Monday, November 4, 2013

Words of inspiration from Dr. Susan Nelson

See note below. I post this every year around this time to honor Susan and share her wisdom.

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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Keeping it light this week! Fresh Guacamole by PES

Hi all, Decided to lighten things up with a quick and fun video this week. This is by PES, a gifted stop-motion animator. Check it out for a quick study break!

Best wishes!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

APA goldmine - Best of APA

For a wealth of APA style guidance (including sample papers, how to cite..., formatting guidelines, and grammar tips) check out:

Best of the APA Style Blog 2013

Happy writing!

Photo by HLS

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Improve your web search skills

Below is a link to a video from University Libraries at University of Washington regarding some basic search techniques. The video shows a search using Google, though many of you will use Google Scholar to search for journal articles, etc. Nonetheless, the commands that are shown in the video are useful in both cases.

How do I search Google effectively: Part 1

Have a good week!

Photo by HLS

Monday, September 9, 2013

Overcoming procrastination

Here is a one-page handout from the Learning Strategies Center at Cornell:

Overcoming procrastination

Have a good week,

Photo by HLS

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Apps for Grad and other Adult Students

The following are free apps that help me be more productive in my research, writing, and work with graduate students. This is an updated list from last year.

Citation and source management:

Zotero - download citation information directly from web-based sources (enter others manually), build your citation database, Word plug-in allows you to insert formatted citations and generate reference list with ease. Tag entries for quick searches within your library. Free.

Document sharing:

Dropbox - Store your documents in the cloud so you can access them from any computer. Also useful for sharing big files with classmates or teachers. Free.

YouSendIt - Another app that is useful for sending files that are too big for email. Free version available.


Easelly - This was my favorite app discovery last year. I've been using this app to create infographics as handouts for presentations. I also used it to create the APA citation decision tree that I posted on this blog a few weeks ago. The app is easy to use - you can work from templates or start with a blank canvas. The only limitation I have found is that their icon library is limited - I've worked around this by uploading some icons from other sources. Free.

Lucidchart - I have used it to make a number of diagrams for presentations and I find it to be an incredibly capable tool. Click here to apply for free education version (it says K-12, but they also give education accounts to those in higher education).


Eyejot - I love this tool! Send video messages -- more personal and energetic than email. Free version allows messages of up to one minute.

Doodle - Easy scheduling tool, great for setting up meetings for group projects. Free.

Note taking:

Evernote - A cloud-based note taking tool -- means you can access notes from any of your devices. Also allows you to tag notes - easier to find what you are looking for later. Free.

Social bookmarking:

Diigo - Tag and store your bookmarks so you can find important sites easily. Cloud-based so you can access them from any device. Group function allows you to share -- great for group projects. Also includes highlighting and commenting tools. Free.

Images (for presentation slides, etc):

Stock.xchng - extensive library of free images.

The Noun Project - web-based library of universal symbols. All are free for non-commercial use.

And two not-free (in fact shockingly expensive) apps that help me be more productive:

Things - task management for mac users. This is an elegantly simple yet sophisticated task management app. Quickly enter to-do items with due dates, tags, and notes. Also schedule recurring to-do items and group items under projects. Approximate prices -- Macbook version: $49. iPad version: $19. iPhone version: $9.99. Hard to believe it's worth it, but it has been worth it for me. I have Things on my macbook and phone and it helps me stay on top of all I need to do and also helps me to feel done at the end of a day when I've completed all that I intended to do.

One password - password manager. Easy to use. Saves me time because I don't have to scramble to figure out forgotten passwords. Mac version: $49. iPad and iPhone versions also available.

Please note, I am not affiliated with the makers or distributers of any of the above-mentioned apps.

What other apps do you use for school?

All the best,

Photo by HLS

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back to school strategies for adult students

This post is a repeat, however I'm posting it again for those who are just starting their programs, back to school after a long time away. The following tips are based on my own experience as well as that of colleagues in my PhD program and more recently, my own master's students.

A space of your own. Carve out a space at home, a desk or work area where you can leave your materials, so that you know where everything is, and can resume work without having to reorganize.

