Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Month: November 2016

How to Have a Stress Free Finals Week

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I followed the smell of pizza into the Graduate Research Center where Dr. Vincent G. Walford was giving a Life on the Grad Line presentation. Life on the Grad Line is a series of free workshops designed to assist students in their adjustment to graduate school. They are sponsored by the Graduate School and cover such topics as managing stress, handling finances, and preparing theses. Today’s workshop was called “Stress Busters: Learning to Thrive in Grad School.” Dr. Walford is a staff clinician in Baylor’s Counseling Center and discussed the different signals and effects of stress and the many resources we can use to combat it.

Stress comes from tension from demanding circumstances. In graduate school, that could be every day. We could have distress over moving to a new environment and having to create a new social group. We could have distress over our academic demands and higher responsibilities. We could have distress over our financial situation and our career path after graduation. We could even be stressed over things that we love such as family matters and wedding planning. Either way, there is always going to be a lot happening in graduate school. Managing the stress that comes from those activities is crucial. Unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking or sleeping and procrastination are often elevated during times of stress. They are used as a mechanism to avoid studying for a test or preparing for a lecture or planning for a trip.
leslieSignals of stress can be recognized by a change in feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. It can affect us both mentally and physically. Luckily, there are many ways to relieve ourselves from stressful situations. Dr. Walford recommends trying to either talk it out to a good friend or family member or write it out in a journal, which will usually help bring relaxation. If that doesn’t work, get physical! The SLC has a wide variety of exercise machines and facilities that will meet anyone’s needs and a good work out might help relieve some of our tension. If sweating isn’t working, try breathing exercises and focusing on the positive things. We all have been guilty of viewing the glass half empty at times, which does no good for our bodies or minds.

To avoid getting to that state of stress, Dr. Walford has some tips. He advocated to manage our time wisely. Set short-term and long-term goals that are manageable to accomplish. Prioritize the important things that need to be done and save the Netflix binge-watching to the end as a congratulation to ourselves when we meet those goals. We also need to nurture our bodies. A good dose of healthy and organic foods will not only give us more energy during the day, but help us sleep better at night, as well. It may be hard not running down to the Taco Bell, but it is worth it!

If nothing seems to be working, Baylor does have a multitude of resources for us to use. The Graduate School and Counseling Center host “Let’s Talk” every week in the Graduate Resource Center. This program is a walk-in, no appointment, consultation service for students where they can informally meet with someone to talk about whatever issues we have. The Counseling Center provides counseling for individuals, couples, and groups and is located on the second floor of the SLC. These programs, along with the Medical Nutrition Therapy, help students guide the stressful waters of graduate school.

Just remember, you can do it! You have to so you can watch the latest season of House of Cards guilt free.

By Matthew Doyen

The New Graduate Research Center

In the spring of 2015, the Baylor Libraries opened a space exclusively for graduate students and faculty entitled the Incubator. The Incubator, named so because it was an area full of new ideas and possibilities, has been immensely popular over the past three semesters. In the fall of 2016, the Incubator officially outgrew its room in the Moody Library, moved to the second floor of the W.R. Poage Legislative Library, and became part of the new Graduate Research Center.

The official opening of the Graduate Research Center began with a student reception during the second week of school. The reception, which included catered food, door prizes, and presentations, was the first glimpse that many of the students had of the new space. In addition to the Incubator, the Center also includes five collaboration rooms, a conference room, a lounge, and a breakroom, as well as, a new visualization studio. The visualization studio, home of the “viz wall,” will soon be available for students looking to incorporate digital scholarship into their classes.

The Graduate School also uses the space to host some of their events and programs. The Graduate Writing Center, co-sponsored with the English Department, the “Let’s Talk” program, presented by the Counseling Center, and graduate student workshops, hosted by the University Libraries, are now all located in the area. In addition, the Graduate School Association will now hold their annual three-minute thesis competition in the Center, as well.

The Graduate Research Center is open from 8:00am-8:00pm on weekdays and closed on the weekend. However, the Incubator’s hours are extended and mirror that of the Central Libraries:

Sunday: 1:00pm-1:00am
Monday-Thursday: 7:00am-1:00am
Friday: 7:00am-11:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am-11:00pm

Visit the Center’s website and social media pages for more information and updates. And remember to always bring your ID card for access to the Incubator!

By Matthew Doyen

SET: Enhancing Student Motivation, Attitude, and Interest

Baylor’s Academy for Teaching and Learning (ATL) holds a series of lectures every semester titled “Seminars for Excellence in Teaching.” These seminars help graduate student teachers, tenured professors, and everyone in between to meet the university’s historic expectations for teaching in the classroom. These are my accounts.

Photo courtesy of the Waco Tribune

Dr. Byron Newberry is a professor of mechanical engineering at Baylor University and is also the chair of the faculty senate. He loves teaching and has been doing it for the last 25+ years. On October 18th, Dr. Newberry lead a seminar for instructors about better connecting with students and therefore enhancing their motivation, attitude, and interest in the classroom. He shared pointers and stories to help others become their best at teaching.

The first thing that Dr. Newberry did was personally introduce himself to everyone as soon as they walked into the room. I thought that he was just being friendly, but it was actually a very important teaching technique. He wasn’t just introducing himself, but he was learning our names and would remember them as he called on us throughout the seminar. The fact that he remembered our names made it seem personal and that he deeply cared about sharing his knowledge with us. The same technique, as he demonstrated, should be used in the classroom, even if it is a large class and takes several weeks.

Dr. Newberry went on to speak about how important an instructor’s vibe is to the students. If it’s not positive, then the kids can pick up on that right away and feel the same way. There are different ways that an instructor can give a positive vibe: verbally, physically, and written. Each one is expected to remain in favor with the students. Additionally, communication is paramount when teaching. Weekly messages should be given out that not only goes over the curriculum, but also connects it to the real world. Dr. Newberry calls it the “terminator eye-view,” which is when someone sees the world through the lens of their career.

Another important lesson that I learned was that it is okay to make mistakes. It shows the students that they are not expected to be perfect and removes the fear of failure. It is also a perfect time to add some humor into the classroom setting. One time, Dr. Newberry lead an entire session around a problem that was incorrect. He admitted his mistakes and had a little fun during the next class when he handed out rubber bands, stood in front of the class, donned protective eyewear, and let the students fire away.

The last thing that Dr. Newberry presented on was the value of teacher immediacy, which is when instructors exhibit behaviors that decrease distance between themselves and their students. It not only gains them power and respect in the classroom, but also promotes cognitive learning, as well. Examples of teacher immediacy include using people’s names, moving closer to students, making specific eye contact, and treating them as part of a special group.

It was apparent that Dr. Newberry loves teaching and that he wants to help other people love teaching, too. It’s a valuable position that can help students reach extrinsic (grades) and intrinsic (enjoyment) goals and set them on the right path to success. Everyone can learn to become great teachers, especially the knowledge seekers among us. “If you want to learn more about something,” Dr. Newberry end with, “Then teach it!”

By Matthew Doyen

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