Category Archives: Candace Nelson

WVU’s Office of Graduate Education and Life

The Office of Graduate Education & Life is the department deduced to graduate and professional students at West Virginia University. This office offers training and support activities, practical tools and news pertaining to graduate students.

Finding a program
A Degree Programs Database lists information about master’s, doctoral and graduate programs. This is helpful for incoming students or those curious about whether or not graduate school is for them. Take a look around and see what would be best for you.

On the website, this section talks about where to find financial assistance for your education. It also has a list of university fellowships, graduate assistantships and financial aid.

Career Development
There are classes specifically for graduate students listed on this site. Many are 1-credit seminars that help further specific skills. Other information in this section includes information on grant writing, certificates for teaching and upcoming events.

Electronic Thesis and Dissertation
This is a link to where we officially submit our theses. Though it might seem like a ways away for some of us, it’s always a good idea to get acquainted with what we’ll have to do.

Life in Morgantown
For those not acquainted with the town, this quick resource guide allows for easy navigation of airports, traveling, transportation, shopping, food, etc. It’s a lot of information in one convenient location for new students.

An area of the website is dedicated to diverse student groups and offices that offer resources in that area.

Have you used this website or visited the office before? Have you found anything particularly helpful on the website?


Teaching the Teacher

As graduate students, we don’t qualify for many scholarships. Most of those are for undergraduates only. Instead, we qualify for something called graduate assistantships, which vary according to what they offer. But many include a full tuition waiver, as well as a semimonthly stipend (that means twice a month; bimonthly means every two months) in exchange for 20 hours of work per week. It’s safe to say that without this funding, I wouldn’t be able to afford my graduate degree.

But those graduate assistantships vary in work. Some of my fellow grad students grade papers, make copies, write press releases, etc. We essentially do whatever needs done. My GA position is unique in that it contains a couple different jobs. For those graduate students who have assistantships that also teach, they are sometimes called graduate teaching assistants or just teaching assistants. It’s just a more specific GA position. I fall in this category.

Other responsibilities include helping Dr. Britten when he solicits, assisting with an AEJMC newsletter and doing research. I’m lucky to have a GA position that really allows me to further my skills, rather than doing mindless tasks. In addition, I teach the lab portions of Dr. Britten’s journalism 210 class. This lab includes teaching Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Each semester, there are three sections and all are two hours long. That doesn’t account for answering emails outside of class, having additional office hours, preparing for lectures, and grading all the assignments for about 60 students each semester. While I have had some leadership experience in the past at the student newspaper, teaching is a whole new level.

On Boston University’s Center for Excellence & Innovation in Teaching website, they state that skills you learn include time management, multitasking, public speaking and managing people. Teaching has taught me to be more comfortable in front of a group, as well as be more confident. It has also taught me to think on my feet. You’d be amazed at the questions kids come up with. But with those great skills also come some challenges.

Teaching while being taught
It’s an odd experience being a student and simultaneously teaching. It’s a different line to straddle. When you’re teaching, you have full authority. You control what’s happening in the class. But when you’re in the classroom, you’re back to being a student – you have to put a different hat on. You have to be more submissive and open to learning. It’s a completely different mindset.

Students your age (or older)
When you’re teaching students who are around your same age, it’s sometimes difficult to get respect. In many cases, I’m only a year or two older than these kids. Why should they listen to me? Well, because they have to. I’ve also had the experience where I’ve had students older than me who don’t think they should listen to me. It’s a constant battle.

Being in the same classes
Can you imagine grading one student at 9 a.m. then having a class together with them a couple hours later? It’s awkward. You’re expected to be peers but then be an authority figure, and it increases that tension if you have to work on group projects. And guess what, that student might be grading you soon…

Boston University also gives some behaviors of good teachers – things like setting goals for learning, discussing progress and expect timeliness. These are ideal and sometimes tough to achieve. But rest assured, as they also have some tips on how to make your teaching experience a positive one. Many of these are common sense, but when you’re busy keeping 60 kids under control, it may be easy to forget.

Does anybody currently teach? Have any specific strategies or tips for getting started?

Fellowships for Fellows

There are a ton of options available after graduate school, many of which we will touch on this week. You might consider continuing your education and going for that doctoral degree or maybe you want to head into the workforce. And then there are the tons of options in between, fellowships being one of them.

What is a Fellowship?

What is a fellowship? It’s kind of a broad statement, but it generally refers to a short-term opportunity (a few months to a couple years) that focuses on professional development. They’re usually for graduate student in a particular field that can help you gain knowledge on a certain issue, explore a certain area, or help get involved with the community.

Fellowships are usually give to graduate or post-graduate students and are a great arena for experiential learning. They are structured in a way to provide the fellow with a good deal of work experience and responsibility in a short period of time. Basically, fellowships are kind of like “independent studies” where you get to focus on one thing that can help you in the future. And they usually give you a living allowance/stipend! And other incentives include health care, student loan repayment and housing stipends.

