Leadership Experience at Purdue: Go for it, Learn from it, Take Advantage of it

A leadership experience can benefit you in so many positive ways, both in the short and long term. I would like to highlight three of them. First, a leadership experience can give you a competitive edge over other candidates when you apply for a job. Employers now look for leadership experience as they know that a candidate with some sort of leadership exposure will be able to deal with a situation more effectively. Next, a leadership experience can help you build connections, which you can utilize throughout your professional career. Finally, it can develop your interpersonal skills. You will get to communicate with a lot of people through your role in a particular club or association, and you will acquire different skill sets in the process.

Purdue University will provide you with many opportunities to experience leadership. My leadership journey started with volunteering for the Bangladesh Students Association in my first year. In my second year, I was elected as the president of the association. My volunteering experience in the first year gave me an opportunity to observe the association and learn how events are organized at Purdue. During my presidency in my second year, I organized several events on behalf of the association. I would like to highlight two of them. The first event was the Bangladesh Artist Festival where we were able to invite two of our prominent musical groups from Bangladesh to perform at Purdue. The event was open to all Purdue students and the community to learn more about Bangladeshi music. We were awarded a Student Fee Advisory Board (SFAB) ($58,000) grant to organize two such concerts. This also represents Purdue’s strengths in financing big events led by student organizations. 

The second event that I would like to mention is the Celebration of International Mother Language Day. International mother language day is internationally observed on February 21, and the day originated from the language movement in Bangladesh. In this event, we also involved eleven other countries to showcase their culture through different performances. It was highly appreciated by the attendees for its diversity and inclusiveness. This was funded by a One Community grant from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Because my experience was so enriching with this student organization, I decided to lead another student organization, the Purdue Association of Learning Design & Technology (PALDT,) as the president in the current academic year.

The message that I wanted to convey through these examples is that you can also lead many such events at Purdue!  Student Activities and Organizations (SAO), the unit that oversees student organizations, will be happy to support you in every possible way. The first step would be to find a student organization that you like and join that organization in some capacity. After that, you can plan on taking an officer role and execute your events! The sky is the limit for Boilermakers!

Why Did I Choose Purdue for Grad School?

I believe graduate school is one of the most important decisions you can make for your life. When you are going to college, you may not have the freedom or the means to select the university you want. However, going to graduate school is your own choice, and I felt the pressure to choose wisely. I remember making my list of things that a graduate school should have to deserve my dedication to the application process. I applied to five different universities, but Purdue was always my first choice.

Before selecting the university list, you need to define your own professional goals. And remember, graduate school, especially a Ph.D. degree, will be demanding and time-consuming. So, it is better to put your effort into something you want. Here was my list of priorities:

1) International world rankings: If I spend money and time on a graduate degree, I want that degree to be internationally recognized. And civil engineering at Purdue fulfilled this requisite easily. As a prospective graduate student, here are a few sources to check out:

Purdue Graduate Program Rankings

Civil Engineering Program News

2) Living costs: Did you know that each state in the USA can have different living costs? As a graduate student, the budget is my responsibility. Even for visa purposes, you need to check how much money you will need to have. Depending on the location of the university, you may need much more. Purdue is located in the state of Indiana in a small city called West Lafayette. These characteristics showed me that I could have a better-quality of life on a student budget.

3) Funding sources: Purdue is a massive university with more than 45 thousand students. And to attend this enormous student population, a significant infrastructure is necessary. The university has many student employment options that are incredibly helpful during your academic life.

4) Laboratory infrastructure: To study far away from home, there needs to be a reason. The university needs to have something that I could not find in other places. The impressive Bowen Laboratory is a research facility beyond expectations. With more resources available to you, your research and your career can go further.

5) Purdue spirit: I confess that I didn´t know about it before I arrived at the university, but it ended up confirming my choice to attend Purdue. It is a place where everybody wants to do their best. The students do not wish for grades “enough to pass”; they want to be the best student in the class. Graduate students want to solve big problems in the world. Professors and employees want to help students in any way they can. Everybody is proud to wear Purdue gear and apparel. When you are surrounded by people trying to do their best, you also push yourself harder to achieve more.

