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After the eve of departure

Leading up to the Global Perspectives Program 2018 trip was filled with millions of rows of data, thousands of words on a page, and hundreds of rows of code. The worst part about it is that it’s not over yet. I don’t think I’ll have much more data or code, but I’m still thousands of words away. As I plow through the final phase of my PhD, I’m mostly tired.

Planning for this trip was relatively nonexistent and I’ve already realized that in my rush to pack at the last minute, I forgot pajamas. GPP was the light halfway through the tunnel for me and my reward for sticking with it as hard as I could for as long as I could. That mentality wore me out though. I found myself suddenly having to switch from work mode into travel mode, and it was a switch that was surprisingly difficult to make.

There’s a bigger world out there, though, and the first view that can’t be found in Blacksburg reminded me why it’s worth it to step back and look around. I probably won’t get many words written in Switzerland, but maybe I won’t be so tired when I get back.

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I’m moving…blogs, that is

I’ve decided it’s time to make the transition away from the vt blogger site. While I hate to lose so many fun posts with pictures and comments, I am hesitant to post more on this site because I want to transition at some point. I think now is the time!

Hope to see you at my new site:

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Irony and Corrugated Boxes

Many of you know that I spent about a year after finishing my Masters degree working at a paper company, specifically in the part of the group that focused on making corrugated board and boxes. For just over a year, the majority of my time was spent thinking and stressing about getting the right paper to my box plants so they could keep on making those boxes.

It sounds dull, and I was so excited when I was out of the world of boxes…but somehow, once it’s in you, you can never seem to escape it. Anytime I see corrugated anything, I take quick notice of it, and I love to check the stamps on the bottom of boxes so I can check to see if they come from one of “my” plants. I haven’t hit the jackpot yet, but it’s bound to happen someday.

I thought I was done working with boxes, but I quickly realized that this summer I would spend quite a bit of time working with boxes. One of our studies is looking into the effects of AR on depth perception, and we quickly chose boxes as our “object” to be tested. It’s gone through many iterations, but it started with just plain boxes…

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Then we added wheels, to make them easier to move, of course.

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We painted it black next…

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Upon arrival to the UK, we upgraded our corrugated style. Hugh Jackman keeps us company during the workdays.

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Of course, we need him to move (he’s our trusty “pedestrian”) so we had to attach him to a cart. In the process, we might have hurt him a little bit.

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Nadia is the one in the pictures. She’s working hard to give Hugh the support he needs to walk straight and tall.

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Of course, we make some time to have a little fun while we’re working.


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Cookout Cookin’

One thing that seems to go hand in hand with the summer is cookouts. It just seems like a fun thing to do – make a dish and then go hang out with friends, family, or coworkers. The high volume of cookouts is conducive to my desire to cook, and today’s dish is Feta Basil Pasta. Basically, in the spirit of using up food in my kitchen (we have to be practical and prepare for the move!), I needed to make pasta. In addition, I have these massive basil plants – they’re growing so fast that I can’t eat it fast enough.

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Left: My basil, thyme, and cilantro plants back in October. Right: My plants today AFTER I picked 1/2 cup of basil. So much green!

With that in mind, I did a quick Google search of basil pasta to see what I could find. This website was the winner, but I didn’t feel like doing the exact recipe, so I left out the mushrooms and olives – of course I didn’t actually measure anything either.

Here’s the result!

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Break time!

What does a PhD student do to celebrate the end of a long (and tiring semester)?

This PhD student loves to cook. For some reason, cooking = celebrating. I like to try new recipes and to cook old favorites, so I want to share a few with you.

The first, an oldie but goodie (to be sure) is my glazed lemon sugar cookies. I LOVE lemon cookies. They are amazing. I discovered them while working in Memphis. I’ve made a few variations because I always make them and then lose the recipe, but now I am going to cite my source so that I never have to find the recipe again! I got the recipe from this blog and it is the perfect recipe. Of course my pictures don’t look quite as good as theirs, but who cares! These are actually an orange version, because I’m pro-citrus of all types. I think next time I’ll try some lemon-lime cookies to see how they work!

