Sine Qua Nonsense

Sine Qua Non-Cents

Dear Newbies (is it alright if I call you newbies? Okay, cool),

You have received a lot of advice about surviving graduate school during orientation and on this blog on Monday. For tips about navigating the building, check out last year’s first Sine Qua Nonsense post.

You’re probably sick of getting recommendations for how to handle certain professors, what classes to take, which bars and restaurants are best, which karaoke nights to sing out of tune at, which shortcuts to take (both geographical and metaphorical), and where to buy your textbooks (answer: the black market, where things are so much cheaper you probably won’t get into the kind of debt they’d have to bust your kneecaps for).

I respect your wishes not to hear more opinions about what you should do (though this is an assumption – I do not respect you enough to actually ask you. Either that, or I’m just lazy). So, instead, I will state introductory departmental facts that may or may not be true. You figure out whether they are. Take off your training wheels and make your own decisions!

Anyway, here are my two non-cents:

  • Never look Paul Wright in the eye or he will wink at you.
  • Harmeet emphasizes the texture of the department, and the texture changes every year. This year it is ice cream-like. Last year it resembled cheesecake. The year before it was non-dairy.
  • The men’s rooms and ladies’ rooms are on different sides on each floor because of the advice of a feng shui expert.
  • All the regional Emmys in the WTIU offices are actually replicas. They keep the originals in a vault at the IMU, protected by a living gargoyle.
  • One of our faculty members has won a Grammy. It was Annie Lang.
  • One of our faculty members voiced Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. It was Walter Ganz.
  • When your mailboxes and lockers don’t open, it’s because the Telecom Dwarves didn’t have time to clear away their picnic tables and hide.
  • The best way to make a professor like you is to show knowledge about their most current work. Their latest work is on their computer. Hack into it.
  • Rob Potter plays the mandolin, juggles, and ice skates.
  • Neither the FCC nor FTC have approved the Telecom-Journalism-Comm & Culture merger.
  • Before the MS program, Telecom had the MIME program. Despite opposing the closing of the MIME program, the students never spoke up.
  • Gabe used to make bread for everyone every Tuesday. That was back when he was known as Rye-an.
  • A few of the top women in the department hold secret pedicure meetings. You must have perfect toe-nails to be part of the group.


Orientation 2014

By Mona Malacane

Welcome back everyone! The time of year to shake off the summer brain and learn a new schedule is here again. To kick it all off we began in a new place, meeting in Studio 6 instead of Studio 5 – a nicer ambiance with the lighting and set design if you ask me.

Studio 6

Amy introduced herself first… just in case!

If you weren’t able to join us for the Monday meet-and-greet then let’s just say you missed an entertaining show… Walt commenced the morning with the disclaimer that Amy Gonzales may or may not go into labor within the hour and a half we would be together. I’m sure Amy is thankful that she could stay for the entire session.

Also noteworthy of this year’s orientation was the 8 minute late start. Something new with Walt, who is known to be a stickler for being on time.  Apparently, he let things drift because he wanted to give people who were having fun over coffee and bagels more time …

This year’s introductions were full of interesting info as ever: Ashley Kraus offered her new puppy, Jack, for snuggles if you’re going through some rough patches during the semester; Annie reminded us all again that “knowing” is a constant pursuit… depending on your beliefs that is; common hobbies and activities – namely Dr. Who, Star Trek, and running – were shared to welcome our new friends of similar interests. Unfortunately we didn’t have any

Everyone, meet Jack. He’s adorable.

relationship status announcements like we did last year (perhaps we can just check Tinder for those?), but a few summer wedding announcements – and honeymoons – were congratulated and cheered. And of course we got to learn a little about the new graduate students! I’m sure we will get to know them all better over the course of the year, but to get a jump start on this I asked them in a later session to share a little about themselves that they didn’t get to say in their 2 minute intro.

Click on the names below to see what they said!





New grads, everyone wishes you the best for the first semester and I think I speak for (almost) everyone when I say that we are always here if you need help with anything (including those questions that you think are dumb but really they aren’t). In fact, please keep reading below for a short list of advice from some current grad students that may help you get started on the right foot :)

Orientation Week in all its Complexities

By Niki Fritz

The orientation week is special in that it brings together bright-eyed, bushy-tailed newbies, the slightly dulled, disillusioned veteran grads, and the all-wise professors who roam our halls. You meet your cohort – people who share same kind of creative interests, the people who share the same kind of crazy. Some will become your best friends and collaborators.  Others presence may bounce into your life every now and then. For better or worse, these are your new peeps.

The orientation week starts the complex weaving of a community, a professional one at heart.

“The fact of the matter is [our department] is a work society and that goes to the orientation idea. It is a mistake to talk about it as inviting people into a family. The Brady Bunch is a myth. It is hard to take people that are different and tie them together as a family,” explains Telecom faculty Steve Krahnke. “You can choose to not be part of this department you can’t choose to not be part of a family. But we are a community; there is a responsibility you have to fellow members.”