Determine an overall work schedule as to which days/evenings you will do homework and which you will not. Be intentional about carving out work time, rather than imagining you’ll fit it in when you have time. And this leads us to….

Take something off your plate. By committing to this master’s program you are taking on significant work that also requires time to think and reflect. Now is the time to make a shift: ask for help with responsibilities at home, put a hobby aside, say “no” to additional commitments, etc. You don’t need to give it all up, but something has to give, temporarily, to make room for this new gig.

Do something, anything, even when you think you can’t. Even though you have carved out your work times, there will be plenty of days/evenings when you had planned to work and feel too tired or distracted or whatever. Do something! Read the most accessible chapter, read half a chapter… do something, anything to get even a little work done and keep the momentum going.

Get to know your rhythm and honor it! Observe yourself in your first few weeks… what time of day/week do you most effectively read, reflect, write, work online? Get to know when you are at your best for the various kinds of work and then work strategically in those times. If you notice that you write best in the morning and read best in evening, honor that, and so on. Also, how long can you effectively read or write and what kinds of breaks best keep you going? Figure this out and do it.

When you are in the water, swim! Graduate students sometimes expend significant energy worrying about school, feeling guilty if they aren’t working etc. I believe this ultimately makes people less effective when they are working. When you are working, be present with it and try not to let thoughts about other responsibilities creep in. This is your time to work, honor that time – you deserve it and you will work more effectively. When you aren’t working, for whatever reason, don’t expend energy worrying or feeling guilty – be present to whatever responsibility you are dealing with, or if you are taking a break, take a break and enjoy it. You will return to your work refreshed and ready to be productive.

Step away from the desk. When you find yourself getting frustrated, not able to make sense of a reading or unable to write, perhaps your head is too full and the ideas need time to simmer. Take a break and perhaps you will gain clarity by giving yourself space.

If you get overwhelmed, break it down. If thinking about all the work that you will need to do for a course, or in the next month, or in the next week, feels overwhelming, focus on the next step. Sometimes it is helpful to break work down into small chunks – try to focus only on what you are working at the moment and get through that, and then on to the next chunk.

Take good care of yourself. While I encourage you to put something down (an extra area of responsibility, etc.), I’m also encouraging you to hold on to something that is good for your well-being. Exercise, meditation, walking – do something that will get your body moving and help you clear your head. Also, this sounds simple, but eat right (make sure to eat before class) and try to get enough sleep.

Get to know your faculty and advisor. These people are here because they love to teach and are committed to your growth and development. Great conversations await!

Have fun. Enough said.

Cheering you on!

Photo by HLS

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

APA Citation Decision Tree

APA workshops are often designed to help students understand how to cite various types of sources, however I think the primary challenge with APA is knowing when to cite. Some students are also unclear about when something from a source should be in quotation marks and when quotation marks are not needed. This summer I designed the graphic above to help you understand when to cite, when to use quotation marks, when to quote directly, and what to include in your reference list. Click on the graphic above to see a larger version and right click on it to save it to your desktop.

All the best,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to school!

Many people dread the end of summer, but I love the feeling that the fall semester is almost here! I have had a wonderful summer of writing, a few presentations, and class prep. Now I'm psyched to get back to the classroom and teaching and working directly with students. So, The Encouragement Lounge is back in session. More posts coming soon.

All the best,

Photo by HLS

Monday, June 24, 2013

Encouragement Lounge on summer schedule

Hello friends,

I had hoped to keep up with the blog over the summer but I'm hard at work to meet two writing deadlines and prepare for fall classes, so am going to take time away from the E Lounge, for now. I will resume posting in August.

Sending you good energy for the work!


Photo by HLS

Friday, May 10, 2013

David Pogue -- 10 Top Time-Saving Tech Tips

Hi All, If you haven't seen this, check out David Pogue's TED talk. Most tech time-saving posts and videos that I have seen offer advice about managing email, being disciplined about social media, and so on. Pogue's talk offers something even more basic -- a number of keyboard shortcuts and search tips that may be more efficient than what you are currently doing. It's a quick talk and worth viewing.

