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Where will graduate school take you?


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A Day in the Life of George Hickman, a master’s student in creative writing

After graduating with my undergrad degree in 2013, I put off applying to grad school for roughly two years. One of the reasons I was hesitant to apply was that I did not have a clear concept of graduate school in my mind. The few people I knew working on their graduate degrees were not in my field, and being unable to conceptualize what a creative writing degree would look like day-by-day was a huge hindrance to my ability to set goals for my future. The aim of this blog post is to pull back the curtain on every day graduate life, so that if you are unsure if grad school is right for you, this will help demystify some of the differences between the graduate and undergraduate experience.

Monday, March 13

8 a.m.

This is my new wake up call, now that I no longer teach 8 a.m. classes. I live in an apartment complex that’s about a 20-minute walk from the English building, the short and cost-effective commute a luxury I could never have in my home city of Philadelphia. Since I always wake up with hair like a god, it doesn’t take long to get ready, and I head out the door to arrive at my first class 10 minutes before it starts.

9 a.m.

As a creative writing student, I teach English Rhetoric & Writing. It’s a required course for all students unless they have passed out of it with a placement exam. My course is themed around the rhetoric of gender, sexuality, family and activism. Unlike some more rigid programs, Ball State gives us English majors a lot of freedom with how we decide to cover our core curriculum. Since I came into grad school with very little experience in English, I was relieved to find that I could channel my experience teaching gender and sexuality into my course curriculum. Being able to talk about subjects on which I had already presented and taught in classrooms really helped boost my confidence. In my class, we use readings about bisexuality, polyamorous families and gender non-conforming people to talk about the strategies behind argument.

Today, we are talking about asexuality. On Mondays, I ask my class if they are involved with or hosting any events this week on campus. It gives them the opportunity to support each other outside of class and, as a bonus, it gives me a sense of campus culture and helps me find fun things to do that weekend. This weekend, one of my students is in a play, another is raising money for a charity through his fraternity, and another is in a symphonic band concert.

Moving forward, we watch a 10 minute video of David Jay, the founder of asexuality.org, give a TED talk. After the video plays, I ask the students if they have any initial reactions to the content. Both of my classes are often talkative, but just in case they aren’t, I always have a few questions prepared to keep the conversation going.

Today’s questions are:

  • What, for you, defines the difference between friendship and romance?
  • Do believe that “checking in” with friends like we do with romantic partners would strengthen friendships? Is it a feasible type of conversation to have?
  • What are some of the struggles that people who identify as asexual or aromantic might face? What does David Jay suggest we do to change the discourse around sexuality?
  • What is David Jay’s intended audience here? Do you think his approach to talking about asexuality was successful?

After filling the remaining 50 minutes with discussion, we close down the classroom for the day. A few students hang back to ask me (already) if I have graded their papers from Friday. No, students, I have not.

10 a.m.

I try to return graded papers about two weeks after they have been turned in, three weeks at most. This is enough time for me, in rare moments of organization, to grade three to five papers a day, or, in a more likely last-minute panic, grade all 50 papers in one weekend. There is a lot of green tea involved in this version of the process.

George’s office

At 10, I hold an office hour between my two classes. My office is only one floor above my first class, so the walk barely makes a dent in my Fitbit goal. I share an office with four other creative writers, though there are rarely more than two of us actually holding office hours at the same time. Coming from a job where I worked in a sea of cubicles, this crammed office is actually an improvement for me. I also really enjoy my office mates, so it’s great to socialize while I work.

I often use my office hour to grade, lesson plan or work on my own homework, even though it is technically an open hour for students to visit. Sometimes students will drop by asking for advice on their papers or looking for me to read over a draft.

11 a.m.

This is my second time teaching the same lesson plan that I detailed earlier. It’s great teaching two of the same classes back to back, and our English department does an excellent job making sure that the graduate students are always teaching the same class (i.e., I teach two sections of 103).

