Sunday, December 27, 2009

HLS Photo of the Year

Hi All, As many of you know, I enjoy photography. I often share my work on this blog and I have recently set up an online gallery. Of the photos that I have taken this year, the above is my favorite. I took this shot in a boat house along a lake outside of Montreal. I saw this morning light and knew I had to go get my camera and try to capture this quiet mood.

I wish you all a peaceful holiday season and a happy new year! I'll be back after January 1.

All the best!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How well do you know your advisor?

Hi All,

This bit of grad school humor is brought to you by:

"Piled Higher and Deeper" by Jorge Cham

Check out his work!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rock the Dissertation!

Here is an interview conducted by blogger Peg Boyle Single with the authors of What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career. This will be of greatest interest to those of you in doctoral programs, however some of the topics covered (like finding a mentor) are relevant to all.

Cheering you on!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Taking my own advice

Hi friends,

I intended to post this morning. However I need to get ready for a phone call with a colleague and so first things first....

Back tomorrow with a real post!

Be well,

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saturday morning video (early) -- bent objects

Hi Folks,

I'll be offline tomorrow, so here's your weekly video a day early.

Good luck with the work this weekend! Finish strong!

Cheering you on,

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finish Strong -- Strategy Four - Take Breaks

Exams, papers, presentations -- end of the semester is demanding, no doubt. In the midst of all of this preparation and work, remember to take breaks. When you are on deadline, those breaks probably need to be brief -- a short walk, a short phone call with a friend, a quick trip to get a snack, whatever. Breaks are important, they help you be more effective over the long term, by helping you maintain your focus and energy.

Cheering you on!

photo by HLS

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Finish Strong -- Strategy Three - Back up your work

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again here -- be sure to back up your work. I'm repeating it this weekend because this is a time of year when some folks just want to be done and rush at the end, occasionally losing work. So when you finish that paper or powerpoint or whatever:

1. save it carefully (know where you've saved it, etc.)
2. back it up.... if nothing else, email it to yourself
3. use any other back up systems you have (stationary back-up drive, jump or thumb drive, etc.)

Sometimes as we are finishing, we rush. I'm encouraging you to slow down and be careful so you don't lose any work.

Cheering you on!

Saturday morning video - Hoop stars

This has been around for awhile, but it always makes me smile. Hope it brings you good energy this weekend! Cheering you on, Harriet

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finish Strong -- ending the semester with gusto! Strategy Two - Positive Self Talk

In these final days of the semester do you find yourself engaging in negative self talk? You know, "I"ll never get this done," or "I don't belong in this program, I can't do this." If so, give yourself a timeout and intentionally engage in positive self talk, even for just a few minutes. Changing these messages you give yourself is a valuable skill that will serve you here at the end of the term and well beyond.

"I can do this."
"I've done well on my other papers, I will do well on this one."
"I am a much better writer than when I started this program."
"This presentation will be a success."

You can do it!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Finish Strong -- ending the semester with gusto! Strategy One

Hi All, Here we are post-Thanksgiving, looking toward the end of the semester. My next few posts will focus on finishing strong. You may be tired, eager for the holidays, ready for a break and so on, however I'm here to push you to give these last few weeks of the semester all that you have. Dig deep and work hard -- you can do it!

Strategy One: if you aren't already, get organized! Don't spend hours doing this or it becomes another form of procrastination. However, if you don't have all of your books and papers together, gather these items. Second, make a clear to-do list/timeline. What needs to be finished before the end of the semester, and when are the deadlines? Are there things floating around on your to-do list that can wait until after the semester is over? Time to prioritize!

Readers -- do you have strategies that you use to "finish strong"? If so, please send them my way.

Tune back in on Friday for Strategy Two of "Finish Strong"

Cheering you on!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dealing with writing anxiety

Hi All, I hope that you had a good holiday and weekend. Even those of you on big deadlines, I hope that you got a little bit of time to chill.

