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A Day in the Life of Chelce Carter, a graduate student in anthropology

Chelce Carter, graduate student and mother of cats.

My name is Chelce Carter, and I am a graduate student in anthropology, among other things—including intern/advocate, graduate assistant, graduate school ambassador, wife and mother of cats.

MORNING

My day normally starts around 7 a.m., but more often than not it starts a little later. After I get up and get ready for my day, my husband (also a graduate student) and I take off for campus. We live out in the country, so driving in takes about 20 or 25 minutes depending on traffic. This isn’t the worst drive, but fog, rain, snow or other bad road conditions can make the trek longer.

TREAT YO’ SELF

After we get to campus, he gets out at Robert Bell to start his day, and I go on to my internship. Most days, I go straight to the shelter where I’m an intern, but on Wednesdays, I treat myself. The closest I get to breakfast on any other day is a banana in the car on the way in, but today I stop at the Caffienery, a downtown Muncie coffee shop, for a bagel and tea.

WORK, PART 1

Sometimes I can enjoy these before my work at shelter starts, but more often I have to wait until I am done with my first task—client area. This is where I spend an hour with any residents or children who might be awake. Today is pretty quiet, but still poses challenges as I am not very good at interacting with children at times, especially ones who are less inclined to listen. Another staff member has made playdough for the children to play with later, and I mess around with it a bit. After more volunteers and staff arrive in the back, I head up front to start taking calls.

In addition to being a shelter, we also have a designated suicide hotline as part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This means that we can get calls from all over the nation, and sometimes even international calls. Calls range from very serious issues, such as emotional crises or suicide in-progress, to lighter topics, including lonely people wanting to talk or requests for resources relating to mental health, homelessness, etc. Today the calls were pretty light for most of the day, but there was a moment where the phones were ringing one right after another.

I was more than happy to take over the front desk, which requires watching the cameras, controlling the doors and fielding basic calls regarding business operations. At the desk, I was able to do a little bit of work for the Ball State Student Symposium, where I will be presenting a paper that is still in progress. I also chatted with some staff members about upcoming events that I’m helping with. Before I knew it, it was 2 p.m., and I was ready to leave.

FOOD, PART 1

I’ve been trying to eat healthier, but on busy days like this, I’m happy just to get something to eat. Today, I stop at a fast food place, get some food to go and eat in my office while watching some Netflix to unwind after my time at shelter. This is an important part of my self-care regimen that I try to practice to avoid burnout, a frequent occurrence in the non-profit world.

WORK, PART 2

After lunch, I head over to the Graduate School Office to call some prospective students to offer a meeting with our director of enrollment and recruitment. This task is part of my job as a Graduate School Recruiting Ambassador. In total, I call 15 people and talk to three, leaving messages on the others’ machines. Two of the callers set up a meeting, and I follow up with them via email.

WORK, PART 3

I do many types of work in graduate school, including work for my assistantship. This involves helping professors with a wide range of tasks. In the past, I have graded papers, organized study sessions and edited chapters of books. Right now, my main task is to get an article ready to go for submission and go over book chapters to make sure they make sense. I’m also reaching out to the local community to find out what opportunities exist for graduate students to get involved.

FOOD, PART 2

Tonight, I’m going to a poetry/essay reading with my husband. We meet at one of the food courts and get some food before heading to his office to eat and relax with dinner. After finishing off my pizza, I do a little more work before the reading.

EVENING

The poetry reading is pretty full, but we find a seat and settle in. Before the reading starts, I go over my calendar to make sure that I’m keeping up with everything that I need to. I’m using a Passion Planner this year, and it’s been immensely helpful in keeping my life on track. The readers begin, and in order to reduce my anxiety, I work on the task I was doing before while they read. At the end of the reading, I feel a little better, but still a little worried about everything that I have to do.

Some of the early reading that I did that made me feel really great about graduate school.

ADVICE

Grad school is not necessarily hard—but it is difficult at times. It will challenge you and invite you to learn more about your field of interest and the topics you’re passionate about. It will go from 0 to 60 in no time at all. One day, you could be sitting in a poetry reading looking forward to the weekend, and the next, you could be worrying about all of the things that you have to do before the weekend. However, I would rather have that worry than not, since I know that each thing I do is pushing me to a better place of knowledge and exploration.

While it can be challenging, and at times, anxiety-provoking, it’s worth it. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to be done in a few months and graduate, but I would also be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy my experience. It has helped me in so many ways—academically, professionally and personally. Reading and exploring texts about my subject area has had a huge impact on my desire to continue on this path, one that is often not easy or filled with happy endings. Through this journey, I have gotten a better sense of who I am, what I want to do and what drives me, something that would have been much harder to do without the guidance and structure of graduate school.


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Meet Christina, a local comic store owner and keynote speaker for orientation!

We’re excited to introduce you to Christina Blanch, who will be the keynote speaker at Graduate School Orientation on August 20! Christina is an author and educator, and her connection to Ball State University runs deep– she earned both her BS and MA in Anthropology (with a focus in Historical Archaeology) from Ball State, and she is ABD in the Educational Studies doctoral program. On top of her ties to the university, Christina is also heavily involved in the Downtown Muncie community, where she owns Aw Yeah Comics. She took some time to give us some background on her business and to share her advice for new graduate students.

