Thursday, December 23, 2010

Break time!

I imagine that any dissertation or thesis students reading this may be working over break, but I hope the rest of you will get some time off from work. And even if you are working on the diss or thesis... I hope you can take a day or two.

I'm going to walk the talk and take a break as well. I wish you all the best and I'll see you in January!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Noun Project -- interesting project and free art for your presentations

The Noun Project is an effort to collect the world's visual language in an open-access online library. They currently have about 500 symbols and all are available as free downloads -- good stuff for presentation slides, reports, etc.

Cheering you on in your work!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now is the time, for positive self-talk

Many of us are in crunch-time, finishing final papers and projects or getting ready for exams. I encourage you to be particularly aware of the way that you are talking to yourself. Seriously, you know what I mean.... do you catch yourself saying "there's no way I can get this done" or "I'm a lousy writer" or other negative statements? These kinds of statements can lead you down a road of negativity that will deplete your energy and focus when you need it most. If you hear yourself saying negative things... replace them with positive statements.

A few suggestions:

"I can do this, I just need to take one step at a time."

"I'm always stressed like this before a presentation, it just means that I'm focused."

"I'm a good writer, I've pushed past writer's block before."

You can be your own best encourager -- give it a try!

Cheering for you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pass on the encouragement

Think of someone in your life who has been helpful, ideally someone whose work doesn't often get noticed (the reference librarian, your advisor, a good friend....). Take just a few minutes and write that person a note (email or even.... paper!)... or call her or him. Let this person know that you appreciate all that she or he does for you.

When other people notice our good work and tell us, their words encourage us. The act of appreciating someone else will actually give you a little boost and it's just a good thing to do.

You rock. Pass it on.

Cheering for you!


Monday, November 29, 2010

Welcome back! You can do it!

I know that some students return from Thanksgiving break feeling rested and ready to finish the semester. Other students return from break in a bit of a panic about the work that remains. I'm here to tell you, you can do this!

If you are feeling good, keep at it -- don't let the week slip away, but keep doing at least a little bit of work each day to stay on track.

If you are stressed, overwhelmed -- go back to the basics. Be sure that you have a to do list and that you have prioritized the work that remains before the end of the semester. Block out time in your schedule to do work. If you look at that list and aren't sure how you will meet your deadlines, explore taking some time off work to focus on school work. Or ask for extra help around the house so you can find somewhere quiet and do your own work. If you are in a crunch, something will have to give -- step back for a moment and look at your options. Also, work strategically -- do the challenging work (reading, writing, editing) when you are at your best and use the times when you are tired for the easier work (printing articles, checking citations, building your reference list, etc).

You can do this!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saturday morning video -- How to Make Mashed Potatoes

Hi All,

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, here is your Saturday morning video:

This video is longer than what I typically post here, but it's a hoot and some folks will get some time off this week, so I decided to post it anyway.

Trying to walk my talk, I will not be posting during the week of Thanksgiving, but instead will use the beginning of the week to focus on some writing and later in the week will take some family time away from the computer.

Cheering you on in your work, and hoping you get a break!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Feeling stuck?

Today's message is a simple message of encouragement. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stuck, I understand (at least some version of these things). I've been there and know that it can be very difficult, particularly when school is just one of the things you are juggling.

The best way to get moving again is to select one thing... something that seems doable or interesting... it might even be something simple like locating articles online that you need and printing them, or answering just the first part of an essay question, or read the shortest article on your list.

Do something, anything.... and it will get you moving. Do one thing today, and another tomorrow, and soon you will begin to build some momentum.

You can do it!

photo by hls

Monday, November 15, 2010

Stress Management: Plan your reward!

At this point in the semester, many students are just plain tired. You've been working hard to balance school, work, family and other responsibilities... you may be headed into final papers, presentations, or exams... and you are tired! You are ready for break.

