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Start Fall Quarter Off On the Right Foot!

To all graduate students across the tri-campus University of Washington community, we extend a warm welcome and welcome back! There is a definite buzz in the air, as everyone plans for grad school experiences, tasks and projects that lie ahead or are already in progress. And while we know that there will be demands on your time — including many opportunities to cultivate your interpersonal, academic and professional growth — we hope the following tips help you make the most of your grad school experiences in the coming weeks and months.

Acknowledge imposter syndrome (but don’t stop there). If you’re feeling that you’re somehow not smart enough or don’t have what it takes to succeed in graduate school, you are not alone. Many grad students experience what’s called imposter syndrome — feelings and self-talk that makes us doubt our sense of belonging, our strengths and talents, and our capabilities. And we can experience imposter syndrome in different ways, based on our various identities and backgrounds. But you know what? These doubts are simply not true. You are good enough, and you do belong here. Approach being in grad school like it’s a marathon, not a sprint, with goals and milestones that you can achieve one step at a time. Check out these tips for coping with imposter syndrome.

Connect with community. Being a grad student can feel isolating at times, especially when you have so many demands on your schedule. Yet this feeling of isolation doesn’t have to be the norm. Whether you are new to the UW or returning to your campus, seek out opportunities to build intellectual and professional relationships with peers both within and outside your department. You are also a whole person — not just a student — so we encourage you to allow space in your schedule to foster relationships with community beyond the UW based on your social and cultural identities, hobbies, faith or spirituality, and values.

One opportunity to connect with peers is at the Graduate Student Resource Fair on Seattle campus, scheduled for Thursday, October 18 (3–6 p.m.) in the HUB Lyceum and organized by the Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS). Save the date and attend this event to learn about campus resources available to you and network with peers from across disciplines! If you’re staying for the reception, bring your ID and Husky ID. This event is open to all UW graduate and professional students.

Build a mentoring team. Invest the time to seek out and build your mentor team who can advise, guide and cheer you on as you work towards your academic, professional and interpersonal goals. We recommend that you build yourself a mentor team, because while no one mentor can support you on all levels, a team can. As this UW Graduate School resource page states, “While mentors can be faculty members, they can be your peers, advanced graduate students; departmental staff; retired faculty; faculty from other departments, colleges or universities; and professionals outside the university.” Having a mentoring team can make the difference between surviving or thriving in grad school. Check out these UW guides on finding the best mentors for you.

Best wishes on a great start to fall quarter!


Core Programs—Office of Graduate Student Affairs
The Graduate School

Being Intentional and Productive This Summer

Summer is the perfect time to make room for activities and experiences that will help you be—and feel–prepared for the coming academic year! The pace can feel slower during this time of the year, and there’s a little more wiggle room to be intentional about visualizing and achieving your intellectual, professional, and interpersonal goals. Maybe you’re starting from scratch (or already have some initial goals) and just need a plan of action. Maybe you need some structured time and support to work on a writing project? Or maybe you’re interested in career development activities?

No matter where you’re at, below are some initial strategies that can help you create intentional space for productivity this summer!

Summer is the perfect time to make room for activities and experiences that will help you be—and feel–prepared for the coming academic year! The pace can feel slower during this time of the year, and there’s a little more wiggle room to be intentional about visualizing and achieving your intellectual, professional, and interpersonal goals. Maybe you’re starting from scratch (or already have some initial goals) and just need a plan of action. Maybe you need some structured time and support to work on a writing project? Or maybe you’re interested in career development activities?

No matter where you’re at, below are some initial strategies that can help you create intentional space for productivity this summer!

Create a plan to meet your goals. As graduate students—and as whole people with complex lives—we know that completing your graduate degree is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to meeting your goals. And we know it takes time to reflect on the skills you already possess—and the academic, professional, and interpersonal competencies you’d like to develop in the future.  Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) can help you map out realistic, achievable goals for your time in graduate school and beyond. Use your IDP as a roadmap for meeting with mentors and advisors. What’s great about an IDP is that you can adapt and revise as you see fit!

