Getting Started with Hesburgh Libraries

In this guest post, Mandy Havert, Digital Research and Outreach Librarian in charge of Graduate Outreach Services, shares how to make the most of your Hesburgh Library experience. 

As a new graduate student or returning student at Notre Dame, you will find the Hesburgh Libraries has a lot to offer. Begin by checking out this guide for getting started with Hesburgh Libraries before you come to campus: https://resources.library.nd.edu/documents/faculty-checklist.pdf  Once you have a campus network login – your NetID – you will be able to sign in and customize your library account. This includes being able to monitor the status of materials you have borrowed from our local collections or materials you have requested from other libraries.

In addition to our materials and collections, take a look at people and events in the Hesburgh Libraries. We have over 30 subject librarians located throughout campus to help you become familiar with what’s available to you, and to keep you up-to-date on how the libraries can support your research. You are able to request purchases for our collections, and if you develop a working relationship with your librarian, he or she will be able to anticipate what’s important for your research. Contact information for our subject librarians is available to you from our directory page: https://directory.library.nd.edu/directory, Visit this page to learn about campus locations for the Hesburgh Libraries: https://library.nd.edu/hesburgh-floor-maps#

The “Events” section of the library home page is regularly updated and includes information about special events, exhibitions, and workshops. Be sure to check our events listings regularly. The Graduate Student Newsletter also includes information on these and other events and is  delivered right to your mailbox!

Workshops held by the libraries range from learning ways to add to your citation and research management skills to conducting archival research. Digital scholarship workshops are offered by our Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship. Regular workshops include beginner and intermediate sessions for building your professional web presence, how to use geographical information systems, working with data and statistics, and text mining. You can register for workshops using the Hesburgh Libraries Workshop Calendar: http://nd.libcal.com/calendar/allworkshops/?cid=447&t=m&d=0000-00-00&cal=447

If you’re not sure where to start, you can reach out to the Graduate Student Services librarian, Mandy Havert – mhavert@nd.edu, to ask questions and receive some tips on how to get the most out of  the Hesburgh Libraries. Mandy will fill you in on regular events, such as our weeklong Dissertation Camps, and regularly scheduled Dissertation Day Camps.

 

Life and Living Well

I’ll begin by stating the obvious: grad school is hard.

As graduate students, we are familiar with the toil of prioritizing and accomplishing our to-do lists. But grad student to-do lists grow faster than grad students can work. We’ve always got a nagging feeling that we ought to be doing something productive right now.

Part of what helps us tolerate long hours of labor and high expectations is knowing that it’s temporary. Only a few years of suffering; then comes the really meaningful work. We’ll land the job we desire, and then our life can really begin.

But we spend so much of our lives in this mindset. As an undergrad, we looked forward to grad school – that’s when I’ll finally get to do what I really want! And as high-schoolers, we looked forward to college – finally, a chance to be out on my own!

And then Master Yoda suddenly pokes us in our (metaphorical) ribs: “All his life has he looked away – to the future – to the horizon! Never his mind on where he was! Hm? What he was doing! Hmph. Adventure – heh! Excitement – heh! A Jedi craves not these things.” (The Empire Strikes Back) And somehow, in the words of a weird, shrivel-faced puppet, we recognize the truth: we can spend our whole lives looking forward to the next thing, believing that our life hasn’t begun yet.

But the fact is – it has. Life isn’t in the future. It’s happening right now.

And if life has meaning, it must be somewhere in the present. It must be here and now: in the friends and neighbors who, by chance or providence, surround us; in our own hearts and spirits, calling us to pay attention, to look – to really look! – and to listen – to really listen! Our life may not be what we’d like – but it is – it exists. And that’s good.

Work hard, then, but don’t be deceived – the meaning of your life isn’t all in what you produce. It’s in your relationships. It’s in who you are.

Listen to people. Bless them and tell the truth with humility. Don’t rush. Stop. See the living world around you. The beauty of it all is that life’s not useful- it’s just good. It’s all the gift of God, who didn’t need to create anything at all.

But he did. He willed the world to be. And he willed you to live so that he can love you. He’s already given you all that’s necessary for happiness, free, no strings. It’s there if only you have eyes to see – if you only ask him.

Trust God’s love. Hear his voice. Enjoy his grace. He is the meaning in the present moment. He is the Beauty in the beautiful. He is the Goodness in all that’s good.

Grad Life Program Highlights: Writing Accountability Groups

As graduate students, we spend much of our energy on one activity – writing. The quantity and quality of our writing is, in many fields, the benchmark by which we are evaluated by colleagues. The greater the volume of the writing we produce, and the more citations it receives, the more distinguished grows our reputation.

We’ll leave aside the perturbing questions that this reality should raise, and state the obvious: writing is the centerpiece of a graduate student’s career, whether it’s our dissertation, a class presentation, a journal article, or a conference talk.

