Despite what some may think, most full-time faculty are contractually obligated to be working during the January “break,” even though they are not teaching. While our workloads in January may look different and time allotted and spent completing obligated tasks may be different, we too hold our continued commitment to student success. Here are a few things to inspire faculty to consider during the month of January. 

Review Student Evaluation/Opinion Forms 

I find the course evaluations to be helpful, as I used them as a snapshot into a deeper understanding of the student experience. There are more course-based questions that students get to respond to like:

  1. The course was well organized.
  2. The course materials (books, handouts, recordings, etc.) were relevant and contributed to my learning.
  3. The assignments and/or exams were well aligned with the course objectives.
  4. The format (in-person, hybrid, online) of this course met my learning needs.
  5. The course covered material at a manageable pace.
  6. This course increased my interest in this field of study.
  7. I am satisfied with the overall quality of the course.
  8. Concerning the course content and activities, would you recommend this course to others?

All of these questions and variations of them help me to understand where I might need to revisit and make adjustments. I look at this feedback semester by semester and over time to see if there are any patterns or themes that may need more attention. 

Additionally, there are also some instructor-based questions that prove to be equally as helpful in my reflection and planning of what to continue doing and what to change. Some of those questions include:

  1. My instructor used class time wisely in my in-person or synchronous sessions.
  2. My instructor explained difficult content effectively.
  3. My instructor showed concern for student learning.
  4. My instructor was available when I had questions or problems according to the policies stated in the syllabus.
  5. My instructor encouraged students to participate and ask questions.
  6. My instructor was easily approachable for help with material I did not understand.
  7. My instructor provided me with helpful and timely feedback on my work.
  8. My instructor effectively guided respectful class discussions.
  9. What do you like best about the instructor’s teaching? Please give specific examples.
  10. Describe how the instructor’s teaching can be improved. Please give specific examples.
  11. Please give your instructor an overall rating.
  12. Would you recommend this instructor to others?

After reviewing all of the information learned from my student opinion forms, I let the information settle and then I pose three questions to myself as I decide what I want and need to do with the information gained from the reports. I encourage you to think about these three questions as well. As it relates to what you learned about your student’s experiences, what do you want to continue doing, start doing, and stop doing next term? 

Plan and Prep

The break provides an excellent opportunity to delve into your student opinion evaluations, reflecting on how to strategically incorporate the insights you’ve gathered. It’s an ideal moment to allocate time for thoughtful contemplation, reassessment, and refinement of your course materials, flow, and format. During your planning and preparation phase, assess the successes and shortcomings of the previous term. Identify aspects that were effective, areas that need improvement, moments of personal satisfaction, and aspects you would approach differently. Beginning with these foundational questions will guide you in determining the most productive ways to invest your time as you gear up for the upcoming term.

Self-Reflection 

As you engage in preparations for the upcoming term, I urge you to engage in holistic reflection as an educator. Take a moment to contemplate your professional and personal aspirations, identifying what is essential for your continued dedication to the work. Utilize this time to refine your understanding of how you wish to present yourself as an educator and the influences that shape your identity. A key question for all educators to consider is, “As an educator, what are you recommitting to?” I invite you to complete the statement, “As an educator, I am committing to…” and delve into the meaningful commitments that will guide your path forward.

Travel

As we navigate through the January period, I highly recommend incorporating travel into your plans. Whether it’s a grand adventure or a small getaway, seize the opportunity to travel if your schedule, budget, and resources permit. The concept is straightforward: prioritize and allocate time for travel whenever possible. So, take the initiative to plan and embark on a journey, making the most of the enriching experiences it can bring.


Author Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach. Feel free to reach out at www.drantionetomlin.com or on X (Twitter) @Tomlinantione.


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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center

Anne Arundel Community College

Maisha L. Cannon

Founder and Chief Learner

The Collab Lab, Inc.

As an English faculty member, I distinctly remember when the eruption of AI resources became available and popularly explored by students. In higher ed, some of us faculty thought the world was coming to an end. From my personal experience, it felt like every department and school meeting centered around how to detect, “catch,” and stop students from using AI resources, as it was believed that these resources were used for things like completing the work for students, ultimately leading to or working a very thin line of plagiarism. 

After semesters of myself being agitated and annoyed by the conversations surrounding “why not” to use AI resources or “how to” catch students who are using AI resources, I got curious and wanted to learn more. In my exploration to learn more, I consulted with Maisha Cannon, AI enthusiast and Chief Learner at The Collab Lab, Inc. So, this piece shares my questions posed to her around faculty rethinking the usefulness of AI and her extremely valuable responses, which help to make me more knowledgeable and shift my thinking. When I asked Maisha, “Should faculty think twice about using AI?” she cheerfully responded, “Absolutely. Think twice, but lean into experimentation.” As a life and engagement coach, I then got curious about this idea of experimentation, and our conversation and collaboration around rethinking AI evolved. 

Rethinking AI in Higher Education

As I pondered this idea of experimentation, Maisha provided a framework that proved to be beneficial in helping me to think about my position and stance on using AI in the classroom. Maisha shared: 

The guiding principle is: Pause, Ponder, Proceed. This helps you strike a balance between curiosity and caution.