Make progress on your writing. Whether you are working on a thesis, dissertation, or an article for publication, set achievable and concrete writing goals for yourself this summer.  In past Core Programs newsletters, we encouraged you to start out by setting aside 15 min. blocks of time to write each day. Then try working your way up to 30 min. chunks of time. You’ll eventually see that you’re making progress.  Reach out to peers (they can be peers outside of your graduate program too) to schedule skype and/or in-person writing support group meetings.You can receive and share constructive feedback on writing projects and hold each other accountable to getting tasks done. Finally, here are great tips on how to move past feeling stuck in a writing rut from Dr. Kerry Anne Rockquemore, President of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity.

Get involved in professional development activities. There are many ways to brush up on your professional development this summer. 1) Update your CV or resume with skills and professional experiences you have gained from 2016-2017. 2) Identify conferences you’d like to present your work at for the coming year, and mark those proposal and registration deadlines on your calendar. 3) Set up informational interviews to network with professionals currently working in fields or companies you’re interested in working for. 4) Volunteer in your local community to gain skills and to give back. 4) Contact your UW career center at Bothell, Tacoma, or Seattle for guidance with your internship or job search. 5) Check out just a few of our Core Programs newsletter links below on professional development:

Research funding opportunities. Whether you are seeking travel funds to participate in an academic or professional conference or grants to fund your research, start by learning about the breadth of possible funding opportunities available to you. Because application deadlines and eligibility requirements vary widely—and can sneak up on you when you’re busy during the academic year—it’s always a good idea to plan in advance.

Funding Information Resources

We hope you find these strategies useful, and please let us know of tips that worked for you!


Core Programs Team

Why Celebrate?

We know this time of year is intense. There are flyers, emails, and Facebook posts about all kinds of events. When you are buried in final deadlines, it can be hard to think about attending anything. If you haven’t done so already, below are a few reasons why you should consider going to a UW end of year event. It’s worth it on many levels. Plus, you deserve it!

Celebrate being present. Graduate school is more like a marathon with obstacle courses than a sprint. We can get so caught up in the stress of everything we need to get done, that we either forget — or don’t realize — that it is possible for each of us to slow down and decrease the pressure. Between classes or meetings, take slow, deep breaths. Arrive 15 minutes early to your next appointment to reduce feeling stressed out. And as Kyla Minguez recommends in The Importance of Slowing Down, “Rushing makes us stressed, causes us to overlook important details of our lives, and fuels egocentrism… Take some time to wait between tasks. Drink a glass of water, watch the sky… whatever you need to do, just relax.” And don’t underestimate the power of just showing up for someone; your presence can make a huge difference.

Celebrate milestones. This can apply to everyone — from those of you who are graduating in just a few weeks to those of who you are still working toward your degrees next year — recognize and reward yourself for each step you have taken toward completing your degree. No one else is going to do this except you. Completed your first year in your grad program? Take yourself out to dinner (and invite a peer or friend or two). Wrote one sentence, paragraph, or page of your doctoral dissertation? Go camping for the weekend, because we know the sheer amount of concentration and determination it takes to even write one sentence of your dissertation. Set up an informational interview with a professional whose job mirrors your career interests? Go ahead, put your phone on silent and stream your favorite TV show for several hours. However you decide to reward yourself, enjoy it!

Celebrate in community. From departmental to university-wide ceremonies, we encourage you to consider the positive aspects of attending end-of-year events. Why? 1) Being around people can help you feel less isolated and can get you out of your head. 2) Related to the first point, you’ll never know what potential friendships or professional connections you’ll make if you don’t go. 3) Depending on the event, stay for as little or as long as you want. 4) Last but not least, there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to enjoy free food and refreshments!

Again, we hope you take some time to participate in one of several end-of-year celebrations across our tri-campus communities at the University of Washington!


