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Strengthening Yourself for the Last Leg of the Quarter

We at Core Programs recognize and respect all the hard work you’ve been doing as graduate students during this winter.  We know that Winter quarter can be especially challenging given the weather, the darkness, and the usual stressors of navigating a graduate program. The good news is that the light is returning and the quarter is coming to a close!  For this final push, we offer a few strategies. Maybe one or more will serve you:

Saying “Not Right Now”.  We know that many of you are balancing personal and family time, school, and work responsibilities, and we encourage you to take a pragmatic look at your schedule for the next few weeks.  What can you absolutely hold off on doing for now (that you can then return to later)?  What do you absolutely need to make room for?  Whom do you need to say no to?  With the rhythm of the quarter system, there are time intensive moments where you have to keep your head down and focus. There’s a lot to do, but it will pass by quickly.  Then you can once again say “yes” to other things after the quarter is done.

Schedule your needs. Put the most important things you need to accomplish in your calendar, including self-care practices. When it comes to working on those final seminar papers, consider setting aside 30-60 minutes a day to work on a draft versus trying to do it all in one sitting.  Writing in smaller chunks will help you feel better knowing that you are making regular progress. Believe it or not, scheduling yourself for 30 minutes of exercise, or connecting with someone important, can make a difference in your overall productivity.  So can getting enough sleep!  While many people do gain energy from looming deadlines and big pushes of work, suffering isn’t a requirement of graduate school. We just can’t do our best work, if we are constantly in a stressed and exhausted state of mind.

Ask for help.  Now is as good a time as any to reach out for help.  Do you feel stuck on an individual project and don’t know how to move forward?  If you haven’t done so already, connect with peers in your program who are further along in their graduate work.  More often than not, they have strategies that worked for them, that you can then try out for yourself.  If you are having a hard time finding someone in your department, get a list of peer referrals from your Graduate Program Advisor or a student organization on campus that you relate to.  Or maybe you need to reach out to your professor for an extension all together—because life happens. There is no shame in this at all.  Asking for what you need is a sign of honest self-assessment and shows you are taking responsibility for yourself. But you have to act fast.  Either drop in during your professor’s office hours or send them an email with your extension request, with a reasonable deadline for when you plan to submit your work (this may have to be negotiated depending on your professor’s upcoming schedule).  If you’re communicating by e-mail, you can put “Time Sensitive Request” in the subject line and follow up with your professor as needed.

Reward yourself.   Make room in your schedule to celebrate yourself for all the work you’ve done—however small or big the milestone.  Recognizing your achievements is so important, as no one else will make time in your schedule to do so except for you.  When you have many important deadlines at the end of the quarter, consider allowing yourself a small celebration after a project is done–before you turn to the next task or project.  Plus, it really allows you to be present with your progress in graduate school.  You are doing a ton of work!  Go for a walk with a friend.  Make yourself a nice dinner.  Go dancing (and get to the venue before the cover charge).  Take a short dive into Netflix.  Schedule a game night in with friends, or 21 other affordable examples of treating yourself.

We love hearing from you!  Let us know your strategies for getting through Winter Quarter!


Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

It’s a Long Road: Take Care of Yourself

Winter quarter is often a time when energy can get low and isolation can get more intense. This year especially there are more events and unknowns that can add to the already high anxiety of being a postdoc. At the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, along with Core Programs in the Graduate School, we’ve been pulling together tips that we hear about and continue to practice ourselves. Here are just a few insights to share:

Resilience. These times, and this work, require resilience—and this means investing in yourself and those practices that fuel you.

Beyond “Self-Care.” We often talk about self-care, yet we can also work toward “communities of caring.” Those are acts of self-care that involve connecting with others, finding ways to reach into your network rather than merely escaping.

Get What You Need. Ask for support, ask for an extension, practice asking for what you need with trusted allies.  That said, there are times to escape.  Take a social media holiday, embrace solitude and quiet, completely let go into a Netflix moment, or whatever allows you to unplug. Pay attention to activities that calm you, restore you, re-energize you, and remind you why you are doing the work you do.  We all need some of each.