One thing that I didn’t know existed, and now is my favorite thing to do in my free time, watch a Purdue game. I love the Purdue spirit! Go Boilers!

Finding the Best Graduate School for You

Graduate school was always something I considered but was not sure about. I graduated with a biotech engineering degree from Tec de Monterrey in Chihuahua, Mexico and immediately started working at a local company, where I learned a lot. But after three years, I realized that I needed a change. Then, an opportunity opened up with a series of positions available at Purdue as a partnership with the Mexican scholarship program CONACYT and my alma mater, so I jumped right in.

To begin the graduate school process, I reviewed the open positions for potential fits for my interests. I did additional research on the labs and professors. After that, I learned that it is important to schedule the professor interviews to discuss the project and talk about your goals. After 3 years in grad school, I can safely say that this is the most essential step in choosing the best fit for grad school.

It is vital that you feel “connected” to the research or the lab, or even the professor’s research. I was lucky enough to find an excellent fit for me in the laboratory of renewable resources in the Department of Agricultural Biological Engineering at Purdue. As an international candidate to grad school, there is an additional layer of requirements. Whatever your options are, always remember to follow both the school and the country guidelines. Every department has specifics to their process, but everyone is happy to help when you ask kindly.

If I were to start grad school again, I would consider 3 essential things in my checklist. First, the laboratory or professor’s presence in the research topic areas is easy to see from publications and citations and potential job or academic opportunities. Second: the current state of the project finances; some projects might be eligible for you to look for funding opportunities or be already funded for your degree. Third, the cost of living and pay for your research work and how this payment will cover your expenses because you are expected to commit to this research for 2 to 5 years. This will not guarantee your success, but it certainly allows peace of mind for you to carry your research successfully.

Women in Engineering Department - Graduate Women in Engineering Network Leadership Team.

Funding – Where to Search for the Money

I believe, for most of the students who are looking for a graduate school, funding is one of the main concerns. At least it was my biggest fear. How am I going to pay for everything? I asked this question to myself a million times. Today after I got my master’s here at Purdue, and I am working towards my Ph.D. degree, I think I know a few things that could help other students like me.

  1. Start looking for funding inside your own country before you move to the USA. Since I arrived at Purdue, I have learned about the enormous list of countries that offer scholarships to their citizens. Check online and ask inside the universities. I never heard about those scholarships before I got mine, but if you search, you will find some help!
  2. Check other options. If the government of your country does not offer any scholarships, look for programs that help different countries. The first name that comes on top of my head is the Fulbright, but there are many others. Check all the possibilities! You truly need to spend some days in front of the computer searching for everything.
  3. Talk to your future professor. Professors here in the USA have the freedom to choose the student who will receive some type of funding, like the RA – Research Assistant or TA – Teacher Assistant. So, before you select your professor, check if he or she has any available funding.
  4. Next step, check your own department. If your professor does not have any funding available, it is not the end of the world. Sometimes the department itself is looking for graduate students to hire for TA or even GA – Graduate Assistant positions. Those GA positions can be inside the department office itself, like to help with statistics of the students and things like that.
  5. Look in other departments. For example,if you are an engineering student and the engineering department is not hiring anyone, for now, do not give up. Think about your own qualities and check where someone may need your help. The math department usually hires engineering students as well. If you speak another language, the language department may be looking to hire more TA´s.
  6. Check the Purdue jobs website. Purdue is incredibly organized. And the university has a website where you can look for positions available, including GA positions. I found my GA position on this website!  https://www.purdue.edu/studentemployment/site/
  7. Be open minded. Sometimes you can find great opportunities in different and unexpected departments. Did you know that the Women in Engineering is an official department and hires graduate students? The University Residences also hire GA´s for many different programs.

Do not give up on the first no! Keep searching. The difference between success and failure sometimes is just another try!

GA for University Residences.
My boss, my students, and me; working as GA for University Residences, supervising the University Residences Multicultural Connections club.

The writer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Civil Engineering at Purdue University.