Core Programs Team

Re-Energize For the Final Push

Spring quarter can be a hectic and nerve-wracking time. Many of you are preparing to graduate while in the midst of job searches or considering job offers. Others are continuing work related to earning that graduate degree next year — or within the next several years. Every day this quarter, we truly see how hard you’re all working.

Last week on the Seattle campus, first-generation graduate students gathered and utilized collage-making as a creative practice to focus on things re-energize them for this last leg of the quarter. As you gather your own energy for these final weeks, consider some of the prompt questions from that gathering. We hope you find these strategies useful:

List out, activities, responsibilities or other things that are draining your energy right now. Initially, this may seem like an odd prompt to consider. Yet sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, anxious or just plain frustrated with the sheer amount of work we do on a daily or weekly basis, we can get in a real funk and start believing that we don’t have any control over our lives. We recommend taking just three to five minutes to brainstorm a list. Then step back and consider what things you can let go of, minimize or set boundaries around.

Focus on what you do have control over. Do you have too many commitments, some of which you can realistically hold off on? Would breaking down projects into manageable tasks be helpful to you? Is your workspace cluttered (we are guilty of this one!), and can you find a different space such as a cafe or library to work? Are you taking breaks from social media, especially when your news feed feels like too much? Are there individuals in your life who zap the energy out of you, whom you don’t have to interact with? (Note: this last one is complicated, because what about individuals whom we have to interact with regularly? Check out this article).

Make room for moments, people and activities (cultural, spiritual, creative, community-based) that bring you energy. On your bathroom mirror or in your workspace, post a quote that you helps you feel motivated. Start your day by listening to a song that energizes or soothes you. Make time in your schedule to call or spend time with a friend or loved one. Step away from work and take a 10 minute walk outside to enjoy the sunshine. Participate in activities or hobbies that validate all of who you are — because you are not just graduate students but whole people. If it helps, create your own vision board collage with images of your favorite energizing elements so you can see them everyday.

We hope that you take time to participate in one of several end-of-year celebrations across the University of Washington. You deserve it!


Core Programs Team

Lonely and Isolated in Grad School

I am a first year Ph.D. student and feel lonely all the time. There are several days when I go without any human contact except with students in my office hours. It’s strangely suffocating. I am still not part of any lab, so there are no labmates to hang out with. My classmates go to their labs straight after class so can’t hang out after class.

—Is This How It’s Supposed To Be

This post originally ran November 2016. It has been updated slightly. 

This answer is courtesy of Jaye Sablan, assistant director, Core Programs, Office of Student Affairs in the the Graduate School.

First off, thank you so much for reaching out. I know how hard it can be in academia to share emotional vulnerability, and I totally hear you. Graduate school and its demands can create an atmosphere that feels isolating and alienating to graduate students. No, this is *not* how graduate school is supposed to be, or how it needs to be, though we hear you that this is how it *is.* Know that your feelings are totally normal, and many grad students have similar experiences. When I was in grad school, the cues that I was feeling disconnected were usually a combination of headaches, not being able to eat, inability to focus, and generally feeling alone on a campus with thousands of people around me. It also didn’t help that faculty, staff, and grad peers were busy in their own work that they (unintentionally) failed to notice I was struggling.

Here are a few things that helped me manage feeling isolated, and I’m wondering if they would be helpful to you:

  • What do I need right now at this moment to feel connected to my body? A stretch, deep breaths, a healthy snack, a glass of water.
  • Whom can I connect with to talk things through or feel vulnerable with (this one is a tough one, but you’ve already reached out to me ITHISTB)? Family members or friends via a visit, phone call or Skype, my department’s GPA, off- or on-campus counselors (reaching out to more than one person is better).
  • If I can’t connect with peers in my department yet, what organizations on campus can get me those face-to-face connections with other grads? GPSS and their events, grad student organizations, Center for Teaching and Learning (you mentioned being a TA, so that might be a place to start), Core Programs, etc.
  • What other interests do have I have outside of academia that I need to intentionally make room for in my schedule? Dancing, going to see live music, baking, visiting museums, town hall talks, getting to know the city that I moved to for grad school.

