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Graduate Student Voice

Layna Edington and Austin Dean from Grand Valley State University’s Graduate Student Associate talk about life on the other side of a bachelor’s degree.

Stress, studying and graduation  

We have finally made it to exam week. While it is exciting to be so close to the finish line, there is still quite a bit of stress ahead before we can relax for the next couple of weeks. Everyone knows stress isn’t a good thing, and I think it is fair to say most people don’t enjoy stress, but sometimes it just seems to be unavoidable. This is especially true during exam week. With most of us facing multiple papers to write and cumulative finals to study for, there seems to be little time for things like eating and sleeping.

Lately I have found quite a few interesting infographics online, and this week I thought it was fitting to talk about an infograph focusing on stress while cramming for exams. The infograph talks about the effects of stress on studying and how well students test on exams when they are under stress. Further it talks about the ineffectiveness of cramming. If you are like me you end up putting things off every now and then, which makes cramming seem totally necessary. I always thought cramming would get me by, but this study shows that cramming just doesn’t work. In fact, spacing study time out into several short sessions actually works 90 percent better than cramming. I knew cramming was bad, but I didn’t know it was this bad! It might be too late to avoid cramming this semester, but if you have a semester or two left, I highly suggest trying to space out your study time to see if it works better for you.

The next section I found interesting was related to trading sleep for studying. I know I need my sleep, but there are times when there are just not enough hours in the day. At that point I begin trading day hours for night and give up precious hours of sleep to check a couple more things off of my to-do list. This infograph claims stress from school affects sleep more so than alcohol, caffeine, and using electronic gadgets late into the night. Further, it tackled the effects of an all-nighter. Did you know sleeping less than six hours a night for two weeks leaves you as tired and drained as someone who has been up for 48 hours? I didn’t either! This week, try to get more sleep. Even if it seems like there simply is not enough time in the day, try to find some. Give up Facebook and Twitter in exchange for studying and sleep. It could make a huge difference in your exam scores.

Do you think stress is really that detrimental to your health, or do you think it is just something necessary to get through long weeks of exams and homework? How do you handle stress? Remember, if there is anything the Office of Graduate Studies can do to help with your raduate education, please let us know. Email us at gradstudies@gvsu.edu, or call the office at (616) 331-7105.

Layna Edington
_Graduate Student Association _

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Congratulations  

Congratulations, you have all made it to the last week of classes for the semester! I know this week is probably filled with papers, projects, and exams, but at least we have the holiday break to look forward to and keep us going. A number of students, including myself, will actually be graduating on Saturday. Before you check out for the semester, there is one event I think you should consider attending: the Graduate Dean’s Citations for Academic Excellence.

This year the event will be held Friday, December 7th from 5-7:30 PM in the Hager-Lubbers Exhibition Hall and Loosemore Auditorium in the Richard M. DeVos Center downtown. There will be a social hour from 5-6PM, followed by the award ceremony from 6-7:30. Students will be recognized for academic excellence in their major, as well as for excellence in a thesis or project, excellence in community and professional service, and excellence in leadership and service to GVSU. Awards for faculty include the Kimboko Inclusion award and Faculty Mentor award, presented by Graduate Student Association members.

If you want to take a break from studying this Friday evening, you’re welcome to stop by the awards ceremony tohelp us recognize your fellow graduate students here at GVSU. If you are not ready to graduate yet, the Dean’s Citations for Academic Excellence are a great reminder how important it is to try your best to excel in your program so you can be a future award recipient, and a great way to say “thank you” to the faculty members who truly inspire you and for taking their time to make a difference in your graduate education experience.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but for me, while I am really looking forward to graduating, there are still some things I will miss. The people I have met and my involvements beyond the classroom are what have really made my college experience wonderful. Good luck with final exams, papers and projects! Remember the Office of Graduate Studies is available to help with your graduate education needs.

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Giving thanks over break  

Congratulations, you made it to Thanksgiving Break week! With the holiday within reach, we all have something to be thankful for, even if it is just a couple extra days without class. With all the celebrating you will be doing it is especially important to do what you can to avoid a cold that would only put a damper on your extended weekend. I know most of us are probably heading into the holiday break low on sleep and high on stress, which may make avoiding a cold almost impossible. The good news is that there are some different remedies that can both help prevent a cold, or treat the cold you already have.