I'm headed for jury duty tomorrow (!!!) so am submitting my monday post now. here is a good article from the Writing Center at UNC, regarding anxiety that students sometimes face re: writing.

Be well!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday morning video (early) -- Muppets rock!

Hi All,

I'm going to take some time away from the computer this weekend, so I'm posting your weekly video early! Typically, I try to find videos under 2 minutes (after all, you have work to do!), however, in honor of the holiday weekend and the fact that sometimes muppets rock, I bring you:

Good luck with the work! Cheering you on,

Monday, November 23, 2009

Learning is a Radical Act

My colleague Martha Ezzell just had a wonderful piece published: "Learning is a Radical Act" Here is the beginning paragraph --

Learning ought to be a radical act. Learners should make significant changes in perspective in the process. This is not the type of change that can be measured by how much a student knows at the end of a course that she didn’t know before. Rather, for learning to be a radical act, a difference in constructing meaning about a significant area must occur. The learner should recognize the change.

To read the full article:

Cheering you on in your work!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday morning video -- Meet Phil Dunphy, yo

Good morning. I don't usually use this site to promo stuff, but I love this new show "Modern Family" -- here's a snapshot (that is funny even if you don't want to check out the show):

Good luck with the work!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lesson learned -- slow down.

A few weeks ago, I had a very full day of meetings and other commitments. Anyway, I got back to my office and didn't have a lot of time before class. I had just downed a quick dinner and was going to wash up. I grabbed my toothbrush and toothpaste and headed for the bathroom, still in a big hurry. I put toothpaste on the brush and started to brush my teeth and AAGGHHH, the toothpaste tasted terrible! I looked down and realized that I had grabbed hand lotion, not toothpaste. Lesson learned. Slow down. Breathe.

Cheering you on in your work!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This is what procrastination looks like!

My very good friend Lisa is working on her dissertation. She is also one of the funniest people I know (and in fact is researching humor -- how cool is that!). She blogs about her dissertation process and earlier this year, posted the following re: procrastination. This is reprinted with Lisa's permission. Enjoy! And then get back to work! This is called:

"What to do when I don't want to do"
  1. Make a list of the things I should be doing
  2. Reorganize the list of the things I should be doing
  3. Search for software that will help me keep track of the things I should be doing
  4. Check e-mail
  5. Check Facebook
  6. Check Linked-In
  7. Post to my blog
  8. Read other people's blogs
  9. Subscribe to new podcasts
  10. Sync my iPod
  11. Clean out my closet
  12. Buy stuff, preferably clothes or shoes
  13. Search for journal articles that I don't really need
  14. Think about working out
  15. Avoid working out
  16. Think about making a really healthy dinner
  17. Eat some string cheese
  18. Pet a dog
  19. Make a list of improvements we need to make to the house
  20. Call Charles to see when he'll be home

Monday, November 16, 2009

Staying Motivated - revisit your early goals

There are a range of feelings that can make this time of year challenging for students. A few that come to mind... feeling overwhelmed and lacking motivation. As we near Thanksgiving, final papers, projects, and tests are on the horizon. This intense amount of work along with the regular responsibilities of life (not to mention any crisis that may have emerged!) can be overwhelming. Other folks may be looking toward winter break and having trouble staying motivated. One approach to counter these feelings is to revisit the goals that you set when you began graduate school. What were your motivations for engaging in graduate study? Personal goals? Academic goals? Career goals? Reviewing these goals can help us refocus and also remind us that we are progressing along the path.

keep at it!

Photo by HLS

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Free (cool) art!!!

One of my former students, Ali Spagnola, is a painter with a fun and distinctive style. A few years ago, she began a free painting project wherein she creates paintings for free, on request. She has shipped her work all over the world. You can write to her and be very specific ("please paint front loading washing machine with an orange background"), or less specific ("please paint a dog"), or totally open ("surprise me"). She will then create and send you, for free (!!!!) the painting. Some of us choose to send a little money her way to support her work, but plenty of folks take the paintings for free and Ali is totally cool with that.