Learn more about funding and other resources for graduate school here: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/fellowship/funding-resources-for-students/index.html

Students at Summer 2019 Commencement

Do You Want to “Survive” Graduate School?

Each year, many students across the world either join or apply for graduate school. But as we might have heard, graduate school can be stressful and the amount of demand it comes with can be inundating. As a Ph.D. Candidate myself, I have experienced some of the challenges of being in graduate school, and I am glad to share tips that can help current and/or prospective graduate students be successful.

It is okay not to be okay. Due to the pressure to do more in less time, and having little leisure time, it is common for students to experience burnout. When this happens, know that you are not alone and that you are not the only one facing such kind of pressure. Most universities in the US have health centers that handle mental health issues. Thus, it is important to accept how you feel and take steps to seek help. This might entail checking for wellness resources at your institution, sharing your concerns with professionals dealing with mental illnesses, or just knowing how to prioritize tasks so as to avoid being overloaded.

Avoid unnecessary comparison with others. As a graduate student, there are times when I have been tempted to compare my success with that of other people. But at the end of the day, I realized that we all have different aspirations and goals in life. So, instead of constantly comparing myself with others, I found it more fulfilling to measure my progress against my past and present achievements. As you start your degree, set your own goals and work towards achieving them!

Manage your time well: In graduate school each minute counts! Plan ahead for all the assignments and tasks and make sure you spend your time well. Do not wait till the last minute to do all your assignments. Instead, break assignments into smaller parts then work on these parts at a time. Each little progress will amount to one giant leap in the end!

Remain on schedule: One of the ways of ensuring you graduate on time is discussing all the milestones you need to accomplish with your graduate advisor. For instance, know how many courses you should take each semester, know if you will be required to write a thesis or take the non-thesis track, and know the requirements of each track. Having regular meetings with my advisor is also another way that has helped me to constantly review my progress and adjust accordingly to suit various situations.

Stay engaged: There are many ways in which you can remain active on campus. Find a club to join, or even the gym for some regular exercises. Having volunteered as a Global Ambassador for the past 2 years, I have seen the value of volunteering as I have been able to build a network of friendships that have always come in handy. For me, staying engaged has been a good way of breaking from the rigorous academic schedule, and taking time to have fun! Remember graduate school will be as interesting or as boring as you choose. So, have fun and be happy!!

The writer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Health Communication at Purdue University.

Learn more about graduate programs offered at Purdue: https://www.purdue.edu/gradschool/

IEEE Group

Expand Your Network: Honor Society & Fraternity I

I have heard that fraternity and sorority are kind of a must-joining for undergraduate students in their college life especially there are some movies talking about the Greek life. People are proud of being brothers or sisters in their fraternity or sorority. They have the same missions and goals to complete some projects. In most of movies, they describe the fraternity and sorority in a funny, weird, and downside way. It seems like people only do parties and hang over all the time. But, how about in the real life? Is it true that brothers’ and sisters’ lives are what movies demonstrate? Also some people think honor society as an evil cult. The elites do something secret and are isolated. Is that true? Let me tell you MY experiences and break the rumors.

The chapter also hosts companies for recruiting events, runs a student lab space, performs community service, and hosts weekly social events for members and friends.

I joined Eta Kappa Nu (ΗΚΝ) Beta Chapter, an honor society for students who excel in the field of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. HKN or IEEE-HKN is the international honor society of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The organization promotes excellence in the profession and in education through an emphasis on scholarship, character, and attitude. Membership is a lifelong designation for individuals who have distinguished themselves as students or as professionals in the fields of IEEE interest. There are 263 IEEE-HKN chapters worldwide now. Membership in HKN is limited to the top third of seniors, the top fourth of juniors, and the top fifth of sophomores. Graduate students are also eligible for membership beginning in their second semester of graduate study. 