One strategy I have used that has reduced my stress at least a little bit at times, is to plan an end-of-semester reward. Depending on time, money and other obligations -- the reward might be big, like going away for a weekend or seemingly small, like an afternoon at the movies with friends. The reward might be shopping or taking time to paint or make music. Whatever it is, planning something that you will do, something that you enjoy, at the end of the semester reminds you that break will be here soon and also that something fun is on the horizon.

What will you do to treat yourself?

Cheering you on in your work!

photo by hls

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wise words of encouragement - a last lecture of sorts - The Rev. Susan Nelson

Hi All,

The following is a sermon given by my friend and former neighbor The Rev. Susan Nelson. Susan and her husband Dave were our dear neighbors for many years here in Pittsburgh, before they moved to California where Susan became the dean of the Claremont School of Theology. Susan passed away from brain cancer earlier this month. Her daughter Kathryn recently shared the following, a welcome address that Susan gave to her students last fall at CST. Susan's words are full of perspective, hope, and encouragement and I'm delighted to share this with you.

Dear students,

I am glad to welcome you

To what I expect will be an exciting

And challenging

Year at Claremont School of Theology.

When I began my journey

Into theological education,

The word “career”

Had not crossed my lips.

I entered my first program, rather,

As a seeker.

I loved to read and muse

And I wanted an opportunity

To think about the meaning of life

And to grow

In wisdom and knowledge

I knew that life is fragile,

But I had not yet learned

How to hold the brokenness of life

With the joy of discovery

That, broken or not

It was worth the journey.

I loved beauty,

But I had not learned that beauty is fleeting

And that finitude is part of what

Makes it so beautiful.

I yearned for loving relations,

And had yet to realize

All the ways in which

I could learn to avoid

The tension of face-to-face relations.

These learnings were critical

To my growth as a human being

And to what eventually became

My calling as teacher and administrator.

I expect that each of you

Is something of a seeker.

Curiosity and possibility

Have drawn you to this place

To this faculty and staff –

To the fellow students you will tussle with

And perhaps enjoy along the way.

I expect that you will not be the same person

When you leave CST

That you are right now.

I expect that you will know moments

When the works feels out of reach,

Your studies less than lustrous

And many other moments

When you will know the satisfaction

Of accomplishment

And the joy of doing something

Really well.

And I expect you will grow friendships

And learn an important lesson,

That mutual respect for all people

Is critical

For the flourishing of life.

May you thrive in your challenges at CST,

May you grow in appreciation

Of the privilege

Of learning

In a community of scholars

May you have stellar teachers and mentors,

May you find moments

When you are surprised by joy

Or struck by a beauty

That totally draws you in

Providing absolute distraction

And, may you risk companionship

And the messiness of life

In genuine community

A year ago,

Students asked me to consider

Giving a “last lecture” –

If I were invited

To give the final lecture of my life,

What would I say?

Since that time,

I’ve had to actually consider

“Last things”

And how to live

In a present reality

That seems so precarious.

What I would say if asked

To give that lecture on this day, is

Practice awareness,

Watch yourselves breathe, -

Every day find at least one thing to be thankful for

- Tell others what they mean to you -



And practice the discipline

Of taking nothing for granted –

Or perhaps, better said,

The discipline of forgiving yourselves

For all the ways

You will take life for granted

And receive it anyway.

Grace and peace

Be upon you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cool tools -- Collaborative workspaces -- PB Works and Huddle

Hi All, I was searching recently for an online tool that I could use to host a collaborative workspace wherein folks working from different locations could share and edit documents, share links, schedule meetings and so on. Looks like I will end up using an internal resource at Carlow and setting up access for folks from outside of the institution. In the meantime though, I found these two tools which look promising. Unfortunately, I won't get to try them out at this point, but I wanted to share them with you.

PBWorks offers a free version for educators. PBworks hosts over 300,000 educational workspaces, and has helped transform teaching and learning for millions of students, parents and teachers. Educators ranging from major universities like DePaul, school districts like Baltimore County Public Schools and individual teachers trust PBworks as their collaborative learning environment," according to the PBWorks website. PBworks is also highly-recommended by two of my colleagues -- thanks Mary and Cory for the suggestion!