We have all heard of cold remedies such as chicken soup or vitamin C, but are these cures really working? I know when I start to feel a cold coming on I immediately start taking vitamin C drops, which turns out might be a great idea. However, I know almost everyone has his or her own way of treating a nasty cold. Want to know if your cold remedy is proven to work? Be sure to check out this infograph about common cold remedies and how effective each remedy is proven to be. It can be a big help to be prepared not only for the holiday, but also cold season. After all you wouldn’t want a runny nose to keep you from enjoying a little extra turkey on Thursday, or keep you in bed past 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

I hope you have a relaxing Thanksgiving Break, filled with wonderful food minus the cold. Spend the extra days off enjoying your family and friends, and try to avoid homework and studying even if it is just for one day. The time off will allow you to come back refreshed and ready to conquer the next three weeks to finish out the semester. Remember our office is always here to help with any of your graduate study needs.

Layna Edington
Graduate Student Association

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With Grad Fest approaching, make sure you're prepared  

Next week is Grad Fest, and many of you who are graduating this December have probably been looking forward to this day for years. Maybe you have not been looking forward to Grad Fest itself, but instead looking forward to what it means. You are finally going to be done with the degree you have been working so hard to earn. Gone will be the late nights of studying, cramming for exams, endless paper writing, and the scramble to finish semester projects. While these are all things to look forward to, there are still a few things that need to be addressed before you can move on with the rest of your lives.

*Cap and Gown*– You need one if you are planning to walk at commencement. You can purchase yours at Grad Fest for $56.76. —- doctoral garb is usually more.

Tickets – Each student will be issued ten guest tickets for commencement with the purchase of a cap and gown. Start thinking about who you want to invite.

A Job – If you haven’t started job hunting, it is probably a good time to start. Don’t forget about the career center! They can be a great help in finding interviews and editing your resume and cover letters. Check out our Facebook for our latest post about Job Interviews.

A Plan to Pay off Debt – I know this one is not very fun, but you need to start now. Be sure to check the balance on your student loans and start thinking about how you are going to pay for them.

Make a Bucket List – When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, I made a list with my friends of all the things we wanted to do before we graduate. I know life is different as a graduate student, but if there are things you have always wanted to do with your time at GVSU, do them now! It may be your last opportunity as a student, so make time to add a couple extra experiences to what you already have.

Relax – You have earned this, and it is finally time to enjoy it! Take a day off, start a book off of the mile long reading list for when you finished reading academic text, catch up on some TV, or just sit and think about how nice it is you don’t have any homework to do!

Remember, Grad Fest is Nov. 14 in Kirkhof Center 2204 and Nov. 15 in the Devos Center Loosemore Exhibition Hall. Both events take place from 9 a.m.-6p.m.. Commencement is Saturday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. at the Van Andel Arena, Downtown Grand Rapids.

We look forward to celebrating all of your accomplishments. Congratulations and good luck!

Layna Edington
Graduate Student Association

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Professional development on the graduate level  

Last week I talked about just one of my opportunities to expand professionally through my work as a graduate assistant for the Office of Graduate Studies. I realized after writing the post that the position has actually provided me with quite a few more great experiences I felt were worth sharing.

Although this is only my second semester as a full time GA, I have been able to experience an array of different opportunities as a direct result of my position. Here is a list to highlight my favorite involvement opportunities:

• Professional Development

o PACES – Beyond simply attending various PACES events, I have been able to see first-hand all of the work that goes into putting together solid programs for the graduate student population. Each program is selected based on requests of students and fine-tuned to assure they are not only useful, but also meet the professional needs of the attendees. If you have not yet attended a session, I strongly suggest you look over the schedule and find a session that meets your professional needs.

o Web workshops – I mentioned this opportunity last week in detail, but for those of you who missed it, the web team put together awesome presentations. Does this link to the presentations from the workshop?

• Interaction with Faculty

o Graduate Council – This is by far the greatest experience I have had working at the Office of Graduate Studies. As a GA for the office I get to sit in on Graduate Council meetings every Friday morning as an ex-officio member. If you think the university is not listening to your concerns as a student, you will be surprised to know they are not only listening, but letting students be actively involved in decision making at the graduate level. At every meeting at least one graduate student provides input to the Council from a student’s perspective, and the Graduate Council listens! I have seen changes be put into graduate policies that directly reflect suggestions of students, and to me that is a huge part of what makes GVSU graduate programs so great. If you want to become a student representative for Graduate Council, send the GSA President an email at gsa_president@gvsu.edu.