My second class of the day goes similarly to the first one, only after this class I was pleased to have one of my students stick behind to mention how glad they were that we talked about asexuality as part of my class. They explained that they really related to the video and that this was the first time that their identity has been talked about in class. I remember having this same moment as a student, but I had to wait until senior year until the first time I saw the word “transgender” on a syllabus. This quick chat between me and my student is, in all honesty, the reason I am thrilled to be doing what I do. My college professors had such an impact on me—they gave me courage and the power to view my world critically. If I can provide even a small amount of this to even just one of my students, then I have done my job.

12 p.m.

Lunch hour. The lunch facility closest to my office, has options like a Mexican grill, Chik-fil-a, and the bane of my existence, Papa Johns. But at least I can earn that personal pizza with a 15-minute walk, gaining a few ticks on my Fitbit.

1 p.m.

On Mondays, I actually have the rest of my afternoon free, again, another luxury my 9-5 never afforded me. Getting work done on my own time has its privileges, but more often it has its procrastinations. I usually get work done at my apartment since it is nearby, but sometimes I meet a friend at a local coffee shop so that we can commiserate together about the upcoming stresses of the week.

In the middle of the week, I use my afternoons to work private tutoring sessions to earn some extra income. With the graduate assistantship, I don’t have enough time to work a part time job (I tried working at a cafe for about a month, and very quickly realized the poor effects on my schoolwork), but working an extra three to four hours per week on private study sessions is the perfect balance for me.

5 p.m.

Because we are secretly waiting for Ball State to roll out an early bird discount, my friends and I get dinner on Mondays at 5 p.m. We have night class together, so eating a little bit earlier is convenient. We often go to one of the dining halls and try desperately to avoid any students asking us when we will have their papers graded (or maybe that’s just me). Here, huddled around one of the four-person wooden tables, there is gossip, there are sweet potato fries, and there is some last-minute finishing of the reading.

6:30 p.m.

Our graduate night class is called “Victorian Appetites,” and it is a literature course. Even though I am a creative writing major, taking two literature classes is a requirement. This class couldn’t be a better opportunity for me, as I am currently working on what I’m calling a “woke Victorian novel,” and studying the stylistic approach of Victorian writers has been incredibly inspiring. For this week, we have been assigned 300 pages of a fiction book and a critical reading of about 12 pages. The three-hour class is broken up into discussion, lecture and a second discussion lead by one of the graduate students in the class. We have also all uploaded 300 word responses to Blackboard that we can incorporate into discussion as well. It may sound like a lot of work, but since it is a once-a-week class, I’m able to split it up by doing a little bit each day.

9:30 p.m.

George enjoys grad school because he has more time to do what he loves, like writing.

Free at last! Monday is one of my later schedules and my only night class. Usually I am able to be off campus by mid-afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that my work is done. A lot of my time is spent working from home, but a large part of this may be because I live so close to campus. In the summer before graduate school, I remember talking to a current graduate student and saying, “I can’t wait to start school so that I can have more free time.” He laughed at me and then told me the details of his own schedule.

If I could go back in time, I would tell him that by “free time” I didn’t mean sitting around watching Netflix. To me, any time spent reading Victorian novels or editing a poem for Tues/Thurs poetry workshop is free time. It’s time to do what I enjoy most, and advance my career as a writer. Being a graduate student means putting in several hours of work per day; in fact, at times it may seem like all your “free time” is being eaten up by reading books, submitting stories and writing up critiques for your fellow students. I work long days, sometimes going 12 hours without a break, but sometimes my workdays end before 2 p.m. Coming from a job where my eight hours a day were spent doing things for someone else (running reports, taking phone calls and filing papers), I am so thankful to finally be doing work for myself again. During my work days, I am bettering my writing, I am understanding the nuances of critique, and I am honing my teaching skills.

That all being said, Monday nights are strictly reserved for some last minute edits to my poetry, and then tuning into the Real Housewives of Atlanta, a show among the highest art of our era. It’s been a long day; I think I deserve it!


