Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Category: Graduate School (page 1 of 3)

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

The Baylor-Palm Beach Atlantic Connection

Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA) is located on the sandy shores of West Palm Beach, Florida, about an hour north of Miami. A small liberal arts institution with a total student population of 4,000, PBA strives to “offer a curriculum of studies and a program of student activities dedicated to the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives, and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals.” Despite being 1,300 miles from Waco, Texas and having a quarter of the student population of Baylor, PBA has a strong connection with this city and with our school.

This unusual linkage can be traced back over three decades to 1981 when Baylor hired Dr. Naymond Keathley. After graduating from Baylor with a bachelor’s degree in history, Dr. Keathley made stops at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and Palm Beach Atlantic University before returning to his alma mater. Five years later, in 1986, Dr. James Kennedy, now an associate professor in the Department of Religion, also joined the Baylor family after realizing that teaching and studying the Bible was his passion during his undergraduate time as a Sailfish at Palm Beach Atlantic.

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In 1999, Dr. Laine Scales, now Baylor’s Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Professional Development, came to Baylor as a faculty member in the School of Social Work. Previously, she was redeveloping PBA’s service-learning program, Workship. Around the same time that Dr. Scales arrived at Baylor, three students, who would, unbeknownst to them at the time, strengthen the BU-PBA relationship, enrolled in the university’s religion graduate program.

Kathy Maxwell and her husband, Nathan, came to Waco in 2002 to pursue degrees in New Testament and Old Testament, respectively. Of the twelve new students to the program that year, only two students would be studying Old Testament: Nathan Maxwell and Nathan Lane. “Through the forge that is first semester doctoral students,” Dr. Kathy Maxwell wrote, “we formed deep friendships with our colleagues and their families.” While graduating at different times, the group continued to meet at national conferences, plan visits to each other, and share academic postings. Then, without fail, the calming palm trees and soothing ocean breeze of West Palm Beach started calling them one by one.

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It started in 2005 when former Bear, Dr. Kris Pratt, joined the PBA staff and taught in their MacArthur School of Leadership. With his support, Dr. Lane made the same move two years later. One short year after that, a faculty spot came open and, on the advice of her old friend, Dr. Kathy Maxwell applied because the “opportunity to work alongside a fellow Baylor Bear was impossible to resist!” She was hired and her husband, Dr. Nathan Maxwell, taught as an adjunct and worked in online learning for several years at PBA before coming on as full-time faculty. Two years later, Dr. Myles Werntz, who received his doctorate from Baylor in 2011, came aboard as an assistant professor. As Dr. Lane wrote, “For three semesters, we (PBA) had a religion department dominated by Bears!”

There are endless examples of the BU-PBA connection that have continued to this day. In 2016, Dr. Scales was invited to speak at Palm Beach Atlantic University during their annual Founder’s Day Chapel. The Workship program that she and her colleague, Dr. Hope Haslam Straughan, redeveloped from 1993-1996 was celebrating its three millionth hour of community service. While there, she reconnected with associate professors Nathan Lane and the Maxwells.

And so the relationship goes on.

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By Matthew Doyen

Grads on the Water

As you transition into graduate school, you’ll start to notice how truly different it is from your time as an undergrad. One major difference that you might discover is the lack of diversity in your friend group. This deficiency will not necessarily be in age, race or sex, but rather in academic and career interests. In other words, your friends will probably all be from the same program, your program. It only makes sense. With the extended amount of time you stay on campus, you become close with the people that study, work, and research at the same time and in the same discipline as you. The fact is that there’s not the opportunity to casually meet people like there was in undergrad.

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Enter, the Graduate School Association (GSA). Throughout the year, GSA hosts events that give graduate students a chance to relax and to meet one another outside of the classroom, lab, or library. These events are extremely valuable, especially if you listen to the advice that most students and faculty will announce during your first weeks: meet people outside of your program (because we all need an outlet sometimes). The family-friendly activities include football tailgates, appreciation picnics, and discount days at the Farmer’s Market. However, one of the organization’s most popular events doesn’t even take place on land or include the ultimate marketing tactic of free food (although there was a $1 off Pokey-O’s perk that most certainly did not go unused).