Be (Self) Forgiving. And be gentle with yourself, and others.  Everyone is tired, stressed and stretched at varying levels and for different reasons.  We will each make mis-steps. Acknowledge your own limitations — and those of others — and give yourself a generous read with compassion.

Keep It Real. Finally, you need to give yourself room to feel the full spectrum of emotions like anger, frustration, overwhelmed-ness, fear. Yet staying triggered in these states can exhaust and deplete you.  Work with trusted friends to vent and then identify ways to move forward that work for you.

At a January event with First Gen graduate students, staff, and faculty — people who are the first in their immediate families to earn undergraduate degrees and who are now working on obtaining (or have obtained) advanced degrees — brainstormed ways to do more to invest in ourselves and each other. We share these concrete practices here with you in hopes they might inspire a new commitment of your own!

  • Be okay with stepping back & saying no – you deserve space and time too
  • Embrace a guilt-free mind when it comes to self-care
  • Give time over to you: take a spa day, join a team, play video games, balance your finances, journal, get exercise….
  • Put yourself on your calendar so it happens!
  • Reach out to your community — inside and outside of your research group
  • Hold each other accountable to self-care practices
  • Reach out to mentors and advisors
  • Go out and be politically active on issues that are important to you

Caring doesn’t have a to be a big project.  It can be as simple as checking in with someone and asking how they’re doing (for real).

And check out these additional resources for more ideas:


You’ve Got (Too Much) Mail

I get a LOT of email (including this one, no offense), and I can’t keep up. How do I get off all of these email lists? Shouldn’t there be one place I can change my preferences? —Anonymous

I feel your pain, really I do. Unfortunately, just due to the sheer size of this university and the autonomy of various units, there is no one definitive, central place. However, if you focus on a few key sources, you should be able to drastically reduce your inbox.

  1. Click on “Manage subscriptions” at the very bottom of the Graduate School Digest newsletter, in the footer. It will take you to your email subscriptions, but only for the Graduate School. If you click on “View all email subscriptions for the UW,” you’ll be able to manage all your email subscriptions. However, the caveat is that this is only for emails and newsletters sent out through this particular software (Convio).
  2. Visit for a list of all UW listservs.
  3.  Some units may use another software other than Convio, such as MailChimp. You will have to manage subscriptions for those outlets separately. There should always be options at the bottom.
  4. Some emails may be coming from the Registar’s office, or Financial Aid, etc. You will not be able to get off of these lists.
  5. Some emails may be coming directly from your department or a professor. You’ll need to consult with the relevant unit.
  6. If you can’t get out at the source, take advantage of your email software: set rules and filters.

You should have control of how much communication you receive, of course, but I want to advise you to unsubscribe thoughtfully. There have been instances where students opted out at the parent level and then were frustrated they were not getting notices of funding opportunities, events, etc.

Ask the Grad School Guru is an advice column for all y’all graduate and professional students. Real questions from real students, answered by real people. If the guru doesn’t know the answer, the guru will seek out experts all across campus to address the issue. (Please note: The guru 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 →

Self-Reflection and Dialogue

Many of us will be spending the long weekend with loved ones—both biological and chosen.  A time for sharing and holding space with family and friends is much-needed—not only because you have all been working so hard this quarter—but also because the current political climate has been difficult to bear (to say the least).

This time can also serve as a starting point for us to think beyond solely expressing gratitude—and beyond feeling despair—to in fact being self-reflective about initial ways to show up for social justice.  And to put that self-reflection into dialogue with loved ones.  Here are a few examples (not exhaustive by any means):

Learn.  If you’ve been curious or interested in supporting communities most impacted by multiple oppressions—Black and Native communities, Trans and Queer communities, Muslim communities, People with Disabilities, and Undocumented families are just a few examples—an important first step is to learn about their diverse histories of community resistance and resilience in the United States.

Listen.  Attend public events where the voices of marginalized communities are truly centered and amplified.  Listen with humility.  Sit with, rather than respond to, what might feel like a knee-jerk reaction to interrupt or be defensive—and just listen.  Hear from multiple voices within a single community—as no individual can represent the whole.  Here are concrete ways listening can be used to further social justice.

