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STUMPED in Stumptown…

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By: Sharon Nellist

Can you imagine going into your senior year and doubt the major that you have so painstakingly been working toward the last few years? Well, I certainly can. HELP!

My most recent thoughts: I am certain of the type of job I am looking for…. But will my current major get me there? Will my major hurt my chances of getting this job? Is it worth switching majors at this point? How much longer will it take? Ahh! I have to study more for that last final exam…

My mind is full.

Thankfully! I have the summer to figure this out.

And I know that I am not the only one…

Nearly 80% of new students heading for college are undeclared. About 50% of college students that have declared a major change their major, even two or three times!

Also, Portland State has great resources to help through this “traumatic” time…

What can I do with a degree in….?
Career Workshops, Classes & Events
Exploring PSU Majors Fair

What did or would you do in this situation?

Wish me luck!

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Planning Ahead

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By: Andreea Nica

I like to plan. Planning provides me security, a comfort that I’m on the right track. Or, at least it gives me the feeling I’m getting there.

When I began the doctoral program at PSU, I knew there was much work ahead, but surprisingly, it wasn’t the work that had me bogged down. Rather, it was the organization and execution of my five-year plan in the program. I had some vague ideas like any aspiring academic, such as publishing, conferences, teaching and research. But I soon realized that these vague notions of developing oneself as a scholar needed some filling in.

When did I want to publish? And with whom? How many conferences should I attend? What should I teach? What about funding? How many small research projects should I conduct? I needed more direction, and once I gained it from discussions with colleagues and professors inside and outside the department, I began filling in the details of my five-year plan. Excel came to my rescue. I began to organize my goals (brief statements, really) into an Excel document with proposed dates of completion, deadlines for funding opportunities, outcome goals and people I should talk further with regarding the respective goal.

While I am aware that plans change, organizing my time and goals in the graduate program has boosted my confidence and provided a clearer direction on what I want to achieve. I would recommend starting out with one- to two-year plans as they are easier to manage than longer-term plans. After all, many things can change over the course of four to five years.

Good luck planning!

Photo credit to hercampus.com http://www.hercampus.com/career/career-how-tos/5-ways-fight-senioritis-land-job-after-graduation

The Graduation Blues

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

I have a countdown app installed on my cell phone. It has three events on it: Portfolio Due, Thesis Defense, and Commencement, each with their own countdown timer. It tells me that I have six days left to finish my portfolio, thirty-six days left to panic about my thesis, and fifty-nine days until I will (with any luck) walk across the stage at the Moda Center, beaming, having earned a Master’s degree in Writing and Book Publishing.

That day feels both terrifyingly close and impossibly far away. There is so much to do before then, so much that could go wrong. And yet, even though it feels like my two-year degree program started yesterday, I feel confident. My education and experiences have equipped me with both a unique range of skills and, perhaps more importantly, the confidence to go forth into the mysterious beyond of post-graduation adulthood.

Never mind that I still waited until the last possible minute to file my taxes this year, or that I opt for pizza and Netflix instead of cooking a real meal more than I’d like to admit.

Over the past two years, I’ve juggled a full graduate course load, 2-3 jobs and internships each term, a serious relationship, and a leadership position on campus. Both of my parents were hospitalized due to medical conditions within the last few months too. To be frank, I’ve been a walking bundle of stress.

Keep-Calm-and-GraduateIf I could pass along one piece of advice to my fellow students, it would be this: learn how to manage your stress. Because you will, inevitably, face a point in your life when everything seems to come crashing down. Knowing how to relax, how to let go and take care of yourself – these are things that I never learned until I really needed them, and looking back, I wish I had learned them sooner. Now I know better: I recognize my limitations, and I listen to my body when it tells me to slow down, go for a walk, or pour a bubble bath.

But thankfully, both of my parents are recovering, my portfolio is coming along nicely, and my friends have been both patient and supportive. I bounced back. I’ve made lasting relationships – both professional and otherwise – and worked with some truly talented authors, students, and educators in my program. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I look forward to the future waiting on the other side of that stage.

Three Management Tools to Help Students Succeed

Andreea Nica_bio photoMany students get overwhelmed with the amount of readings required in each course. If you’re a graduate student putting together your literature review and/or dissertation proposal, organization is crucial. As a doctoral student, I have mounds of journal articles to sort through each week, and without the help of certain technological tools I would definitely find myself drowning in an abyss of academic articles.

I use several tools that support my process that I think could be useful for students at all levels.

Google Docs: I primarily use Google Drive Docs to jot down notes, research ideas and organize my projects. One idea that I recently started to implement is sharing a Google Excel Doc with my advisor, so that I can easily update him on my research process and findings. Try it!

Mendeley: This nifty tool is a reference manager, and it’s a lifesaver! You can access it from anywhere in the world, and you can also download it onto your desktop. Basically, you upload your PDFs, read and annotate (very useful – think of digital post-its all in one place), create groups and collaborate with others. And, last but not least, you can file your PDF articles in appropriate folders.education and organization

Zotero: Similar to Mendeley, it stores your articles and readings. You can also add images, audio and video files, and snapshots of web pages. A unique differentiation from Mendeley is that Zotero is the only research tool that identifies content in your web browser, allowing you to easily add the content to your library.

If you want to learn more about citation management tools, visit the PSU library for more information.