All the best,

Monday, April 15, 2013

Busy end of the semester

Hi All,

Like you, I'm quite busy with end-of-semester work. So I'm just writing this quick post to wish you all the best as you finish papers, projects, dissertations, and other work.

Keep at it!


Photo by HLS

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Good Powerpoint Design by Garr Reynolds

Many of you are preparing slides for end-of-semester presentations. Here is terrific advice from Garr Reynolds. I worked through his book "Presentation Zen" while I was a doc student and I believe that my powerpoint design skills improved significantly. For a short version of his strategy, visit

What is good powerpoint design?

For more, check out his book: "Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition) (Voices That Matter)" by Garr Reynolds. (New Riders 2011)

Sending you good energy for the work!

Photo by HLS

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Proofreading tips

Hi all,

Grammar Girl is an excellent resource to help you sort out grammar questions and to understand writing feedback that you might get from your professors. Here's a terrific grammar girl post that will help you improve your writing:

Proofreading Tips

Cheering you on in your work!

Photo by HLS

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Basic Technology Advice for Students

The following is a document created by Professor George Williams - this will help you consider good back-up strategies, keyboard shortcuts, and more:

Basic Technology Advice for Students

Please note, that this is not my document, so the comments about not using technology as an excuse don't necessarily pertain to my classes (I have my own policies). However the rest might be helpful to you.

Cheering you on in your work!

Photo by HLS

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sending you good energy!

Hello all, I'm in the midst of my own deadlines this week, so am not going to write a real post. However, know that I send you all good energy for the work!

Keep at it,

Photo by HLS

Monday, February 4, 2013

Solving your own minor computer problems a.k.a. getting unstuck

Hi All,

I'm reposting this link to a tool that I shared earlier this year -- it remains one of this blog's most popular links so I'm sharing it front and center again. This link will take you to an infographic that I created in collaboration with a colleague at Carlow, to help you solve minor computer problems. This should help you when you are learning new applications and are unsure how to do something, when you forget a password, or in other ways, "get stuck" while you are trying to do something on your computer.

Back by popular demand:

Solving Your Minor Computer Problem: A Guide to Problem-Solving Steps

Cheering you on in your work!

Photo by HLS 

Friday, January 18, 2013

The World Needs All Kinds of Minds - Temple Grandin

Hi All,

I don't typically post long videos on this blog, but I came across this Ted Talk by Temple Grandin and found it to be quite meaningful, so I'm sharing it with you.

Cheering you on in your work!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Learning new approaches - thoughts from bell hooks

I've been reviewing some writings by bell hooks and one of the things I am struck by is her description  of deep learning, of being willing to let our assumptions be challenged.

"And I saw for the first time that there can be, and usually is, some degree of pain involved in giving up old ways of thinking and knowing and learning new approaches." (hooks, 1994, p. 43)

"And sometimes it's necessary to remind students and colleagues that pain and painful situations don't necessarily translate into harm.... Not all pain is harm and not all pleasure is good....If we are all emotionally shut down, how can there be any excitement about ideas?" (hooks, 1994, pp. 154-155)

When I think about this in my own experience, I think that the pain is often the pain of resistance, of fighting the new ideas and clinging to the old. When I can let go of that, there is often a new sense of freedom and as hooks says, excitement, as I start to embrace the fact that there might be more to this idea than I thought, I can go deeper, I can understand it differently. This can be incredibly energizing!

I encourage you to consider this next time you find yourself resisting new ideas and clinging to the old. What else is there to know here? How might you think more deeply and discover something new? Perhaps this will energize you.

Cheering you on in your work,

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Photo by HLS

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The best thing you can do, is ask

Hi All,

Welcome back! I hope that you had a good break!

As we start the spring semester, I remind you to ask questions. If you are unsure about your schedule or anything else regarding your academic progress, make an appointment with your advisor. Likewise, if anything about new classes is unclear, see your professor and ask for clarification.

Cheering you on!

Photo by HLS
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