South by South West (SXSW) is the largest media conference and festival in the world. It takes place in Austin, TX during the second and third weeks of March, annually. The conference entails every portion of media from film, music, gaming, app development, interactive media and everything in between.
Every year, 26 students are selected to attend SXSW with Ohio University’s media program. This year, I was lucky enough to be one of them. Here is a quick look at what our group experienced at SXSW during this past week.
Being a graduate student is a life changing experience, and students often take on a dual role as both a student and teacher.
Students considering Ohio University have a lot to consider before they enroll. First, there is the classroom where students are going to be asked to do much more than they did as undergraduates. There will also be the addition of research expectations, and finally many will have to get used to living in a new community.
There is certainly an adjustment that must be made in the classroom. Amber Damiani, a graduate student in sociology, stated the expectations increase and students have to change how they take on assignments.
Graduate students need to start planning their project immediately, there is no room for procrastination, she said. In the following video Damiani talks about developing good habits for classroom work.
The additional reading and writing isn’t the only adjustment. Students at the graduate level also have more freedom to choose what classes they will take to help them meet their professional goals.
Students at the graduate level need to change their mindset from one of simply taking classes to fill requirements to one where they consider how classes will impact their future career, said Jamie Beth Boster, a doctoral student in communication sciences and disorders.
“You can really expand and build on things that you are interested in,” Boster said.
While students can still explore in classes, they also can really dig deep into certain areas, she said. Graduate school is much more about the individual and developing as a professional.
This leads Boster to provide advice in the following video about thinking deeply about the program you choose.
Entering Grad School
When considering what school to attend there are a lot of things that should be considered.
First among them should be a true interest in the area a person is considered studying.
Students getting into graduate school shouldn’t be afraid to take a year off and truly consider what they want to do. In psychology taking a year off is not uncommon, said Allix Beauchamp, a doctoral student in OU’s psychology department.
“They should organize their thoughts, think about what they want to do, where they want to go, and what field of research is most intriguing to them,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in your senior year, people start feeling burnt out they’re wrapping up this major part of their life.”
Such a big change in life can be overwhelming. Once a student has made it to the interviewing process the school has acknowledged the student is a good candidate, Beauchamp said.
The goal for the student should be to determine if they are “a good fit for the type of program that (the school) likes to foster,” she said.
Some programs are more involved with mentoring while are less so, Beauchamp said.
“These are questions you really need to know because this sets the foundation for the rest of your life,” she said.
The student can’t be afraid to ask questions about the type of program during the interview process, Beauchamp said. This is because as Beauchamp talks about below graduate school has an significant impact on the rest of your career.
Potential graduate students get a lot of bad advice from people about what they should do, according to Elizabeth Keenan in an article on Vitae.
Furthermore, potential students need to be aware of the challenges they will face while seeking an advanced degree. For example an article from Inside Higher Ed warns that students must be prepared to take charge of their own program, understand why their work is important, and finally comprehend that most of the problems that face graduate students are psychological.
Research and Teaching Expectations
There are research expectations that come with being a graduate student. Students are expected to contribute to the body of research in their field.
Students should understand that once they turn in a paper they shouldn’t just forget about it. Most graduate students want to do something with their work, said Ryan Dunham, a doctoral student in media arts and studies.
“In graduate school your goal should be to turn term papers into conference papers,” he said. “Use the feedback from the professor to improve your piece.”
Then if the paper is accepted by a conference take the feedback received at the conference and edit the paper again so it can be submitted to journals, Dunham said. The final goal is to get the paper published in a peer-reviewed academic journal.
As a second year doctoral student in Journalism, I believe that graduate students need to take the role of researcher seriously.
It’s hard to understand when you first arrive, but having confidence in your work and understanding not just what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how it ties into existing research will be what leads to a job when you finish your program.
In addition to research, graduate students often teach classes. This places students in the position of being both a student and teacher. Students also should understand they have to take the teaching responsibility seriously, make it a priority and not simply focus on their own work even if you might feel overwhelmed.
You have to remember the teaching is often your job as a graduate student and why you don’t have to pay for school. The reviews from students will also influence your ability to get a job.
Not every student focused on the academic side of being a graduate student, some sought to inform incoming students about interesting things to do in and around Athens. The town of Athens and the surrounding area has a number of things for students to do outside of class.
Damiani recommends outside of class enjoying the bike paths. The library allows you to check out a bike and check it back in.
“It’s a good way to see the area. It’s a way you can see the outdoors and not always be cooped up and studying,”
It would be helpful if the university offered tours, or some other type of resources, to new graduate students to learn about the history of the area and see some of the more interesting sites like Bong Hill or The Ridges, which does have tours. It would be a way for students to understand some of the rich culture within the area.
“It’s a small town so there’s the movie theater, a bowling alley, and of course the bar scene,” she said.
Steve Richardson, a master’s student in geography, focused on the number of hiking trails in the area.
In addition, he talked about the number of breweries in the area as something grad students like to visit.
“Most people don’t know there are actually four breweries within the Athens area you have Jackie O’s, you have Little Fish (Brewing Company), you have Devil’s Kettle (Brewing), and there’s another one that’s being built,” Richardson said. “It’s great to have local breweries creating fresh local beer for you whenever you want.”
I also believe that graduate students shouldn’t be afraid to venture away from Athens and explore the surrounding communities. Those who simply stay within the city will not understand all the area has to offer or really comprehend the culture of Southeast Ohio.
While graduate school is demanding Dunham has some advice for keeping your sanity.
Finally this slideshow shows a few of the offices where graduate students at Ohio University engage in research and meet with students.