your approach will be different from the previous research and add to the field of knowledge.

Review of Literature

The literature review is a critical look at the existing research that identifies potential gaps in knowledge and is significant to the research you are proposing to carry out. Here, you need to be able to identify the key texts which contribute to your thesis or dissertation. Literature reviews often include both the theoretical and empirical approaches in order to effectively demonstrate your familiarity with the topic and the appropriate approaches to studying it.

Tips on drafting your Literature Review:

·         Categorize the literature into trends/themes and begin each with an appropriate subheading, then synthesize related information. Remember to:

o   stake out the various positions that are relevant to your project

o   build on conclusions

o   point out the places where the literature is lacking or flawed

·         Avoid defenses, praise, and blame. Your task is to justify your project given the existing knowledge.

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Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

Should you work towards a Master’s or Doctoral degree? Which is right for you?

If you are considering going to graduate school, you are probably wondering which degree to get. The choice should not be too difficult once you understand the differences among the two types: doctorate and masters. Graduate school is a lot of work and can be very competitive. Many students who floated through undergraduate work are surprised to find that graduate school requires a much larger commitment. Students who are taking a full course load as well as teaching or working other jobs often find themselves overwhelmed. The difference between college and graduate school lies in the ability of the student to focus on their field and areas of most interest.

When considering the advantages of each, remember that both will give you in-depth training in a specialized field and the usefulness of each degree depends on your academic and career interests/goals. However, the higher the degree, the longer it takes to earn and the more specialized the focus becomes. For that reason, here are some things to consider.

What is a Doctoral Degree?

The most common doctorate, and main focus of this post, is the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.). Obtaining a Ph.D. degree means you have exclusive specialty in your field of choice. Bear in mind that one of the very important aspects of getting a Ph.D. consists in the ideal of creating knowledge. Ph.D. work requires original research that contributes new information. In order to earn your Ph.D., you will be required to pass comprehensive exams and a dissertation. What many students don’t know is that they can apply for a Ph.D. program directly after completing a bachelor’s degree, although some schools do require a master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program.

Purpose and Uses of a Doctorate

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Tips on How to Stay Focused: Improve Your Concentration

Tips on How to Stay Focused: Improve Your Concentration

How many times have you sat and tried to focus on a project or assignment, only to find your mind wandering? Despite your best efforts, you just can't concentrate. We've all been in this familiar, frustrating situation. Many students complain about their lack of ability to focus and concentrate as their minds race from one thing to another as their thoughts run all over the place. The trick is to use the right strategies to help improve your concentration skills and apply them to your studies. Don’t panic or be overly discouraged, almost everyone has the ability to concentrate.

We’ve all had days where we can’t seem to focus. For some of us, those days are more common than we’d like, but you don’t have to go to extremes. Here are some easy tips to help increase your productivity:

Getting Started

Environment is everything. Dedicate a space for completing work and other assignments; whether it’s the library, your room, or a friend’s home, it is essential to have a place that will enhance your concentration, not impede it. Keep this study area a distraction free zone- this means no TV, video games, or phones anywhere near this space. Consider stocking this space with all of the things you will need to complete your tasks, so that you don’t break your concentration by getting up to retrieve supplies. Some other tips include:

  • Calming music
  • Draw up a study timetable in correlation with energy levels at different times of the day
  • Divide your work into sections

Having a million things to do can create a major focus problem for anyone. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of projects and assignments, extracurricular activities, and social obligations you have, it can be difficult to clear your head long enough to concentrate on any one task. This is why prioritizing is imperative. Determine the most important responsibilities and forget the rest. The less you have to do, the more you’ll be able to focus on the things that matter.

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School: Part 4

The best kind of financial aid is money you don't have to pay back, such as scholarships, fellowships, and grants. Grants for graduate students can be the difference between earning an advanced degree and ending at the bachelor’s level. But while scholarships are often merit-based, grants are more likely to be need-based. There are many grants available if you know where to look. The following includes a basic overview of the types of grants available.

Career Specific

There has been an increase in career-specific grants, funding given to students focusing on a specific career goal. If you are undecided, or open to any major, consider pursuing a profession in high-demand fields. These high-demand areas of study include foreign language, special education, math, and science. If your career objectives include a specialized role, or advanced position, you might find grant funding that specifically supports your goals.

·         For example, the TEACH Grant is a non-need based grant awarded to students completing a master’s degree in specific education disciplines.

College-Based

Another good source for funding is college-specific grants. Your search for funding should include schools that specialize in the field you are interested in. Many colleges have grant funds set up by specific departments or by the alumni, which can be used towards opportunities that will give you valuable experience and enhance your professional credentials—such as internships, academic research, and other career advancement activities.