Huddle does not offer an education version, but does offer a free version that allows for one workspace. Along with document management, file sharing, and wiki capability, Huddle also offers a whiteboard function.

I am eager to try these tools when a project calls for such a space. In the meantime, if you have used these, please share your experience here at the Encouragement Lounge.

Cheering you on in your work!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Grad student challenge - when friends don't understand

I visited a grad class recently and asked for blog post ideas. A few students noted that they struggle with friends who are not in grad school and don't understand the associated time demands, thus pressuring them to get-together and so on. This can definitely add another layer of stress to the already challenging journey of graduate school.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. Send a note to all of your friends and set a boundary. A very close friend of mine in my PhD program sent an email to all of her friends explaining that for the next few years, she would be making school her priority, asking them to understand that when she turned down their invitations, her decision was about her focus on school and not a comment on their friendship.

2. Plan a get-together after the semester. Again, tell your friends that during the semester, your focus is school, but that you'd love to see them when you are on break. Having a get-together planned shows your friends that you value the connection and allows you to feel better about not seeing them while you are busy with school.

3. Find new friends. I don't mean for that to be as harsh as it sounds. I'm all for doing the work to keep old friends (and I mean this - I'm not encouraging you to ditch your old friends!). I'm really suggesting that you find a new friend or two as well. Developing a strong friendship with at least one person in your grad program will, I believe, make your journey richer and less stressful -- having someone who "gets it" and knows the players and is engaged in the same work will be a tremendous source of support.

4. Believe in yourself. When those around you don't understand, remind yourself why you decided to go back to school. Remind yourself of your goals and dreams and know in your heart that you can do this.

Cheering you on!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

APA style -- what belongs on the reference list

To learn more about what qualifies as a reference, what you should include in your reference list, visit:

Cheering you on!

photo by hls

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cool tool -- Prezi

Check out Prezi, a cool alternative to Powerpoint!

Prezi is an online presentation tool, that breaks away from Powerpoint's linear page-based format. Instead, Prezi presentations are built by using mapping, layers, and zooming which creates a much more dynamic final presentation. The tool is intuitive and the site includes several quick and informative video tutorials. There is a free version available and an enhanced free version for anyone with an edu email address.

I just tried Prezi yesterday and was able to learn the basics as I built my presentation.

Thanks Anne for the suggestion.

Cheering you all on in your work!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Management - blending school and job

A few students have asked me for advice relating to various aspects of balancing school and job. One asked what to do when an employer makes it difficult to attend school while working. Another asked for advice regarding how to negotiate with employers to get time off for school work.

School and work conflicts can be very difficult. First, in most cases, employers have no responsibility to help you fit school into your life. Some employers may even resent that you are putting time, energy, intellect, and creativity into something other than your job. Moreover, some employers fear that once you get the next degree, you will then be looking for the next job. Nonetheless, here are a few ideas:

1. Blending school and work. Look for opportunities to combine school and work. This won't be possible for some students. However, many students in graduate school are studying something that is directly work-related. Attempt to combine school assignments with projects that need to be done for work -- maybe the research can overlap, maybe you can write a school paper about an initiative or challenge at work.

2. Scale back at work. Clearly, you need to get the job done. But most of us are so in the habit of taking on extra work, volunteering for extra committees, projects, etc.... that we don't even realize we're doing it. While you are in grad school, be conscious about your choices and try to pass on everything that is optional.

3. Reclaim your lunch hour. Similarly, many folks get in the habit of working through lunch and don't give it a second thought. Reclaim your lunch hour and find somewhere quiet to read, write -- do some homework!

4. Share the benefit. If your supervisor and colleagues are open to it, share anything relevant that you are learning. This might motivate your supervisor to be more flexible.