Again, ITHISTB, I am so very grateful that you reached out, and I hope this message resonates with you. Again, no, this is not how graduate school should be, and there are ways to decrease isolation — including connecting with others, which is so important and vital for all of us studying and working in academia. If you’d like, please let me know if you’d like a specific list of campus resources to connect with. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Ask Your Grad School Guide is an advice column for all y’all graduate and professional students. Real questions from real students, answered by real people. If the Guide doesn’t know the answer, the Guide will seek out experts all across campus to address the issue. (Please note: The Guide is not a medical doctor, therapist, lawyer or academic advisor, and all advice offered here is for informational purposes only.) Submit a question for the column →

Slowing Down, Being Present

As the spring quarter begins, we know that many of you will be experiencing anxiety over fulfilling requirements for your very first —or final — year in your grad program, planning your career trajectory beyond the UW, or managing your time to balance work, family, and graduate school. As the weeks go by, the work will seem to just pile up. This is real.

The good thing is, you can approach being a graduate student from a totally different perspective — by being intentional and mindful. We invite you to take a deep breath (really, a full breath in and out), create some space for yourself to slow down, and check out some possible strategies for being mindful that you can consider incorporating into your schedule.

Resist busyness. There’s an unspoken culture in graduate school that perpetuates the idea that over-productivity is a good thing: that performing and talking about how busy we are is key to being successful in a graduate program. Stanford Career Coach Dr. Chris Golde offers a different perspective and states, “Graduate students report more than can be done.” She recommends slowing down “to make peace with [our] limitations,” and says “there will always be those around you — students and faculty — who accomplish far more than you do. Hold yourself to a standard of what is realistic for you.”

Set achievable goals. It can be tempting during this time of the year to be overly ambitious about your goals, and setting an unrealistic standard for yourself can actually lead to you not achieving what’s most important to you — whether you are in career planning mode, completing your capstone, thesis or dissertation, or working on or off campus. Again, we invite you to slow down. We know that when we were in graduate school, goal setting wasn’t something that we suddenly knew how to do. Take some time to map out and visualize your goals. And finally, we encourage you to reward yourself for each task you complete towards your end goals.

Be mindful. Mindfulness can simply be defined as taking time to observe your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations from moment to moment, without judgment. Why would this be beneficial to practice while you are in graduate school? Research has shown that over time, mindfulness can help us be more compassionate to ourselves and people in our communities, help us be less reactive and more calm in the face of conflict, and help us increase our focus to what truly matters in our lives.

We hope these strategies are helpful to you as you as you navigate the new quarter!

Your mental health and well-being matter to us,

Core Programs Team

What to do if you experience sexual harassment or assault

This article was written in consultation with Valery Richardson, interim Title IX coordinator, Compliance Services. 

We hope that you will never face sexual harassment or assault here on campus, but we understand the reality that you may. This week, the Guru will walk you through the steps you can take, and resources that are available to you at the UW, if you are a victim of sexual misconduct.   

Sexual harassment — including sexual violence or sexual assault — is prohibited by Title IX. The best source for UW information can be found on two websites: the Sexual Assault Resources website and the Title IX website.   

For email or phone support, SafeCampus is staffed 24–7 and is a good place to start if you have personally experienced harassment or assault or receive information that someone else experienced harassment or assault. SafeCampus can provide immediate safety planning, provide important information about your rights and resources, and connect you with a confidential advocate who can help you consider all of your options and how to make a plan for your situation.

For victims of sexual assault, SafeCampus loosely breaks down your options into steps — which you could choose to initiate in any order that makes sense to you.  

Anyone who has experienced harassment, assault, or another form of sexual misconduct is encouraged to contact an advocateAdvocates will confidentially provide support, information and resources. An advocate will allow you to share your experience in as much or as little detail as you would like, discuss your options for medical and mental health care, and help you make a plan for your safety and for reducing the impact of this experience at the UW. Meeting with an advocate does not trigger an investigation by the UW or the police.  