Opportunities are widespread and highly individualized by the universities that offer them, so it is up to you to uncover what opportunities your school gives graduate students. Financial aid professionals and program administrators can also provide valuable insight into available aid. Here are a few examples from well-known colleges:

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 3

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 3

 Assistantships are another way of funding your graduate education and are available at many schools with graduate programs. Unlike scholarships, assistantships are more like a work-study program. Graduate assistantships are additional educational opportunities for graduate students while pursuing their graduate education. With assistantships, graduate students are offered free or reduced tuition in exchange for leading discussions in undergraduate classes, proctoring exams and grading, or assisting professors with important research.

 

As mentioned in my previous posts (part 1 and part 2 of my Free Money series), scholarships and fellowships are not the only ways of getting free money toward your higher education, my post today is going to cover all you need to know about assistantships.

Assistantships

Assistantships are available on a limited basis in most graduate programs at universities and colleges throughout the nation. These positions provide funds for many masters and doctoral students. Each department or program has its own requirements and expectations so prospective students should be sure to do their research before applying to such a position.

Assistantships are a form of financial aid given by the college or university to graduate students who engage in teaching and/or research and provide students with training and valuable professional experience in higher education work environments. It is important to note that assistantship duties should not interfere unduly with academic studies, but rather should contribute to students' intellectual growth and degree goals. If you fell as if expectations of your assistantship are interfering with or conflicting with your studies, speak with your advisor or a department faculty member about your options.

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 2

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School Part 2

Getting into graduate school is already a challenge on its own, and funding the program one admitted is even harder. Graduate studies involve not just tuition, books and other miscellaneous fees. If you are seriously planning to enter a graduate program, you have to consider how you can pay for your living expenses, as well. As mentioned in my previous post (part 1 of my Free Money series), scholarships are only one way of getting free money towards your higher education, my post today is going to cover all you need to know about fellowships.

 

Fellowships

A fellowship is a type of financial aid that is awarded to a graduate student to support them in their full-time course of study without associated teaching or assistantship responsibilities. Fellowships are generally merit-based awards to support a student who is going to school full time. National fellowships are highly competitive, with most applicants in the top 10-15% of the class. Fellowships also often look for a record of leadership, public service, research experience, and meaningful participation in extracurricular activities.

Fellowships provide graduate students with learning opportunities that can help them with their careers post-graduation and earn money at the same time. Whether they are participating in research, entering a training program related to their field, or doing work in their community, fellowships can provide money for tuition, housing, and other expenses. In addition, depending on the specific fellowship program, students may be able to receive health care coverage and assistance with student loans.

Institutional Fellowships

Institutional fellowship funding is awarded to the student by the university, and typically includes full tuition and stipend support, although the stipend levels vary depending on a student’s division and the prestige of the award.

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Dealing with PhD stress

Dealing with PhD stress

 

Here is the thing that no one really mentions when you are thinking about committing yourself to three years of research. Stress. I can’t remember anyone mentioning it to me when I first enquired about possible projects or during my first week of reading. Or maybe they did and I just ignored it. I can’t really remember. It all seems like such a blur but I do remember feeling stressed during the process. There was physical and emotional stress that I had go through, not just at the end when I was writing up the last few pieces of the thesis but throughout the whole thing.

 

But you know who gets the PhD? That big holy grail? The one who perseveres through all the times that things got rough and it ended in tears. Dealing with stress is one thing that you must overcome to finish the project and graduate. People probably won’t tell you about it at the beginning of your project but you will probably experience one or more of the following:

 

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How to Find Free Money for Graduate School

How to Find Free Money for Graduate School

You’ve finally earned your Bachelor’s degree and have made it into graduate school. Whether you already have massive student loans from undergrad or you managed to graduate unscathed, you don’t want to add to your tremendous piles of debt or create a new pile. My new series will help you discover four ways to find free money and keep your head above water.

Scholarships

While less common than undergraduate scholarships, scholarships for graduate students are available. Luckily, a number of scholarship providers are willing to help graduate students continue their education by providing some extra funding.

College-Based Funding

Some universities aid their alumni through tuition discounts on graduate programs and additional certification and training. You may be surprised by what your alma mater can offer you, so explore all of your options.

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20 Student Resources To Keep Up With Everything

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As of April 2015, “the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute found that nationwide first-year-college students’ sense of emotional well-being is at its lowest since 1985.” (FIU News).

 The class load alone may seem like more than a full-time workweek. And between studying, writing papers and social growth, there seems little time to keep a proper college life balance. However, with technology advancement comes a more supportive and accessible community than ever before.

 There are new tools being created each year that will help any college student keep up with their hectic schedules. The following list breaks down 20 of the best sources into four categories.

 

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