I actually had the opportunity to go on a fellowship to France two years ago. It was a great opportunity through a donor that allowed me to check out the French AP, attend a UNESCO conference and check out a French journalism school. You can check out the blog here. It was a great opportunity that gave me a chance to learn a little bit more about French journalism and how other cultures perceive the United States.

More Info

That particular fellowship was broadcast around the journalism school. But for other fellowship opportunities, check out:

You can also look at the places you usually look for jobs (c’mon, we all look) and search for “fellowship” instead. Anybody have any other ideas about where to find other fellowships? We could make a nice little list here!

Lounging It Up

In the rare instance that graduate students have some free time (and I do mean rare), where do you spend it? Well, that depends on what your definition of free time means. By free time, do you mean time that doesn’t involve sitting in a classroom (but you’re probably still doing some research)? Or does your definition of free time mean when you’re actually not working at all? Sorry, but if you’re a grad student, that second option doesn’t exist.

Here’s a list of some of the best spots (chosen by fellow grad students) to get a little work done, but also get some relaxation in. In no particular order:

1. Side Pocket Pub

We journalism grad students have made Side Pocket a weekly tradition. If you need something quick and quiet and RIGHT on campus, look no further. With cheap food prices and a “secret” location (ahem, Mountainlair basement), it’s hard to pass up this gem.

Black Bear Burritos

2. Black Bear Burritos

A staple in Morgantown, this restaurant serves up fantastic dishes all while in a cozy atmosphere. What could be better than a burrito in one hand while finishing up that research paper on the ol’ MacBook? I can think of a few things … but this is pretty close.

3. Jay’s Getaway

First-year journalism graduate student Evan Moore already knows where he’s writing most of his thesis: Jay’s Getaway, his favorite local bar. This tiny bar has tons of craft beer and a relaxed environment that is great for unwinding.

4. X-hale Hookah Lounge

I can’t personally vouch for this one because I’ve never been there, but second-year journalism graduate student Katie Patton says it’s a great place to relax and clear your head. “I love it there!” she said. Located on Walnut Street, this hookah bar is close to campus and is the only one in town.

Blue Moose Cafe

5. Blue Moose

Also serving coffee, as well as yummy food, Blue Moose is a good option if you want to get away from campus a little bit but still not have to trek too far. With a calm environment, this cafe can keep you stocked on coffee until you finish that paper or blogpost…

6. Panera

I always think of Panera as like a breeding ground for gainfully employed, upward-bound yuppies who need to get some work again. Yuppie, I am. What beats getting half a salad, half a sandwich, free drink refills and wifi? Not much to this grad student.

7. Starbucks

Ditto to what I said above, but subtract yummy food and add coffee.

8. Jay’s Daily Grind

If coffee is your thing, I’ve heard this is one of the best in town. But quite frankly, I love going to the counter, ordering a fresh sandwich any way I want it and observing the busy Willey Street.

9. Evansdale Library

WVU alum Jared Crawford (and iPhone application iWVU creator) said his zen place was the Evansdale Library. “The Evansdale library is much more peaceful than the Downtown library. Study rooms in Basement and on 2nd floor are usually free,” he said.

Zen Clay

10. Zen Clay

Is it an art gallery? Is it a cafe? It’s both! And more. But you can get some nice vegetarian options here, all while claiming a table to yourself in order to crank out that thesis. If you need some inspiration, the place is decked out with fantastic artwork, too.

Where do you prefer to go for your home away from home? Anything else you can think of to add to the list – let us know in the comments or vote in the poll!

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So You Want to Get a Journalism Degree?

Newspapers are dying. Bloggers are journalists. Journalism is done.

Every journalism student has been met with these claims. Yes, every one of them. Probably multiple times. It’s hard telling people your major is journalism and receiving the response, “why? Don’t you want a job?” This is hot-button issue across the web, as anybody can now publish content with the help of the Internet.

Journalism is often at the top of lists of 20 Most Useless Degrees. And, some journalists don’t even need degrees to get into the business. So why waste four years on a degree that most likely will not pay well and will definitely result in tons of student loans?

Elana Zak over at 10,000 words defends her journalism degree after the Business Insider ran the article “Degrees Are Useless And Other Tips For Aspiring Journalists,” by  Jean Prentice. Zak says,

“For me, perhaps the most important reason my journalism degree isn’t useless is because I had fun studying it. Just because someone likes reading and writing doesn’t mean they should be an English major. Instead, my homework assignments meant I got to go out and report on actual events. It was hard and stressful at times but I loved every second of it.”

It’s hard enough to defend your reasoning for getting and undergraduate degree in journalism, but how can you begin to argue for a master’s in it?

Patrick Thornton, a blogger, wouldn’t.

“I would personally not get a graduate degree in journalism. Journalism is not one of those fields where practicing journalists will see a big benefit from additional schooling. In fact, work experience and skills are what ultimately matters, which is why so many journalists do not have journalism degrees — let alone more than one.”

