Grad School Confidential

For your eyes only! Check out these posts by current and former grad students as they tell you all about their experiences pursuing higher education. These grad students can’t wait to share what their wisdom and advice with you. Are you a grad student and want to appear here? Email Eva Grouling Snider at esnider@bsu.edu and ask for more information!

Hayat Bedaiwi Discusses Great Grad School Opportunities

Hayat Bedaiwi received her BA and MA in English Literature from King Saud University in 2007 and 2012, respectively. She is currently a third year PhD #bsuenglish student who aspires to specialize in Ethnic American Literature with a major focus on Arab American Literature. Here’s more info about our graduate programs. 

hayat
When I first started my graduate studies at Ball State University, I took great courses that helped me become the scholar I am today. There are two experiences that come to my mind when I think of the courses that I have taken so far in graduate school. I turned papers I had written for two courses into conference papers. One paper was for a 657-postcolonial studies class, where I was blessed with the help and support of a great professor, Dr. Molly Ferguson. In that course, we read different postcolonial texts in the light of trauma theory. I was anxious when the course first started, but as we read and had different discussions every week, I knew what I wanted to write about for the seminar paper in that class. I wrote about Women at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi concerning the ideas of silence and bearing witness to the many traumas that filled the main character’s life.

Coincidentally, Practical Criticism Midwest was announced to take place in February that year, and I decided to submit my seminar paper for this course. I polished it to become a conference paper by revising it with Dr. Ferguson and making some visits to the Writing Center. My paper was one of the first papers to get accepted, and I had the opportunity of presenting this paper and getting feedback from different academic voices attending the conference.

I’m also presenting another paper at PCM 2017 this year which is a seminar paper for an Ethnic American Literature class entitled “Understanding the ‘Other’ in Naomi Shihab Nye’s You & Yours.” This course has helped me become more confident in my own academic voice. Dr. Emily Rutter’s approach to teaching this class was a very fascinating one. We were introduced to theories, texts and cultural material that helped us understand the texts we were reading for the class. As a class, we couldn’t stop talking about all the texts that we were reading, and all the new things we discovered everyday led us to write some interesting strong papers, which we shared together at the end of the semester. I was very hesitant to write about poetry, but Dr. Rutter helped me improve my writing about poetry and become a more confident scholar in Ethnic Studies.

My other paper was the fruitful product of my ENG 693 “Writing in the Profession” course, where I learned different ways of maintaining and creating my professional identity by revising my CV and exploring different ways of writing cover letters. Dr. Deborah Mix offered many great opportunities and great venues for us to learn the different ways of writing in our profession. We learned how to look for conferences and participate in them, how to find the journal that is of interest, how to become successful in submitting and publishing an article in that journal, and how to apply for a grant, from writing the budget narrative to crafting a proposal in a very professional way that would make us succeed in the application process.

I am the recipient of the 2016 Francis Mayhew Rippy Scholarship. I used the knowledge I learned in class about grant writing and took the opportunity to apply to this grant that was offered by the English Department. I also applied to attend a conference in New York as part of a panel with another colleague, and we both got accepted. Dr. Mix supported us and pushed us to do our best in order to become successful in all our assignments in that course, and we would have never gotten anywhere without her guidance and belief in our success.

My experience in graduate school has been a rewarding one, and as I am currently preparing for my comprehensive exams, I am very confident in my abilities, as my writing and thinking have evolved immensely over the past two and a half years because of the full support and unlimited guidance I get from the phenomenal faculty members at the English department, my colleagues, and my family.

Rachel Tindall’s Advice for Grad Students

Rachel Tindall received her Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Literature from the University of Southern Indiana in 2015. Now, she is working towards achieving her Master’s of Arts in English here at Ball State and plans to graduate in May of 2017. 

preview-chat-20160822_132743I’ve always been one of those people who knows what they want to do. I came straight from my undergraduate degree into my Master’s program at Ball State as part of my plan to become a university professor of American Literature. My degree, when I graduate this May, will be a Master’s of Arts in English, with which I hope to become an academic advisor or career coach at a university in Indianapolis or the surrounding area. Not the same as the aforementioned “plan,” right? Well, as I’ve come to realize, sometimes things change.