Photo credit to Shockoe.com

Real Talk About Internships

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Photo credit to Internships.com

Brooke HornBy Brooke Horn

We’ve heard it before: Internships are a key part of your education. They provide valuable experience, they present networking opportunities, they look good on your resume, they help you transition from academia to the workplace, etc. We get it already. They’re important. What’s lacking in the conversation about internships (at least the ones I’m hearing) is how to really make them work for you. I’ve had three so far, and I’ll be the first to admit I made a few mistakes along the way. Here’s what I learned from them.

Like any relationship, it’s important to know what you want going into one so that both parties are on the same page. I’ve seen internships range from one to six months in length and require anywhere between one and 25-plus hours per week. Before you do anything else, figure out how much time you can realistically devote to interning. I made the mistake of overestimating how much time I had to give, and as a result, I’m writing this blog post at 4am. Sleep is important too, as is scheduling time for things that help you relax and genuinely make you happy.

When you interview, remember that it goes both ways. You should be asking questions and making sure that this internship will be mutually beneficial. Some things to consider: Will this internship provide you with new skills, or do they expect you to already be competent? Do you need to generate work samples for a portfolio, and if so, will this internship help you do that? Are you going to be exposed to networking opportunities? Will you be working on your own or as part of a team? Telecommuting? Not only will you impress your potential employer, but your internship experience will be that much more rewarding because you know what you want out of it.

Finally, no internship discussion is complete without acknowledging the elephant in the room: compensation. The ethics surrounding paid vs. unpaid internships deserve a blog post – or even a book – all their own, but I’ll say this: I’ve had one paid and two unpaid internships, and they ALL were irreplaceable parts of my education. It may seem incredibly unfair to have to pay tuition and fees for seemingly free labor, but you aren’t really working for free. You are gaining otherwise unattainable experience, academic credit, and networking connections. In many cases, you are also helping small businesses stay afloat in a difficult economy. My internship with local independent publisher Hawthorne Books taught me not only about publishing, but how small businesses interact with their communities.

In short, don’t just sign up for an internship to fill a requirement or a line on your resume. Be selective, know what you want and what you have time for, and do your research. Seriously… internships quite literally changed the course of my education. If you’d like to know more, feel free to ask in the comments. I’m out of room here, but I’m always happy to help a fellow student.

If you’re on the hunt, the following resources are super helpful:

  1. PSU’s Career Center
  2. PSU’s Jobs & Internships Database
  3. Career Workshops, Classes, & Events
  4. 10 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Internship
  5. Pinterest’s surprisingly good internship advice
Power of Words

Memoir Writing at PSU

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By Andreea Nica

When I tell people I’m writing a memoir, they usually appear surprised and ask: “Aren’t you too young?”

In 2013, I began writing “Freeligious,” a memoir and narrative nonfiction about my detachment from a charismatic religious sect and community. As a former evangelical, my gradual transition from the Pentecostal community spanned 10 years. The book focuses on identity, power and society with the aim of empowering those who have left — or who want to leave — their religious systems. Since then, I’ve taken a memoir writing course in Seattle, joined a writing group and received attention from media outlets such as Fox News Radio. Around 200 pages later, I realized I still needed help organizing my book.

I decided to take a memoir writing class with instructor and author Paul Collins in PSU’s English Department this winter term. The course has been extremely helpful in not only focusing on creating new content, but organizing my existing work. While the workshops (each student and the instructor reviews the student’s work and provides open feedback) initially can be an uneasy experience, they have certainly been most useful. As a Ph.D. Sociology student, being the only non-MFA student in the course has also helped me learn from others’ writing skills and expertise.

Although some find it unexpected that I’m writing a memoir at a “young age” or while pursuing a doctoral degree in the social sciences, I believe following more than one passion or goal can be most satisfying in life.

If you’re interested in taking a course in PSU’s English Department, visit: http://www.pdx.edu/english/

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Beyond Starbucks: Cafés Around PSU

By: Andreea N.

cafeAs far as I’m concerned, students need two things in life: caffeine and convenient places to study. If you’re the studious type who can handle small doses of hustle and bustle, cafés can serve as ideal go-to study locations. There are numerous cafés around Portland State University that are sure to have your favorite caffeine, or for those who have transcended caffeine, herbal drink.

Here are my preferred three cafés in the PSU area:

Revolución Coffee House: Located close to campus on SW Columbia St. and 6th Ave., Revolución Coffee House is an absolute delight. It’s the first ever Mexican coffee house to be established in the Portland area. For those interested in local, sustainable fare this is the café for you. Their coffee is grown by fair trade cooperatives, and they use local ingredients when possible. Check out their delicious signature drinks and pastries. And yes, they even offer Mexican food!

Park Avenue Café: Known as a popular study spot for students, the café is located on the Park Blocks between SW Market and Clay. If you like fine Italian coffee, Park Avenue has you covered. The family-owned café also serves locally-prepared, fresh food. Yum! The veggie lox bagel is highly recommended.

Case Study Coffee: Situated in the heart of downtown at SW 10th and Yamhill, the coffee shop serves an eclectic array of signature drinks. How can you pass up a Bourbon-aged caramel latte? Students flock to this café for its later open hours, its convenient central location and excellent vibe.

If you happen to be on a coffee/study pilgrimage around PSU, let us know your favorite café spot!