Matt Bigelow, a digital media manager, is more on the fence about his decision.

“Am I happy I went there and got my masters? Eh…yes and no. Yes, because I had some incredible experiences, met some amazing (and amazingly talented) people, made some great connections and, to be honest, just plain had a lot of fun. No, because I think it’s overpriced, and that a lot of those experiences can be had, people can be met, connections can be made and (probably) fun can be had without the degree.”

Over at the Huffington Post, Justin Cox justifies his decision to shell out the extra cash for his degree because of the value.

“By going to school, I paddled into a quickly moving wave. And now I’m riding it, and although I’m unconvinced the dollar amount attached to the diploma is completely justified, I’m happy I decided to go.”

While it’s not necessarily financially sound, and it’s not easy, I think the master’s degree adds a new layer to one’s education. The value that a master’s degree adds is the ability to think critically.

Dr. Steve Urbanski, director of Graduate Studies at West Virginia University said,

“Whenever students inquire about getting a master’s degree in journalism, I try to stress to them that I consider the ‘journalism’ part of the MSJ degree to be secondary to the skills of critical thinking, writing and research that we push so hard in the program.”

For journalists, the ability to think critically can be the difference between an average news story or a Pulitzer-winning one.

Urbanski continued,

“Students certainly can choose to specialize in broadcasting, PR, writing or advertising, but the faculty members who teach in the program try to position those aforementioned skills as a foundation that underpins the specific areas of interest. By doing this, I truly believe an MSJ degree from WVU equips our graduates for media jobs as well as jobs in other areas of the marketplace. And our impressive job placement rate over the years is evidence that this philosophy is working.”

Having the capability to look at news stories from a different angle or having the knowledge to dissect information necessary to a story puts you ahead of the competition. And while the ability to think critically is the main draw, for me, to journalism graduate study, other perks include having the ability to go the route of academia or obtain media positions within other organizations. A master’s degree shows the employer that you have learned on a different level and have, well, “mastered” that higher-order education.

Do you think a master’s degree is worth it? Why or why not?

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Eating Out on a Budget

When graduate students’ finances run low, eating out is a quick and easy luxury to toss out the window. Buying groceries and cooking are oftentimes better options. But depriving yourself of all dining out festivities isn’t any fun, either. Instead, cut some corners so you can still get the dining out experience without feeling like you’ll be filling up on Ramen Noodles for the rest of the month.

Here are some basics:

1. Pick up the coupon booklets at the beginning of the semesterCampus Special makes coupon booklets that give local restaurants and businesses the opportunity to advertise to thousands of students, while students get some cheap, or sometimes free, food. Check out the bookstores on campus or head out to the front of the Mountainlair within the first few days of classes each semester, and you’re sure to see some student interns handing them out to all who pass. Who doesn’t want half off some gelato?

2. Order from DubVmenus: DubVmenus has some pretty great deals from time to time. Check them out before you head to the restaurant to see where the best deal would be. And, they’ll have extra promotions around the beginning of the semester or near exams with weeks like “Eat Cheap Week.”

3. Purchase the RubberU bracelet: This program essentially consists of a one-time fee of $10 that gets you discounts almost everywhere in Morgantown. If you tend to eat out a lot, that fee will certainly pay for itself very quickly.

4. Follow your favorite restaurants on Twitter: No, really, do it. And friend them on Facebook, and check in on FourSquare. You’d be surprised at how many places advertise specials on social media. Why? Because you’re becoming an easy word-of-mouth for them. I’ve had a burger named after me at Tailpipes from using Twitter and multiple discounts when when I’ve checked in on FourSquare. In fact, I think that’s the only reason I keep that app around …

Now onto the main course:

1. Drink Water: Not only will this save you calories with a pop or alcohol, but you’ll also get free refills.

2. Pass on the salad: But they’re good for you! They also have large markups. And avoid the appetizers, too. It’s just added money that would be better suited in your pocket.

3. Get the good stuff: While it’s tempting to pick the cheapest item off the menu when you’re trying to save money, it’s not necessarily the wisest. Why? Because you could probably make the pastas, hamburgers, chicken breast dishes more easily and cheaper. The dishes that contain more expensive ingredients or are more complicated to prepare are still more expensive, but the easy dishes’ prices are brought up to reach some sort of median price range. Food costs account for around 18% of the menu price. So those comfort food dishes are where restaurants are making the money. Opt for the red meat or seafood dishes to make your dollar go further and try something different.

4. Take home doggie bags: If you have a delicious meal at a restaurant, what’s better than having that same meal again without paying for it! I never understood people who don’t eat leftovers. You just saved yourself time, energy, and preparation for your next meal because it’s already sitting in your fridge. Don’t forget the extra bread and sides.

Anybody have any other good tips? Share them in the comments below!


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