From the time I arrived at Ball State, the faculty and staff in the English program have been so helpful in helping me achieve my goals. I am a Teaching Assistant (TA) in the Writing Program, which means that once I completed my first semester of classes and observed my mentor’s English 104 class, I was assigned to teach my own. This semester is the fifth English 104 class I’ve taught while at Ball State, and I finally feel like I’m getting the hang of it.

During my time teaching, I’ve learned that my favorite part of being an instructor is actually meeting with students one-on-one during conferences, hence my desire to go into advising or career coaching. Having developed multiple teaching philosophies for pedagogy classes, I have found my core values as an educator. But two years ago, I had never taught a class, and to be honest, couldn’t even really picture myself in front of a classroom. Sure, it was a passing thought for some time in the distant future, but it wasn’t concrete. Thankfully, my professors and mentors saw my potential and worked with me every step of the way to help me become a confident graduate student and instructor.

I’ve also grown in two other important ways through grad school. First, as a student. Second, as a person. In order to really understand this growth, it’s important to know a few things about me:

  1. I live, and have lived for the duration of my degree, an hour away from campus.
  2. I was engaged when I arrived at Ball State, and now I’m married.
  3. I didn’t know anyone at Ball State when I arrived straight from my undergraduate institution.

My experiences at Ball State have shaped the way I act as a student, and how I handle life as an adult. The intensity and learning curve as a grad student have affected me profoundly. As a student, I am much more resourceful and confident than I was as an undergrad. This is partially because of skills that I have learned, but also because of the encouragement I receive on an almost daily basis from my support network. I feel confident that I can achieve my goals, and because of that I do better work. As a person, I am much more aware of my own impact on the people around me. I know that I need to spend time with my friends, my family, my dog, and most of all my (new) husband. All of those people support me daily, and they need me to pull back from school sometimes and just be a person. Probably the biggest (and hardest) thing I’ve learned is how to manage my time. I drive to Ball State an hour each way every day, so every minute I’m home or at school needs to matter for something – whether that’s personal “break” time or school work time.

My story is one of many at Ball State. For the most part, I’m just like any other graduate student struggling through, trying to figure out this whole “life” thing. However, I think there are a few things I can share that could be useful to new graduate students.

  1. Graduate school is HARD. You will be tested in ways you didn’t know you could be tested. You graduated in the top 10% of your undergraduate class? So did everyone else! You love researching and writing papers but tend to procrastinate? Try doing that with a 20-page seminar paper that’s worth 50-60% of your grade – on second thought, that’s a terrible plan.
  2. You will fail at something, and that’s okay. So you didn’t go to every single social event, finish every assignment exactly on time, or build the most fun assignment for your classes. You may have even have lost a library book that you later found stuffed under the seat of your car because you were carrying too many books at one time and it slid underneath the seat. It’s okay, you’re just human! Everyone else around you has also done these things (at least once) and survived.
  3. The people around you, your cohort, your professors, your mentors, your office-mate(s), understand your pain. They get it. Use that to your advantage. Talk through issues about your classes. Ask professors how the heck they made it through their education. These people want to help you – let them!
  4. Take advantage of opportunities. Every semester you will produce some sort of project, whether creative or research based. When your professors suggest conferences or publications to submit to (and then offer to help you get there), go for it! Getting accepted to a conference and then sitting in front of a room full of people who want to hear about your research is awesome (and validating)! Collaborate with your colleagues, go to events, network with people. Not only does that change your perspective about your research interests, but it also might help you get a job.
  5. Plans change. So you had a “set” plan and now you’re questioning whether it’s what you want? You’ve wanted to be a professor for years, but now you like the job description of something else better? Like failing at some things, changing plans happens to most people. Some people “stay the course,” but if that’s not you, that’s okay. Part of grad school is figuring out what you want, and no one will blame you or judge you (hopefully) for making the best decisions for you.
  6. You CAN do it, AND it IS worth it. When you’ve cried 3 times in the past week because you have so much to do and you don’t think that one person can possibly do all of the tasks you know you have to accomplish, life can seem bleak. Finishing your education to get to your goals can seem impossible, and sometimes you will probably feel like you’d rather binge watch Netflix with your dog and a tub of ice cream than read one more article. But, when you finish eating all the ice cream and run out of your favorite show (this definitely happens) you will find the strength to read that last article and write that 500-word discussion board. You will write that 20-page paper and do well, even if you have to ask for help a hundred different times from ten different people.

