Things Grad Students Like

By Mona Malacane

I imagine that for many people the last two weeks of the semester can feel something like this …

the end of the semester

But the end is almost here everyone! And if you need some inspiration, motivation, or tips on procrastination to get you through it, please continue reading.


Easy scheduling of a committee meeting. Seriously, opening an all green Doodle is like heaven.

easy committee scheduling

Polite emails that include a greeting, a coherent message, and then a thank you.

polite email

Two words: Free food.

free food

… and $2 Tuesdays at Sports.

2 dollar at sports better

Superior coffee and non-routine refreshments.

superior coffee and nonroutine refreshments

When people come to your office hours to talk about something other than grades, grade adjustments, grade disputes …

office hours

That feeling after you give a flawless presentation of interesting results and answer every question successfully.

flawless presentation better

When students laugh at your corny jokes.

laughs at joke

Getting something (anything) right and someone else notices.

getting someting right

When your conference registration is waived!

waived conference regis

Positive AI evaluations.

positive AI evals

When students pay attention and engage during 9am Friday discussion sections.

when students pay attention

Significant p values.

sgnificant pvalues

Thank you, Tamera

We at the blog want to wish Tamera the best of luck in her new endeavor and take the opportunity to express the enormous amount of gratitude we – grad students, faculty, and staff – have for everything she does. You are our guru, Tamera, and your successor will have house-sized shoes to fill.


Signing Off

By Mona Malacane

To quote Abraham Lincoln (the subject of one my favorite blog interviews) it was four score and seven years ago that the blog began, with Nicky Lewis and Katie Birge at the helm. Actually, instead of 87 years, it’s been about 5, so I’m exaggerating a little.

In these five years, you have read stories ranging from the art of tea and beer to lucky purple socks to words of advice from the department guru Tamera. We have featured the achievements of grad students and faculty, introduced new faculty and staff, and pondered the ebb and flow of the building buzz. If someone were to visit the grad blog to learn more about our program they would see that we are a group of hard-working, creative, entrepreneurial, fun, eclectic, inquisitive, and close-knit group of people. To borrow Harmeet’s favorite words, we try to capture the texture and uniqueness of the people in our department to bring you the human side of things.

Why all the nostalgia? Following the tradition of past writers, I am writing my (second to) last post as a reflection on the past, a look forward to the future, and a thank you to the faithful blog readers. In my two year tenure as a blog writer, I have written quite a few posts that I hope you all have enjoyed. A lot of energy, work, and planning goes into these posts – writing them can be a struggle to balance the right amount of content and intrigue while still keeping things light. I can usually tell whether I’ve achieved this level of equilibrium or completely missed the mark from the email Harmeet sends on Sunday evenings after he has read and edited the posts.

Sometimes he loves them!

Sometimes he loves them!

Other times, I can tell he was underwhelmed.

Other times, I can tell he was underwhelmed.

Whether my post was on point or not, for me, the most rewarding aspect of writing for the blog has been the opportunity to talk to and learn from people that I may not otherwise have had the common ground to interact with*. In academia, it is far too easy to gradually entrench yourself in a specific topic area and collaborate with the same/similar people. Yes, you interact with others in classes, when socializing, gathering data, and in the grad lab, but the bulk of our work is often done in isolation. Sometimes we just don’t have the time to make the effort to meet new people. Even if I haven’t kept in contact with everyone I have interviewed over the past four semesters, I am grateful for weekly assignment that required me to step outside of my box and into someone else’s for 30 minutes to an hour for an interview. Thank you for sharing your stories with me and all of our readers.

Every blog writer has a different taste and style, and adds something unique to the blog. Nicky and Katie are the OG’s, the ground breakers who worked extremely hard and paved the way for the rest of us; Mike and Ken wrote beautiful, almost artful posts; Teresa and Edo kept you on your toes with really unique stories (and kept things afloat while Harmeet was on sabbatical). I’d like to think that Niki and I have added a touch of humor, although Edo has definitely cornered the market on puns and satire.

