Tamera’s Take

She is the omniscient and omnipotent guru, who we would be lost without. The ambassador to our department. The fixer. The silent but powerful force behind almost everything that goes on in the RTV building. I’m sure you can guess who I’m writing about without reading the title of this post, that’s just how awesome she is. And for the first time in Telecom grad blog history, Tamera has agreed to share some wisdom with us on how to get through our graduate school years successfully (read: without having to bother her five times per day with questions because you already know the answers). No matter where you are in you program degree, this is a must read. In fact, you can consider it homework. Read it now people.  – Mona Malacane


By Tamera Theodore

Graduate school is hard. It’s a seemingly endless balancing act of deadlines, responsibilities, and pressures. There’s coursework and exams, paper after paper, grading, meetings, research, and projects, funding questions, bursar glitches, and registration annoyances, not to mention a bewildering web of administrative hoop-jumping and university rules & regulations.

All the things we juggle... Click for full effect.

All the things we juggle… Click for full effect.

But these things actually pale in comparison to some of the lesser known obstacles faced by Telecom grad students. Consider, for instance, the department’s graduate student mail boxes. Instructions for first-time users come with this subtle warning: “They work the same as a standard lock but just the opposite. Instead of right-left-right, they’re left-right-left. Right.” Even when the basic mechanics are mastered, best of luck actually getting the door to pop open on first or second try. The combinations themselves are elusive, or seem to be, since at least one student a week shows up at my desk having “misplaced” the number. I’ve observed all kinds of storage methods – entering the digits in one’s phone contacts list, jotting them down in Hello Kitty notebooks, scrawling them on the back of one’s hand (not recommended) – and none is foolproof. But do not fret. Help is just a few steps away. I can usually tame into submission even the most stubborn of locks.

Another brow-furrowing matter is under what circumstances and how exactly to arrange meetings with faculty members. Despite the annual circulation of Professor David Waterman’s almost-famous document entitled Guide to Arranging Committee Meetings, grad students approach the task with surprising and unnecessary amounts of trepidation. The truth is that faculty members do not bite. They may growl a bit, but rarely (maybe never) do they bite. Also, it’s much better to tackle one’s anxiety and take the necessary steps to get the program of study or the dissertation proposal approved sooner rather than later. This is a real opportunity for conquering fears and for bonding with one’s faculty advisors, not to mention graduating in a timely manner. Professor Quagmire and others welcome your (polite and grammatically correct, please) email request for a meeting.

On a somewhat related topic of email etiquette, here’s a short comment regarding the question of under what circumstances and how exactly to respond to email requests from me – the answer is always and by the stated deadline or as soon as possible if no date is specified. I will reciprocate in the same manner. There’s a certain beauty in the simplicity of this system.

A final vexation that warrants mention here is the set of physical and electronic forms commonly known as “Progress Paperwork.” Many students avoid these forms with the kind of procrastination typically reserved for making dentist appointments and filing taxes. It’s true that the sheer number of documents to be completed combined with the confusing specifics of when, where, how, under what circumstances and with whom (growling faculty members …) can seem exhausting and even unnecessary. But I would assert that progress forms are the student’s friend. They have the power to avert disasters like discovering two weeks before commencement that you’re three credit hours shy of the degree requirement. They can confirm that the Committee you’ve proposed makes sense and meets university guidelines. Equally important, they keep things organized and tidy and that makes the graduate secretary happy.

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