Many of us find ourselves alone as we wade into this morass of words and ideas, relying on a combination of calendar and willpower to forge ahead. In these trackless swamps, however, procrastination is ever at hand and our thoughts and expressions tend to curl inwards until we find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own making.

Our mistake is to think that writing is a solo expedition, a way to express ourselves, but it’s more than that. Writing is a relationship. It’s about articulating the truth so that it can become somebody else’s too – and the words that we think best express our thoughts may not be as successful as we suppose. There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to get feedback. Equally helpful is having a companion in our toil to encourage us and, at times, prod us into making progress.

Each of these aspects of composition – communication, feedback, and accountability – happen in the context of community, a world far larger and richer than any dissertation or article. The academy may evaluate you on the basis of words produced, but the real font of meaningful living lies deeper – in friendship, the very heart of human flourishing.

Grad Life’s Writing Accountability Groups program is about building just such a community of writers. The premise is simple: you and your colleagues form a writing group for the purposes of keeping each other accountable in your work and providing one another feedback, and Grad Life gives you money – up to $10 per person per month – so that you can enjoy snacks and coffee or tea together. The community is yours. We just help with the cash.

For the full details, additional guidance, and to register your own group, check out the Writing Accountability Groups webpage on the Grad Life website.

Back to School with Ask the Salmon

School is back in session for the fall! For some of us, classes have begun again; for others, we are getting back to our school-year research schedules. Campus is crowded and coffee lines are long once more, and football season will soon be in full swing. It may take a little longer for all of us to settle into a regular schedule for the semester (it usually takes me a few weeks), but now the real work of graduate student life begins.

With the onset of a new semester, Ask the Salmon will be introducing two new blog series geared toward grad students, to be published on alternating Fridays. The first will be a series on the performing arts and entertainment, and will feature various venues for attending concerts, plays, and other shows, as well as for viewing art on campus, in South Bend, and in Chicago. Special note will be made of opportunities to purchase discounted student tickets.

The second series will be called Living Cheap in the Bend, and will feature tips, tricks, deals, and must-knows for living life on a graduate student budget. Although it’s much easier to live well on a low income in South Bend than in most other parts of the country, it can still be tricky. Fortunately, Notre Dame and Michiana offer an abundance of ways to cut costs if you are willing to do a bit of looking around.

As always, of course, feel free to submit your own questions and look for our answers on the blog. In the meantime, may the beginning of your fall semester be propitious!

Summer in South Bend: The End of Summer

This summer blog series began by arguing that leisure is an indispensable part of living a human life. Now, the school-year is upon us, when we’ll find ourselves hemmed in by a perpetually growing list of obligations, always haunted by the sense that we should be doing more. The more we accomplish, the longer our resumes; the longer our resumes, the better our job prospects. We are constantly looking to the next step in our careers, the next project, the next thing to do. Meanwhile, our work becomes toil as we do it more and more for the sake of what we’d rather be doing instead.

Leisure is different than toil. Toil labors for the future; leisure awakens us to the present. Leisure is about delight and contemplation, about thanksgiving and rejoicing. When we enjoy something, it directs our gaze to what is present, toward our companions and neighbors, to the things and events unfolding before us. How rarely do we rest like this, receiving what exists as a gift!

The goodness of the world, which we recognize in leisure, is indeed a gift, for nothing good exists of necessity. We may need food, but food does not have to be delicious. Every person, both friend and neighbor, exists as we know them in large part due to a contingent series of choices made by them and by other people. Parks, books, movies, bicycles, restaurants, beaches, board games, and basketballs: none of them had to be. Nudge our Earth a little closer to the Sun, tilt its axis a smidgen, make a change ever so slight in the chaotic discs of rock and gas that formed our solar system, and none of them would exist. Nothing in the universe is so unlikely as our living world and the people within it.

Yet there they are before us, all the things we enjoy and all the people we love. Against all odds, some deep root within the world keeps springing up, bearing delightful and nourishing fruit. Despite the wickedness of our bedraggled human race, the sun and stars still shine, rain falls on the ground and on our faces, and the earth brings forth our food. Exploited, ignored, cursed, our world still feeds us in body and in soul.

Only love could be this generous, giving good things without measure to both the deserving and the undeserving. Love is the living energy that hums and crackles in the fabric of the cosmos. It is the mover of what moves, the sower of what blooms, the being of what is. Love makes the world. God poured forth the ever-given light, and having made all that exists, he called it good. He loved the world.

Leisure is also, in the end, about love. When we set aside our anxious and busy thoughts to look around, to enjoy what exists, and to have compassion on our neighbors, we affirm those words of God. We also call the world good. We give thanks, and we learn, once more, to love.

How to Write (When you really don’t feel like it!)

Question: I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I have had a tough time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin.

Answer: Needing a bit of time to orient yourself at the beginning of a writing session is a normal part of the writing process. If you feel you’re spending too much time getting started and not enough time actually writing or if you feel overwhelmed when you sit down to write, change how you end your writing sessions.