As you begin your AI journey, take three pivotal steps:

  1. Pause to recognize both the potential and pitfalls.
  2. Ponder the ethical implications and data privacy considerations.
  3. Proceed with a well-intentioned plan and a growth mindset.

Together, educators and learners can navigate the AI landscape with both excitement and responsibility. Artificial intelligence is not intended to replace the human element in education. While AI offers academic aid, the emotional support, mentorship, and classroom community-building remain firmly in human hands.  

A Deeper Dive into AI!

With Maisha’s “Pause, Ponder, Proceed” framework in mind, we explored three questions that helped me to continue learning and shaping my philosophy around AI resources and support. The questions I posed to Maisha are: 1. What is helpful for faculty to know about AI? What could make faculty reconsider using AI in the classroom? 2. If you were to create an AI starter pack for faculty to explore using AI, what would be in it? 3. What do you believe would be the benefits to faculty encouraging the use of AI in the classroom?

1. What is helpful for faculty to know about AI? What could make faculty reconsider using AI in the classroom?

If you’re cautious about AI, it’s crucial to thoughtfully integrate it into your existing workflows. Consider the ethical implications, data privacy concerns, and the potential for inherent biases. Always align with IT and legal departments for responsible implementation. 

So, you’ve paused to recognize the potential. Now, let’s ponder the next steps. 

For those curious about AI, the technology offers educators a powerful edge, often at little to no cost. Think of the latest round of generative AI tools as your “AI allies.” They’re designed to simplify, streamline, and enhance everyday tasks, transforming routine work into efficient processes. 

By managing these tasks, AI allows faculty to reclaim time, enabling them to focus on human-centric endeavors that only they can excel at, such as nurturing relationships with students and fostering collaborations with peers and colleagues.

2. If you were to create an AI starter pack for faculty to explore using AI, what would be in it?

I love this question! Now that you’ve paused to recognize the potential and pondered the implications, it’s time to proceed. Here’s your AI Starter Pack to help you take that step.

Daily Tools
Let’s start with a daily task: searching the web. Tools like You and Perplexity are great ways to ease into AI-powered search. As an alternative to Google/Bing, you can use these for your questions, queries, and curiosities.

For editing and audio transcription tasks, WordTune or Quillbot can elevate writing with real-time feedback and suggestions, ensuring clarity and precision in documents. For your video meetings, Fireflies can take notes, transcribe, summarize, search, and analyze voice conversations.

Research/Ideation
On the research front, Elicit and Scite can assist with literature reviews and finding academic papers. Hyperwrite works for grant writing support.

When you’re ready for a thought partner, you can brainstorm with your friendly local chatbot. Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, Claude, Llama, and PaLM can all be found on a single free platform: Poe, where all the cool chatbots hang out! 

On Poe, you can converse with a variety of large language models to find the one that suits you best. You can even create your own chatbot!

Available on desktop or mobile, these augmented advisors can assist in brainstorming, lesson planning, instructional design, and enhancing the teaching process—all without inputting sensitive student data.

What’s more, you can even prompt these LLMs to “Act as [someone prominent in your field]” for specialized insights. Imagine asking, “Act as Andrew Ng. Advise a faculty member on the three things they should do to champion AI in their classroom.” The possibilities are expansive.

I use ChatGPT-4 on my iPhone daily to ideate, research, and more. It’s like having a personal think tank that fits in your pocket.

Advanced Tools
Ready to bring your words to life visually? Try text-to-image generators like DALL·E 3 in Bing or SDXL 1.0. Both are perfect for generating free, quality images for social media, course materials, or event promotion. 

Now, for the wow factor! When you’re ready to impress your colleagues, try Scribe and Guidde for quick tutorials; Holler for real-time feedback during a lecture; Loom with AI for auto-titling, summaries, and task lists; and L&D’s own 7Taps for micro-lessons on the go!

These AI tools not only elevate your teaching methods but also create a dynamic learning environment, freeing you up to focus on meaningful student interactions.

I’ve put all these tools together for you in a Faculty AI Starter Pack. You can find it here: clblab.com/facpac

3. What do you believe would be the benefits to faculty encouraging the use of AI in the classroom?

Before faculty can champion the benefits of AI to their students, they need firsthand experience with the technology. Engaging with AI tools enables educators to explore their potential, discovering firsthand the creativity and efficiency these solutions offer. Only with this personal experience can they authentically share both the wins and occasional woes of AI with their students. 

Once they’re ready, here are a few benefits to encouraging the use of AI in the classroom:

  • Demystifying Technology: Proactive use and endorsement of AI by faculty can help demystify the technology, creating a classroom culture that embraces tech.
  • Innovative Curriculum Development: Artificial intelligence expands the horizon for diverse assignment types and introduces varied methods of expression. By incorporating AI, faculty can design enriched and diverse learning experiences.
  • Personal Tutoring with AI: Tools like GPT can serve as invaluable personal tutors, offering tailored support to students without delay. 
  • The Human-AI Collaborative Loop: This unique approach to brainstorming and decision-making pairs human intuition with AI’s data-driven insights. Pairing human intuition and creativity with AI’s vast data-driven insights creates a synergy where ideas are refined, expanded, and optimized in real time.