Super Christy

Photo Courtesy of Christina Blanch

On her business: 

Aw Yeah Comics just moved to a new location in downtown Muncie, right between Dan’s Downtown Records and Savage’s. Some of our customers now do a three part stop on Wednesdays (new comic book day) by going to Dan’s, our store, and then lunch at Savage’s–it’s awesome. We have only been there a few months but we have been downtown for two years and we love it! We like to think of ourselves as more than just a comic book shop, but a place where people can come to hang out and meet other like minded individuals. We have movie nights, game nights, lots of signings, and much more. My assistant manager Kyle and I do the bulk of the work but we have some part timers like Amber and Sy that help us out when they can.

Her favorite thing about living in Muncie: 

The people and the camaraderie. Most of the people in Muncie are awesome and will do whatever they can to help one another out. I also love all the history and how the buildings and especially the houses in the historic districts are all so beautiful and so unique.

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Photo Courtesy of Christina Blanch

Her advice for new graduate students:

There is a lot to do downtown and it’s getting more and more diverse all the time. There are more than restaurants and bars. There are gaming stores, toy stores, boutiques, record stores, and of course, an awesome comic book shop.

On getting involved in the Muncie community:

Look around for something that interests you. There are many hidden gems around Muncie. It’s pretty surprising, actually.

On what new students can expect from her keynote address at orientation:

There will be a lot about what it’s like doing your graduate work at Ball State and living in Muncie. They will hear about my experiences in graduate school and how I think you can get the most out of their journey  – things they can use once they enter the real world.

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Photo Courtesy of Christina Blanch

Thanks for sharing with us, Christina! 

Don’t miss more of Christina’s advice during her keynote address at Graduate School Orientation on Thursday, August 20– register now and check out a preliminary schedule of events here.  


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Meet Nick, an Anthropology professor with a green thumb

Ball State’s graduate students aren’t the only ones who engage in high-impact learning experiences. Today, we are pleased to introduce you to Nick Kawa, an environmental anthropologist and a graduate faculty member in the Department of Anthropology. Originally from Batavia, IL, Nick earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Florida and has been teaching at Ball State for three years. Last summer, he helped to organize a collaborative project between community members and students to transform an empty lot into a thriving community garden.

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

On his role in creating the HUB Community Garden: 

“Over the past year, I have been involved with the HUB Community Garden in downtown Muncie. It’s a collaborative effort involving Ball State students, local business owner Hans Heintzelman, and a number of community members, including retired preacher Charlie Mason. The project began with the simple goal of converting an empty lot owned by Hans into a community garden. I helped put Hans in contact with students from the Landscape Architecture program last winter and together they began to design a site plan. Once the design was completed, we received donations of mulch, soil, and raised planter beds for the garden. This spring we broke ground, installing the planters as well as stone pathways on one end of the site. On the other end of the site, Hans had a granite bench installed that memorialized his nephew who passed away in a car accident. I was also able to acquire paint from the Muncie Sanitary District and together we spent an afternoon putting up a mural, which was a fun activity that brought the group together.”

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Photo credit: Hans Heintzelman

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Photo Credit: Hans Heintzelman

On the significance of the HUB: 

“One of the things that Hans emphasized was that he wanted the garden to be a “hub” or focal point for other projects that are dedicated to revitalizing downtown Muncie. For that reason, students laid a circular brick patio at the center of the site that symbolizes “the hub” and serves as a meeting space. The garden was inaugurated this June and since then we have hosted several events, including a barbecue with live music for the Downtown Art Walk. We also had a successful first summer of gardening, producing lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, greens, and herbs. We hope that this space can continue to grow and serve as model for similar initiatives in the city. Right now, Hans and I are in contact with the city of Muncie to see if we can expand the project to an empty lot a few blocks away where we hope to work with BSU students to design another community garden and pocket park.”

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Photo credit: Christine Johnson

On the ways this experience has shaped his teaching:

“It has been a real pleasure to be involved with this project and I am hoping to get more anthropology students involved in it in the future. Right now I have a group of students in my course ‘Ecological Dimensions of Culture’ that are identifying other empty lots that may be converted into gardens and green space. More than just beautifying downtown, we want to think about how we can create meaningful social spaces in the city. A lot of post-industrial cities like Muncie are looking to re-invent themselves and I think anthropologists can play a valuable role in that process.”

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Photo credit: Hans Heintzelman

On the Department of Anthropology:

“We want our graduate students to gain practical knowledge and skills that will help them develop meaningful careers. In the Applied Anthropology Laboratories, our Master’s students have been actively involved in a number of contracts and grants, especially in the field of archaeology. Currently, we are also working to develop more research projects in Muncie to attract cultural anthropologists with interests in community development, environmental conservation, and urban renewal.  Since our graduate program is relatively small, our Master’s students get a lot of attention from faculty. They also develop a real sense of camaraderie among themselves, which I think makes the program special.”

His advice to incoming students:

“Get to know your peers and faculty. Take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available here on campus. Get involved in research at the local level. And develop a broad network of contacts. All of these things will help you make the most of your experience at Ball State.”

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Nick!
If you’d like to learn more about Ball State University’s Master of Arts program in Anthropology, visit the department’s website or contact the graduate program director, Jennifer Erickson.
To read Nick’s work or watch his academic presentations, visit his website