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Glazed Lemon (or whatever citrus you have on hand) Cookies

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (or whatever you have, I don’t discriminate)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Lemon Glaze

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and beat until combined. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture. Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, 1 inch apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until edges are golden, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cool 2 minutes on sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Spread cookies with Lemon Glaze and let set, about 1 hour.

Lemon Glaze

  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice

Of course, not every recipe turns out well, like my attempt at a carrot-apple smoothie. NOT good. I can’t help it that I got a new Ninja blender (this thing is amazing) and I have a lot of carrots that I need to use up…somehow.

I also made some pretzel bites and mustard sauce, and let me say they turned out quite well, but I forgot to take a picture of them. I think I might have been too busy eating them. More pretzels are definitely in my future. Also in my future is some bread and pasta. I’m trying to get rid of stuff (pasta & flour) as I get ready to move this summer, so I have to use up the food in my cabinets! Sometimes I like the challenge of using what I have on hand with as few extra ingredients as possible. But really, I’m dreading this move. I’ve moved a lot on my own (in and out of dorms, to Memphis and now to Virginia), and I will be so glad when this move is over. Let’s hope I can stick with my new apartment for longer than a year!


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Easter Festivities

I think this is one of the first times I’ve spent Easter away from my family. To some, that’s not a big deal, but we tend to do holidays together in my family. However, I have a family in Blacksburg that ensured that I had a great holiday. It started the day before Easter with brunch and an “egg hunt” at my friend Amy’s apartment. Our “eggs” were  little non-traditional, but we managed to have a great time and it was so efficient in the small space! There was even a special golden egg with a prize associated.

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This rousing adventure was followed with an egg dyeing/painting contest. We were very pro-postit notes, and used those to help with voting.

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While I didn’t win that competition, my egg DID get a vote. (Second from the left, woohoo!)

On Sunday, I got to spend some more quality time with a family from my church. They have two daughters of their own and just decided to add in some “extras” since some of us couldn’t go home. The day was filled with lots of food and an epic Easter egg hunt. They had a list of rules, and there were four, let me say that again, FOUR different ways to “win”. Did I mention that winning involved a monetary prize? EPIC Easter egg hunt.

Easter 2014

Chris and Sarah St. Jean made sure that I had a great Easter Sunday, and I so appreciate their effort to take care of all of their “children”.

Easter 2014 (2)

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“The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes”

I just read this NY Times article which is a longitudinal study of college freshmen. I thought it was incredibly interesting as it showed the generational differences. I think the last sentence of the article summed up the story best:

“The inner world wanes; professional intensity waxes.”

After our intense (and extensive) discussions about grades, it was really interesting to see the statistics about how the average grades have changed. Grades have gone up, but the workload has decreased. With all of this…students still feel more anxiety. Long term, we’re more unhappy. To me, this makes the point extremely clear – something has got to change in education. There are some major disconnects in our educational system. But where do we start with the solution? What do you think falls under our responsibility as professors? Is it our job to try to change this in higher education or is that a problem for elementary, middle, and high school teachers?

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3.2 for 32 – VT Remembers

Today I participated in a memorial run to remember the 32 people that were tragically killed on April 16, 2007. While I wasn’t a student here at the time, I had several friends that were, and hearing them talk about the impact that the shooting has on their life to this day is heartbreaking. However, one of the best things that we can do is remember those who lost their lives. Before writing this post, I wanted to remember in my own way, so I did some simple research about the events of that day. I was incredibly struck by the story of Liviu Librescu – a Holocaust survivor and VT professor at the time. Librescu barricaded the door to his classroom with his body and ultimately sacrificed himself so that his students could escape through the window. He was a man who had seen the worst of humanity, yet he still had enough faith in people to give himself up so that others could live. People like him remind me that even in the darkest times and the saddest tragedies, there is always hope.