Whether you’re AI-curious or AI-cautious, the key is to pause, ponder, and proceed. This balanced approach will help educators and students alike navigate the complex landscape of AI in education.

As with any technology, AI use comes with its challenges. Data privacy, ethical use, and the fight against inherent biases are paramount. It’s vital for educators and institutions to address these challenges head-on to ensure a fair and inclusive environment that sets students up for success in today’s competitive workforce. 

As a final thought, to paraphrase Richard Baldwin, Professor of International Economics, “AI won’t likely replace you, but someone using AI will.”

Final Thoughts

It is our hope that something from this post resonates with readers and opens windows of opportunity to become more curious and engage in more conversation around AI resources and support. Additionally, we are curious to know what others feel about AI in the classroom and how it may be used.

Have anything to add? Feel free to reach out on X (Twitter): @Tomlinantione or @talentgenie. 


Acknowledgements from Maisha
A heartfelt thanks to Dr. Tomlin for the thought-provoking questions and ChatGPTisha, my AI ally in this human-AI collaborative loop.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor and Director of Academic Literacies Tutoring Center at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Maisha L. Cannon is the Founder and Chief Learner at The Collab Lab, Inc., where she specializes in transformative L&D programs for recruiting teams. Maisha holds a certification in Virtual Training & Facilitation from the Association for Talent Development (ATD). Social Links: LinkedIn/X (Twitter)

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Meghan MacNamara, MFA

Assistant Professor

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences

Within higher education, especially as faculty, sometimes we get caught up in the routines, checklists, and essential tasks as we prepare for another semester. While our time can be consumed with what we must do and how we must do it, we must also remember that we can bring creativity and autonomy to the process. Furthermore, we need to remember that we can shake things up and bring even more fun, excitement, and ease to our process. In this post, two higher education educators share some ways to shake up the start of the semester with some reminders of how we, as faculty, can survive and thrive in the beginning weeks of the new semester.

Tip 1: Foster Connection 

It is vitally important to be approachable at all points in the semester, but especially as a first impression. To accomplish this, I add a personal photo to my syllabus, something less austere than my forced-smiling, half-grimacing faculty headshot. Whether teaching face-to-face or fully online, providing an introduction that reinforces humanity can soften the classroom atmosphere. While my introduction email explains course expectations and allays students’ most frequent worries, it also gets personal. I might share that I was once an aspiring boxer, that I love coffee and gardening, or that I foster rescue dogs. Because teachers can be intimidating without meaning to be, and students can be hesitant to reach out with questions or concerns, reinforcing our shared humanity is important. Teachers can also make themselves less intimidating by giving students permission to make an authentic connection alongside course-related communications.

Tip 2: Embrace a Beginner’s Mind

After teaching for several years, it’s easy to forget how overwhelming the start of the semester can be for students, so starting the semester with a beginner’s mind can be helpful. For example, a first-generation college student might not know what instructors mean by office hours, so having an explanation in the syllabus can be helpful. I explain that it is time for students to drop in to discuss their progress in my course, questions, study tips, or favorite pastry recipes. I let them know that it’s their time if they want to use it, and they don’t need an appointment. The door is open, which is the first step to reducing anxiety, increasing success, and starting the semester on a positive course. 

Tip 3: Get Organized

While this may seem fundamental, organization of meetings, emails, classes, and self-care is vital to the start of any semester, be it Summer, Spring, Winter, or Fall. Getting organized can be something we take for granted, especially if we have been teaching for several years, or if we are teaching the same courses each semester. However, taking the time to get organized can help faculty get off to a great and productive start. Some strategies to get organized include setting time boundaries, as it is essential to establish working times and off times. Think about when you want to be “on” and when you need to be “off.” While you may have to deviate from this schedule or routine at times, it is crucial to have a plan. Additionally, we encourage faculty to honestly examine all they have on their plate and think about which things were added because you were voluntold and which were added because they fuel your passion and light up your core values. Being mindful of what you have on your plate and how you spend your time, energy, and effort can help you recognize when you need to make shifts that could prevent fatigue, burnout, and, in some cases, resentment of your institution or the field.

Tip 4: Ask for What You Need!

As educators, we are expected to provide the love, care, and support our students and colleagues may require or need. However, we sometimes forget that we must ask for what we need. We encourage you to find something that will serve as a structure and reminder to ask for what you need. If you do not permit yourself to ask for what you need, who will? When thinking about what you might need to feel supported and positioned for success, ask yourself:

  • What do I want or need more or less of?
  • What is helping me to honor my core values?
  • What is on my plate that brings me joy/What is on my plate that brings me challenge?
  • What is on my wishlist of resources this academic year?

Lastly, we encourage you to be mindful to ask for what you need from your colleagues, students, and personal social networks, too!

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione.