HKN Beta is best known at Purdue for the member staffed HKN Student Lounge (EE room 24). https://engineering.purdue.edu/hkn/

One day there was an email for HKN callout. I had no idea what it was but my friend wanted to attend and encouraged me to go. So, I went to the callout and learned what HKN was and how to become a member. Before being initiated as an active member, people are called “pledges,” and pledges need to complete all requirements before the initiation. In Beta Chapter, for example, some requirements are volunteering for a community service project, attending one social event (TGIF), and participating in lounge cleaning. After completing all requirements, pledges go to initiation, a ceremony conducted by the officers of HKN to induct the pledges into the honor society of HKN. Since the initiation is unique and secret in every honor society, I will not talk more about this exciting part (Come join and you will discover!)

HKN Lounge Alone! Come to visit the Lounge!! Free Bagel NAND Donut Day when companies sponsor with Tech talks!

After being as an active member, there are still some requirements that members need to complete every semester such as doing at least 2 hours community service and ECE service, working weekly Person-On-Duty (POD) at the Lounge, etc.

The lounge accepts cash only! Active member needs to work the POD for at least two hours every semester. It is a good time to meet and talk to more people and ECE faculty members.

Since I did many volunteering service in the Greater Lafayette, one of my recruitment directors, Héctor E Rodríguez, encouraged me to be the Volunteer Director. I would really like to thank him for starting my leadership development. I was successfully elected as Volunteer Director. During that year, I have provided many volunteer opportunities for the members to participate. They were all inspired by my passion and did a great job on the service. Now they have good relationship with some community partners and volunteering with them regularly. Under my hardworking, HKN was nominated for “The Community Engagement & Involvement Award” in the annual Student Activities and Organization award in 2014.

My outstanding HKN Officers

Besides, I have learned how to contact people and organizations efficiently, how to encourage students when they felt bored or tired during the service, and how to lead people. I now feel more confident while talking to foreign friends. Also, I have become more outgoing and think positively. Lots of my friends are also inspired by my enthusiasm and now we are doing the happy volunteer service together! The leadership made me more organized and communicative.

Giving paddle to the graduate at the banquet

A year later, another Recruitment Director, Nadra Guizani, encouraged me to be the President when I expressed my interest. I felt it was a good opportunity to lead HKN but I was not sure I had this ability to do that. She gave me many positive supports and……. I was elected! 

When I was President in Spring 2015, HKN had the most members ever, and still many ECE students were interested in and wanted to join the society. My goal was to make HKN more publicity and have our members more united. I made the sandwich board and put outside ECE building, so all the people have chance to come to our very own student lounge and buy delicious coffees. In the meantime, I also tried to connect members in a good relationship and to give back to ECE Department. 

Semester Banquet

I was so happy to join HKN and did not regret. I met many smart and nice people, and we supported each other. I want to especially thank my two Recruitment Directors, Héctor E Rodríguez and Nadra Guizani, for bringing me to the HKN and they are like my mentors. They helped me and encouraged me a lot in many ways so I could try many new things in HKN. I also understand more about myself, how I react to different situations, how to negotiate and compromise, how to solve the conflict, etc. 

Turkey Suit Fundraising: The week leading up to Thanksgiving break, several faculty members in ECE compete to raise donations for charity. The faculty member who receives the most gets to choose any charity they like to which all the donations go. Additionally, they must wear the turkey suit to the class they teach ahead of break, incentivizing their students to donate.
HKN Student Leadership Conference: a signature program of the society and is an opportunity for members to meet with other officers, members, faculty advisers, members of the Board of Governors, and staff. The conference includes opportunities for professional development, leadership training, and networking.
I made a poster of what community service HKN does generally every year.

I am honored to be HKN member!

I was the recipient of HKN Outstanding Active. Pretty surprised when the President announced my name in the banquet!
I LOVE HKN!
One of TG events: Halloween Party Night

How about fraternity? Stay tuned! That will be another fantastic story!

