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Week 7: Fall Break Reflections

Fall Break is often a time of reflection here on Black Girl Does Grad School. In the past, I’ve taken the break in classes to reflect on the first half of the semester, assess my progress on my goals, and even highlight some of the better texts I’ve read.

So, as I enter the fourth quarter of the year, I think it would be a good practice to assess the goals I set for myself a few weeks ago in “Week 1, or Goal Setting for a New Semester.

  1. Get through this last semester of coursework in one piece.
    1. ASSESSMENT: At half way through the semester, I think I can say that I’m getting through coursework okay. I’m reading the assigned material, I’m completing the writing assignments, and I’m going to class and participating. Fall break means it’s time to finalize those final project/paper ideas so that when I come back next week, I’m ready to start the projects in earnest.
  2. Finalize my Comps Committee.
    1. ASSESSMENT: This is done! I’m working with my advisor Professor Lynn Weiss on the first half of my African American Literature field, Professor Hermine Pinson on the second half, Professor Mel Ely on African American Intellectual History, and Professor Liz Losh on Comics and Media Studies.
  3. Set a date for my Comps Colloquium.
    1. ASSESSMENT: This is also done! I had my colloquium three weeks ago on September 21. I even set a date for my exams at the colloquium: April 29-May 3, and May 9th for the oral examination.
  4. Start reading for Comps.
    1. ASSESSMENT: I’m rocking and rolling on comps prep. I have a color coded, multi-tabbed spreadsheet where I itemized every text I have to read, and then started a tab where I planned out my reading schedule for each week until December. (I’m reading on average 10 texts per week: a healthy mix of peer-reviewed monographs, articles, essays and fiction/poetry.)
  5. Prioritize my health.
    1. ASSESSMENT: I don’t know how well I’m doing on that front. I started cooking for myself again, which is a step up from existing on popcorn and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In “Goal Setting for a New Semester,” I said, Instead of laying in bed watching all of my favorite CW shows, I think I’ll take my iPad to the gym and walk on the treadmill while I watch instead. That, in all honesty, has not happened. In a half hearted defense, my favorite CW shows just came back on this week. (Okay, stop judging me, I’ll go to the gym, I promise.)
  6. I am going to prioritize my joy.
    1. ASSESSMENT: Because I’m reading for comps and doing coursework and trying to work for the Lemon Project, I haven’t been doing too great at prioritizing my joy aside from making time to catch up on TV. I did paint one small quotation for my new office last week, but I think I need to just take myself on an outing to Michaels and get new craft supplies so I’m inspired to make something with them.
  7. I am going to write again.
    1. ASSESSMENT: I’m doing it! It’s been hard to do but I started a new novel, I’ve continued to work on Black Girl Does Grad School, and I have a few ideas for a new short story that I need to just sit down and write. I’m not going to let rejection turn me around. I wrote more about my relationship to my words last week after meeting Nell Scovell.
  8. I am going to spend more time with people.
    1. ASSESSMENT: I’m definitely doing this. I’m not sure why all of a sudden I’m so social. Perhaps because this is my third year in this city and I know people from my last two years who want to catch up, or because I’m in my second year in a position that has brought me in contact with a lot of undergraduate students, or because I simply am feeling up to making new friends or connecting with old ones, whatever the case may be, for the first time, my network of friends in Williamsburg is big enough that I feel taken care of here. It’s ironic, because the last couple of weeks I’ve been wanting to withdraw again, but I’m reminding myself now that my goal was to embrace sociality.

I’m doing well on 6/8 of my goals from the start of the semester! When I reassess again at the end of the semester, hopefully I will have kept my promise to myself to hit the gym and to prioritize my joy. Even though there are two goals I haven’t worked on, I take heart in knowing that there were six that I have completed or am working on. I’m always doing so much better than I give myself credit for.


As you enter the fourth quarter, how are you doing on goals you set for yourself this year?

Week 1, or Goal Setting for a New Semester

Well, it’s that time: the syllabi are posted and students have returned to campus. Soon, long summer days will turn into crisp mornings and brisk nights. That’s right– it’s the start of the semester. The start of a new semester for me is a moment of reflection– a moment to meditate on how I’ve done things in the past, which in turn informs how I set goals for myself in the future.