In our case, we are blessed in that we are not a cut-and-dry professional community.  We have a fair share of fun.  Just consider Reed’s amazing intros  or the now defunct Potter goatee.

It is also a time of great learning.

“For graduate students, [orientation] is very didactic. You sit and listen. Academia is a lot about listening. And that what orientation teaches you. It models appropriate behavior.  95% of orientation is listening and active listening. And then when you open your mouth say something interesting, something useful … The operative words: help and useful. Families don’t have to be useful to each other; graduate students do. Graduate students need to learn to be useful. Nobody gets to be not useful.  Dilettantes are not useful,” explains Steve.

You start to get a feel of what it means to be part of a major research university.  Steve calls this the “learning how to be a freaking grown up” part of orientation. It is stuff like how to grade papers efficiently without being a nuance to your instructor; how to complete assignments on time; how to figure out how to solve problems; how to ask the right questions; how to make new connections with the right people.

I came from a professional background, where for five years I made deep connections to my work and social communities in Chicago. Leaving Chicago last summer I thought was one of the hardest things I would ever have to do. Starting over, making a new home, creating new bonds, all of this seemed so impossible. And yet to be honest, it was exciting. I was the one leaving. I was the one making a new home. I was the one pursuing my dreams.  Looking back, the orientation week rapidly familiarized me to the new community Steve talks about, making the transition much easier.

Even though Telecom grad students are not a Brady Bunch, they help each other survive grad school. They are the ones who pick you up when your 2001 Geo strands you with a dead battery in the Kroger parking lot. They help you with your workload when you are under the weather. They run participants in your experiments when you are late to the ICR. They do voiceovers for your video projects. They bring you coffee and pastries when you have a killer week. They help you; you help them. As anyone who has ever had a 9-5 cube job knows, your work colleagues do become this temporary sort of family, people you sometimes spend more time with than your actual blood family, people who become your support system.

The difference is your work community is not permanent like family. They will move on. Sometime next year around this time summer will come again. The people we grew to rely on will leave us. But in their place new colleagues and friends will mesh in. And that is where the beauty comes in. There will be new potential research colleagues, new project ideas, new grab-a-drink friends, new fellow nerds to geek out about BSG with, new potential.

Orientation is not just a new start for the new students but for everyone. In academia, every year is new. There is beauty in these new beginnings as challenging as it may seem.


A Bit of Advice… in GIF form

By Mona Malacane

Whether it’s your first semester of graduate school or just your first year here at IU, a little advice from those who have tried and failed before you never hurts. So here are a few nuggets from some current grad students that may save you time/trouble/embarrassment down the road. Enjoy!


 “Find a productive workspace as soon as possible. You won’t have an office, so make your own.”

shout out to my couch

Or recliner… whatever suits your fancy.


 “Be sure to know the author of everything you read. Also know what they are doing.”

spell gabbana

But if you don’t know… try and wing it with some vague terms.


“Enjoy every sandwich (because that’s all you can afford).”


All that’s missing in this GIF is peanut butter to make it pretty much 100% accurate.


“The bathrooms on the first floor are the opposite genders than the other two floors.”

wrong door

Always make sure you check it’s the right door…


“Get involved in research sooner rather than later.”

But not TOO much...

But not TOO much…

“Don’t try to take a ‘shortcut’ through the IMU. You will get lost and end up in a no-access part of the basement where a janitor will have to help you back to the main floor and you will be 20 minutes late to your meeting.”

I'm pretty sure the concept of Hogwarts was based on the IMU.

I’m pretty sure that Hogwarts was conceptually based on the IMU.


“Work hard. Play harder… sometimes.”

Especially when conference deadlines are killing you.

Especially when conference deadlines are killing you.

(And finally, and I consider it to be most important because what is grad school if not training in time management?)

“Hit your deadlines – even the small ones.”

Because then you will feel awesome about yourself and people will respect you.

Because then you will feel awesome about yourself and people will respect you.

Summer 2014 Courses Telecom Should Offer

By Edo Steinberg


T506 Statistics for Telecommunications

Stop looking for stats courses all over campus! Now you can take this class, which will teach you how to perform ANOVAs, Chi-squared tests, and all the rest. Recommended for 71.7% of M.A. and Ph.D. students and 16.2% of M.S. students. Prerequisite: the ability to add and subtract.


T507 Social Networking Sites

Emotional, behavioral, and socio-economic issues in social media research. Prerequisite: friending the instructors on Facebook (and don’t you put them on “Limited Profile” mode – they’ll know! This is their area of expertise, after all).


T508 Songifying Communication Theory

Visiting Scholar Whirli Placebo will teach how to take your research out of journals and into YouTube videos. Prerequisite: talent or lack of self-awareness.


T513 Horror Film Production

Note: class will meet for one long session on Friday, June 13, 2014. Prerequisite: due to budget cuts, please bring your own cleaver.


T534 Excel Uses and Gratifications

Ryland Sherman will offer a special course on how to turn Excel into your lean, mean data analysis and visualization machine. Prerequisite: a basic understanding of what $A$1 means.