If you have been sexually assaulted, seeking medical care can help to treat or prevent illness and injury. It’s also important for preserving evidence. You may also seek a disability accommodation if you are experiencing the impacts of a medical condition.  

You have the right to report sexual misconduct to the University, to the police, to both or not at all. If you choose to report an instance of sexual harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence to the UW, the University will conduct a prompt, fair and impartial investigation to determine whether a University policy or code — such as the Student Conduct Code or Executive Order No. 31 — has been violated.  

If you choose to file a police report, you have the right to have a support person or advocate with you. You may choose to file a report without pursuing an investigation or prosecution. For more information about criminal and civil proceedings that can result from a sexual assault report, please see the Sexual Assault Resources website 

If a friend has experienced sexual misconduct, there are ways you can provide support. Remember to be a good listener, avoid passing judgment, and provide your friend with options and resources for healing, emotional processing, and for learning the steps to file a complaint.  

If you wish to take action to reduce sexual violence on campus, you can learn about bystander awareness and join a group of Peer Health Educators through SafeCampus.  

When You’re Feeling Doubts About Graduate School

Feeling self-doubt about whether or not you belong in graduate school is actually a normal experience for many Master’s and doctoral Students. These doubts and anxieties can arise for any number of reasons. Below are just a few that we’ve heard about from your peers, and maybe they will resonate with you as well. Included are tips and strategies on how to move through these feelings.

Feeling like an imposter. Ever feel like you’re not intelligent enough to be in graduate school: like somehow your peers or department will “find out that you’re just not cut out” to be at the UW? Also known as imposter syndrome, these nagging, negative feelings and self-talk are actually quite common for most graduate students, and can make you question your talents, strengths, and resilience. Remember that you do belong in graduate school because you are passionate about your research project, enhancing your professional development, or wanting to make a positive contribution to your communities by earning a graduate degree.

Accessing resources. Your life is busy: balancing your degree requirements, a job or two, and family or community responsibilities is quite a task even when all those areas of your life are important to you. During the thick of it all, anxiety can creep up and make you feel like you aren’t capable of fulfilling your goals and commitments. It’s in those moments, that you can pause and ask yourself: Am I getting my needs met? Maybe there’s a campus or community resource you need to access to make sure you are getting what you need on an individual level, whether that be your campus recreation center, alone or quiet time with a good book or a walk, quality time with friends off campus, mental health support, or even a good meal.

Feeling exhausted. We know you’re all working hard as graduate students, and hard work can get the best of us. Given the rigors of graduate school, this can lead to feelings of exhaustion or possibly even burnout. Again, take pause. Can you ask for an extension on a project? Do you need to take an academic leave of absence? Even better, is there someone you can check in with to help you make a plan for getting much-needed rest, along with ways to move forward after your break? The length of your break is particular to you and your circumstances. Recognizing that you need some time away doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you are invested in your success as a whole person.

Remembering your purpose. It’s good to reflect back on why you decided to be a graduate student. Once you are in graduate school, your reasons may actually change over time, especially as you continue to explore how your degree may get you where you want to be in the future. Sometimes your interests and needs really do change, and the path you are on may no longer serve you. This is also a normal experience for many graduate students, and you can talk about it with people you trust on your mentoring team, with close friends, or you can schedule an appointment to talk with us at Core Programs. Talking it over with people you trust can help make sure that your judgment isn’t being clouded by any of the reasons we discussed above. And making an informed decision to take what you have learned thus far, and bringing it into your next phase of life, can be just what you need to do.

We hope you find these strategies useful and let us know what has worked for you!