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Meghan MacNamara, MFA is an Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences, where she teaches online asynchronous writing and medical humanities courses.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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As a full-time faculty member celebrating the end of year ten teaching in higher education, I have found that my engagement with students significantly influences student success. While I cannot do the work for students, I can do the work for myself to be better, show up better, and perform better for them. As faculty, what we do matters. What we say matters, and what we do not say matters. How we show up and perform matters to students and dramatically impacts their success. This post will explore some of the learnings I have held onto over the past ten years of teaching.

Engagement Starts Before the First Class

While many institutions are moving toward faculty sending some form of contact before the first meeting, not all have implemented this effective practice. Whether face-to-face, online synchronous, online asynchronous, or hybrid, faculty teaching in any of these modalities should send some basic information to students before the first day of class. I send my communication to students about a week before the course starts. Some basic information that would help students prepare and be more ready for the course includes:

  1. Faculty Name, Email, preferred method of communication
  2. Course Title and information/description 
  3. Course Modality
  4. Location/Time/Meeting Expectations
  5. Instructors for what to expect/prepare for on the first day  

While this may feel like a no-brainer for some faculty, and for others may feel like extra work, I have found it incredibly beneficial for students. This is especially helpful for students who may already be anxious or nervous about your course. I advise you to draft an intentional and thoughtful welcome message to your students that you can recycle semester to semester. Your students will appreciate you for this. You also will appreciate yourself, as I have found that this simple yet impactful approach cuts down on pre-semester emails and first-day confusion.

The First Day

Just as contact before the course starts is essential, equally as important is the engagement and energy that the first day will bring to students. I am not saying we need to jump through hoops and put on a circus show; however, first impressions mean a lot to us and our students. So, remember, your students are watching and observing you and your personality and energy just as much as you are watching them. Please think deeply about what experience you want your students to have on the first day. Here are some questions to consider as you plan and create the first-day experience for your students.

  1. What is the goal of today?
  2. What do I need to be mindful of and reminded of?
  3. After class, how do I want students to describe their experience? 
  4. What’s one word that describes my intentions for today?
  5. What does showing up to be in service to my students look like?

These are a few questions you could ask to be intentional about how you are thinking, planning, and showing up for the first day of class. I revisit these questions often, as, after a few years, the first day of classes could become routine or mundane, so I try to intentionally shake things up so that I bring a fun and light energy. This helps me to connect with my students and what they might need from me. On that note, it is vital that we, as faculty, remember that we should build with our students. We should include them in the learning process so we can co-create a space conducive for all to learn. Moreover, we must remember that our students are the experts of their lived experiences, and we should allow them to use that knowledge in the classroom to facilitate new learning and growth.

Regular Semester Check-ins 

In addition to first-day support, regular check-ins have proved to be helpful for me and my students. I encourage a variety of check-ins throughout the semester, and I do class, individual, department, and personal/self check-ins throughout the semester. Below, I will also include some started questions you can use as you check in:

Class/Group Check-ins:

  1. What’s working?
  2. What needs to be changed?
  3. What do we need from ourselves and each other to be successful?
  4. What’s missing?

Individual Student Check-ins:

  1. What do you want or need more or less of from me?
  2. What do you want to continue doing to be successful?
  3. What do you want to start doing to be successful? 
  4. What do you want to stop doing to be successful?

Department/Colleague Check-ins:

  1. What is something new you are trying?
  2. What is something that has surprised you this semester?
  3. What support do you need from me?
  4. What tips and advice might you have for finding balance?

Self Reflection/Personal Check-in:

  1. What does a pause look like?
  2. What do I need to be supported?
  3. What is driving me right now?
  4. What do I need to say “no” to?

Engagement is Continuous!

As faculty, we must remember that engagement is continuous. While I provide some check-the-box to-do list items above, we must also acknowledge the continuous effort it takes to be impactful with engagement. We should make time for collaboration with our students and colleagues. We should also make time for professional development. Some of the best ideas and approaches to student learning have come from professional development workshops and conferences.

I have also learned to look at the course syllabus and all of the materials and assignments to be co-created, co-edited, and co-evaluated with my students. Years ago, I switched my approach and philosophy to be entirely student-centered and focused. That means the learning space is co-created and is not “my” classroom but “OUR” classroom. It is one thing to shift terminology and language from “my” or “our,” I encourage you to be sure your actions align with your words.

Lastly, remember to put a diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racist, and accessible lens on things. DEIAA should be woven into all approaches, learning activities, and reflections for you and the students. Your approaches to student engagement and success should help remove barriers, not create them. I encourage you to use methods that honor universal design and evaluate all that you know and do inside and outside the classroom.


Author Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Feel free to join in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.


Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Discover essential end of semester survival tips for faculty and staff, designed to boost productivity and well-being during the busiest time of the academic year.


Tips for Faculty and Staff #1:

Plan!

While this may seem standard, you would be surprised how many faculty get to May and say, yikes, the semester is almost over. Set a reminder and be aware of how quickly the semester’s end is approaching. Additionally, you may have to recommit to your to-do list. Also, recommit to writing down the tasks needing to be done, as it is easy to rely on things being top of mind and then slipping away from priority as the end of semester drive to the finish line begins. So, plan, and be intentional with adding things to your to-do list and tackling them as they come along.


