Planning Ahead

Andreea Nica_bio photo

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!

Hey little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?

By Emily Skeen

In the immortal words of Jason Robert Brown, “I stand on a precipice, I struggle to keep my balance.” The dictionary defines a precipice as “a very steep rock face or cliff, typically a tall one”. This seems fitting to me because the metaphorical precipice in question is my transition between college and ‘the real word’, and what lies on the other side is a large, terrifying open space, full of student loans I seriously hope I’ll be able to pay off.

There was a time when the thought of this precipice didn’t seem so terrifying. In fact it seemed exciting. Beyond it, to quote another musical, was “the unexamined life” that I couldn’t wait to live, because I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. But now, after 4+ years as an undergrad exploring my interests, the only things I do know are: I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m not a little girl anymore. The terrifying and exciting nature of that dark pit beyond this precipice is that I get to make the decisions, and all I can do is act on opportunity and hope I don’t screw it all up. Because in reality, it’s still that same exciting “unexamined life”, it’s just a little more unexamined than I had hoped for. But in way, even when you have plans, the future is always unknown, so in that sense, am I really any different from anyone else?