As My First Semester Ends, My Second Begins

Last month, I finished my first semester on the tenure-track.  It was a very busy semester, but a happy and productive one as well.  I taught courses in General Psychology and Personality Psychology, submitted 3 manuscripts for publication, submitted and had 6 posters accepted to international conferences, advised students, served on committees, volunteered in the residential colleges, and attended as many professional development workshops as I could find.  I also made incredible friends and found fantastic mentors.  I’m tired, but I’m incredibly proud of all that I accomplished with the help of supportive colleagues.


Now I’m gearing up for my second semester.  I learned a lot from the mistakes of my first semester.  Yes, I’m perfectly happy in admitting my mistakes.  This was a new role for me, and I was bound to find some teaching and research strategies that, though they had worked in the past, were not suited for this environment.  But I’m excited about implementing changes that will allow for me to continue doing what works very well and to improve upon those areas that were less successful.


Just like my students, I am learning.  It’s fun to learn, and I look forward to transforming myself into a seasoned, tenured professor.


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Go Racers!

Just a quick note to report that I am settling in well to my new home in Murray, KY.  The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of paperwork, but it appears that I’m now a resident of “The Friendliest Small Town in America”.

Friendliest Small Town in America

I’m also settling well into the university.  I have an office and a lab, a faculty ID, and wonderful coworkers.


I’m staying busy writing syllabi, tests, assignments, and lectures.  I’m also working on completing required and supplemental trainings and preparing papers and manuscript submissions as I anticipate the demands on the tenure track.

I’ve explored my beautiful campus and town.  Have shopped for necessities.  Have learned how to cook on an electric stove (I previously had a gas range, so things like, “preheating” are new to me).  I’ve found the nearest craft and thrift stores.  And I’ve learned where to find the best pizza in town.

Now, it seems, the only thing left to do is to keep moving forward and to bask in the glory of being fortunate enough to have found my dream job.

Go Racers!

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Being a Caring Professor to Improve Graduate Engagement

This week is another busy week.  I’ve just submitted my students’ final grades, and I’m preparing to have family in town for my hooding on Friday.  Whew!

Just a quick post today to share an article from the Chronicle that shows how caring professors impact their students long after college.  In fact, having caring professors can improve engagement in one’s job after graduation.

College professors can positively impact their students’ outcomes by demonstrating some key characteristics:

College graduates had double the odds of being engaged at work and three times the odds of thriving in Gallup’s five elements of well-being if they had had “emotional support”—professors who “made me excited about learning,” “cared about me as a person,” or “encouraged my hopes and dreams.”

Yet many don’t:

The bad news, in Mr. Busteed’s view, based on Gallup’s findings, is that colleges have failed on most of those measures. For example, while 63 percent of respondents said they had encountered professors who got them fired up about a subject, only 32 percent said they had worked on a long-term project, 27 percent had had professors who cared about them, and 22 percent had found mentors who encouraged them.

So how do you, blogosphere, encourage, excite, and support your students?  And how do you encourage others to do the same?

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Winding Down

Life has been hectic lately.  I was in the very fortunate position of traveling the country for job interviews and conferences while also putting the finishing touches on my dissertation.  While all of my data collection was completed on campus at Virginia Tech during the summer and fall semesters and the winter holiday, my writing had a less straight-forward path.  The results section was written mostly in a combination of conference hotel lobbies and coffee shops.  The discussion was completed in a total of 14 different states, in airports, in hotel lobbies, on various campuses, and even in the air flying across the country.  There were many sleepless nights during which time I wasn’t sure that it was all going to come together.

But it did.

I successfully defended my dissertation on March 21st, and I submitted a final draft of the document to the graduate school soon after, thus completing all of the requirements for my PhD.

So, with that one day, my whole life changed.  I’m Dr. {Psychobabble}.

There are still plenty of lose ends that need to be tied here.  IRB protocols to extend for data analysis, grant reports to file, documents to be turned into manuscript publications, and a semester of teaching to bring to a close.  Next, there will be many preparations for my new faculty life.  It’s exciting to begin the process of writing syllabi and finding textbooks again, and this time it gets to be supplemented by house-hunting and finding new friends.

It’s an exciting time, blogosphere.


Are you finding equal excitement in the end of the semester and the sunshine that springtime brings?


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The Undergraduate Research Experience

As an undergraduate, I was given a fantastic research experience.  Beginning my first semester of freshman year, I worked with Dr. Dan Jones to do work with x-ray crystallography.  Dr. Jones was an incredible mentor of a caliber that I aspire to reach one day, spending hours each day to teach me the intricacies of data collection and analysis as well as the theories underlying our work.  I completed an undergraduate honors thesis under his supervision, and we published several papers together.

And when I realized that my true research passion was in psychology, Dr. Jones continued to mentor me as I cut back research hours in chemistry in favor of beginning work with Dr. Arnie Cann in psychology.  Dr. Cann patiently taught me how to use psychological software (SPSS, SONA, etc) and he continually offered me access to data and projects that allowed me to practice my new-found skills.

Dr. Cann and Dr. Jones continue to be fantastic mentors even now, several years after I’ve graduated.  Dr. Cann and I continue to work on publications and conference presentations, and Dr. Jones and I make a point of getting together for pizza and conversation whenever I return to the Charlotte area.