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A Day in the Life of Jes Wade, a public administration graduate student

Howdy, howdy, howdy! My name is Jes Wade, and I am a full-time graduate student in public administration, full-time AmeriCorps VISTA and a part-time graduate assistant. I’m going to take you on a journey through my typical week: responsibilities, classes, and all the other random things I do throughout a given week. Before I start here’s a condensed list of what I do in a week: gym, food, work, class, homework, work.

Sunday:

I wake up around the same time each day, between 7:45 and 8 a.m. to make it to the gym or go for a run by 8:15 a.m. I’ve raced one full and three half marathons since July. I like to make fitness a priority. I generally spend 1-2 hours of my day here.

Sundays are my way to recover from all the craziness throughout the week and to prep for the craziness I’m about to endure. I start my day at the gym, find my way to the supermarket to buy groceries, then meal prep for the week. When I have time I start my readings for the week and finish up any last minute homework if I have any.

Monday:

I start my day at the gym, and after working out I hurry home and get ready for the day. Since I’ve already meal prepped for the week, I scoop up my belongings, and I’m on my way to the Boys & Girls Club between 10-11 a.m. where I work as an AmeriCorps VISTA (project coordinator). I typically spend 6-8 hours a day here to get my full-time hours. In this position I am responsible for nearly all aspects of our external communication ranging from weekly emails to donors, social media, weekly newsletters and more.

I’m typically leaving the Club anywhere between 5:30-7 p.m. depending on when I arrived. Throughout the week, I’m also assigned work for two professors in the Political Science Department, for my part-time graduate assistantship. I find time between all my activities to complete that work, as it’s typically work I can complete from home.

On Mondays I leave at 6 p.m. to make it to my Policy Analysis class at 6:30 p.m. In this Immersive Learning class we are attempting to tackle the issue of blight in the Muncie community. So far it’s been extremely interesting. My group is covering the awareness aspect of it.

By the time I get home (usually around 9 or 9:30 p.m.) I’m pretty pooped from the long day. My boyfriend, and I will generally pick out a movie and fall asleep on the couch by 11 p.m.

Tuesday:

Same start time for my day. I try and donate plasma at BioLife on Tuesdays and Thursdays for extra saving money. During this time I do weekly readings for my two classes. This generally takes about an hour, and afterword I’m on my way to work. On Tuesdays at the Club I work on our Club Connection, a newsletter for donors, parents and generally anyone interested in the Club.

After work I head straight to the Cardinal Kitchen food pantry where I am the unit director in charge of up keeping inventory and donations. This was an initiative I started through Student Government Association my senior year as an undergrad here at Ball State in 2014.

By 8 p.m. I am home and eating. By 9-9:30 p.m., I am heading to Trivia at the Chug, a bar not far from campus. Win or lose I’m usually snug in my bed by 11:30 p.m.

Wednesday:

Still waking up at the same time and hitting the gym. Still going to work at the Club. Still working on homework and readings. Wednesdays I have an online lecture class from 8-10 p.m. And you guessed it! I’m in bed around 11 p.m.

Thursday:

Still waking up and starting my day at the gym. Still going to work. About once or twice a month I have a Graduate School Ambassador meeting. On Thursdays I post our Club Connection to our website and prep our email that goes out to 5,000+ contacts for Friday morning. After work I have a standing group meeting. If we’ve decided we need to meet I attend the meeting, if not I head straight to BioLife. After that I have free time, by this point in the week I usually have little homework and readings to do. So I have smooth sailings until the weekend. Am I in bed around 11 p.m.? You betcha!

Friday:

Fridays are the same as Thursdays minus the BioLife donation and standing meeting. Fridays are nice because I finally get to relax.

Saturday:

Saturday is a rugby day (when rugby is in season). That’s generally the end of August to the beginning of November and mid-March to the end of April. If I don’t have a game I might be helping the Graduate School and the Political Science Department with an info session, or going to a different kind of competition—most recently I went to the NASPAA Food Insecurity Simulation in Indianapolis.