Ali is nearing her 1000th painting!!!!!! Be part of this wonderful project and snag a cool painting for your home, office, or for a gift.

And if you think of it, tell her I sent you.

Congrats as you near 1,000, Ali!

And to the rest of you, I'll be offline most of saturday, so no video this week. I'll see you back here on Monday. Keep at it!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To study is to co-create

"To study is not to consume ideas, but to create and co-create them."
-- Paulo Freire

How do you co-create ideas with your classmates? With your teachers?

A more traditional view of education is that teachers teach and students learn. Contemporary and progressive thinkers including Freire, Jane Vella, Stephen Brookfield, Parker Palmer and Kenneth Gergen believe that knowledge is co-created through dialog.

Think of an idea that emerged in dialog with a friend or classmate. When I do this, I get this sense of the energy between us -- the "stuff" that we create together. I love this notion. It seems almost magical to me, the knowledge that is created between us.

Cheering you on!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Don't aspire to write like an academic, aspire to find your smart and clear writing voice

Hi All, I have occasionally had students who told me they were concerned that their writing did not sound "more academic." Well, you definitely don't want your papers to read like a text message or a facebook post. However, I strongly encourage you to not to use five words when one will do just fine, just so you can "sound academic." I believe that the best academic writing conveys complexity and confidence. Academic writing should not include slang (unless the research topic is "slang"!), shouldn't sound like you when you're chillin' with your friends. Academic writing should convey professionalism and should reflect that you are a scholar, that you research, think, and write with depth. At the same time, I strongly prefer writing that is clear and accessible, rather than writing that was penned by someone who is trying to impress me with a big vocabulary or a density of thought.

Having said that, folks at the University of Chicago have created a fun online toy "Make Your Own Academic Sentence" -- this is a hoot and reminds us what happens when academic writing goes wrong. Give it a try:

Good luck with the work!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Connecting with classmates

For adult students, it can be easy to show up for class and then leave at the end without really connecting with colleagues. For the most part, grad school is not like undergrad wherein we then saw our classmates in the dorm or in the cafeteria or whatever.

Today I'm writing to encourage you to look for one or a few classmates with whom you think you could have a good collegial friendship and then try to connect. Ideally, you will find one or a few folks who you can call between classes when you want help with some work or need to vent or need a kick in the you-know-what. Perhaps you and your closest colleague will occasionally meet before class for dinner or meet on a Saturday for lunch.

As adult students, we sometimes feel isolated. As one reader wrote earlier this fall, graduate students often feel disconnected from campus life. And again, we don't have the academic community of the residence halls and otherwise living on campus. However, we can create our own connection, our own circle of support. I believe that the students who connect with at least one colleague in their program greatly increase their chances of success. These connections also enrich our experience of school, I believe we learn more deeply and also benefit from the gift of new friendships.

Seek to connect.

Cheering you on!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Proofreading your writing

Hi All,

Happy Monday! Learning to proof your own work is an important step in your academic process. Here are some tips from the writing center at Purdue:


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who helps you grow?

I begin today by thinking about my grandmother Mildred who believed in me on such a deep level. I remember that I would tell her of some success or achievement and she would say "Of course!". Her tone implied that she was not at all surprised, but expected such things. As she said "Of course" there was not any element of taking my work for granted, rather it was a combination of delight and faith in my abilities and my progress. I believe that my grandmother's confidence gave me a foundation of confidence and her love gave me an inner strength.

Who helps you grow? How do they help? Maybe today is a day to reflect on these important people? Maybe it's a day to say thanks. Also, I invite you to comment below with a story of someone whose love and confidence has helped you along the way.

Cheering you on in your work!

photo by HLS

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheering you on!