Stylistic eras notwithstanding, we have all served as kind of de facto historians for the department and the blog has become our chronicle. My chapter is closing but a new one will open next year. New beginnings are on the horizon and the blog will be there to document them.

*The Monday morning croissants and French press coffee are a close second though.

Third Half with Amanda Lotz – April 24, 2015

Being Wired: How U.S. Television was Revolutionized

Amanda Lotz, Department of Communication Studies, University of Michigan

Lotz_Third HalfHow is it that “cable,” an industry that spent 30 years as the dark horse of US television, found itself, by 2010, as both the home of content and industrial practices that resurrected television, and as the gatekeeper to the Internet for 80 percent of American homes? Amanda Lotz presents the first chapter of this story — spanning 1996-2002 — as she introduces her new book that charts the unexpected story of how cable revolutionized television and its owners became the barons of the information age.

Water, Water … Not Really Everywhere

By Mona Malacane

About how many times do you think you wash your hands per day? Flush the toilet? Fill a cup of water or pot to cook? Ever wonder where that water comes from, or where it goes when you pour it down the drain? It’s a simple luxury that we enjoy every day (many times per day) but probably not something that many people stop to think about.

If your interest was piqued by these questions, you will soon be able to learn more about water systems through a user-friendly, interactive game created by one of our faculty. In collaboration with Dr. Shahzeen Attari from SPEA, Professor of Practice Mike Sellers is currently designing a game to educate people on how water systems work.

It’s a common misconception that when water systems have problems they are related to the quality of the water. The bigger problem actually is water quantity. Supply of water to an area that is being developed for residential, commercial, or manufacturing use must be balanced with the water that is needed by the existing population. This doesn’t sound very complicated but there is a lot more that goes into water system planning.  Mike and Shahzeen aim to explain this via a game.

“You start off with a very small well and a couple of houses, sort of Sim City-ish,” Mike explained. “As you have enough water and you’re drawing from a stream or ground water, your little community grows. But you don’t control that growth, it just grows because more people are attracted there, which means you have to increase the water supply. So maybe now you go to water tanks, or digging deeper wells, or you build a reservoir.” As the city continues to grow you have to make choices about where to build water supplying systems and how much these decisions cost. Do you dig a new well? A new water tower? Where should these systems be placed? Should you pull water from a nearby lake instead? How will this affect the surrounding areas?”

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

Dr. Attari was interviewed by Indiana Green Living magazine (2013) about her research on energy and water consumption.

The game will also include challenges/issues that municipal systems deal with every day, like how to handle waste water from an upstream community. Another issue that you learn about is aging water systems and their maintenance. For instance, how to balance the budget of a growing community that needs to tap an additional water source (e.g. a new well) and also also maintain its existing underground pipes.

“The players come to understand, ‘ok here’s how I build a water system, here’s how I keep one running so I can keep my community growing,’ and also to some degree how the people who are creating and running these water systems have no control over how many people they serve.” In other words, the game gives people a look at the tangible and real issues that city planners and municipal water suppliers work through every day.

The goal of this project is first and foremost to educate and inform the general public about water systems. But Mike also hopes that through learning about these systems, people will pay more attention to water issues when they arise in their local communities and perhaps stimulate conversations during local government elections.

Shahzeen and Mike have been working together on this first version of the game since January with a grant from the Ostrom Workshop. Their plan is to continue working on it through the summer with a few of Shahzeen’s graduate students and an undergrad who is working on the art for the game. When the game is ready for release, it will be available on the web and friendly and accessible enough for people of all ages.

Seventh Brown Bag of the Semester – April 17, 2015


Lori Kido Lopez, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Mediating Hmong America: Participatory Cultures Beyond the Digital Divide

In this talk, Dr. Lori Kido Lopez will discuss the way that Hmong American media practices reflect a new understanding of how immigrant communities are developing and utilizing culturally specific media technologies in the digital era. Hmong Americans may be on the “wrong side of the digital divide,” but they are nonetheless exploding our definition of traditional communication technologies like “radio” and opening up new spaces of participatory culture for women and other disenfranchised communities.