And that is my typical week, I tried to include most of what I do, but obviously I couldn’t type it all out. Here are a few cool things I’ve done or will do as a grad student.

In the upcoming weeks I’m going to:

  • A career advising appointment to look over my resume before I start applying to jobs like crazy
  • Travel to Nashville, Tenn., for a rugby tournament called NashBash
  • Purchase my graduate gown
  • Turn 24 next month!

In the past few weeks I have:

  • Enjoyed my first cruise. I went to Progreso and Cozumel, Mexico
  • Saw “Get Out” opening weekend
  • Done a lot of shopping at Kohl’s

So I hope you have enjoyed this slight look into my life. There’s no such thing as a “typical” grad student, and no set path you have to take.


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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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What Socrates Taught Me

Transitioning to a New Field of Study in Grad School

I have identified with the term “writer” all my life, but I haven’t always had the credentials to prove it. Though I was at first a physics major, then a philosophy major and classics minor, then a customer retention representative, one thing has remained constant throughout my various daily routines:  I always left time for writing. When, at 24, I decided to attend graduate school, I knew it had to be in fiction writing.

As much as I loved Socrates, Wittgenstein and Schopenhauer, I didn’t think I had as much to contribute to the philosophical community as I did the literary world. My passion lies in advocating for diversity. And as a writer, the most effective way I could advocate for diversity was through storytelling. So I began the daunting process of applying to creative writing graduate programs.

The process was daunting because I had very little formal background in creative writing. I remember people telling me along the way, “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t need to go to grad school for the same major that you got your degree in.” No matter how many times I heard this, I didn’t believe it. I was sure that maybe this was true for rare exceptions, but that I would have to put in a ton of work to prove my worth in an entirely new field.

Once I was accepted to Ball State and began my master’s degree in creative writing, I began to see a very different side of the story I had been telling myself. Here’s what I’ve learned

  1. You will need to do some catch-up work, but so will everyone else.

There is no “traditional” graduate student. People find their way to graduate school through many different paths. Some come straight from their undergraduate institution, but many people may be coming from a long-term job, an experience abroad or previous graduate study in a different field.

What this means is that when you’re sitting in class debating whether or not to ask a question, someone else is likely wondering the same thing. Whether it’s been a few years since you’ve cracked open a textbook, or you never had time to fit a particular class in your schedule, there is no shame in asking what may feel like a foundational question. Especially at the beginning of a new program, many people may be glad someone else asked for a refresher.

  1. You can learn a lot from socializing with your peers.

Everyone likes to feel smart, and the easiest way to make someone else feel smart is by asking for advice. If you are a student who switched fields when coming to grad school, you are in a perfect position to make friends by asking for help from those around you.

Within the first two weeks of my program, I heard people mention they were submitting their poetry and fiction to literary journals. I had barely heard the phrase “literary journal” before, let alone submitted to one. One day at the library, I asked a friend in my program if he could walk me through the process of submitting to magazines. He showed me everything: how to write a cover letter, find magazines I liked and submit to contests. Though artists have a reputation for being competitive, I think most of us realize that we are not competing for America’s Next Top Fiction Writer, and that there is room for all of us at the top. In my experience, the joy of seeing a friend published is just as gratifying as being published myself. While I can’t speak for the atmosphere of every academic field, I have always found people supportive and happy to lend a hand.

  1. Your previous degree may actually make you a more valuable applicant.

If I could go back in time, I would never choose to do my undergraduate in the same field as my graduate study. Coming from a different field of study has helped me in ways I never could have imagined. Especially in the arts, I sometimes wonder what people write about if they have only ever studied writing. My philosophical background appears in my fiction all the time; in fact, I am rarely thinking about writing without thinking about philosophy.