Hi Friends,

I was at a training at the Jean Baker Miller Training Institute at Wellesley College over the weekend. So lots to catch up on here at home today. So no real post of substance... just sharing a photo with you, and cheering you on in your work. More later this week.


photo by HLS

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Encouragement and courage

"En-couraged people act with feeling and passion; they transcend separate self, isolation, inaction, and stasis. It often takes courage to 'move toward' and engage with others, to act from a place of authentic and strong emotion. We do not achieve courage once and for all, but we re-create it."

- Judith Jordan from "Courage and Connection: Conflict Compassion, Creativity," Work in Progress, no. 45 (Wellesley, MA: Stone Center, Wellesley College, 1990), p. 3 ((as cited in Robb, C. (2007), "This Changes Everything: The Relational Revolution in Psychology." New York: Picador.))

photo by HLS

Monday, October 19, 2009

Confidence in the classroom

A reader wrote recently about wishing for more confidence to speak during class. I had this same issue when I began my PhD program so let me first tell you a little of my own experience with this, and then offer some additional suggestions. I don't often tell my own stories on here, but perhaps it will help to hear someone else's experience.

Shortly after I began my PhD program, I met with my advisor and one of the first things I discussed was my difficulty speaking up in class. One of my realities is that it usually takes me a little time to synthesize information before I am ready to comment and so sometimes by the time I was ready to comment, the class had moved on to a different topic. A second factor was that as I was sitting there in class, thinking I had something to contribute, I would often think "this is obvious, everyone must be thinking it" and so I wouldn't comment.

My advisor suggested that I try to stop worrying about it (because worrying about it was further getting in my way!!!) and trust that when I had something to say, I would say it. This helped me relax a little bit. That was the first step for me in terms of getting more comfortable and able to speak more in class. A few things I learned after that...

1. I'm not one of those people who will have something to say all the time. I am more quiet and reflective than that. I've accepted that about myself and that brings me to number two...

2. It's cool to be known as someone who doesn't say a lot, but when she says something, it's thoughtful.

3. In those moments when I think of something to say and the class has already moved on, I assess where we are and then sometimes suggest "I would like to go back to (insert previous topic)... I was just thinking...(and then you share your thoughts on the earlier topic)." Unless the class is really involved in an intense discussion, it's ok to redirect and ask folks to go with you back to an earlier topic.

4. Prepare a few questions before class. I used to think that all those talkative students were just quick on their feet... some of them come with a list of questions that they developed while doing the readings.

5. When you catch yourself thinking "this is obvious, everyone must be thinking it" -- challenge that assumption... most often, your thoughts and perspective are more original than you think!

Readers.... other ideas on how to feel more confident in the classroom???

Good luck with the work!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

Honoring priorities

Hi All, I've been thinking about today's post, and the fact is, that my priority today has to be reading student papers. So I'm going to walk the walk and honor my priority (reading paper) instead of getting pulled into something else (writing a regular post for today).

The good news is, that I already have a fun video picked out for tomorrow, and then I'll be back next week with some thoughts about confidence.

Good luck with today's priorities!

more soon,

Photo by HLS

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

More on connecting with faculty

Tera, one of my former students and a reader, posted the following as a comment to my post last week about connecting with faculty. I thought her idea was a good one, and so decided to include it as a full post, for those who don't read the comments.

Pearce states "to commit to follow a leader down an uncertain path, they have to know the leader’s personal motivation."

Personal motivation is central to trustworthiness. Perhaps before meeting directly as that might be intimidating, try some in class connection. Participate more in discussions and relate your experiences to the Professor's. Create dialogue to encourage connetions with classmates and the professor. Establishing small connections helps to build trust and soon you will see that the relationship may have just been "slow to warm up".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday morning cartoon - Evolution of Dance!

Hi Folks,

Here is an old favorite to bring you cheer on this Saturday as you begin your weekend work:

All the best,

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Connecting with Faculty

Hi All, This is a continuation of my last post, in response to an anonymous reader who wrote to say that she or he is having difficulty connecting with faculty.