• Research

o International students – This has been my main research focus as a GA. I have learned not only about how international students are recruited, but also about the challenges they must overcome. This project has really opened my eyes to what great programs we have here at GVSU and that there are initiatives in place to support all students on campus.

• Student Involvement

o GSA – I was actually involved with this group before I was a GA, but since starting my work with the OGS, I have seen how important GSA is to the graduate community. For example, the group is currently working on getting graduate students the better representation on Student Senate. It is initiatives like this that make a difference in all of our graduate education and help shape our community.

I hope all graduate students are getting a chance to get involved both with their program and the graduate population as a whole. If you would like to get more involved, I suggest coming to GradClub put on by the GSA. The group meets Wednesday nights from 5-6PM in the University Club 107C DeVos Center.

If you have feedback for the Office of Graduate Studies, send an email to gradstudies@gvsu.edu. This email address is checked daily and requests forwarded to appropriate parties at the university.

Layna Edington
Graduate Student Voice

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Web workshop bolsters graduate assistant skills  

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Web Workshop put on by the GVSU Web Team through my work as a Graduate Assistant for the Office of Graduate Studies. This was the second workshop put on by the GVSU Web Team I have attended, and once again I was impressed by how helpful and informative the morning was. At both events I learned more than I expected to learn, and was impressed with the presenters.

Another positive aspect of the Web Workshops is the ability of attendees to pick and choose what sections they want to attend. This provides the opportunity for each individual to fine tune the workshop to meet their specific needs. Overall, there were twelve sessions to choose from and a lunch where participants could speak with the Web Team about the changes coming with CMS 4. The sessions included: Email Newsletters, A CMS Overview, Photos and Images for the Web, The CMS Editor, Ben and Dave Review Your Site, Working with the Web Team, Search Engine Optimization, Wrangle Your Content, Editing Source Code/HTML, Social Media, Advanced CMS, and eCommerce. With this expansive list of topics, it was hard to decide which sessions to attend. Ultimately I chose to sit in on four session including Email Newsletters, The CMS Editor, Wrangle Your Content, and Social Media.

The time seemed to fly by, but I can say I learned something at each of the sessions. The session that was most helpful to me personally was “Wrangle Your Content.” “Wrangle Your Content” focused on how to build up a website, and make sure it meets users’ needs. At the Office of Graduate Studies I write this blog, help with Facebook updates, and assist in managing the website content, which is why this particular session was so interesting to me. The presenter not only kept my attention, but presented the information in very understandable terms. Further, he did a great job of breaking the daunting task of managing content to six concise steps to follow. He also did a great job of giving multiple examples for many different levels of web content involvement. I have already started to think about how our office can implement these six steps and start creating better content for our users.

As a Graduate Assistant I enjoy getting the opportunity to get more involved with the campus community and attend workshops that build my skills. I know how important our website is both for current and prospective students as well as faculty and staff, and I know the more I can learn about it the better I will be able to contribute. If you are a Graduate Assistant I highly recommend you get involved in events that pertain to your work here at GVSU. It is very rewarding to know you are bringing a little extra to your position and making a difference. If you have questions about getting more involved be sure to ask your GPD and the Faculty members you work with about potential training sessions you can attend. Also be sure to register for the PACES events that interest you.

I hope everyone is still doing well with the semester. Be sure to take a little time to enjoy Halloween, and good luck with the next week. Remember if you need anything, be sure to visit the Office of Graduate Studies.

Layna Edington
_Graduate Student Association _

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Free PACES registration deadline Oct. 27  

I hope midterms are going well and your schedules are starting to calm down a bit. The good news is we are passed the half-way point of the semester. Although the semester is on the downward slide, there is still plenty of time to get involved.

PACES is now FREE! If you were debating whether or not you wanted to get involved, now is the time to sign up. With registration fees eliminated, there has been a wave of registrants and the slots are filling up quickly.