You may be wondering why (or if) you should trust me. After all, what can a twenty-something year old know about the big world of academia and grad school? I guess my short answer would be: don’t just read about it and silently chuckle at my experiences – come experience all of these things for yourself. Live them, suffer them, grow from them. Have your own crazy experiences. But, if you have the opportunity to go to grad school, if that’s how you get to the job you want, or if you’re still unsure but you love to learn: go for it. Take the leap of faith – it won’t let you down.

Morgan Gross on Balancing Work and Life as a Grad Student

Morgan Gross is a current #bsuenglish graduate student pursuing a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition. Below, you can view a video starring Morgan and detailing “A Day in the Life of a Grad Student.”

Originally from Texas, Morgan has taken the opportunity in her new home to make many long lasting friendships, including current grad student Kelsie Walker and #bsuenglish alum Elisabeth Buck. She provides advice for students considering graduate study below.

gross.jpgGrad school is HARD. I’m going to say it again, for emphasis. Grad school is REALLY HARD. My work keeps me busy, for sure, and my life isn’t all just fun and friends. In the video, you can see me walking around campus, teaching ENG 213 Intro to Digital Literacies, and studying, studying, studying for my comprehensive exams, which I took in January 2017 and passed! You’ll often hear people talk about grad school as isolating. After you finish course work, that’s kind of true. I read something like 125 books/articles just to prepare for my exams. Now I’m working on the dissertation, which boils down to engaging in an extensive research project and then writing, essentially, a book. That’s a lot of quiet time, a lot of introspection that I’m engaged in for the final two years (let’s hope) of my degree. Of course, it’s work that I (almost always) enjoy, feel excited about, and find meaningful.

I guess I’m promoting an idea in this blog post that likely won’t be new to you. The idea is that we strive for balance in all that we do, and the grad school experience is no exception. I work hard at school and my assistantship—often long hours, in chairs that hurt my body, and occasionally with doubts about the payoff. But I also enjoy my life, and friends are such an important part of that. As often as possible, I try to find ways in which I can bring business and pleasure together. From working quietly at a café next to each other, to attending and presenting at conferences, to co-authoring a book chapter for publication, I’ve been able to merge my friendships with my academic interests and pursuits. For some, you might prefer to keep the two separate from each other, but for me, having shared interests with my grad school besties invigorates and motivates my scholarly/professional life.

Here’s my shout out moment: Elisabeth and Kelsie, you two have commiserated with me during the difficult moments, you’ve offered distractions when I really needed them (and, let’s be honest, sometimes when I didn’t), and you’ve started with me what I know will continue on as lifelong friendships. My hope for any potential grad students reading this is that you’ll find new friends in your grad program who will do these same things for you. My advice to potential grad students is that you build your own luck by putting yourself out there and taking chances. Ball State offers plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet people—via the Grad School, the English department, the Writing Program community, and so on. You might be surprised at how well it turns out.

Jeremy M. Carnes

Jeremy M. Carnes is a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Ball State. He will be starting his dissertation in the fall, where he plans to research early 20th Century American imperialism in print culture artifacts, including modernist little magazines and periodicals as well as early comic strips and comic books.

Jeremy Carnes (GSC)

I remember the precise moment that I decided I wanted to go to graduate school. I was a junior at Ball State. I had decided that I wanted to learn more about American Modernism, so I had periodic meetings with Dr. Deborah Mix where we discussed some novels and poems one-on-one. During one meeting, we were discussing Willa Cather’s novel, A Lost Lady, and some of the defining features of American Modernism and modernity when I realized that I could have talked with Dr. Mix about this era of American history and literature for hours (in fact, over the years, we did talk about this stuff over many hours). As I finished my undergraduate degree at Ball State, I saw the time and care offered to me by Dr. Mix and, slightly later, Dr. Patrick Collier. These two professors especially showed me what it means to pour time and effort into students and research. The time Drs. Mix and Collier spent with me and my work over the years spurred me into graduate school all the more.

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