Dialogue.  If we are to end systems of oppression like racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, or xenophobia, conversations about these issues must be initiated within our own communities—amongst our own families and friends.  I know what you’re thinking, “You want me to start a conversation about oppression with family during the holiday?”  Not necessarily, because when and how you chat with family and friends depends on the context.  We do know that ignoring the reality of oppressions will not make these issues go away.  It is through the recognition of this reality that we can begin to move forward. And always remember that you can practice self-care during the holiday.

Take good care this weekend, and we applaud you not only for your commitment to intellectual and professional pursuits but for your community engagement as well.

With Respect,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Thriving in Graduate School 2.0

GSEE invited Core Programs staff to facilitate a power hour event called Thriving in Graduate School.  Graduate students who attended had the opportunity to learn from a panel of experienced graduate students of color currently working on their Masters and Doctoral degrees.  These included Jessica Hernandez (Marine and Environmental Affairs & Environmental and Forest Sciences), Crystal Agoncillo (Evans School of Public Policy and Governance), Lindsey Wilson (Education), and Issa Abdulcadir (Sociology), who shared their wisdom and strategies for surviving and thriving—within and outside of graduate school. We thank them for allowing us to share their pearls of wisdom below.

Self-advocacy.  In order for you to get the support you need, meet goals, and achieve milestones as a graduate student—it is important that you advocate for yourself so you can be–and feel–successful.  If you are in need of emotional, professional, or intellectual mentorship from peers, reach out to students within and outside of your cohort.  Finally, take the initiative to schedule regular meetings with faculty mentors and advisors.  E-mail them a meeting request with a short, realistic list of things you’ll be talking about (e.g. coursework, preparing for a conference, the progress of your thesis or dissertation, job search, or even a set of questions that will help you understand your graduate program better), and a list of dates and times you can meet, especially if you are unable to meet during their office hours. As you need to, negotiate for changing deadlines to ensure you are putting forth your best work.

Community.  Recognize that you are a whole person, with a need for community on and off campus.  It is perfectly okay (and necessary) for you to foster community with students, staff, and faculty across campus, especially if you have similar life experiences based on race, gender, ability, sexuality, economic background, or nationality.  Connecting with individuals who share experiences based on your identities and shared values can help decrease isolation and buffer the effects of campus-based microaggressions.  Connecting with community can also look like making time in your schedule to spend time with, skype, or call loved ones to maintain relationships with family and friends, especially if you moved to Washington for graduate school from another state or country.  This can also look like volunteering with local organizations and social movements in your city, as many of us care deeply about issues of equity and social justice.

Purpose. As above, connecting with people and causes that you care about will keep you fueled for the long road ahead that is graduate school. Remember why you are here and the contributions you want to make.  Your purpose and passion is your North Star and can help to ground you when the deadlines, demands, and noise around you get to be too much. And remember that you belong here. Make the UW Graduate School experience your own, make your graduate student experience work for YOU.  #UWGradSuccess #UWGOMAP


Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Thank you again to the grad student panelists and GSEE for co-organizing another successful power hour event and for asking us to collaborate with them!

Making UW Your Own – #UWGradSuccess

Recently, two graduate students from Chemistry, Sarah Vorpahl and Nick Montoni, organized and led a day-long gathering focused on Strengthening STEM through Diversity. The meeting brought together leaders from UW student organizations, as well as faculty, staff, and community partners to collectively discuss issues of equity in STEM and to develop concrete strategies that will promote a climate of inclusivity for multiple underrepresented communities studying, researching, and working in STEM disciplines.