There is still time to register for the Oct. 27 session focusing on Critical Conversations. This is an all day workshop from 9am to 3pm that will include both breakfast and lunch for the participants. As described on the PACES website:

_“Dev Butler of Thinc Consulting is the featured speaker for this engaging workshop. We’ve all experienced conversations that were absolutely necessary, but for one reason or another were very hard to have in a rational manner. This workshop is going to give you the tools to navigate these high stakes conversations calmly and clearly so that both parties feel their points were heard and the outcomes are as positive as possible. Breakfast and lunch will be served. This workshop is free for all current graduate students.”
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The Nov. 17 session has been slightly revamped. Here what the presenters have to say about it:

_“Polished, content-rich professional communication delivers your insights to your patients, clients, coworkers, and employer. This workshop starts with a panel of faculty from a variety of programs which require students to write responses to cases. Whether you need to write a treatment plan for a patient or provide advice to an organization, the panelists will provide insight and useful tips for improving your work this semester and throughout your career. Writing Center staff will then help you present yourself in the best light with guidance on effective professional writing, presentations, and use of social media in the workplace. Breakfast will be served and this workshop is free for all current graduate students.” Aaron Lowen, Associate Professor, Economics Department, Seidman College of Business
“My portion of the workshop covers aspects of professional communication. I will discuss common features of the professional writing genre (tone, audience awareness, intent), good habits for presentations (PowerPoint, speaking), and the role and pitfalls of social media in the workplace. The three topics are somewhat disparate, but they all relate to professionalism and modern workplace issues.” Patrick Johnson, Assistant Director, Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors._

We look forward to welcoming you to the remaining PACES events for the semester and future events. If you would like more information about upcoming graduate student events please visit the Office of Graduate Studies’Facebook page, or stop by the office at 318C Devos Center on the Pew Campus. Good luck with the weeks to come, and remember to make time to get involved.

Layna Edington
Graduate Student Association

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Surviving midterms  

It is hard to believe we are already into week eight of the semester. While we are half way to the prize of Winter break, many of us still have the challenges brought by midterms in the week ahead. For those of you who have already completed all of your midterms, this post might not be much help now, but keep it in mind for finals. Here are a few tips for getting through the rough week you may be facing.

Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is vital to success in your studies. Sleep not only allows you the rest your body needs, but it also helps your academic performance. Let’s be honest, do you really feel better for trading sleep for a couple more hours in front of your books? Try to put the books down a little earlier and use the extra time you have to recharge before your early morning.

Stay Motivated and Productive
You are only helping yourself through studying if you are actually being productive. I know for me personally after a couple hours of studying I often find I am zoning out and my mind is in another place. That is when I know it is time to take a quick five minute break. I read a blog, check my phone, or do anything that does not focus on school. After the quick break I find myself more focused and ready to get back to work. These breaks help me power through the long days when I spend hours studying.

Use your Resources
The university has many different outlets to help students, and many of them can be very helpful during midterm exam week. The Writing Center, which I talked about in a previous blog post, is a great resource for midterm papers that need a little extra work. The Counseling and Career Development Center can help you if you need someone to talk to about stress and test anxiety, as well as help you find employment if you are close to graduation. Remember you can always talk to your professors, graduate program director, or the Office of Graduate studies if you have questions or concerns regarding your studies.

Have Something to Look Forward To
I always try to plan an event for the week after exams. Even if it is just going to see a movie with some friends, I need the motivation of something fun to get me through the hours upon hours spent in the library. Having an event waiting for you on the other side of your week will help you keep a positive attitude and make finishing the week all the more worthwhile.

Finally, Remember Why You Are Here
Speaking of worth it, we are all here because we want to learn and ultimately earn a degree. Keeping your goals front and center will help you study harder if you know what the end outcome will hold. For those of you who are fighting through your last set of midterms, perhaps ever, congratulations! You are almost there and with determination and hard work graduation will be here before you know it. For those of you who are a few more semesters away, the end is coming for you too, and while it does seem far away, you will make it!

I hope you found these tips helpful. Remember, if there is anything the Office of Graduate Studies can do to help, don’t hesitate to contact us. Follow us on Facebook for updates on what is going on around campus for graduate students!

Layna Edington
Graduate Student Association

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Student loan debt and your graduate education  

Recently the Office of Graduate Studies Facebook page has been updating graduate students about student loan debt and the consequences the debt creates.