A Gift of Adventure

By Mona Malacane

Everyone loves and appreciates a thoughtful gift. When you put effort into choosing what the gift-receiver would truly enjoy, you’re giving someone something that they can cherish (hopefully) for many years to come. Perhaps this is why gift-giving is sometimes referred to as an art.

Being the ever-thoughtful couple that they are, Teresa and Nic recently decided to really embrace the challenge of giving a good gift. For Christmas last year they sought to gift memories rather than material items to their loved ones. “We had decided that this year for family and people that we were buying gifts for, we would do a bit more of buying experiences,” Teresa explained. “So for [Nic’s] parents, we bought them a paddle-boarding trip and we bought my god children passes to a nature preserve, things like that.” Little did she know that Nic had something very unique and special under the tree for her.

He had found a Groupon for a flying lesson at a local small airport. When she opened her present, she was a little confused and completely surprised. “I opened the card and had to read it twice and I was like … I’m going to fly a plane? …”

The answer was yes and on March 8th, the two drove up to Indy Sky Sports for the lesson. Because it was a flight lesson and not just a passenger ride, the flight instructor had to go through some specifics before they got up in the air – the ergonomics of the plane, the physics of flying, and some safety info. All pretty necessary stuff if you’re going to be gliding around above the ground in a plane that weighs a little more than 600 pounds soaking wet. And from takeoff to landing, Teresa was pretty much doing all of the flying with the instructor there for support. No really, Teresa literally taxied and lifted the plane into the air for takeoff, and centered the plane to the runway and brought it down to the ground for landing.


After takeoff when they had climbed to about a mile above ground, the instructor threw her a curveball. “When we got up to cruising

A side view of the small plane (Photo credit to Indy Sky Sports Website)

A side view of the small plane (Photo credit to Indy Sky Sports Website)

altitude, which was about 4700 feet, [the instructor] said, ‘one of the first things I like to do to instill a sense of confidence in my flight students is I tell them to cut the engines off …’ And I’m thinking to myself, well you’re in the plane too so you’re not going to tell me to just fall out of the sky.” With the engines off, the cabin was silent and for a few seconds they were just gliding through the air. And then the nose started to dip a little and things got a little dicey for a minute … But just as easily as the nose started to dip, it corrected and tilted up. “Essentially we were dolphin-ing through the air but there was no forward momentum other than what we picked up from flying up.”

The rest of the experience was equally as adrenaline-rushing and yet smoothly effortless. With a huge grin on her face, Teresa told me some of the amazing (and probably terrifying for the average person) tricks the instructor did with her like banking, 360s, and flying towards the sunset.




The instructor took over for some of more advanced tricks they tried, like the corkscrew rise. It is exactly like the name suggests, the plane was climbing at about 60 degrees in a spiral movement. Another advanced maneuver they tried was called astronaut training. “Basically what we did was we went straight up in the air with high acceleration and we were probably at about a 70 degree incline, so I felt like I was laying almost completely flat on my back … and when we got to the top of this ascension we dove straight down. It was like coming over a roller coaster.” Before the ascension, the instructor had handed Teresa a key chain and told her to throw it up in the air when she felt weightless to visually see the loss of gravity but she said that she didn’t need the key chain to feel it because she was already floating out of her seat.

Flying a small plane wasn’t something Teresa had really imagined herself doing before her birthday trip, and understandably so. Flying is kind of a rare and exceptional thing to do, usually reserved for professionals. “I had never thought that I would fly before, not because I didn’t think that I wouldn’t want to, but I just didn’t think it was an achievable thing.” Now that she has a taste for it? “I definitely want to fly again … I would say it’s probably not the last time I’m going to fly, it was really really cool.”

TgmaWhile she hadn’t given much thought to flying before March, T’s grandmother was actually a pilot in World War II. She flew both large and small cargo planes behind enemy lines and would drop supplies for soldiers on the ground. She said about her grandmother, “Growing up she used to always tell my grandfather, who was a paratroop ranger [during the war], that any monkey can jump out of a plane but it takes someone with real brains to fly one.” She sounds liked a real aerial Rosie the Riveter.