5. Ask. Ask for for the time you deserve and/or for more flexibility. If you work a number of extra evenings or weekends, ask for the comp time. Or, ask for a more flexible schedule -- maybe longer days MWF and shorter days T/Th. Look for the work of Linda Babcock and Barbara Laschever to help you learn to negotiate.

Other ideas? Anyone else? Other suggestions about how to carve out time at work to make time for school?

Cheering you on!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Confidence -- who believes in you?

Who believes in you? Who is in your life at this moment, or was in your life previously, who really believed, or believes, in you? A partner or spouse? A parent? Grandparent? Aunt or uncle? Sibling? Cousin? Close friend?

How did this person convey that she or he believed in you? "I knew you could do it!" "You can do anything you set your mind to." "You have what it takes."

Confidence tip for today... think of one of these people who has believed in you. Focus on one or two things she or he said or says to you to convey that belief. Really focus on this, hear this person's voice in your head. Stay with that. Remember how you feel or felt when this person was in your life, or now, when she or he expresses faith in you. Really take in that feeling. And see if you can draw on it again next time you doubt yourself.

Cheering you on!

Photo by HLS

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Join in the conversation! Social media and higher education

My friend and colleague Melanie Booth is hosting a conversation on social media and boundaries in higher education, over on her blog Prattlenog.

She's looking to hear from students and teachers in higher education. How do you think about interpersonal boundaries and social media with your students or teachers? Do you worry about boundary crossing? Privacy? Has the use of tools such as Facebook and Twitter helped you connect more effectively? Several people have already joined in -- this is a terrific conversation! Now it's your turn: Prattlenog.

Cheering you on in your work,

photo by HLS

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grad school pressures -- when family doesn't understand

A student recently asked me to suggest strategies to deal with family members who do not understand the demands and challenges that graduate students face.

Strategies to try to help family members increase their understanding:

1. Talk with your partner, kids, parents, etc. about the content of your work. That's right, talk them through content that you find interesting or challenging. If you can explain it clearly enough for them to understand it, you may deepen your own understanding and they may start to see the complexity of what you are studying.

2. Engage your family. If anything you are working on in school is transferable to your family members' lives, ask for their opinions. Again, this will help you think about the work and may also help them gain some appreciation for the depth of your work.

3. Numbers. Don't be shy about mentioning how many pages you have to read, how many articles or chapters you have to read, or the approximate length of your next paper. This may help them realize the heft of your workload.

4. Parallel play. Have "study hall" at home. You work while your kids work, or even while your partner works on a task or project.

5. Post your calendar. Post your school schedule including due dates for readings, papers, projects and exams, on the fridge or somewhere everyone in your family can see it.

6. Celebrate your successes. Ask your family members to help you celebrate completed papers and projects, successful exams, etc. This is another way to involve them in the process. In addition, when they see how happy you are, they may begin to see how important school is to you.

Strategies for when your family simply doesn't understand:

1. Find support elsewhere. Seek out family members who do understand or friends or classmates who are encouraging and supportive. Maintain contact with these helpful folks, even if the contact is brief or just via email.

2. Maintain your focus. Don't let your family members' lack of support shake your confidence. You have your reasons for pursuing school, hold on to that vision.

3. Be your own number one fan. Find ways to encourage yourself and celebrate your successes.

4. Seek out supportive faculty. Professors have been there (through the academic journey that is). We know how hard you are working and the level of commitment it takes to succeed as an adult student. Professors can provide important and ongoing support.

How about it readers -- what other strategies have you used when family members were not supportive of your academic commitments?

Cheering you on in your work!

Photo by HLS

Friday, October 15, 2010

Saturday morning video - Grover spoofs Old Spice

Here's your weekend video a day early!

In case you didn't see this one:

Remember, "you are not a monster"!

Cheering you on in your work!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cool tool -- Diigo

My friend Cecilia recommends Diigo!

"Annotate webpages as you search, place sticky notes or highlight webpages that you can bookmark and return to!"

I haven't used this tool yet... but if you give it a try, let me know how well it works for you!

All the best,

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.