To be most helpful, I would need to know more about you and your faculty and whether you have tried to connect and it has not worked, or whether you aren't sure how to initiate those relationships. However, for now, I will address how to initiate a more personal/professional connection with your faculty.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Make an appointment to get help or support with class work. Certainly, if you are having trouble with any papers, projects or reading, this is a very good reason to meet with your professor. Make an appointment and be prepared with your materials and questions. Work-specific conversations can be a nice bridge to a deeper professional connection and even a mentoring relationship.

2. Look for common ground, and then make an appointment. Has your prof mentioned her or his research and/or professional interests in class? If not, that's what google is for... see if your professor has published in any areas that interest you. If you find common ground, read your professor's work and then make an appointment to discuss. Or if your professor has professional experience that interests you, ask for a time to meet and discuss.

3. Simply ask to meet. I have had a few students email me and say "you are someone I'd like to get to know professionally, can we meet for coffee?" I have really appreciated this straight-forward approach (and the compliment!). We have had terrific meetings, discussing the student's career goals and questions, my research interests and other parts of my professional background.

Other readers -- how have you connected with your professors?

Good luck with the work, all.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Grad students and campus community

An anonymous reader responded to my question "how can I help" last week with a few issues. I will address one each over the next few posts.

Here is the first issue raised in the post: "...what i am struggling the most with right now is feeling like I am part of the campus community. i am a fulltime student, commute to campus, and work."

Feeling as if you are part of the campus community, as a graduate student (who works) can be a challenge. Given that you are in student affairs (that is my background too!), I can imagine that you were an involved undergraduate so the transition is even trickier.

I encourage you to think more about how it is that you would really like to feel "part of" the campus community. Is it about having a group on campus with which you are affiliated, is it about connection with faculty, is it about contributing to the campus community? Other ideas?

I think that it is generally more difficult for grad students to get connected -- the opportunities are not as obvious as they were on the undergrad level, plus as you noted, in many cases, we are commuting to campus and/or working.

We'll talk about connecting with faculty later in the week. For now, a few other ideas (and keep in mind, I don't know what your time constraints are):

- Graduate student organizations? Graduate student government?

- Committees on campus that seek graduate student participation? Check with the provost and or dean of student affairs to explore this.

- Undergraduate organizations that may be interested in a grad advisor?

- Recruit others from your dept to field an intramural team

Do any of these resonate? What kind of campus connections you are seeking?


Friday, October 2, 2009

How can I help you?

Time management? Stress management? Connecting with faculty? Setting goals? What are the aspects of your academic experience that are the most challenging? How can I help? This is your turn... send me questions, dilemmas, or topics... and I'll respond in a future post.

Either post here to comments, or email me at

cheering you on!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One day at a time

This week has felt like a rush, and not the good kind. Several of my friends and students have said the same thing -- life is feeling hectic and stressful. So today's reminder is to breathe, prioritize, and do what we can to lower the stress level.

Good luck with the work.

Deep breath.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Embrace the feedback

This morning I sent my Chronicle article to my high school composition teacher. To give you some background, we had been out of touch for years, and then I was given an award by my alumni association, and remembered Mrs. Capone as being the most important teacher in my high school years, in terms of teaching me how to write. So I contacted Mrs. Capone to thank her for her influence. We exchanged a few emails and that was that. And then this morning I sent her my article.

She wrote back, said that she enjoyed the article, and commented on two grammatical aspects of my writing that I should consider! Feedback from my high school comp teacher! Her note brought an immediate smile to my face. For the record, one of her comments is something I need to consider. The other regards an rule that I occasionally break on purpose... and I think I know enough to do so (though she may disagree).

This all got me thinking about the value of feedback. When we are in the thick of things, writing and submitting papers, and getting feedback... we sometimes hope for little criticism, instead yearning for the "A" and lots of positive remarks. However Mrs. Capone's note this morning reminded me that the critical feedback is what makes us better writers. The "A's" feel good, but the criticism has a more far-reaching and important impact.