This semester in particular is very special to me. It’s my last semester of coursework as a Ph.D student, so things are set up a little differently than they have been for the last two years. In the past, I have taken three classes per semester, but in this last go around, I’ll only take two. The two classes I’m taking are a perfect fit for me: Introduction to the Digital Humanities and Critical Race Theory and Education. With the extra time, I will start to prepare for my Comprehensive Exams (Comps), which will tentatively take place in May 2019. And, if you’ve been following along, I will be completing my assistantship this year with the Lemon Project .

Given how much I have to accomplish this semester, I thought it would be a productive exercise to make my goals public, which might encourage me to hold myself more accountable as I go through this semester. So, here are my goals:

  1. Get through this last semester of coursework in one piece. I’ve done such a great job making my way through my classes for the last four semesters, and it’s amazing that I can celebrate yet another milestone along this process: my last first day of classes. The goal is not to be perfect, but to successfully complete these last two courses. To me, this means that I will do the readings, complete all the assignments, do the final papers/projects and most importantly I will do the best that I can in that moment, no matter what the final grade is.
  2. Finalize my Comps Committee. I had a snafu with someone who I assumed would be willing to be on my committee and therefore had to quickly scramble to find someone to replace him. Fortunately, I have found someone to replace him with, but I need to confirm that the replacement will be willing to work with and examine me.
  3. Set a date for my Comps Colloquium. Colloqs in my program are simply a formality; one must set a meeting with all the members of the committee and agree that the set of lists I come into the meeting with will be the final lists which I will be examined on. It is also the moment to set the date for my examination, which I hope will happen in mid to late May 2019.
  4. Start reading for Comps. This one will be hard, especially when I have readings for coursework to do, and an assistantship to prepare for each week. However, the more that I read now, the less stressed I will be come December when it’s really time to buckle down and start reading about a book or two a day.
  5. Prioritize my health. I mean all manners of my health. If I’m physically ill, I’m going to rest until I feel better and I won’t put off doctor appointments. I’m going to prioritize my mental health by making sure I’m eating properly, staying hydrated, taking breaks, and remembering to treat myself generally like a human and not a lean mean grad school machine. I’m also going to prioritize my fitness, and instead of laying in bed watching all of my favorite CW shows, I think I’ll take my iPad to the gym and walk on the treadmill while I watch instead.
  6. I am going to prioritize my joy. I think my own happiness comes second to literally anything grad school related. This year, I’m shifting my mindset. I’m going to do more of what makes me happy, whether it’s making art, knitting or crocheting, baking, writing, or spending time with friends and family, I plan on incorporating that into my daily life.
  7. I am going to write again. In full transparency, I started the semester off with a series of rejections. I finally worked up the courage to write stories that I was ready to share with the world, so I submitted them to literary magazines, and was rejected from both publications. Again, in full transparency, I’m going to be sad, I’m going to wallow, and I’m going to sulk for a while, but ultimately, I am going to write again. I am going to try to get published again. All I’ve ever wanted was to see my name in print and I deserve to have that feeling. Someone, somewhere, is waiting to read my words.
  8. I am going to spend more time with people. After the initial shock of how lonely grad school was, I got used to spending almost all of my time by myself. Aside from classes, I rarely see anyone. It’s partially grad school, partially my super introverted nature, and partially my social anxiety. Case in point– I went out with friends a few evenings ago and stayed out for a long time, much longer than usual for me, and my friends definitely mentioned it. The only reason it came up is because I usually isolate myself, but I was having such a good time that I wondered why I didn’t want that sort of interaction more often. Especially with Comps coming up, I think it’s more important than ever to make sure I’m seeking out healthy, mutually supportive friendships.

I think the most productive thing to do at the start of every semester is to sit down and make goals for yourself. Whether or not you follow through is up to you; at least you did make a concerted effort to better yourself, and were at one point committed to those goals. Now that I’ve shared my goals with you, I encourage you to write down your own list of goals and keep them somewhere visible so you can check in and note your progress every now and then.

Happy Grad Schooling!


P.S. Leave a comment down below with your top three goals for the semester!