Grads on the Water is an amazing event that brings Baylor’s graduate school population closer to the city of Waco. Partnering with Bicycle World, who merged with Outdoor Waco a few years ago, students have the opportunity to rent a kayak, paddle board, or canoe to freely explore the Brazos River. The rental fee, which is usually $20/hour, was completely covered by GSA for the entire three-hour event. Because of the beautiful (below 100˚) summer’s day, this year’s Grads on the Water was extremely successful. Over 100 graduate students, with their families and friends, paddled under the historic Suspension Bridge while the Alico Building towered in the background and kayaked past the columns of the university’s McLane Stadium and foul poles of the Turner Athletic Complex.

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Events such as Grads on the Water provide an opportunity not only to meet the other 2,000 Baylor graduate students, but to realize your similarities go far behind the classroom. We all go to Baylor. We all live in Waco. We all want the most out of this experience and out of our time here. Among many other things, GSA helps us realize those likenesses, which may be the group’s most important achievement.

You can follow GSA on Facebook and Twitter!

By Matthew Doyen

Graduate Student Orientation

Perhaps the first time that you will meet your fellow cohort and step onto Baylor’s campus is the morning of Graduate Student Orientation. I remember making the walk across campus on the morning of my orientation one year ago. Admittedly, wearing my best pair of jeans and trying not to sweat through them was a challenge not only because I was so nervous, but also because of the humidity from a mid-August day in Texas. However, upon arrival, I quickly realized that everyone else was glistening, as well, and that everything was going to be fine. I had my first conversations, along with some awkwardly quiet moments, with people who would later become some of my best friends. Orientation acts as the unofficial starting point of your time in graduate school, which is an exciting time that will undoubtedly lead to many great moments, memories, and friendships. Luckily, the graduate school’s staff and current students help create a welcoming atmosphere that eases those uninvited jitterbugs and butterflies.

The program will begin with a Chick-fil-a breakfast at the Hooper-Schaefer Fine Arts Center, continue into addresses and breakout sessions, and conclude with an impressive hors d’oeuvres-styled lunch at the Moody Library and refreshing Dr Pepper floats in the Incubator. The entire schedule for the day has been released and you can check it out below:

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Enjoy this iGrad comedic sneak peek that was provided by the university’s Theatre Arts Department and we will see you on the 17th!

By Matthew Doyen

Moving Up!

For the last thirty years the U.S. News has been ranking its best graduate schools and programs in the nation. This year’s rankings have been released and, not surprisingly, Baylor’s programs have continued to rise! The graduate school departments and programs that received the highest rankings and largest advances were in disciplines such as law, business, nursing and health, education, and engineering. Around two thousand programs were surveyed and the full results can be found at www.usnews.com.

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Here is the BU rundown:

Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business: moved into its new Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation and up one spot to 57th (out of 379) this past year, with the recent online MBA program sitting at 69th in the country.

Baylor Louise Herrington School of Nursing: located in Dallas, the Master of Science degree improved fourteen spots to 58th and the Doctor of Nursing Practice program soared 27 places higher to 45th (out of 259), with the Nursing-Midwifery program debuting in the top ten as 10th nationally.

Baylor’s School of Education: progressed five places to 78th (out of 255) in the country.

Baylor School of Engineering and Computer Science: unveiled at 118th (out of 194), with Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering sitting at 109th and 124th respectively.

Baylor’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work: the downtown location advanced seven slots to 53rd nationally.

Baylor’s Robbins College of Health and Human Sciences: Speech-Language Pathology program climbed ten spots to 69th in the country.

Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences: Clinical Psychology programs jumped seventeen spots to 62nd nationwide.

U.S. Army-Baylor: Health Care Management program ranked 7th and Doctor of Physical Therapy degree placed 8th respectively.

For information about Baylor’s rankings visit the story by Media Communications, from where this material was gathered.

By Matthew Doyen

 

Becoming more Academically Competitive with the Presidential Scholar Program

When Dr. Larry Lyon, Dean of the Graduate School, arrived at Baylor in 1998, he immediately recognized that the school had to become more competitive. He knew that to achieve that goal, he must first create additional incentives that attracted larger numbers of highly-qualified doctoral candidates to Waco. A few years later, the Presidential Scholar program was underway. It has increased from the two awardees of the original class to double digits recipients in the last few years. Despite this increase, becoming a presidential scholar has remained extremely competitive. Program directors of potential candidates contact the graduate school about their students who they believe would benefit from being a member of the distinguished program. Dean Lyon then reviews the applications and chooses the best of these applicants to receive the designation. While making his decision, Dean Lyon looks for high GPAs and GRE scores, research experience and publications, and professional resumes, but, most importantly, excellent letters of recommendation.