Tips for Faculty and Staff #2:

Get Organized

Getting organized can be directly linked to planning. Getting organized can also mean sorting out your important documents, committee work, and grading. Creating a filing and storage system that works for you might be beneficial, so you can quickly access end-of-semester evaluations, grades, or other documents. Creating a filing and storage system, such as a Google Drive or Cloud folder, is a practical end of semester survival tip and one way to manage your important documents. This way, you could quickly shuffle emails/documents/and files into one space to access when needed. Additionally, create priority levels and folders for your email as well. Managing your chaos of tons of emails could be half the battle.


Tips for Faculty and Staff #3:

Connect, Reconnect, and Stay Connected!

In my experience as a faculty member, in the past, it has been easy to isolate myself from my colleagues as I am so busy I just need to “get it done!” I have found that while this approach can feel very effective at the moment, it has not been the most beneficial to my mental health and wellness. I encourage you to find time to connect, reconnect, and stay connected to colleagues, friends, and family, even when the end-of-semester commotion starts. You don’t have to commit to every social event or outing and be sure not to cancel plans before even considering how stepping away from the end-of-semester chaos can be the self-care and boost of energy you need to finish the semester strong.


Tips for Faculty and Staff #4:

Find JOY!

Staying connected could bring much joy. So, do stay connected. It would help if you considered what else brings you joy outside of being a faculty member and engage in some of those things, even at the end of the semester. Do not neglect your happiness for the sake of trying to “get things done!” I encourage you to create a list or menu of options that bring you joy so that when you get to the end of the semester, you can pull an option from your list that brings you delight in the chaos. Personal examples of options on my menu include taking time to watch one of my favorite tv shows, having brunch with friends, and blocking time on my schedule to do NOTHING!


Author Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Feel free to join in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.


Build Your Dossier With Interfolio.
Advance With Confidence.

Applying for academic programs or positions requires many artifacts. Put your best foot forward with Interfolio.

Start building your dossier for free today.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

D’Shaun Vance, EdD

Academic Affairs

 School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University

Obtaining a doctoral degree is no small feat, and building connections and professional relationships can be equally daunting and exhausting. Here, we outline tips for helping doctoral students and candidates develop and maintain lasting professional relationships. We note that these are just some strategies and tips doctoral candidates can explore. Additionally, we welcome more suggestions and advice for what works for doctoral candidates and recent graduates. Review the bottom of this post for how to join and continue the conversation.


Perspectives from a Recent Doctoral Candidate, Dr. Vance. 

Tip #1:

As a recent doctoral candidate who started their program online due to COVID-19, it was extremely difficult to build relationships, but not impossible. What worked for me was meeting with my professors outside of class hours to further discuss my interests, experience, and how they could help me navigate the higher education field, which is much larger than one can imagine. In these meetings, they would share their networks with me, introducing me to their colleagues who they felt would have an impact on my career trajectory. In these meetings is also where I was given a sneak peek or further look into speakers coming to class or who have already been to class to be introduced separately for more questioning and in depth conversations. These conversations have led to job opportunities, conference presentations, and relationships I am now cultivating on a consistent basis. As professionals, we can help each other. Just because you are/were a student does not mean your knowledge and experience is not valued; you just have to be intentional about putting yourself in spaces so your voice can be heard and seen as a value add.

Tip #2:

Conferences! If your program or professors are not pushing you to go to and attend conferences, please take this as your push! Prior to the pandemic, I had not attended any higher education conferences, but knew I should have been. I joined some professional organizations, but skipped the conference portion. At conferences is where my knowledge expands and networks grow. There can guarantee there are people from all types of institutions you interact with and start to find a needed connection. There are instances where you can help them solve a problem or vice versa. Going to conferences is a definite way to build a professional network. The key: do not be scared to talk to people. If you are attending with your institution/organization, try to sit with other groups during meal times to further conversations on topics either being discussed at the conference or pain points in your operations to get outside perspectives and thoughts. 


Perspective from a Full-Time Faculty Member and Dissertation Advisor, Dr. Tomlin

Tip #3

Fail Fabulously! This goes for all relationships. Be it romantic, platonic, mentorship, or relationship with your dissertation or doctoral project, lean into failing fabulously. Graduate students, particularly doctoral students, often feel they know everything. This feeling of thinking you need to know everything can create a lot of anxiety and stress throughout the doctoral journey. So, fail fabulously. This is the notion that we will not know everything, which is okay. It is not about the mistakes we make during the journey but what we do with the lessons learned from the errors that matter most. Furthermore, I am not saying to fail literally; I am saying to hold your journey lightly and be open to learning from all challenges and mistakes made. This is one of the ways to fail fabulously.

Tip #4

Give 110% to what you say yes to! Your word is your bond, and your bond is your reputation. Be mindful of what you are committing and saying yes to. AND, when you do say yes, be sure to give 110%. You never know how your work may reach rooms, people, and places before you. You always want to put your all into your commitment, as your work will speak for you when no one else is around. So, do not overcommit; give your all to what you commit to. Your work ethic, personality, and research/scholarly work are what may attract many relationships before others even know your name. Remember, always put your best foot forward. 