Core Programs attended and gathered several pearls of wisdom from the plenary speaker UW bioengineering faculty Wendy Thomas, and from the student leadership panel, with representatives from Women in Chemical Sciences, oSTEM, SACNAS, AISES, and the student union UAW 4121. We will be sharing highlights and insights, and working on larger institutional guidance, over the next several weeks as the ideas and opportunities identified at the event will contribute to a larger learning environment where all students can thrive at UW. Here is just a start:

Imposter syndrome. “Imposter syndrome” is familiar to many in Graduate School (and beyond): that feeling that you aren’t smart enough or that you might not have what it takes to succeed. Here’s the thing, you are not alone! Surrounded by smart people, many of us may feel we don’t fit in. Some advice has been to “fake it til you make it.” We agree and yet this should not be confused with “suck it up and deal.” That is, if there are things within your grad program or research group that seem odd to you – ask questions, talk to a peer or trusted colleague to check out your observations, seek allies to support you and who can also speak up and ask for changes. Asking for what you need to thrive is a big part of making your graduate experience your own and one in which you can shine. Shifting our academic culture and landscape to a place that encourages human connection and growth will take all of us–from interpersonal changes to institutional, structural level changes.

Develop a growth vs. fixed mindset. Fixed mindset is the belief that “some people just have what it takes,” while others will never have what it takes. It is the thinking that some individuals are automatically good at understanding concepts and theories in their discipline, writing, acquiring research funding, public speaking, and so forth. This is simply not true. Being a graduate student is about developing and honing your skills, knowledge-base, and competencies over time. It is a process. In this regard, we encourage you to shift towards a growth mindset. If you are experiencing a roadblock in graduate school, it is more than likely that a peer or faculty has experienced a similar challenge. If you are part of the 1-in-3 graduate students who are coping with issues related to mental health, utilize campus resources like the DRS. DRS staff can help you draft an accommodation plan that is personal, confidential, and can set you up for success. Graduate school is a marathon, not a sprint, so pace yourself and give yourself permission to grow.

Find a mentor. There are numerous reasons why you seek out mentors in graduate school. An advisor can give you research direction, but a mentor really invests in you. National guidelines are now pointing to building a mentor team for academic direction, career guidance, and personal support. Mentors can make the difference between surviving and thriving – seek them out and invest time to build your team. As keynote speaker Dr. Thomas shared, when she finally had a mentor who was equally excited to talk to her about her research results, as well her feelings about the research, she knew she could stay in academia.

We thank the student event organizers, student organizations, and the UW programs that signed on as co-sponsors, for their dedication and hard work in investing in making UW a better place for all of us! Keep it coming. #Together #DiversifySTEM #UWGradSuccess

Best Regards,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Set Yourself Up for Success

Welcome new and returning UW graduate students at all three campuses! Whether you are beginning your very first quarter, in your second and final year of your program, or currently doing lab, thesis or dissertation work, Core Programs is here to support you by connecting you with tri-campus resources, professional development events, and wellness programming. As you begin the new quarter, here are some strategies that that can help set you up for success (your success):

You Belong Here. Some of you are the first in your families to earn a Bachelor’s degree, and now you are going even further by pursuing Master’s or Doctoral degrees. Some of you have moved hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from your families and communities to attend graduate school. And while many of you are feeling excitement, anxiety, fear, or homesickness (totally normal by the way), the impact of these feelings are experienced unequally based on race, gender, sexuality, economic background, ability, and citizenship. A sense of belonging while you are in graduate school can greatly reduce both isolation and feeling like you will not be smart enough (aka imposter syndrome). We encourage you to reach out and connect with community, as this is vital to your success. Seek out peers, get curious. See below for a list of events and opportunities to connect.

Take It One Day at a Time. Think about what you need to thrive each day. For many of us, this can include time for exercise, enough sleep, time for connecting with a friend or family member, and time to get some work done. Take a look at your daily calendar and plan blocks of time where you can accomplish things from your priority lists and to-do lists, even while sustaining yourself. Graduate school is a marathon that can feel like a sprint sometimes. Keep the big picture in mind – why are you here, and where are you going next? You might have bigger projects you want to (or need to) accomplish. Break those down into manageable and realistic tasks and do just a little bit on the project each day. Before you know it, you’ve made progress.

