New Class Initiation/Continuing Students Survival Guide

New Class Initiation

For the better part of a year the Graduate Committee has worked diligently assembling the incoming graduate class of 2011 and for the first time on Monday, the fruits of their labor were on display. As new students politely fielded questions from returning students and faculty about their previous educational experiences, their research interests, or their hobbies, we put together a survey to get at the core of these new students. We wanted to know what makes them tick, what beckons them to greatness, and what weapon they would choose for the coming zombie apocalypse. The surprising answers below.

The days of donning a makeshift cape and running around in the backyard pretending to have super powers may be over, but few of us would likely mind that radioactive spider bite in exchange for real life superpowers. Given four choices of desired superpowers, flight, shape-shifting, teleportation, and control of the elements, the incoming class was almost evenly split in their selections. It looks like we have a regular ol’ Justice League on our hands.

The Ninja/Pirate debate can finally be put to rest as a third contender has entered the ring and claimed the title of most epic warrior, the Viking. The Viking shellacked both the pirate and the ninja according to our incoming class. In fact, pirates didn’t fare well at all in this survey.  If an encounter with a pirate ship was imminent, most of our incoming class would have the confidence to attack the ship rather than retreat.

Preparation is the first step to surviving the zombie apocalypse and knowing what supplies you need to defend yourself is critical. With limited options, incoming students overwhelmingly preferred the shotgun for fending off zombie hordes. The explosive power of grenades was also popular. One student even chose the axe, unable to pass up the visceral experience of zombie carnage up close and personal.

Rock star fantasies can only be partially fulfilled by the game Rock Band, and for most of the incoming class with big stage bright lights fantasies, rocking out is best done in front of a microphone. In fact, music was a prevalent thread through most of the survey. Many new students preferred to achieve fame through music, and most would choose to go see their friend’s band play at the local club if they were looking for things to do on a Friday night. Karaoke anyone?

The Hangover may very well have cooled our fears about keeping a ferocious tiger as a pet, to the extent that our incoming class would prefer to take a tiger home rather than a lion, hippo, or grizzly bear. Unless of course you are like one of our incoming students, who would prefer to take home the grizzly bear in an effort to turn it into a vampire grizzly bear. The student is absolutely right. There is nothing more terrifying than a vampire grizzly bear.

"Did I mention that I'm immortal?"

Dungeon masters take note; the incoming class prefers treacherous mountain trails to caves, forests, and deserts when questing to save the world.

So what can these results tell us about our incoming class? First and foremost, they are weird. Really weird. Vampire grizzly bears, brutal zombie melees, Viking domination, and an overwhelming desire to sing add up to create a rather strange brew. More importantly though, it demonstrates a unique creativity, a lively sense of humor, and a brief glimpse into the storied lives that all of our new students have led.  A tip of the hat is in order to the Graduate Committee for putting together another quirky, interesting, and thoughtful group of students. To all the new students, welcome. We are excited to have you, and more excited to get to know you. Get ready for one wild ride.

2011 Grad School Survival Guide

As a way of welcoming the new incoming students to the graduate program, continuing students took some time out during Orientation Week to share a few gems of wisdom.  New students, take note.  These are the keys to survival according to the crafty veterans of our department.


“Get out and explore Bloomington.  You should find stuff to enjoy – whether it is running on Clear Creek Trail, gorging on Avers’ Cream & Crimson pizza, seeing the orchestra, or Comedy Caravan at Bear’s on Saturday – there are actually things to do here.”

“You’ll be taking the same required courses together in the first year.  Casual discussions with classmates outside of class will help you to share things closely related with classes when workload is high.”

“Make friends outside of the Department.”

“Be self-motivated.”

“Stop. Breathe.”


“Once upon a time everyone was telling me to get a hobby, and maybe that works for some people, but the hobby always goes first when you’re under pressure.  My better advice is to find a few people with which you can vent irresponsibly… sometimes you’ll really need a safe space to say absolutely anything, however irrational.  Choose those people wisely and thank them often.”

“For international students… we are apart from our family members and close friends back home. So having really good friends in the States is important to survive.  It’s hard to find someone like that, but it is not impossible. I go for a couple of close friends rather than many so-so friends.  To add on that, finding a warm and caring advisor is a big plus. I have been lucky with that.”

“Stay as organized as possible, it will help you in the hard times.  Don’t forget to sleep and exercise.”

“Make all of your deadlines no matter how small or seemingly mundane.”

“You’ll need more coffee.”


“Slowly stop having a life.”

“Don’t aim much higher than survival.”

OK, so in all likelihood, you will survive graduate school.  These next few years will be some of the most challenging and rewarding of your life.  Remember that there is a support system in place – consisting of faculty, staff, and fellow grad students.  We all look forward to learning and collaborating with you.  Most importantly, we look forward to getting to know you better.

Random Photo of the Week

Professor Annie Lang made a summer-long proclamation back in May: Gone Fishin’.  Now back for the fall semester, she didn’t return empty-handed.  Check out her Summer Catch in our random photo of the week.


Nicky Lewis:  Survival Guide, Random Photo of the Week

Mike Lang:  New Class Initiation

Special Thanks: Professor Annie Lang for sharing her Summer Catch.

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