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

D’Shaun Vance, EdD, manages Academic Affairs in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at George Washington University. Dr. Vance is also an up and coming speaker in the area of Academic Advising.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Gretchen B. Rudham, EdD

Assistant Professor

Morgan State University

While getting organized can seem daunting, it does not have to be. Here we offer tips for both students and faculty colleagues on how to bring lightness and fun to successful organizing. As faculty and previous students, we understand how crucial it can be to bring organization to personal and career goals. Therefore, we approach this piece and offer advice from student and faculty perspectives.


Tips for Students

Tip 1: Super Nerd Systems Check 

Having a system for thinking through content before writing is not talked about enough. Half of the battle is knowing yourself and then creating a system that is realistically aligned with you and how you work best. Setting up a clear system of where, how, or when you work best is crucial.

There are multiple parts of the systems check to consider: accountability, technology and information storage, creativity and inspiration, brainstorming, drafting, and revision as well as moral support. Do you need high-tech, low-tech, or a combination of both? How do you save your reading materials? How and when do you read? Where do you record your sudden (and sometimes fleeting) brainstorms and ideas? Do you need an accountability system that is automated (deadlines on a calendar or alarms on your phone) or personalized (accountability/writing group)? When do you think, discuss, chew on ideas, and outline? Alone or with others? Where and when are you most productive?

Inspiration can hit while walking or driving, or at specific times of the day, or at different locations. Pay attention to place, space, and windows of productivity.

Tip 2: Writer’s Block: All Super Nerds Can Get Stuck

All super nerds can experience feeling blocked or stuck during the writing process, whether that is doubt during the infancy of the idea, imposter syndrome as you pitch or seek a home for your writing, feeling stuck in the middle of writing, or hitting a wall as you trudge through the revision process. Creativity in multiple forms is the key to becoming unstuck in these moments. I follow a lot of different writers and artists on social media, and seeing folks create across many different mediums inspires me.

Stepping away from the books and engaging with art, music, films, museums, local artists, or the beauty of nature; all can get your brain off the track it may be stuck on and shift your thinking. And, part of this process includes rethinking what counts as part of the writing process. Creative recharging is not taking away from writing, but rather can become part of your practice as a writer. Part of the organization process of academic writing includes planning for the inevitable ebb and flow of ideas and inspiration. Beyond creative recharging, designing structures or space for conversations, collaboration, brainstorming, and inspiration can be helpful.

Talking through ideas or concepts with a brainstorming partner can be built into your writing practice. You can lean on technology to record and talk through ideas or stuck points. Using Canva or other digital tools can help you conceptualize and organize ideas before they make it to the draft.


Tips for Faculty Colleagues 

Tip 3: Find A Mentor/Ask For Help

As faculty, we often feel we must have it all figured out. We also do not acknowledge how challenging transitioning to a full-time faculty role can be and the stressors that new and junior faculty face. In addition to getting acclimated to a new institution, it could be daunting to keep up with faculty requirements and obligations (i.e., teaching loads, research, and family/personal life balance). With all the learning and transition that comes with accepting new faculty appointments, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with not only all the paperwork and documents your institution may require (professional development documentation, grant/funding applications, conference and travel reimbursement, etc.) but it can also be difficult to keep up with your personal academic documents (curriculum vitae, teaching philosophy, research interest, project proposals, etc.).

If all of this feels overwhelming, you might you find a mentor and ask for help. Remember, you do not have to have it all figured out. We advise you to get comfortable with asking for help when you need it. This will save you a lot of time as you learn the expectations of your institution and role as a faculty member. Moreover, do not reinvent the wheel when you do not have to. We encourage you to find someone who you trust to help. Permit yourself to ask for what you need to be successful. Once you permit yourself to ask for what you need, we challenge you to put it into practice. Yes, we encourage you to go and start practicing asking for help; no matter how big or small the ask, go practice!     

Tip 4: The Cloud!  

Another simple, yet crucial, piece of advice we offer is to back up your important documents to a cloud-based platform. This simple piece of advice may save your life. How often do we tell our students to save, save, save, AND back up their work in multiple places or to a cloud? What we have found is that we faculty are sometimes guilty of not taking our own advice. So, take your advice and back up your important document to the cloud.

If you have not done so already, we encourage you now to create folders in Google Drive or other cloud-based software; this way, you can access all documents from any device. Additionally, your documents will be saved and backed up in case anything happens to your computer. Furthermore, have some fun with this process. While it can seem uneventful to back up your files, we challenge you to think about how you might bring some fun and lightness to this process.

Lastly, create a system or schedule for when you will dedicate time to updating your files so that you have the most recent and up-to-date information saved.  

Have anything to add? Feel free to continue the conversation with us on Twitter: @TomlinAntione @bmttbaltimore

Authors’ Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Gretchen B. Rudham, EdDis an Assistant Professor at Morgan State University in the School of Education and Urban Studies. Her research interests include social justice leadership, Digital Humanities, and dismantling white supremacy in curriculum, schools and society.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


Interfolio Dossier

Use Interfolio’s Dossier to manage and send recommendation letters, CVs/resumes, and other academic career materials.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Tasha Wilson, MSW, MEd

Case Manager, Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity

Towson University

Engaging in the job search process is a job itself. We know how daunting the process and journey to securing new employment can be. This article will explore tips for organizing and preparing for the job search. If you are actively looking for new employment or just casually exploring options, the tips offered here might be helpful to you. As higher education professionals, we encourage you always to stay ready as opportunities develop quickly.   