Take Control of Your Schedule. This one may feel challenging to do when you have so many demands on your time – perhaps classes, research obligations, work responsibilities, family life, etc. And yet, your calendar is your own. Make note of the essential elements in each day and then look for the available spaces that might lie between other obligations. Even with a 15 or 30 minute time block, you can make progress on something that is important to you. Perhaps that is marking off one of the bite-sized tasks from your priority list (it can be energizing just to cross something off!), or stretching or going for a walk, or just resetting with some needed down time. Make sure you are getting what you need, even while you are being responsive to others’ needs. You can set boundaries on your time too. Give yourself 60-90 minutes of productive time and then reward yourself with a 30 minute break. When time feels out of our control, it can add to our feeling of being overwhelmed. Take it back – time is yours.

At Core Programs, we are right there with you – balancing many competing demands and needs and passions. We will keep sharing out resources and tips as we find them, and if you find things that really work for you, we want to hear about them too! Write us at or post a photo on Instagram at #UWGradSuccess.

Best Regards,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Additional Resources:

Welcome All! Tips for Preparing for the Fall Quarter!

Core Programs in the Graduate School extends a warm welcome to all new and returning graduate and professional students to the UW—Bothell, Tacoma, and Seattle.  Whether you are enrolled for a year, a few years, or several, we acknowledge that it takes time to settle into a new city, work rhythm, and culture. Even for those of us who have lived in the Pacific Northwest for many years, we are still discovering new places and making new connections.

For those of you who are returning to campus, we truly hope you had opportunities to re-energize during the summer so you can move forward with your academic, professional, and interpersonal goals.  We also appreciate that many of you are dreaming about and planning for life beyond graduate and professional school.

At Core Programs, we are here to root you on and support you as you work towards your goals — #UWGradSuccess. Here are some tips we hope you find useful, as you prepare for the first week of the new quarter:

You don’t have to know everything.  Your Graduate Program Advisors are doing a fantastic job of organizing departmental orientations and welcome events, and they are sharing a wealth of information about your program requirements and campus resources.  This is important for you, so you can plan ahead for your academic and professional goals.  At the same time, we encourage you to acknowledge that you don’t have to know everything right now.  Prioritize only the most important information and tasks you need to learn and do now and make time to re-visit information about your program and campus resources later (next week, next month, next quarter, etc.) Use an Individual Development Plan (IDP), so you can set goals for yourself with notes like “explore…” or “find out about…”. It takes one step at a time to make progress and figure out what’s next.  Be open and curious.

Find your community.  The University of Washington is a big place, with three campuses and multiple offsite research locations.  We know that a feeling of belonging is critical to your success as graduate and professional students.  It makes a difference to find and connect with people that can support your whole self—and not just your role as a graduate or professional student.  To help you find your community, check out the list below of upcoming welcome events and orientations.

Practice asking for help.  Throughout your time at UW, seeking guidance and feedback on your studies, professional pursuits, and interpersonal goals is also vital to your success.  The trick is knowing when and how to ask for help.   Maybe you’re unsure if you’re critically engaging with course readings in the most effective and efficient ways.  Be proactive, and send an e-mail to a second or third year student in your program, and ask if they can meet for coffee to go over your understanding of one of the readings.  You might learn new study tips that will make your life easier.  When you’re a new student, reaching out to a peer can be a more comfortable option rather than approaching faculty.  Just remember that you were selected out of many applicants to be in your department, so know that you belong here.

You will be hearing from us every two weeks with these e-newsletters. Add to your e-mail contacts, to make sure our newsletters arrive in your inbox. You’ll also be hearing from the Graduate School every other week with the Graduate School Digest–a fabulous collection of events, resources, and quick tips for making the most of your graduate student experience.  Check out our Core Programs facebook page and the UW Graduate Student facebook page for more.

Best Regards,

Kelly, Jaye, and Ziyan
Core Programs Team

Making the Most of Seasonal Transitions

Greetings! How has your summer been? If it’s been like ours, there’s been some hard work, some good play, and continual reminders of why we do student affairs work in the Graduate School. Every time we have the privilege of talking with graduate students, we are in awe of your tenacity and creativity.

Some of you may be winding up summer quarter, some may be deep in research mode, others may just be getting started.  We at Core Programs just wanted to check-in and offer a few thoughts for making the remaining month before fall quarter work for you. What do you need most right now?  Is it a real break? Some play time? Some focused effort towards work? Some reflection about what’s ahead for the year?  Although the fall quarter is a little more than a month away, we thought we’d share some helpful tips to help you feel more prepared and ready to hit the ground running.