Mavs’ Tips and Tricks with Google Calendar

Hello everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For today’s post, I want to share with you some of Google Calendar’s tips and tricks that I have found helpful in graduate school. I am now in my third year in my Ph.D. program and I have finished my required classes. I am also working as a research assistant.  That means LOTS OF UNSTRUCTURED TIME! Now, for some people having unstructured time means having a lot of free time… But for me having a lot of unstructured time is dangerous — because there are days when I would rather watch the latest Korean drama than work on my research. So how do I deal with it? Let me show you the ways…

1. Use Google calendar.

I love my Google calendar. I am super dependent on it – I have it on my phone and it is the first thing I access when I get in the office. I have also configured it to send me an e-mail every day at 5 am to inform me about everything I need to do. Here’s a screenshot on how to configure the settings to get it to send you email notifications. (The settings shows up when you click the gear icon near the upper right corner)

2. Have multiple calendars and color code them. 

I have multiple calendars but I make sure that I see all of it in its entirety. Now you may wonder, why multiple calendars? I have calendars I share with research group members for projects and  I would only want to share relevant information ((You wouldn’t want your project members to know that you have a dentist appointment when it doesn’t concern them!)).

Keeping multiple calendars – and a separate one for my personal needs (sleeping, exercise) also ensures that I actually get some shut eye. One of my resolutions this year is to sleep better because it makes me a more functional person, a better grad student and a happier person in general.

Now, what’s with the color coding? Color coding also helps you track your time. I found tracking how much time I spend on projects keeps me accountable and helps me make better-informed decisions on how I spend my time. Supposing, I have 10 hours to spend on Project X, and 5 hours on Project Y and found myself needing more hours on Project Y because Task 1 took much longer, I can readjust my time based on what I may have done in the past.

Here’s a screenshot of what my work week looks like this week.

3. Mark milestones on the calendar. 

This year I wanted to be more strategic on how I spend my time on projects. I am attending multiple conferences and if I am not mindful the deadline just creeps in without me knowing. So I decided to plan my semester. If you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out NCFDD’s Every Semester Needs a Plan https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/semesterplan18 and Aligning Your Priorities https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/18sundaymeet webinar. The site requires you to register but the webinars are extremely helpful in helping you break down big goals into smaller tasks and making time for them! I highly recommend them.

Anyway, I mark milestones in my calendar to let me know that by some time period I should have finished Project X’s section three.  You can set it up by adding all-day events. Here’s what it looks like:

I also use the milestone function to inform me of bills, conferences, big events I need to be mindful of.

4. Use the hyperlink to keep track of written documents.

One trick I have found very useful – especially if you use Google Drive to share documents with team members is to use the hyperlinks to inform members of any changes you have made on a written document. I also make a short note to inform them what I have done for that particular time period. It is a great accountability tool and you can see the status of the project.

Here’s a screenshot of what it looks like:

5. Use the task function.

I use the task function for things that do not require more than 15 minutes of my time or things I just need to remember (e.g. Return Yan’s bowl from the dinner party). I also use it to remind me of where I parked my car (I developed a coding scheme to inform me of which floor and which row I parked my car in Grant Street Parking Garage).

6. Have a Friday meeting.

I usually reflect and populate my calendar for the upcoming week before I leave work on Friday.  I spend about 30 minutes going through the process of listing down everything I need to do the following week (readings, writing I need to work on, etc) and then populating my calendar. Having a plan before my new week starts helps me prime myself for the next work week ahead. And oh, I consciously take a day off each week – to run errands, to recuperate, and to rest. Taking a break is good for one’s soul. Because I have a plan made on Friday, by Monday, when I pick up my work I know exactly what I need to do.

7. Be flexible.

One thing I had to wrap my head around is the idea that YOU WILL NEVER finish all the things you want to do and you have to be flexible in how to manage your time. There would be days when I swap one scheduled task for another – that’s okay, if it makes more sense, then why not? You also have to realize that for some tasks you will encounter technical difficulties (e.g., the task you scheduled was dependent on something else, you don’t have the appropriate tools for the scheduled task), psychological blocks (e.g. you find yourself dealing with debilitating anxiety) and external realities (e.g. you need to rush to the emergency room, etc). It’s okay, you don’t need to beat yourself up for it. You acknowledge the challenges and find ways to deal with them. Also, some times you need to be creative with how you use your time… I would walk on the treadmill as I finish my readings – I get my exercise and my reading done.

I hope the things I shared with you helps you somehow… The key is to find what works for you. 🙂

 

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