Self-Assessment & Analysis

Sometimes life experiences can challenge us to desire more for ourselves in the professional arena. Priorities may have shifted in our personal lives that provoke us to seek out opportunities that have more autonomy in our schedules, higher compensation, or a work environment that is not necessarily location bound. We know that engaging in the job search process serves as a benefit, but we are often unsure as to how we should initiate it. Introspection will guide the direction of your decisions on which positions to aim for. Be honest about what you are looking for in a position and what you need in an employer. Identify your career goals. What are the things you’re most passionate about? What core elements are important to you in an organization that will align with your aspirations toward professional advancement? We recommend creating an action plan to help keep you disciplined with tracking your progress of application submissions, callbacks, and interviews.


Networking

Relationship building is essential in your job searching process. It is a transformational skill that can bring you confidence, a sense of belongingness, and well-being. Being intentional in connecting with people and fostering relationships promotes collaborative efforts and opportunities within organizations you may be interested in working for. You may be invited to serve as a speaker, a guest to attend upcoming events, or a collaborator for a special project.  People can provide referrals, give you intel about upcoming vacancies and offer insight contributing to your professional journey. We recommend actively seeking opportunities to engage with people and establish sustainable partnerships. Research organizations and professional networks whose core values and mission support your desirable career outlook.


Save the Job Description

So often, we come across a posting that intrigues us, and we mark it to apply later. While we may come back to apply, it is equally as essential to save the posting as a PDF or screenshot. Most places of employment remove the posting after the applicant pool is officially closed. Keeping the description to access it later may help with interview preparations. It may also help with remembering the position when some employers might take months to contact you for an interview. We recommend keeping a digital folder with all the job postings/descriptions you applied for so you can quickly review it when needed, even if it has been removed from the internet.


Update Often

Remembering everything you have done or updating your resume or CV with trendy buzzwords can take time and effort. We recommend you update as you go. Even when not looking for new opportunities, get into the flow of updating your documents often. If you want to be committed to keeping up with things, we suggest updating your records at least once a month. Setting aside time once a month to update your document can save you a lot of time in the long run. Updating often also helps you to stay ready for any unexpected opportunities that may come your way.

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione.

Authors’ Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Tasha Wilson, MSW, MEd, is an innovative change agent with expertise spanning policy implementation, educational equity, and compliance. Tasha currently serves as a Case Manager in the Office of Inclusion and Institutional Equity at Towson University. Additionally, she is an Adjunct Professor at Anne Arundel Community College. Outside of her career in Student Affairs, Tasha is internationally recognized as a trailblazer in the marketplace. She is a published author, entrepreneur and speaker who has made appearances across the United States, New Zealand, and Australia. In 2016, Tasha was presented with the Governor’s Volunteer Service Certificate by The State of Maryland. In 2021, she was featured in VoyageBaltimore Magazine as one of Baltimore’s Inspiring Stories. As a mental health advocate, she served on Grammy Award-winner Michelle Williams’ launch team for the book “Checking In.”

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


Interfolio Dossier

Use Interfolio’s Dossier to manage and send recommendation letters, CVs/resumes, and other academic career materials.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd

PhD Student

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Attending graduate school can be fun, exciting, and nerve-racking all at the same time for students. This is especially true for students during their first semester in a graduate program. This piece explores four tips, two for students and two for faculty, on how students can be successful and how faculty can support their students during the crucial transitions that graduate school requires.  


Student Tip #1: Know and Be Known

Graduate school is a meaningful experience that has the potential to shape one’s journey in a variety of ways.  It’s not always about the physical work but also about the self-work needed to progress through. With that, making meaningful connections with constituents within and outside of the institutions you are committed to becomes valuable. Ensure that you are making a conscious effort to get to know others in the research arena and beyond. This can serve as a gateway to make your name known in circles that could help expand your research and help you traverse through critical moments within your study. Getting to know others and allowing others the opportunity to know you opens up a realm of vulnerability that could be beneficial for you now and in the future.


Student Tip #2: Encourage Yourself

Many may have moments and feelings of inadequacy. Maybe you didn’t write as much as you had wanted. Maybe the quality of your work didn’t meet your own expectations. Or maybe you didn’t get the grade you were hoping for. All of these are real experiences one could undergo, but it’s essential to realize that these moments do not determine the totality of who we are. Find ways to encourage yourself throughout the week. Make encouraging notes.  Speak good things about yourself, even when you may feel like a failure—which you are not! Get the proper help and support to ensure your well-being is on track to sustain the rigors that may come with a grad program.