T578 Pornography Design and Production

We have sex researchers and media producers in the same department. Time to combine their talents. Class will meet in Room 169. Prerequisite: no giggling.


T600 Proseminar in Telecommunications Research

This special edition of T600, known as the Media Arts and Sciences Stage Frightened Speaker Series, is an opportunity for people to present their research to an empty room while everybody else is on summer vacation.


T666 Post-Apocalyptic Design and Production

Topics will include: how to film zombies from a safe distance, survival mechanisms, using carcasses as an energy source for production equipment, and how to edit out your own screams. This class is not the same as T513, a narrative fiction class where you make the horror. In T666, which is geared toward documentary filmmakers, the horror comes to you! Prerequisite: owning a gun and knowing how to use it.


The Many Emotions of Summer

By Mona Malacane

Summer is right around the corner! We are all looking forward to the bliss of sleeping in, not having to worry about grading/grades, not being shackled by deadlines, travelling to conferences, and getting some much needed Vitamin D. We all deserve – and should bask in – the R & R. Once you’re done with everything semester-related, you take those few days to unwind, relax, kick up your feet, and not think about work (<– all synonyms for day drinking).

Buuutttt let’s face it. We’re academics. We don’t really “take the summers off.” And when that numbed happiness starts to wear, these are the emotions that we will invariably experience.

After that last paper/exam/grading binge, you feel this:


And then this.

super excited

For 2-3 days after the semester is over …

not caring thing

And for about 3-7 days, life couldn’t be more relaxing.

watch tv

You shut down anyone who even tries to talk about work.

do not care

Maybe you go visit family or significant others, and they try and mimic your excitement for being done for the semester.


But they don’t really get it …

you dont get it

You do some traveling …


And then June rolls around and we don’t get paid …

on a budget

So you go anywhere there is free stuff.

free stuff

Early on, the avoidance of work looks like this …

start tomorrow

But then the knocking guilt of not working starts to get a lot harder to ignore. It sounds a little something like this…

take responsibility

So you start working half days and still enjoy yourself.

pretending to work

Even though you still don’t have that much monies.


And you start to feel a little lost without the structure of work …

who am i

Then you get that urge to just throw yourself back into work because you feel so terribly lazy and you are addicted to the instant gratification of being productive.


And you start counting the weeks (not the days because it’s still too far away) until school starts … time starts to move very slow.


Then you get the email from Tamera about orientation info. You know you missed her.

thank you

You feel rested and ready to get back into the grind, even looking forward to it.


But for now … but right now

Designing the Ideal Grad Lounge

By Josh Sites and Steve Myers


In our inaugural article, Steve Myers and I discuss what we think would be the ideal (and hopefully plausible) graduate student lab and lounge spaces. You’ll find the structure of our articles to be a bit unconventional: we brainstorm the whole thing together, but write sections separately. – Josh This gives us the chance to jump in and comment on each other’s sections.  So this right here is Steve and I’m interjecting.  This style keeps the individual thoughts of our constant discourse which, if you know us, is in all essence constant. – Steve Thanks for reading!

Let’s Actually Do Work in the Lab and Lounge in the Lounge

At present, it’s no secret that not a whole lot of actual work goes on in the grad lab (with the exception of the game design class; +3 constitution to them).  Many of us enter that space with lofty goals of efficiency and achievement.  For me, this only actually happens when the place is empty. I wish I had that discipline. If it’s empty, I just end up doodling on the whiteboard.

With the merger upon us, there may be an opportunity to influence the design of our space in Franklin Hall.  These are our thoughts on how the lounge should be.

The Grad Lounge: It’s Colonel Mustard with the Candlestick

When I think lounge, I think Clue; windows, couches, nooks and crannies.  I think of my Grandmother’s sitting room, a space designed to entertain and communicate. The frame of reference in my mind when envisioning the space was Mother Bears. I love the angular, wooden tables and benches. It’s simple and inviting. It feels apart from the rest of reality, because it’s visually distinct.

The lounge should be a space where we want to go and spend time.  It should be a safe haven for grads to relax and socialize. When I talk to Ted Jamison-Koenig about heavy metal or to Niki Fritz about Wisconsinites, I want to be able to face them and not have to yell across the room over all the diligent people. It really is hard to doodle on the whiteboard with all that commotion. 

Bare minimum, the space needs couches and/or armchairs that face one another.  And I think it would only make sense to have a TV or projector setup that students can plug their laptops into to show projects, or honestly even just veg out a bit.  There should be power outlets everywhere. Let me echo this: EVERYWHERE.

A dinner table, conference table or restaurant booth would also be one of the spaces for a group.  Next to this would be a coffee (tea) station.  With a small sink, we could keep a collection of community mugs for different people to handwash and use quickly without having to exit the lounge. Which would double the indignation when someone doesn’t wash their mug.

These are our thoughts.  What are yours?

For the full version of this post, click here.


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