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The presidential scholarship, one of the main benefits of the program, is the highest stipend awarded to doctoral students at Baylor. Its purpose is to help make attending graduate school and moving to Waco financially viable for these students and their families. Chris Tweedt, a recent doctoral graduate (and now instructor) in the Philosophy Department and former presidential scholar, spoke about how this extra stipend made his experience at Baylor possible. The father of four wrote, “I wouldn’t have been able to survive as a grad student and support my family without the help of the presidential scholarship.” Ryan West, who is in the last year of his post-doctoral studies and helping to support a family of five, added that “it would have been extremely difficult to make ends meet during graduate school without the stipend and health insurance coverage provided by the program.”

However, the stipend is not the only advantage of the program. It also opens the doors to boundless opportunities. John Duncan, a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Religion, attested to his time in the program by mentioning that he and his fellow presidential scholars “have increased opportunities to meet, converse, and network with senior officials at Baylor, including President Starr, Lyon, and the Associate and assistant Deans in the Graduate School.” A first year candidate in Philosophy, Christopher Tomaszewski, can already agree. He stated that “by being able to list the Presidential Scholarship on my CV, I’ve gained some opportunities with the help of the prestige of the scholarship in terms of gaining admission to research seminars and summer programs.”

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The Presidential Scholar program has succeeded in making Baylor’s Graduate School more competitive. With many of the recipients graduating and moving on to faculty positions at other universities and with the number of awardees continuing to rise, it seems that Presidential Scholars will continue to make the university stronger for years to come.

By Matthew Doyen

How to Rally from the Realization of a New Semester

The first couple weeks of a new semester are like the first weeks of a new relationship. The feelings that everything is perfect and that nothing can ever go awry gleefully disillusion our minds. We keep saying things to ourselves like “this thing is easier than I thought,” and prematurely planning joyful journeys for the future. Every day is sunny and beautiful. But then, all at once, it hits us: the realization that this thing is actually a lot harder than we thought. The clouds hide the sky and the cool breeze is finally noticed as we recognize that every class isn’t going to get out thirty minutes early and that all assignments can’t be accomplished a few minutes before the beginning of entering the room. We discover that they hate our favorite movie and that they make a really annoying noise when eating spaghetti. The honeymoon is over. Luckily, we’ve compiled a few steps from experience for how to rally from this moment and make the best out of the semester.

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Step 1: Complain

Some call it venting, some call it flaring up, many call it annoying, but it must be done. Get out the frustration and direct it towards someone who understands your situation. Usually, this is a fellow classmate or an old friend that won’t send you to the crazy house. Complain about the absurd amount of readings that are assigned, about the professor who is always one class behind because of his pointless sidebars, about the lack of time given to complete the recently assigned paper. Don’t hold back!

Step 2: Exercise

Once you have successfully gotten off your negativity horse, take a walk, or a run, or a bike ride. Enjoy the fresh air going into and coming out of your body. Listen to your favorite band. Look around and appreciate the scenery of where you are going to be spending your next semester. Realize how truly blessed you are to be in this position and in this place. Take these precious moments to relax and let your course workload escape to the farthest depths of your mind.

Step 3: Get an Ice Cream Cone

Because we all love ice cream and, let’s be honest, you deserve it.

Step 4: Get to Work

Difficult tasks often seem impossible until we start. Break down the readings into smaller sections that are manageable to do in a session at the library. It might take the whole night, and you might have to miss that movie or game that was enjoyed in the first couple weeks, but you’ll be that much closer to finishing. Achieving a daunting challenge is actually quite a satisfying moment and should provide for a good night’s sleep. Remember what the marathon runner John Bingham once stated, “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

So complain, then exercise, then eat, then work and you will be on your way before you know it! As for that new relationship, try TV shows and ravioli.

By Matthew Doyen

The Five Tips for Applying to Graduate School

Applying to graduate school can be a stressful time. During my process, which happened to span about a calendar month, I looked around the Internet and asked friends for their advice. I found some really good information that was helpful and I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips as we start to reach the fall application deadlines.