Faculty Tip #1: Get and Stay Curious 

While getting to know your students professionally and personally is essential, this is sometimes a small, overlooked necessity. Take the time to learn what you can about your students, where they see this degree taking them, what research interest they hold, and what excitement, nerve, and fear they bring to the journey. Taking the time to ask curious questions will help to remove any assumptions we may have as faculty, as curiosity will aid in the removal of barriers. 


Faculty Tip #2: Let Go! 

This tip is easier said than done. When we say let go, we mean it. Let go of the ancient ways of instructing, grading, approaching supportive techniques, and mentorship. Lean into innovative trends, strategies, and practices. We are not suggesting that you change everything immediately; however, as educators, we must change our approaches to meet the needs of our students. So, we encourage you to examine your practices and see if they truly align with the mission and goal of aiding student success. Then, we encourage you to seek and implement one new practice that will continue to support student success. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione and @LvnDvs

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Lavon Davis, MA, MEd, is a current PhD student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program, focusing on sociolinguistics and how language grants or denies access. He has been working in higher education for nearly 10 years and serves as an Assistant Director for Communication and Learning at Georgetown University. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Anne Arundel Community College in the Academic Literacies Department.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

Antione D. Tomlin

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC

Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department

Anne Arundel Community College

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD

Assistant Professor, Literacy Education

University of Wisconsin River Falls

Graduate school is an investment in your future. More specifically, it has the potential to positively impact your salary, career opportunities, and knowledge within your field of study. Applying to graduate school can be fun, exciting, frustrating, and anxiety-provoking all at the same time. As faculty who have experienced the infinite emotions that potentially arise when applying to graduate school, we pull from our personal experience to offer four tips to consider when completing the process. During this process, you will want to think about the financial aspects, the admissions requirements, and the benefits of graduate school, but this post moves beyond this to highlight tips that we feel are underlying keys to success. While applying for graduate school can bring some stress, we also encourage you to think deeply about how you may be able to bring joy to this essential decision-making and doing process.  Moreover, whether you are applying to a master’s or doctoral program, we are sure that these tips will aid in supporting both processes.   


Tip #1: Investigate the Program. Is it a Mutually Good Fit?

This tip might seem like common sense, but it is often overlooked. Therefore, we urge you to complete a thorough investigation of the program you are contemplating before completing an application. It is important to understand the program’s requirements, features, and outcomes, as well as your goals/needs from your graduate experience. These program components are inconsistent across universities and therefore merit a solid exploration. Here are some ideas to consider when exploring and applying to a program. What is the format of the program? Is it face-to-face, hybrid (regular or intermittent meeting schedule), or fully online? What are the requirements for completion? Is there a thesis, research project, practicum, or external assessment required to complete the degree requirements? Last, what are your goals for the program? Are you interested in a new career, career advancement, or advanced certification? After investigating these, ask yourself if this is a mutually good fit.  


Tip #2: Chat with Students & Faculty in Your Desired Program

A tip that could be reasonably simple—yet take you a long way—is to make an effort to connect with students and faculty affiliated with the graduate program under consideration. Connecting in this way could not only put your face with your name for faculty when making decisions about acceptance, but it could also give you some inside perspective on if this is indeed the right program for you and your life. Remember, just as much as your desired program is taking a chance on you, you also need to be sure the program feels like a good home and fit for you. Lastly, folks closely aligned and affiliated with your program are uniquely positioned to help you understand the journey to and completion through the graduate program. So, we say, use your resources, and work smart, not hard.   


Tip #3: Ask an Alum to Write A Letter of Recommendation 

We admit this tip is more strategic than a traditional must-do for your application. Securing a letter of recommendation from a graduate of your desired program shows your potential institution and program your passion and connection to the content area.. Having a letter from someone who has completed the program you are applying to serves as a gesture of goodwill and ability. You are signaling to the program that not only do you believe you can, but others who have successfully done it believe you can as well. Lastly, asking an alum to write you a strong letter of recommendation also puts the program in a position to justify why they went against the better judgment of someone they trained themselves, should they decide to deny your application. If “real recognize real,” then having an alum to highly recommend you in a letter should make your application for admission even stronger.   


Tip #4: Plan your Personal Statement

This statement has many names, but it has a single goal, to showcase you for the reviewers. This essential component of the application process is a snapshot of who you are beyond the other application materials. It highlights your intentions and goals, how you fit within the program, and why you should be admitted to the program. With the importance of this document, you should carefully plan this statement. Read then reread the prompt(s) for the statement. Be sure you understand exactly what it is asking you to do. Next, jot down notes to be sure you answer all components. Then, think about what makes you unique, what makes you stand out? Integrate this within your written narrative, highlighting the unique qualities that make you a good candidate for the program. Last, are there faculty you wish to work with during your program? Identify them for the reviewers. 

Feel free to join us in the conversation on Twitter at @TomlinAntione

Authors Bios:

Antione D. Tomlin, PhD, PCC is a tenure-track Associate Professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College. Dr. Tomlin is also an ICF Certified Life Coach.

Hiawatha D. Smith, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. In addition to his teaching responsibilities within the teacher education department, he is the director of the graduate elementary education program.  Dr. Smith is a member of the Diversity Scholars Network at the University of Michigan and a 2022 NCTE Early Career Educator of Color award recipient.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.