Hello everyone. It has certainly been awhile – over three months plus – since I have written a blog entry about my graduate school experience. In my last entry, the Fall Semester final exams were about to get started; as I write this blog, there are merely five weeks of classes left in the Winter semester. The semesters are flying by! The most consistent part of my graduate school experience has been that constant feeling of time going by incredibly quickly. When I decided to return to university in 2015 for my graduate work, my plan was to complete a master’s degree and then continue on directly into a PhD program. In terms of a rough timeline, this meant that in order to achieve my master plan (pun completely intended!), I would essentially be in graduate school for (at least) six straight years! I can remember initially thinking that this whole process was probably going to feel painstakingly slow…but yet, here I am already well into my PhD program and quickly approaching the halfway mark of my overall schooling timeline. To me, it just feels like the time that I’ve set aside and dedicated to this educational goal is passing by much more quickly than I had expected. For this reason, I’ve concluded that in order to make the most of the time that I have here at school, I should try to go outside of my comfort zone and get involved in things that I normally would not consider doing. To that point, I have decided to participate in various programs and workshops here at MUN in the recent few months, and am glad that I did because I feel like it has certainly been beneficial.

The core idea in this blog is nothing new and I have hinted at it in a previous blog. In fact, as the earlier blog post will reveal, it was one of the key points I made during a talk I gave to the new incoming graduate students at Graduate Orientation 2017. For this blog, however, I wanted to specifically highlight one of my experiences of participating in a recent on-campus offering – namely, the Graduate Student Public Scholar Program (PSP). Maybe after hearing about it, you might also decide that it would be valuable for you to check out (and if not this on-campus offering, then perhaps one of the many other workshops/programs that are offered widely across campus). But for now, here is some feedback about my experience with the PSP.

This is the inaugural year for the School of Graduate Studies to offer the PSP to students. The PSP offers in-house workshops for students and so far has hosted three of the four planned workshops. Each workshop involves (at least) one guest speaker presenting on a particular topic relevant for graduate students. As you’ll see from the PSP’s website, the topics have been related to knowledge mobilization, writing a research proposal, and talking to the media about research. When I saw this program advertised in one of my emails, I almost passed over it without really giving it much thought. But after reflecting on the advert content, I thought these workshops could be valuable for me. Besides, the advertisement suggested that there were going to be some topics that I felt like I had little experience with or otherwise wanted to improve upon. For example, I have written numerous research proposals in my academic career, but to this day I still do not feel that especially great or adequate at constructing research proposals. Given that this was to be one of the workshop topics, I thought I’d attend the PSP and I’m very glad that I did! All of the workshops have been insightful and provided great tips for students to consider related to each topic.

To illustrate this with a quick and easy example, let me share one of the tips offered during the research proposal workshop. In that session, we were presented with a neat little trick to consider when composing the title of a research proposal. It was suggested that we get creative and think about ways to attract prospective readers (i.e., committee members who review research proposals) to focus in on our proposal and catch their attention. One way to do this, as suggested by the speaker, was to create a ‘clickbait’ title for the proposal. In fact, this idea can probably work for any piece of writing, including blogs… Anyway, it’s essentially the same idea that is used in social media marketing to pique the curiosity of the reader enough so that they click on the link about whatever the topic may be (e.g., links claiming titles like “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next!”, or “These Three Tricks Will Give You Success Every Time!”, or “The Content In This Blog Will Blow Your Mind!”). In the workshop, it was suggested that applying the same logic to a research proposal title should render the same effect on reviewers: reading (i.e., ‘clicking’) into your research proposal. This tip was very simple, but rather clever! (On that note…was I successful into clickbaiting you into my blog?). With all things considered equal, having a title that is catchy and invokes curiosity in a prospective reader might be the piece that sets your proposal apart from the many other proposals that reviewers have to read. This clickbait tip is only one small example from a single workshop, but illustrates the type of professional development information that is shared to students in the PSP. Furthermore, it’s important that I note that this example does not do the PSP justice in terms of program quality; there is much more to PSP than simple little tips for writing. I am of the opinion that the PSP is a great initiative and would certainly encourage any of you who have not participated in one of the workshops to attend the upcoming one in a few weeks (March 29th).

There are lots of professional development programs offered to students on campus and I don’t want to appear as though I am advocating for any one particular program at the expense of another. Rather, this is just a reflection on one of my experiences with the PSP program. There are certainly numerous other initiatives with similar benefits offered to students on campus that you can also consider (e.g., Teaching Skills Enhancement Program for Graduate Students). Participating in programs like these is a great way to compliment what we are already learning from our mentors and peers in our individual programs and disciplines. Step up to the challenge and check out some of these offerings on campus. You might be surprised at how helpful and informative these workshops can be for your development as a graduate student.

Until next time…