Tip 1: Start Early and Often

I began my search for the perfect graduate school in March, while the deadline was the following February. Beginning the process that early may sound daunting or even trivial, but the knowledge that I gained in those first few months was invaluable. I learned the major (and minor) differences between similar programs that were beneficial in deciding to take one track or another. Applicants shouldn’t just start the college hunt process early, but also get a head start on studying for the GRE and gathering references. I know that many students take the GRE multiple times. Making the decision to schedule that first one can either get it out of the way so you never have to look back or give you the realization that you need to study more and take a GRE class. Luckily, since you took the initiative so early, you have time to do that! Also, don’t leave your recommenders for the last second. They are usually extremely busy and need time to formulate a quality letter. Make sure to give it to them!

Tip 2: Keep Track of Deadlines

We’ve all been there. “Oh, that paper isn’t due for another couple of weeks. I have time.” One week later, “It’s due next Friday. I still have plenty of time.” The night before it’s due, “I can’t believe that I have to write a ten page paper in one night.” This is not the pattern that you want to follow when applying to grad school. Procrastination is the enemy. Fortunately, many programs allow you to create an account well before the deadline is anywhere near. By creating an account and entering in their systems, you’ll often get periodic emails reminding you that something is due soon. Make a calendar with your own deadlines to make sure that you don’t forget to send your transcripts or write a personal statement. The last thing that you want colleges to see is that you forgot to add something or submitted it late. Aim for great first impressions!

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Tip 3: Take your Time on the Personal Statement

You’ll come to hear that programs want their applicants to be holistic. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll just nod your head, pretend to know what the word holistic means, and wonder how the heck you got into grad school. Basically, by wanting holistic applicants, colleges are saying that they don’t just look at the GPA, or the GRE scores, or your resume. They take the whole application into account. With that being said, the personal statement is by far the most important piece that you will hand over. It gives you an opportunity to show your strengths and explain why there may be some weaknesses on your application. It provides a vital opportunity to sell yourself to the university. Do not rush! Write a little bit at a time. Edit it to make certain that it is grammatically correct. Have others read it. Edit it again. Then submit it with no regrets!

Tip 4: Don’t Limit your Search by Distance

The fact is that the perfect program may well be halfway across the country. It is natural to want to stay at a school and in an area where we are familiar with everything around and feel safe. Always apply to your undergraduate school if they have the program that you are interested in pursuing! The fact that you are already loyal to the college will actually go a long way when they are reviewing applications. But don’t let the fact that you are scared about moving some place new by yourself prohibit you from applying to that program one thousand miles away. Chances are that you will love it and meet some of your best friends there. As my Taco Bell hot sauce packet once read, “You never know, if you never do.” So do!

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Tip 5: Stop Reading Online Articles

One of the worst things that an aspiring graduate student can do is to start reading articles about the difficulties about getting accepted into a program. Even the most qualified applicants will start to second guess their resumes. It’s imperative that you are confident during the whole process. Don’t stress about not having the perfect GPA or the highest test scores. You’ll read that you need them to get into any program and that more people get declined from graduate school than accepted. You’ll see all of these unbearable statistics that will make your heart sink. But all of that just makes it even sweeter when you receive that acceptance letter. Just remember that you are qualified. And make sure to show it!

By Matthew Doyen

The Future of Cities

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Let me ask you a question. Do you think cities are fostering community, or are they actually pushing people away from each other? Wait, but isn’t that the whole point of a city, to bring people together?

Of course it is. That’s exactly what Professor Philip Sheldrake expressed to graduate students in his lecture “The Spiritual City: Theology, Spirituality, and the Urban.” The Baylor Formation presented this discussion in the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation.

Professor Sheldrake shed light on the issue of cities and how they are becoming less well-made. They are fragmented because the “world is rapidly becoming urbanized.” This is due to the 21st century global movement from rural to urban. Since so many people are moving into cities, 1 person out of every 6 is a “slum-dweller”. This statistic will only continue to rise as more and more pile into the city atmosphere.

According to Professor Sheldrake, true cities engage with three things:

  1. Identity
  2. Relationships
  3. Stories

Cities need to “re-discover their own voice” and focus on these ideas. Currently, city priorities include recovery of memory, sustainability and living/neighborhoods. Unfortunately, spiritual dimensions of cities are rarely discussed.

What are cities for? That is the big question for the future. Leaning on scripture, Sheldrake points out what cities looked like in both the Old and New Testament and then goes on to elaborate on social virtues. Sheldrake adds that it is key for cities to be composed of different people. Virtues that he considers important are faithfulness, living in harmony and honoring individual needs. Closing this part of the lecture saying, “community is vital to flourishing.”

By Caroline Jerome

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