A professor once told me that she loved how I could make connections between any two subjects. It took me a while to understand why she thought that was an important skill, rather than just a reflection of my jumbled brain. But eventually I realized she was talking about audience. Having a deep connection to more than one field of study (whether through a major, minor or hobby), meant I could connect to more people when I explained my thoughts. With my classics minor, I can make metaphors that make sense to archaeologists, but also linguists and historians. I can draw connections between Wittgenstein and Hemingway, or between Dungeons & Dragons and composition pedagogy. This has shown up most in my teaching, where I feel it helps my students better understand the material in my classroom.

In short, if you’re like me and are hesitant about switching majors from undergraduate to graduate school, know that it is far more common than most people think. Sure, it may take a little extra effort once you arrive in your new program, but in my experience switching my field of study has been an incredibly affirming, positive experience.

This post was written by Graduate School Recruiting Ambassador George Hickman. George is a graduate student in English with a creative writing focus.


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A Day in the Life of Hilary Janysek, a graduate student in flute performance

Hi! I am Hilary Janysek, and I am a graduate student in flute performance. I am in my second year of study in the Doctor of Arts Degree, and it is my fourth year at Ball State (I also did my master’s degree here.) Coming to Ball State for graduate studies in music was a HUGE decision for me, as I moved far away from my friends and family, and left a well-paying job as a public-school teacher in Texas. However, as you will see in this snapshot of my life, grad school challenges me to think in new ways and inspires me to go after my dream of becoming a professional performer and university professor.

7:40 – 9:15 AM: This week was only the second week of the semester, so my schedule is still getting settled. I decided to take some down time last night instead of working on some assignments, which is why I woke up so early this morning. My day began by arriving at school at 7:40 a.m. to get to the library and prepare for my 9:30 a.m. class. The class is MUST 722: Seminar in the Principles of Music Theory, or more commonly referred to as Theory Pedagogy. In this course, we learn how to teach music theory to undergraduate students, which is part of the core music curriculum. Music Theory is usually taught by specialists, but many beginning university teachers are assigned to teach this course. Our assignment was to plan a 15-minute lesson on a topic of fundamentals. It had been a while since I had learned or taught the topic I was assigned, but once I started reviewing the text, I became very excited about teaching it. I typed out a lesson plan and printed it just in time to head to class.

On the way out of the library, I stopped by the main desk to pick up a bundle of books that came in through interlibrary loan (a FANTASTIC resource to use). I am starting a research project for my lecture recital, and I ordered many pieces I had never heard of before. Getting new music is like Christmas morning for me, so I was so excited to pick them up and am looking forward to trying them out later!

Interlibrary loan materials

Interlibrary loan materials

9:30-10:45: Theory Pedagogy class. We ran out of time for my teaching assignment, unfortunately. But, I had a blast acting like a student and trying to come up with questions undergraduates might ask. This energized my enthusiasm for teaching even more and got me fired up to teach my lesson next week!

10:50-11:50: Right after class, I had to run downstairs for a meeting with the graduate coordinator of the School of Music, Dr. Linda Pohly, and the director of graduate recruiting and enrollment, Stephanie Wilson. This was another inspiring moment in my day as I got to learn more about what happens “behind the scenes” in terms of recruiting management. We looked at enrollment numbers from previous years and discussed some ways that we can improve recruiting strategies for the future. This meeting and other activities I have participated in as a Graduate Recruiting Ambassador are so important to my career as a university professor, and I am so blessed to take part in them.

11:50-12:15: My “lunch” time. I had a few minutes to eat a power bar and answer emails before my next task. Don’t worry, I’ve been snacking all morning and will continue to snack in the afternoon when I can!

12:30-1:30: I teach a private flute lesson. While in grad school full-time, holding a graduate assistantship in Music History and participating in the Graduate Recruiting Ambassador Program, I also have a very small studio of private flute students to bring in a little extra income. My student today is also a private teacher in the area who wants to improve her playing and eventually audition for graduate programs. We enjoy high-level and pedagogical discussions throughout each lesson, which I LOVE!

1:30-2:30: After the lesson, I head back to the sanctuary of my office, where I spend some time answering emails, organizing some school work and preparing for another class I will be attending tonight.