As a student at any level of higher education, student debt affects almost all of us. While as intelligent individuals we understand that our student loans will become debt, and we must start paying it off six months after graduation, many of us do not fully understand the debt we have taken on to get an education.

I know for me personally adding debt to my future simply occurred when I hit the accept loan button, and for many semesters, I thought I would just worry about it later. It seems I am not alone in the world of climbing amounts of student debt taken on just to finish a degree, but I do plan to do everything in my power to remain educated about the debt I have and avoid default.

The Grand Rapids Press reported that one in ten recent student loan borrowers are in default. While this statistic seems to be a rough indicator that 10% of our fellow student body members are headed to financial struggles, GVSU students were in default at a much lower rate.

Of the fifteen Michigan public institutions compared in the article, GVSU was tied for the second lowest default rate, with only 3.1% of students in default. The students compared began repaying their debt in October of 2008 through the September of 2009 and were in default by 2011. The time frame studied may actually benefit current graduate students. As the economy seems to be picking up, it is possible that current students will have an even lower default rate and a better chance of financial success.

While it is nice to know GVSU students are in better shape in comparison to the rest of the state, it is still important that every student takes responsibility for their student debt, because after all you do not want to be a statistic, even if it is better than the majority.

What can you do to help yourself when it comes to managing your student debt? You can start by getting educated about your debt and the potential payment plans after graduation. Find out what interest rate your loans are accruing at, and if you can, make a payment on some of the interest now.

Next, make a game plan, by deciding how you will pay your loans off after graduation. Having a budget and remembering to work loan payments into your budget will be a big help in the long run. Once you get used to paying your loans off monthly you will be able to adjust your plans accordingly.

Until then, consider attending the PACES Workshop “Planning for the Future: Student Loans, Debt Management and Financial Planning” in February. Be sure to visit the GVSU Financial Aid website at
http://www.gvsu.edu/financialaid/, and complete exit counseling upon graduation.

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PACES line-up kicks off with Graduate Boot Camp Workshop  

This past weekend PACES kicked off its 2012-2013 schedule with its Graduate Boot Camp Workshop. Graduate Boot Camp was broken into two sessions. “The Basics” informed graduate students of the different opportunities at Grand Valley State University as well as graduate-specific resources offered on campus. The second half of the workshop, titled “Posters and Thesis” focused on the steps necessary to create exemplary research work.

The workshop, held in the University Club where all of the workshops will take place, started off Saturday morning with breakfast. Students were able to eat and mingle before the presentation began. The workshop opened with a welcome from John Stevenson, the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Associate Dean Stevenson spoke to the major expectations of graduate education. He mentioned expectations from both the faculty and student point of view, highlighting on the importance of faculty mentorship.

Following the Associate Dean was Amanda Cuevas of the Office of Fellowship. She spoke about the different opportunities for Graduate Students at Grand Valley though her office and their work. Next students were off to a computer lab to learn about research and library skills. The discussion was led by Rita Kohrman of the Seidman Library. Her insight into better practices of researching from a scholarly point of view was greatly appreciated by the students in attendance. Following the Library segment, Patrick Johnson of the Fred Meijer Center for Writing spoke to the students about the services the writing center now has geared specifically for graduate students. From the morning session, students received lunch then it was time for the afternoon session on research as it pertains to graduate students.

To begin the afternoon session, Jeff Potteiger, Dean of Graduate Studies, spoke about thesis and dissertation work of graduate students. Dean Potteiger focused on the importance of choosing your advisor and committee carefully as they will be very involved in your work.

Be sure to be disciplined, as thesis and dissertation work will be mainly self-directed. It is up to the student to create a work they can be proud of. The session ended with a presentation by Associate Dean Stevenson. He spoke about both oral and poster presentations that students may create to display their research work. Overall, the workshop was a great experience for those who participated. Students left with a better understanding of graduate education as a whole and the critical opportunities available to help students achieve their goals and expectations.

Thank you to all those who planned, presented, and attended the first PACES workshop of the year. Be sure to register for the next event, “Critical Conversations: Effective Communication When the Stakes are High”, held in the University Club on October 27, 2012.

*Layna Edington
*_Graduate Student Association_

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