Embrace the feedback.

All the best,

amendment to Chronicle post

It appears that the link for free access only works when sent from the Chronicle site, it doesn't work when I embed it somewhere else. So just send me your email address if you want the working link and I'll send it to you. Sorry about that. H

Hot off the press -- my article in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Hi Friends, Last spring I wrote an article on being a faculty member on Facebook (and I also touched on other social media and technology). Can we mentor on Facebook? What interesting issues does Facebook raise regarding privacy and boundaries?

This link is available through Friday... check it out:


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Email docs to yourself! Avoid lost docs.

Hi All,

Quick tip.... particularly useful for those of you working on multiple computers or old computers that sometimes fail...

When you are finished with a draft of a paper or project plan or anything else, email it to yourself. By doing this, you create an instant back-up so if you somehow lose the document otherwise (computer fails, you lose your jump drive, etc.) you will still have a copy in your email.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

One of the cool things about teaching, is learning.

Earlier this week, my colleague Sandie and I held a panel relating to the G-20. The panel, G-20: Poverty, Power, and Protest was designed to help our students gain a better understanding of the G-20 (being held here in Pittsburgh right now) and to think more deeply about related issues. The panelists were terrific: Dr. Allyson Lowe, Sr. Pat McCann, Paula Harris, and Joyce Rothermel. Among them, we had a political scientist, an activist Sister of Mercy, a member of Pgh's ACLU board, and the CEO of the Pittsburgh Food Bank.

Watching the news last night, I realized just how much I learned from the panel and from the questions asked by my students... how I understood the issues more deeply. I am grateful for that opportunity. This also reminds me of how I learn, on a regular basis, from my own students. As they bring their various perspectives, informed by a range of careers from nursing to non-profit, as well as the rest of their life experiences.... my understanding, even on the things that I teach, is deepened.

Whether you sit in my class or someone else's.... know that what you bring to the conversation makes an impact... the mutuality of teaching and learning is a gift.

Thanks all! Good luck with the work!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ritual and routine can provide study support

Most adult students are on a tight timeline when it comes to meeting deadlines for school. Gone are the days of study hall fifth period and after school time to do homework. We are trying to fit school work in between our jobs, family responsibilities and so on. Ideally, we need to be able to sit down when the time is right, and just get right to work. But how do we quickly transition from job to assigned readings, or from taking care of kids to writing a paper?

Many adult students find that a particular activity helps them transition. For example, my friend Lisa takes a brisk walk with her dogs (sometimes in the park pictured above in Birmingham!) to get energized before she begins working. I have at times benefitted from a quick work out, also to increase my energy level. And at other times, I have found that folding laundry (that's right, folding laundry) or some other fairly mindless and slightly repetitive physical activity, cleared my head and allowed me to start thinking about the next page I needed to write for a paper.

How about you? Do you have rituals or routines that help you prepare to work effectively?

Cheering you on!


Monday, September 21, 2009

Staying Motivated

Here is a good post, written for graduate students, on staying motivated:

Special thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Melanie Booth who shared this post with me.

Happy Monday all!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Keepers - hold on to those books and papers

Here is a tip for new graduate students: keep final copies of all papers and keep your books. In grad school, it is much more likely that you will want to go back to old papers for references and to draw on various passages that you have written. In addition, in some programs you will need to write a reflective paper toward the end of your studies and/or submit a portfolio. So, keep a final copy of each paper that you write in a separate folder in your documents so that you can easily find final drafts of all papers.

In addition, you may be tempted to sell your books at the end of your course - as you may have done during your undergrad days. However, as with papers, you will very likely need to go back to those books throughout your program, so refrain from selling back those books and keep them for future use.

Cheers all! Good luck with the work!

p.s. Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, so I will not be online. Back Monday!
Creative Commons License
The Encouragement Lounge by Harriet L. Schwartz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.