2:30-4:45: These couple of hours are devoted to accomplishing work for my assistantship. As a GA, I am assigned to 20 hours of work per week. Usually, I teach an undergraduate course, MUHI 100, but this semester is devoted to more administrative tasks for faculty members—organizing and uploading Blackboard content, grading (oh, so much grading!) and working on data files that will lead to a professor’s publication.

5:00-7:40 PM: This is my final class of the day, MUSE 743: Seminar: The Role of Music in Higher Education. I have been looking forward to this class because of what I have heard from other students who have taken it. I knew the rumors would be true when the professor began the class with a statement about how his job in this class was to make sure we all got jobs. Great! That is what I need! Throughout the semester, we will discuss resumes, curriculum vitas, cover letters, the tenure process and how to make a good impression. In the first class, we all had to describe what job we wanted to apply for and why we were qualified in two minutes. It was a great exercise to prepare us to speak eloquently in an interview process. I left the class again feeling inspired and uplifted.

Dinner at Ruby Tuesday

Dinner at Ruby Tuesday

8:00-10:00 PM: Dinner! I had a pretty action-packed day today, so it was nice to meet up with one of my best friends and fellow grad student for dinner at Ruby Tuesday where we enjoyed good food, laughter and great discussion.

10:00-11:30 PM: Since I didn’t get much practice time in today, I had to end the day with a bit of practice. With such a hectic schedule, I really do love practicing. I can really feel progress happening and don’t have to worry about other work-oriented tasks.

Midnight: I finally get home and crash into my bed! I must get some good rest so I can do it all again tomorrow!

I’m not going to lie, life as a grad student for me is EXHAUSTING! But it is the kind of exhausting that makes you excited to get to work, learn and impact others. I would not be who I am today if I didn’t take a leap and go to grad school four years ago. I am excited for what the future holds after achieving my graduate degree, and I will always be thankful to Ball State for providing me with meaningful and applicable experiences, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with talented colleagues.


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A Day in the Life of Robert Young, a graduate student in English

My name is Robert Young, and I’m a graduate student in the master’s in English program with a concentration in creative writing. When I first came to graduate school, there were many myths and preconceived notions I had. Some of those myths were dispelled and proven false; others were confirmed. As part of the series, A Day in the Life of a Grad Student, I’ve kept a diary of my day. Hopefully this account will give those considering graduate school an idea of what to expect out of a graduate program. This is a day in my life as a grad student.

Monday

9 AM – 10 AM

Mondays are one of my better days. Typically, I don’t have any obligations until 11 a.m., unlike other days of the week where I can start as early as 10, 9, and even 8 a.m. Between 9 and 10 a.m., I wake up at my leisure. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone and clear all the notifications—some text messages from friends, but also a slew of early morning emails to check through. After that, I skim the headlines on my “New York Times” app, read an article or two and then get out of bed.

My morning routine is always the same: shower, breakfast (cereal on busy days, but today I start early enough for eggs and toast) and start to plan ahead for what’s on my plate for the day. I start thinking about all my obligations, the ones I know about, for the upcoming day, but inevitably, more will arise.

10 AM – 11 AM

Do the dishes, get my backpack loaded up with the books I need for the day—this is my miscellaneous hour. With about a half hour of extra free time, I’ll answer some emails, check my social media, write or read a bit. Around 10:30 to 10:45 a.m. I leave my apartment and walk to campus. It takes about 15 minutes walking through the cold morning to get there. I bundle up, of course.

11 AM – 12 PM

I walk into Robert Bell a few minutes before the hour and make my way to the second floor. For half of my assistantship hours I teach a section of English 104, which is in an hour, but for the other half this semester I’ve opted to tutor in the Writing Center. My assistantship stipulates that I work 20 hours a week, and 10 of those hours are in the Writing Center where I tutor and assist students with their writing and school work. Most of my hours fall on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday—I’ve only got one Writing Center hour scheduled for Monday.