The research experience that I had with both of these incredible mentors inspired me to pursue graduate education and careers in academia.  I had, when I started graduate school, and I still continue to have the lofty goal of being a Dr. Jones and/or Dr. Cann to students of my own.  I want to work closely with them, to get them excited about research, to teach them new techniques that I’ve been so excited to learn, and to help them pursue their goals.

To say that it’s a hefty goal to want to fill the shoes of such mentoring experts would be an understatement.

But I’m trying…

Over the summer and the fall, I worked closely with two undergraduate research assistants, Shawnna Mencias and Brian Singh.  Both are incredibly talented, eager to learn, have fantastic skills for interacting with people, and have incredible eyes for detail.  They were involved in every step of my dissertation process from recruitment to data checking, but they shined the most brightly in their data collection skills.  The three of us worked together to collect data on nearly 70 4-year-old children together.  If I want to be a Dr. Jones or Cann, I know that my work with these two is far from over.  I look forward to publishing with them, presenting with them, helping them to pursue further education, and otherwise keeping in touch with them in the future.  But, for now, I wanted to share a couple of pictures of their hard work.

Shawnna administering the PPVT!
Shawnna’s first poster!


Brian administering the KBIT!

How about you, Blogsters?  Do you have any undergraduates that you’d like to brag on?  Any tips for providing them with good mentorship?

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New Beginnings

This has been a semester with the promise of many new beginnings.  I’m fast approaching the end of my time at Virginia Tech, but I know that there are many good experiences ahead of me as I transition from a PhD student to an academic career woman.

Wednesday of this week was a big day for my dissertation.  I recruited the final child for my dissertation.  And, following a week of heavy data collection, by next Tuesday I’ll only have 4 children left to see.  Add to this that I also found out Wednesday that I have won an APA Dissertation Research Award!  It’s incredibly encouraging to have such a prestigious group believing in my project and supporting me through it, and, when combined with my previous awards, this award will fully cover the cost of my dissertation.  What a relief!

At the same time as the dissertation comes to an end, my adventures on the job market are beginning to pick up.  The fantastic job ads keep pouring in, and I continue to submit applications just as quickly.  I’ve had a couple of interviews that have begun to make the process seem very real.  I’m very excited about the prospect of moving on and beginning to make working with students a more central part of my day-to-day life.

It seems, then, that this girl-who-doesn’t-like-transitions-very-much has found a very welcome transition to the next stage in life.  And it’s very exciting.  :)


credit: fostercityblog

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Something to keep in mind for the new school year

Today, one of my friends shared the following article about the common tendency to complain about how busy one is.

Please stop complaining about how busy you are.


I think that it’s fair to say that the majority of academics have a great deal of work that they must accomplish week by week.  With a series of rapid deadlines always fast-approaching, it’s often difficult to accomplish everything that needs accomplishing without turning down social engagements here and there.

However, as the author states, our complaining about these difficulties often separates us from friends and family members who may feel the need to compete with us in this domain, and we certainly do them no favors by making them, even indirectly, feel guilty that they are not similarly overwhelmed.  Similarly, there are times when we will have less on our plates, and it does us no good to continue to struggle for the sake of seeming busy to others.

Just some food for thought for the beginning of another busy academic year…


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Sesame Street Sums up my Dissertation

In honor of my rapidly approaching the 50% mark of dissertation data collection, I present to you, blogosphere, Sesame Street’s take on my area of research, self-regulation.

In this video, Cookie Monster learns to “function like an executive” (Ha!  Executive Functioning!  Get it?) by demonstrating his ability to wait for a cookie.

Without further ado, here’s the link:

Me Want It (But Me Wait)

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Today, with yet another 4-year-old in and out of the lab, I have completed 10% of my dissertation data collection.  This is certainly not the first large-scale project for which I have collected data, and it certainly will not be the last.  However, there’s something very special about a dissertation.  It’s a chance to practice all that I have learned.  It’s a chance to explore a topic about which I am very passionate.  And it’s a chance to have fun.

So here’s to the other 90%.  It will be a fun ride.

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Back to Blacksburg

Well, I’m back in Blacksburg after an incredible global adventure.  Many more pictures and stories will follow, but for now I have two goals: (1) to express how incredibly enriching of an experience I had, and (2) to report back on all of the excitement that has occurred since I have returned.

It’s difficult to enumerate what I learned through my travels, but it was certainly a great deal.  Some involved simply learning new ways of doing everyday things (like turning on the water at the sink with a foot pump– brilliant!).  I was exposed to three new languages as well.  However, at a more complex level, I learned a new culture of education.  For 10 days, we, as a group, visited multiple universities in Switzerland, Italy, and France, learning about how each dealt with a vast multitude of responsibilities, including teaching, outreach, tenure and promotions, research funding, fundraising, alumni relations, examinations, and more.  Oftentimes it was easy to find similarities between the European and US systems.  Other times, the differences were more apparent.   In both cases, it was clear that institutions of higher education could benefit by keeping a global dialogue and collaboration of ideas alive.

It certainly was a life-changing experience.  The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently released an article to solidify this feeling– they say that studying abroad can change one’s brain!

Life since I’ve returned has been equally enriching.  With the help of two trusty research assistants, I am preparing to collect data for my dissertation.  With IRB approval standing behind me, I’ve charged head-first into recruitment.  We’re all reviewing and practicing research protocol, and are looking forward to soon swarming in 4-year-olds.  Meanwhile, the lab remains busy in the midst of many other projects with a variety of age groups.

It’s an exciting summer.  I can hardly wait to report back on all of the excitement to come!

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