Set goals.  Make a list of goals that will address your interpersonal, wellness, intellectual, and professional needs.  Break your goals down into manageable tasks.  Deadlines can be self-imposed, but realistic.  Deadlines can also be external depending on whether you are applying for research funding, preparing for your qualifying exams, applying for a job, or ensuring that you block out time for self-care and relaxation.  Remain open to your goals and deadlines shifting, depending on your circumstances.  An individual development plan (IDP) can help you think through, and map out, your goals.

Write.  Maybe you’d like to start writing your thesis, plan to work on another dissertation chapter, or interested in revising that seminar paper so it’s publishable.  Get in the habit of doing structured, timed writing.  Set a goal to write for 30 minutes a day, or every other day, using a timer.  Choose a work space that will enhance your productivity.  For some, it’s the quiet of the library.  For others, it’s a bustling café.  Turn off your web browser and phone (unless you need your phone because of family or work-related responsibilities).  Also, it’s helpful to reach out to peers and have a writing partner or two.  Rely on one another to keep each other accountable to your work.  Here are more general writing resources.

Grow your networks.  Get an early start on your career development and network with professionals in academic, non-profit, private, or governmental sectors.  Your chances of finding, or getting, the job you want increase when you develop and sustain connections with industry professionals.  One strategy is to join LinkedIn (check out this tutorial, if you haven’t joined).  Use its search engine to look up individuals by job title or industry.  Peruse profiles to get a sense of how individuals describe their work, tasks and responsibilities, previous work experience, and the verbiage of their field.  Message individuals whose careers, companies, or industries pique your interest and set up an informational interview.

Find some space to release, reflect, or rejuvenate. While summer is busy for many of us, it also does offer more spaciousness as email inboxes are lighter and the sun is shining high.  Take some time for yourself – alone or with friends – to do something that is solely for you. Set yourself up for fall quarter by “filling your tank” with energy you can draw on as the months ahead get ever more full.  Perhaps start some refreshing habits that could keep you going into the fall.

We hope you find these tips useful as you prepare for the coming year.  As we get closer to the start of the fall quarter, we’ll be announcing an assortment of tri-campus welcome events, career-related programming, and more!  So stay tuned to this newsletter.

And let us know what you are up to!  #UWGradSuccess on Twitter or Instagram, or check out our Core Programs Facebook page.


Kelly, Jaye, Ziyan
Core Programs Team
UW Graduate School

Is “Work/Life” Balance Attainable in Research Careers?

Research has shown that happy people work more effectively, creatively, and collaboratively. It is worth fueling yourself outside work to keep yourself going in work.  Especially as we head into the summer months, think about what choices you can make about your time that will allow you to make the most out of the summer.  Can you go out for a hike or kayak after work (it is light until 9pm or later!)?  Can you take your family for a picnic or camping trip? Is there free outdoor music you want to hear?

There are ebbs and flows to any working life.  Times when a grant is due, for example, when you have to give up weekends (and maybe even sleep).  But these big pushes aren’t sustainable and a research career is a marathon.  You need to rebuild and sustain your energy, and recover your sleep.  Postdoc Elisa Lazzari (UCSD) wrote a blog on this topic: “Start asking yourself what would make your life better. What are the deal-breakers and what can you compromise on? …. Make a list of what things are the most important and honestly work out what you can go without. Chances are that to have an academic position you’ll have to compromise on your personal time, just like other high-profile professionals.” For the full blog post, see Can scientists really have work/life balance?

One other consideration: if you are doing what you love, you can fuel your passion and creative energy within work too.  There are many who resist using the idea of work/life “balance” as it implies those are two separate things.  If you can structure your working life such that it feeds your energy, then you have less need to get away.  It still is healthy to maintain perspective and give yourself distance from your work at times, no matter how immersive it is.  It will help you do better work in the long run – insights gained from a play you saw, or a conversation with a friend can help you move forward in unexpected ways in your research.  And it will help you be a better human too.

Additional resources

Originally posted on June 16, 2016.