I deposit my backpack and jacket in the break room and then go sit in the main room, waiting for my client to arrive. A Writing Center session is usually about 50 minutes long. I assist the client, usually undergrads but sometimes grad students, in any way I can. We read through their essay together, talk about it as we go and correct mistakes.

When the session ends and an hour has past, I bid farewell to my fellow Writing Center tutors, gather my things and march on to my class.

12 PM – 1 PM

I was lucky this semester and got a nice classroom in the David Letterman Communication and Media Building. The other half of my assistantship involves teaching a section of ENG 104, and when I walk into the room on the second floor of Letterman, most of my students have already made it and are sitting down. I walk up to the front, drop my things in the chair and  pull up Blackboard on the projector.

Teaching is usually the aspect of my day that I put the most work into. Last night, I spent a good one to two hours planning my lesson, creating my activities and organizing my class’s Blackboard page. I try to keep things fairly streamlined, but there is still a lot of work involved in uploading assignment sheets, readings and rubrics. When I’m all prepared, I start.

Teaching is something that I used to get really nervous about, but not so much lately since I’ve had more practice. This will be my third semester teaching, but I still get some butterflies immediately before starting. They all go away once I get into it though. I start out with a brief recap of the last things we’ve talked about, remind my students about a few upcoming deadlines, and make a joke. They laugh at it, and I test my luck with a second joke. They laugh less at the second joke, but I still call it a win.

The lesson is a mix of some lecture about the upcoming assignment, then discussion. I get the students into small groups of three to four students each to discuss some questions I wrote last night. I walk around as they discuss, popping into conversations here and there, and when I feel like they’ve had enough time, I move into whole class discussion. The discussion goes well; they bring up good points and make some decent arguments about the topics of the day. A 50-minute class period goes by faster than expected, and I notice that it’s almost time to let them go. They’re hungry for lunch, and so am I. Making an executive decision, I wrap up, give them their homework assignment and let them go two minutes early. I attribute this to my hunger.

1 PM – 2 PM

Some days I pack my lunch while other days, like today, I get lunch at a dining hall. To avoid the initial rush, I walk back to the Robert Bell Building and go up to my office on the third floor. I sit down at my desk, look at social media on my phone a bit, chat with my next door office neighbor and then get back to the task at hand: lunch.

The Atrium isn’t so crowded today, so I wait in line for a sandwich from Boar’s Head Deli. When I get my sandwich, I grab some napkins, fill up the water bottle I carry with me everywhere, wait in line to pay and then grab the latest issue of the Ball State Daily News on my way back to my office.

During my lunch hour, aside from eating, I read the paper, do the crossword and/or Sudoku puzzle and then with any time left, surf around social media.

2 PM – 3 PM 

This hour is when I have office hours, so for the next hour I’ll sit alone in my office. Most of the time, students don’t come to my office hours, though it does happen occasionally. During this hour, assuming no students of mine come by asking for help, I work on some homework. Later on in the day I’ll have night class. There’s some reading I haven’t quite finished yet, so I use this time to do that. When I finish my reading, I answer more emails, work on any other work that I’ve got to finish for later in the week and if I get all that done, I’ll write or read a bit from a book in my backpack.

3 PM – 5 PM

At this point my day is almost done—on hold rather—until my night class later. I walk back to my apartment from my office. When I get home, I sit down for a few minutes to relax. I then break out the vacuum and do a few chores, tidy up the apartment, take out the trash, get the mail—that sort of thing. When all of my chores are completed, I’ll play a video game or watch some TV to relax.

5 PM – 6 PM 

Around 5 p.m. I’ll start dinner which, depending on the how stocked my cupboards are, might be more elaborate than usual. Since I’ve got class creeping up on me, I keep it simple: a salad, some pasta, a piece of chocolate for dessert. When I finish dinner, I clean up the kitchen then get ready to leave.

