Meet Chris Busker

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Image of Chris Busker

Chris Busker

I have never been happier with my place in life.  Western Illinois University’s Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration graduate program has provided me with ample opportunities to succeed.  From professors who truly care about my well-being and success, alumni who are willing to give me advice and students who compassionately act within the local community, I have found a wonderful place to thrive.

Until I experienced this culture, I thought Western was a diamond in the rough. The expertise of most professors extends farther than what should be expected of a regional school.  The insights of faculty and staff bring a plethora of knowledge that always gives me a better understanding.  With intelligent professors and strong programs, Western Illinois University is the place to be.  As a whole, this university thinks ahead and develops new programs to improve and highlight the Western Illinois University community.

I am excited to hear about the upcoming Graduate Research Conference. This new university-wide Graduate Research Conference will bring some well deserved attention to our hard-working graduate students.  Previously, graduate research was generally presented only at the department level to highlight individual programs, instead of to the university as a whole.   This new opportunity to exchange ideas across disciplines, develop new connections, and facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration will be rewarding to any passionate researcher.

I encourage all graduate students to submit a proposal for a poster, paper presentation, or performance on http://www.wiu.edu/graduate_studies/graduate_research_conference/ by November 29, 2013. You do not want this opportunity to go to waste.  Providing an opportunity to practice scholarly research and presentation skills will benefit you personally and in your future career.  Dr. Nancy Parsons, Associate Provost and Director of Graduate Studies, said “students will gain experience and acknowledgement of scholarly and research skills” during the preparation and presentation of their work at the Graduate Research Conference.  By gaining additional experience, presenters will also gain confidence to highlight their work at larger conferences.  This stepping stone, now available to all graduate students at Western Illinois University, helps develop our professional future.

We hope to “foster the exchange of ideas across disciplines by bringing the WIU community together” said Amy Mossman, an associate professor and interim director of the Liberal Arts and Sciences program, “funding agencies often look to interdisciplinary research collaborations to address the complex problems in this world.” With a forward focus, Western Illinois University is developing our current programs to fit the needs of the future.  This premiere research conference will give graduate students the opportunity to network outside of their department and encourage additional presentations at other institutions.

I am excited to attend the conference on February 7.  I expect to see an eclectic array of presentation topics.  Many great people and great ideas have developed through Western.  But instead of calling this university a diamond in the rough, I see it more as a carefully-formed pearl that is ready to come out of its shell.  With quality programs, excellent professors, and an administration that wants students to succeed, I am proud to be earning my graduate degree from Western Illinois University.

Jaymee Lewis

Jaymee Lewis

Jaymee Lewis, WIU graduate student
2nd Year College Student Personnel

After the end of my first year of graduate school, someone dear to me shared that grad school should not be hard, it should be challenging. Well, the English major in me thought those words were synonymous and that I would not be able to escape either. However, I quickly came to realize that what is hard may not be what you are most interested in.  The hard part is making your way through it because you really are not that invested in it.  Yet now that I look back at the first year, College Student Personnel is challenging. But it is the challenge that excited me and kept me looking forward to my second year.

My hope is not to offer words of inspiration that will elicit temporary excitement but to paint a real picture about what graduate school could be like for you, in any program!

  1. Your experience will vary from everyone else’s. But what is great is that you can speak highly to just how unique you are. Just like that first day of college when you decided that it was time to leave your parent’s home (or to continue your education after some time living the dream), you will meet new people. However, you came with your own luggage and so will they. Taking time to reflect on what you are bringing with you can make the challenge more enjoyable. If you left family or if you took time away from a great job or maybe you are wondering how you will find work during this time to pay for school, everyone’s toils vary. Embracing who you are and what you bring makes the load a lot easier.
  2. Yes, the reading gets a lot tougher. It is not unusual for me to have hundreds of pages a week to read for classes. However, being able to prioritize your work and try new ways of keeping up will help you in the long run. If you are not that Type-A personality then find ways of organizing your life that work for you or consider hiring a personal assistant. What has worked for me is trying a new study skill over a period of time and seeing how it works. If it doesn’t, I remind myself to be open to trying something else. Use whatever works for you to be successful.
  3. You will most often see and spend time with those in your department or in your cohort. Taking time to get to know them is great towards building your professional network but do not forget that there can be peace in taking time away. Getting to meet and enjoy the company of others can be as simple as attending an event hosted by the Theatre department or inviting someone for coffee at Sullivan Taylor Coffee House. I am sure they would appreciate getting to know you as well.
  4. Who says graduate students do not get involved?! WIU has so many free and discounted events happening around campus that rarely does a week pass by without a signature event being hosted in the University Union or in the residence halls. Check out the Office of Student Activities and get to learn more about how you can get involved as a volunteer or attend the upcoming Rocky After Dark! It’s coming up soon so check out http://www.wiu.edu/student_services/student_activities/RockyAfterDark.php for more details. There will be free food, giveaways, rides, games, and live entertainment throughout the evening. The event is family friendly is a great way to start your year as a grad.
  5. As students, we also pay fees that allow us access to all of the privileges we had as undergraduates. Being the smarter and wiser ones that we claim to be, why not utilize the Campus Rec or Library every now and again? Not only does the Rec offer my favorite event, the Big Pink volleyball tournament, but it also has everything you need to maintain a healthy body and healthy mind. I’m sure I do not need to boost the reputation of our library. Let’s just say that floors 5-6 are my favorite on a Thursday night.