Participating in the memorial run was special for me. I went there alone and somehow ran into two of my friends among the thousands of others that were there. It’s estimated that 10,000 people participated in the run today. While the events of April 16th, 2007 are still a tragedy, it was beautiful to see and feel the sense of community that surrounded the event. Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community have rallied to bring light back into a dark place by making new memories while remembering the 32 people that couldn’t run with us today.

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My Take on Early College High Schools

Thanks to Noel for posting this blog about early college high schools. I hadn’t really ever heard of that specific concept, especially with such a strong collaboration between high schools and colleges in which the last two years of high school are actually college courses on a college campus.


Even though that concept is new to me, I had a similar experience. My last two years of high school were spent at the Mississippi School for Math and Science, located in Columbus, MS on the campus of Mississippi University for Women. I won’t get too deep into the politics of the school, but it is one of those places that constantly struggles to gain funding from legislature and it seems like every year is a real threat that they will shut it down. MSMS is a public, residential high school for academically gifted students in the state of Mississippi. We lived on campus, ate meals at MUW’s cafeteria, and basically were only able to see our parents on the weekends. While my parents lived in Columbus as well, many students were 4-5 hours away from their parents.

As far as the academics go, I think it’s a great idea to have options for gifted students that give them a head start in the college process. I took several AP courses and scored high enough on the test to get credit for several classes. There were also several classes in my curriculum at MSMS that were considered dual enrollment classes which gave me university credit as well as my high school credits. Basically, I technically started college as a sophomore and was able to skip out on most of the freshman level classes.

Here’s the biggest thing that I saw at MSMS – while the classes were indeed challenging, most of the students who left the school chose to go home because they were homesick. Many who failed out of the school were not failing at their home school because they had their support system easily accessible. It’s easy to forget that while academically gifted students are bright, they’re still kids. It isn’t easy to leave home at the age of 16. Even students who can easily take the academic load might find it challenging to uproot like that. MSMS had a very strong support system – the students were extremely close and the faculty/staff really cared about us. Simply having a “strong” support system is not necessarily enough for students.

I think that while early college high schools are a great idea for some students, it’s not a one size fits all problem. It doesn’t replace community colleges either, because community colleges tend to allow students to stay closer to home longer than immediately going to a 4-year university. Overall, while I see the value that such a system can present to us, I think the most important variable in all education is the student. Everyone has different learning styles, support systems, and coping mechanisms. Because of this, it’s vital to have a variety of educational options that meet the needs of each individual.

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Silver and Gold

**While I would have posted this title regardless, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my dear friend Laura ( who posted a similar blog on January 17th.**

Many people are familiar with the old Girl Scout song that goes like this:

Make new friends,
But keep the old,
One is silver and the other gold.

There’s more to the song, but that’s the most popular part and it pretty much sums up everything of importance. Last weekend, I got to visit a “gold” friend of mine, Rachel. We went to high school together in MS and were ashamed when we realized we had let 4 years go by without seeing each other. I sent her a text one day the week prior to my visit and basically invited myself to her place for the weekend. It’s amazing to have friendships where you can do that sort of thing. Even though she’s one of my best friends, I was a little nervous on the drive over because it had been so incredibly long. What if we didn’t click the way we did in high school? What if it was awkward?

Luckily, as soon as I saw her it was like no time had passed at all. We spent the weekend making beignets, catching up, and exploring Columbus, OH. It was my first visit to both the city and the state.

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That was our first experience making beignets with expired mix…but in the end, I mean it was fried dough with sugar so it’s not like it can ever be bad. Then we drove all around Columbus, even to the Park of Roses. Not surprisingly, the Park of Roses did not actually have any roses, because it’s cold there. We did find this amazing tree with all kinds of engravings in it. Of course I love the creative proposal. I hope Nancy said yes.

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Besides that, we just hung out and reminisced about the good ole’ days. I have missed my Rae’s cheery disposition so it was wonderful to get a little bit of her brightness in my life again! Hopefully we won’t wait another 4 years before catching up again!

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