6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

This class, ENG 667, one of only two classes I’m in as a student this semester, only meets once a week for three hours. It’s in Teacher’s College, so the walk is a little bit further, and with it being extra dark and cold, I hurry to get there. I’ve prepared for the class, and it’s a topic I’m interested in—Victorian Literature. The prospect of a three hour class isn’t so daunting. We get a break at the halfway point, which is when I bust out my snack: a pair of granola bars. After the class finishes, I say goodbye to my friends and start the walk home.

10 PM – 12 AM

When I get home I prepare another snack and retire to my room. I snack as I get back to work. At 12:30 p.m. tomorrow I have my second class as a student, so I spend these two hours doing the reading and preparing any and all homework assignments. I could have gotten a head start earlier during lunch, but I wanted to watch a YouTube video instead. When I finish homework, I get to work on any other assignments I’ve got in the coming week like lesson planning for Wednesday and Friday classes I teach. I even start to get a dent in all the grading I’ve got to do.

12 AM – 1 AM

I start to wind down. I’ve completed all the work that needs to get done, so I relax a bit. I write some more, read some more and practice guitar. Around 1 a.m. I start to get ready for bed, though sometimes I don’t fall asleep until later, especially on days where I’ve got a lot of work that’s piled up. Today I manage to get to bed at a decent hour though. Tomorrow I do it all over again!

*

That’s a typical Monday in my life. Some days are easier. Some are harder. One thing that grad school forced me to start doing was manage my time better. With the combination of my own classes as a student, the class I teach, the hours I tutor and the mountain of work that I have to take home with me as both a teacher and a student, there’s a lot to do. Once I started to manage my time and use a calendar, things got easier. Grad school is hard and time consuming, but I managed to find a nice life/student/work balance. Finding that balance was necessary for me. I not only survive grad school; I enjoy it! If you have any questions about my day, about my program, or about grad school in general, feel free to email me at rjyoung@bsu.edu


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Educational psychology professor leads department toward success in recruiting

Jerrell Cassady, the 2015-2016 Excellence in Recruiting Award winner, shares recruiting insights during a fall training session.

Jerrell Cassady, the 2015-2016 Excellence in Recruiting Award winner, shares recruiting insights during a fall training session.

It’s important for us at the Graduate School to recognize excellence, but even more important is to share knowledge and support within the university community. So each year, when we give a program director in the Graduate Enrollment Management (GEM) program the Excellence in Recruiting Award, or GEMMY Award as we call it, we also ask the winner to share insights in a training for other leaders in the GEM program.

The 2015-2016 winner Jerrell Cassady, who oversees two masters and one Ph.D. program in the Department of Educational Psychology, was nominated for not only the breadth of his recruiting, but also for the innovative ways in which he used recruiting best practices.

“The most notable aspect of Jerrell’s efforts as a recruiter is that he is not just active, but proactive, in every possible avenue for attracting students to our programs,” wrote Sharon Paulson, chairperson of the Department of Educational Psychology and a professor of psychology, in her nomination of Cassady for the award.

During the training earlier this year, Cassady illustrated his proactive efforts, particularly with changing one of the master’s programs into an entirely online program. Cassady anticipated a drop in enrollment in the department’s master of arts program in educational psychology due to changes at the state level related to teacher pay scales and advanced degrees. To remain solvent, Cassady knew the program would have to make some changes to attract new students. But many of the students in this new audience were choosing other programs over Ball State.

“If you can’t beat the competition, change the game,” he said.

The answer, Cassady found, was to change the program’s delivery mode, a move that proved to be beneficial.

“We wouldn’t have survived otherwise, because we weren’t accessible,” Cassady said.

But Cassady emphasized that he doesn’t work alone. He often calls on experts from across the university, including those who work in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and the Division of Strategic Communications, to assist with marketing materials, messaging and data to drive decisions. He also credits his colleagues in the department, including 2016 Meritorious Service Award-winner Linda Jones, with providing care and support to students from even before they apply all the way through graduation.

Cassady shows that it’s not only about the tools within reach, but how and when those tools are applied that can make a difference in providing an experience that prospective students want to be a part of.