Just thinking about graduate school can be a chore but once you make the decision, the rest is up to you. I would encourage everyone to learn more, do more and invest in more. We only have these years for a short time. WIU has the resources to help that time be great. If you are ever wondering how to get involved on campus, visit the Office of Graduate Studies (116 Sherman Hall or grad-office@wiu.edu) and they can direct you to the right place to go. The challenge is truly in gaining a well-rounded experience, but I am sure you can do it!

 

March Madness in the School of Graduate Studies

g in officeBy Gretchen Sullivan, Assistant Director  School of Graduate Studies

Welcome back from Spring Break!  We hope you have enjoyed some time off from your studies and are able to easily transition back into school mode to finish out the spring semester.

While many folks are busy keeping up with college basketball playoffs, the staff in the School of Graduate Studies at Western Illinois University is busy assisting graduate students with many aspects of their academic careers.  March seems to be a pivotal month in our office!  While our admissions staff has been frantically processing admissions applications for the upcoming academic year, our graduation department has recently passed an important deadline for spring graduation applications (March 10).  Also, it won’t be long until our staff will be able to begin writing assistantship contracts for the coming academic year.  Be sure to check with your academic departments as to when selection decisions will be made.

We are also in the planning stages for this May’s graduate commencement which is always an exciting time at WIU.  It is rewarding to watch as our graduate students, many of whom we have interacted with personally in the office or via email or phone, achieve their graduate degrees and receive graduate hoods on the stage.  It is a joy to see all of the families and friends come together to support their loved ones at such a happy occasion.  The Macomb graduate ceremony is scheduled for Friday, May 10 at 5:30 p.m. in Western Hall with the Quad Cities combined undergraduate and graduate ceremony being held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 12 at the iWireless Center in Moline.

The School of Graduate Studies also recently announced the award recipients of the spring/summer Graduate Student Research and Professional Development Fund.  We were able to award a total of just over $6,000 to 14 applicants.  These graduate students will receive funding to assist with research projects, professional presentations, and other scholarly activities. The list of award recipients is available at:  http://www.wiu.edu/graduate_studies/news_and_events/award.php.  Visit http://www.wiu.edu/graduate_studies/current_students/studentfund.php  to learn more about this competitive award and plan to apply for an upcoming semester!

While we are experiencing our own version of “March Madness” in the School of Graduate Studies, we recognize that the next eight weeks will be hectic for our graduate students as well.  Particularly, for those who may be working on completing capstone courses or who may need to submit theses/dissertations.  Please be aware of the theses/dissertation deadline which requires them to be submitted no later than the Friday before finals week.  Other details may be found at:   http://www.wiu.edu/graduate_studies/thesis_and_dissertation/index.php.

Please remember we are here to help our graduate students progress through the graduate school experience as smoothly as possible.  Do not hesitate to contact us with questions!  You may reach us via email at Grad-Office@wiu.edu, via phone at (309) 298-1806 or toll-free at (877) WIU-GRAD, or visit us at 116 Sherman Hall, Macomb campus.

Best wishes for a successful spring semester!

Graduate School – The Next Step by Graduate Student Ambassador, LaChina Cropes

LaChina Cropes

LaChina Cropes

Your decision to attend graduate school will be one of the smartest decisions you could have made in your life—especially during this tough job market.  In fact, a number of students and nontraditional jobseekers alike are opting to return to the educational sphere because of the economic situation.  Whatever your reason, graduate school takes education and scholarship a pace further on one’s quest for knowledge and wisdom.  Graduate school provides the eager and curious mind an opportunity to focus and find its passion.  Furthermore, grad school allows you to delve into academic arenas that you think will affect the world in a major way.

When I decided to apply for grad school at WIU, I knew that I was making the right choice for the benefit of my family’s economic future.  According to CareerBuilder.com, a master’s degree pays between $10,000-20,000 more than a bachelor’s degree.  For example, a bachelor’s degree in Computer Programming pays $50,985 while a master’s degree in the same field pays $72,151.  While I do believe that many individuals will not seek degrees in Computer Science, this piece of economic information is an encouraging indication that significant financial gains are the rewards for investing one’s time and energy to achieving higher education.

Admittedly, the journey towards higher education is a challenging endeavor, but with the proper mental attitude and self-disciplining practices, success is only a step away.  Having said that, I have three practical recommendations for individuals who are considering graduate education.  First, cultivate firm discipline with your time management skills.  At the start of each semester, I make a detailed note of all my assignment due-dates in my electronic calendar.  That way, I have a clear vision of my obligations and am able to plan each assignment accordingly.  My second piece of advice is to make the library your second home.  As a communication major, I spend roughly 25-30 hours per week in the library—reading, writing papers, and at times conducting research.  Hence, cultivating discipline in your study habits is beneficial to your graduate school success!

The third and final piece of practical advice for successful navigation through grad school is to fire up your willpower as determination is the key to success!  You must understand and believe that you are capable of greatness—without a shadow of doubt in your mind.  Two techniques I use to cultivate the will are meditation and positive music.  While studying, I play inspirational music quietly or during my study break I meditate to regain my focus and willpower.  You can try it too!  Meditation and music are powerful forces that allow you to connect with your willpower and simultaneously find rhythm in your study.  There are many other techniques that exist, but these techniques are a direct reflection of my experiences and can vary depending upon the nature of the individual.  Therefore, use what moves you!

In closing, graduate school is a great option in the next step of your life.  Also, remember that there is an influx of information available to you in the form of scholarships, tuition, financial assistance, assistantships, housing and more.   For additional information, visit http://www.wiu.edu/graduate_studies/.  Good luck! LaChina Cropes