The best time to plan the beginning of your next writing session is at the end of your current one. At the end of a productive writing session you’ve just spent a significant amount of time immersed in the project, and you’re acutely aware of what still needs to be accomplished. Take advantage of this and spend some time thinking about what you hope to accomplish during your next session before you close your laptop. Write down the following: 1) what you accomplished today 2) your next writing session (date, time, and length) and 3) your goals for your next session. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and reasonable. For dissertation writers, examples might include: edit the footnotes of chapter two, figure out how to articulate the connection between data set X and theorem Y, or outline the literature review section of chapter five. Write your goals down and place them in a visible spot in your physical or digital work space. Next time you sit down to write you’ll be able to jump back into the project seamlessly.

More generally, learning about how other academics write can help you develop strategies for overcoming your own writing obstacles. Check out Gradhacker and Profhacker. Both blogs frequently post tips and reflections on academic writing issues such as overcoming writer’s block page or developing a daily writing schedule.

If you need more personalized help with your writing, schedule an appointment with a graduate tutor at Notre Dame’s Writing Center.

Challenging Aspects of Adjusting to Graduate Studies

QUESTION:

What do you think are the most challenging aspects of adjusting to graduate studies and what advice would you offer a new grad student?

 

SALMON SAYS:

Adjusting to graduate studies as a new grad student, like adjusting to any new situation in life, can be challenging.  Navigating the transition from student to scholar requires confidence, discipline, passion, curiosity, tenacity, and resilience. What each student finds most challenging, however, will vary based on their situation and personality, and may change as they progress through the key milestones of coursework, comps, research, and writing.

My advice as you begin this journey is this: never be afraid to ask questions or to seek help along the way!  Ask your advisor about specific expectations. Ask your program director about milestones, deadlines, and funding.  Look for opportunities for professional development and training.  Talk honestly with your peers about the things you find exciting and frustrating about your work.  Make friends with people outside your discipline to inspire new perspectives.  And if you are struggling, don’t suffer in silence – find someone you trust and ask for help.

At Notre Dame, we have a rich constellation of services and resources to support the success and wellness of our graduate students.  The links below are just a few:

http://graduateschool.nd.edu/professional_development/
http://gradlife.nd.edu/
http://ucc.nd.edu/
http://sao.nd.edu/groups/categories.html#Graduate

Additionally, there are several helpful online resources for graduate students.  I recommend:

http://gradresources.org/

Things I Wish I Knew: A Letter to Incoming Students

I graduate in one week with a MA in Peace Studies from Notre Dame. The two-year program has provided amazing opportunities to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet, there are things I wish I knew before coming to the program. I hope they help you in your journey as an incoming student.

  1. Your department or cohort is who you will spend the majority of your time with. The downside is that you do not have as many opportunities to get to know others in different departments. The upside is that you often become very close to those in your program. For an extrovert like me, I tried to overcome this by attending events for graduate students and meeting undergrads at football games and other campus-sponsored events. I also happened to have a few classes with undergrads and enjoyed conversation over coffee and lunch. Additionally, I contacted different professors, faculty, and administrators who I thought would be interesting to get to know and asked them out for coffee.
  2. Sometimes you will feel overwhelmed by the amount of readings, assignments, and papers you have to do. During my first semester, my professors assigned about 500-700 pages of readings each week. Remember to take a deep breath and prioritize your to-do items. Eventually you’ll develop tactics to manage your assignments.
  3. There are a lot of free events, lectures, activities, and food giveaways on campus. I discovered this fairly quickly upon arrival, but think it is important to share. Notre Dame brings in amazing speakers, ranging from Heads of State to activists. While you may be tempted to skip out on certain events because you have a lot of work, consider attending some of these each year. It is also a great way to meet other people and take a break from work.
  4. There are a lot of wonderful resources on campus-from the Rec Sports fitness facilities to the Hesburgh Library and the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures (CSLC). Take advantage of the resources they offer, from kickboxing class and Kung Fu, to foreign language support.
  5. Notre Dame offers a variety of funding opportunities for research and presenting at conferences. Although MA students are not eligible for the same opportunities as Ph.D. students, I was able to secure funding to present at conferences in Italy and Spain. Consider looking at the Graduate School, Nanovic Institute, Institute for Scholarship and Liberal Studies (ISLA), and your home department.
  6. While academics are an important part of your grad school experience, don’t forget to enjoy your time on campus. Because Notre Dame’s academic programs are rigorous, it’s easy to focus all of your attention on maintaining a high GPA. While there is nothing wrong with striving for academic excellence, remember to keep things in perspective. You will develop life-long friends, be mentored by amazing faculty, and get to spend several years at one of the foremost universities in the nation. Remember to enjoy the sun after all the snow has finally fallen, meet new friends, and grow as a person.

Enjoy your time learning, growing, and experiencing all the wonderful opportunities Notre Dame offers.

Go Irish!

Tamara Shaya