Best Regards,

Core Programs Team

5 tips to boost your productivity

All of us struggle with motivation at different times, and winter can be particularly challenging. That said, it can also be a good time to hunker down and get some work done. Whether you plan to stay in academia or not, you will need written products coming out of your postdoc years to demonstrate what you have accomplished. Perhaps you are also finishing up publications from your doctoral research or laying the groundwork for a new research direction. Recently, the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development (NCFDD)’s “Monday Motivator” featured 5 tips for productivity.

  1. Create a plan. How? Dr. Rockquemore writes: “It’s a simple process: 1) list your writing and wellness goals for the remainder of this calendar year, 2) map out all the steps that are needed to complete your goals, and 3) figure out when that work will get done.” While it may not be in your skill set yet, it is truly simple once you start. During your next work week, put “Planning” in your calendar for a 1-2 hour block and work through it. This is your work. This is a great time to revisit your Individualized Development Plan (IDP).
  2. Write every day. We also know that your own writing is the task that will consistently get put aside for other demands (e.g. lab meeting, responding to your advisor, looking up one more article, sifting through Facebook, etc.). Research shows that if you dedicate just 30 minutes a day to writing (really writing), you will make consistent progress toward a writing goal and complete a product faster than if you hope for a half-day or protected Saturday that never does emerge.
  3. Join a group of daily committed writers. You are not alone. We all have to write and produce. Just like a regular exercise or spiritual practice, if you are connected with others who are also committed, it helps you sustain the practice. You can meet face-to-face for your blocks of writing time or just stay connected online and check-in, which gets to the next point:
  4. Commit to regular accountability. Tell someone your goals and plans, and schedule a check-in meeting (virtually or in-person) to see how it is going. In the short-term, this can be yourself. Apps such as Grid Diary can help you self-assess at the end of the day what 3 things you accomplished, and set personal goals for how tomorrow can be better.
  5. Find dedicated mentors. All of this takes hard work, and sifting through the noise that comes at you on a daily basis. Find mentors—you should have a full team—who genuinely are invested in your success (see blog posts on mentoring). They can help hold you accountable, prioritize what needs to happen, strategize where products need to go, and troubleshoot when things fall through the cracks (which they will).

If you are interested in signing up for a weekly email with these Monday Motivator tips from NCFDD, or checking out other writing resources on their website, you can login with the UW membership.

Staying Motivated During the Winter

Whether you are new to the beautiful Pacific Northwest or have lived here for several years, the winter season can serve as a helpful reminder to engage in habits that motivate and inspire you to do your best work. Below are a few strategies that can help keep you energized throughout the quarter.

Stay hydrated. You may feel more fatigued during darker and colder weather. One way to increase your energy is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Have you ever forgotten to stay hydrated because your work and personal lives are so busy? We have, too. It may sound silly, but try scheduling a daily reminder for yourself to drink a glass of water (at least once an hour) or to fill up your water bottle before heading to the classroom or work.

Fuel up. The Pacific Northwest is known for its love of caffeine. And while not everyone drinks coffee or tea — for those of us who do — caffeine offers that added boost of alertness during early winter mornings or afternoons. Another way to boost your energy is by incorporating fresh fruit, whole grains or nuts into your diet during the season. 

Connect with community. To maintain momentum throughout the quarter, it’s so important to connect with peers, advisors, mentors and friends. Maybe you need a studying, project or writing accountability partner. Or it might be time to schedule an appointment with your faculty advisor to check in about your project goals. Even still, the combination of the winter season and balancing a busy schedule can sometimes lead to unintentional isolation. So make time to connect with friends — over the phone or lunch, at the movies or at an event — as this is an important part of self-care.

Reach out for support. Stress in graduate school can contribute to periods of anxiety as well as feelings of self-doubt. If left unchecked, stress and anxiety can lead to serious mental health issues. If you are experiencing intense or prolonged periods of anxiety, or need emotional support for another reason, we encourage you to seek support from qualified mental health professionals on or off campus. And remember, there is no shame in doing so.

We hope you find these tips useful for navigating the winter quarter, and let us know what has worked for you!


Core Programs