Graduate Student Ambassadors 2013-2014

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See current Graduate Student Ambassadors instead. 2013-2014 ambassador posts are temporarily available here.

Group photo
2013-14 Graduate Ambassadors: Christy Burger, Adrian Lara, Jenny Beth Johnson, Dave Stamps, Derrick White, Grace Troupe, Derek Schardt, Jess Tate, and Jie Cheng.

UNL’s first class of Graduate Ambassadors are here to create a rich and supportive community for current and prospective graduate students.

Ambassadors are current UNL graduate students who come from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds and have been selected to serve as official student representatives. Ambassadors support prospective, new, and current students by assisting at graduate student events, providing campus tours, and interacting with students through email, blogs, and social media. Ambassadors also serve as liaisons between their departments and Graduate Studies.  Throughout the year they'll be writing about campus events, research, experiences, organizations, and general graduate life.

Have questions, comments, or future blog ideas for our Ambassadors?  Strike up a conversation with them in person at one of our events or by email at

Dave Stamps: Four things to do NOW to prepare for the job market

By Dave Stamps.  Posted July 31, 2014.

Having recently navigated the gauntlet of the academic job market, I would like to share a few tips that I found helpful during the process.

  1. Stay current with the trends of your particular industry.
    The way that you learned (or were taught) may not be the modus operandi of the job market when you graduate.  Try to stay in the now by attending conferences, observing your peers, and reading every publication that you possibly can (trade journals, online forums and discussion boards, blogs, etc.).
  2. Develop an identity and expertise that sets you apart from others.
    While it is important to be able to fit in with the Jones’s, having a specialized niche will go a long way in helping you stand out.  You may feel that your past experiences may not be of relevance, but your unique past can be very attractive to potential employers.
  3. Learn to market yourself.
    As scholars, we often shy away from self-promotion.  This can be a detriment to your advancement, however.  With 25 to 40% of Americans working for themselves in some capacity (consulting, commissions, collaborations, etc.), learning to promote your niche identity will benefit you tremendously when you are looking for supplemental income.  In this day and age, it is important to put out a healthy public image of yourself.
  4. Have job interview materials ready in advance.
    Do not wait until you are applying for jobs to draft bios, resumés, CVs, teaching philosophies, research statements, and/or cover letters.  These documents take a lot of time to put together and hustling through them is not going to help your chances.  If everything is ready to go, you can use that time to research the position you are applying to and then customize your documents to better fit the job posting.  Check out for candid (and often humorous) blogs that offer very blunt advice on these types of documents and the academic job search in general.

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Jess Tate: The importance of self-care

By Jess Tate.  Posted July 3, 2014.

As a graduate student we have many responsibilities pertaining to our school work that make it easy to forget to take care of ourselves.  It can be hard to prioritize our personal needs when we are constantly prioritizing the next paper, project, presentation, thesis, or dissertation.  However, it is essential to prioritize self-care into our daily regimen as graduate students so that we can be effective and put our best foot forward.  Self-care can be described as a way of living that incorporates any intentional actions you take to care for your physical and mental/ emotional health.  These behaviors will assist in refreshing yourself and replenishing your personal motivation.  By becoming aware and building up a collection of self-care habits you can positively affect your quality of life today and in the future.  

Here are some examples of self-care:

Physical self-care includes any intentional actions you take to care for your physical health.

  • Eating regular healthy meals rather than fast food
  • Exercise daily, this can include for example a quick walk or participating in an intramural sport on campus
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Go to the doctor when you are sick

Mental/emotional self care involves practices that maintain your mental strength and emotional health. 

  • Seek out counseling or psychotherapy
  • Keeping a journal to jot down thoughts or feelings
  • Meditation or relaxation exercises such as deep breathing techniques
  • Focus on nurturing relationships and/or expanding and improving your social supports

You might be wondering, “How will I have time to incorporate self-care into my daily life?”   Life goal experts suggest that you put self-care into your schedule similar to the way you put your deadlines on your calendar.  Treat self-care or leisure appointments as seriously as you would your school appointments and mark it on your calendar so that you have a sense of obligation towards your self-care endeavors.  Make self-care a priority and something that you value and plan rather than something that just happens by accident.

Derek Schardt: So much more to a grad program

By Derek Schardt. Posted June 24, 2014.

This is so much more to a graduate program than you probably know!

If you have a general understanding of what graduate school is like, you probably know that the classes are more difficult, your area of study is more focused, and there are opportunities with graduate programs that you cannot take advantage of during your undergraduate experience. These opportunities can include such things as working under a graduate assistantship or writing a peer-reviewed thesis. An undergraduate may think that about sums up the opportunities available to graduate students, but there is so much more.

This last summer I was given an opportunity to travel to Atlanta, Georgia as part of a UNL case competition team. The case competition was just one piece of a large conference focused on issues facing the food and agribusiness industries (I am an MBA student focused in agribusiness). Apart from the student case competition, there was a symposium where academics submitted papers for judging, speakers who presented about issues from top levels of government and Fortune 500 companies, as well as special social events at places like the Jimmy Carter presidential library and the Coca-Cola world headquarters. As you can probably imagine, it was a lot more fun than it was work. It was inspiring to see so many people discussing a variety of issues that were important to me and my specific area of study.

This trip was not something that the average graduate student gets to do during their time in school. The Office of Graduate Studies and UNL graduate advisers do an excellent job of seeing what unique events are available to students outside of the normal experiences associated with your course of study. During my time as a graduate student I have been given the opportunity to do many things that have helped direct and focus my career interests. Each program of study in the graduate department has the ability to enhance your graduate experience with opportunities, similar to the one I described above. Whether it is case competitions; special trips; research fairs; or academic symposiums, a UNL graduate student can count on the University’s graduate school to provide student-unique opportunities to enhance your learning outside of the classroom or traditional research position.

research fair

The vast prospects are one of the reasons I chose my program. I had called the graduate chair (now my advisor) to ask what set this program apart from a regular MBA or Agricultural Economics degree. The first thing he told me about was the many ways I could participate in several unique events that potential graduate students never think about when they are applying to graduate school. These were not things that required much work relative to the work required for the traditional program, and these events gave me the opportunity to travel and network with others in my career field and area of study. The great thing about the graduate programs at UNL is that teachers not only facilitate your learning, they also work to find things that will help you succeed that you otherwise may never have known about!

To find out what special opportunities exist in a particular program, just contact your prospective graduate department. Contact information specific to each area of study is available via Programs Offered A to Z.


Jie Cheng: Exploring startup opportunities

By Jie Cheng. Posted June 12, 2014.

New business opportunities aren’t just for students with a business degree. Engineering students also have advantages to engage in start-up activities. Generally, because engineers have the technical skills to tackle real world problems and they have experience with patents, they will fare well in the start-up market.

Last year, I entered the “Chunhui Cup’s 8th Overseas Students and Scholars Startup Business Competition” in Guangzhou, China, which is co-hosted by the People’s Republic of China’s (P.R.C.) Education Ministry and Ministry of Science and Technology.  It is also partially sponsored by the P.R.C Educational Affairs embassy in the United States.

The “Chunhui Cup” is one of the biggest and most influential startup business competitions open to Chinese students and scholars across the world. In the preliminary competition, each contestant or team of contestants submits its own startup business plan.  This plan should be creative, practical, and financially feasible. This plan is then evaluated by committee members.

Evaluation committee members come from venture capitals, business incubators, and enterprise circles. They review and critique the plan according to its technical levels, investment prospects, revenue forecast, and opportunities for industrialization. The most pragmatic and feasible plans then enter the final in Guangzhou.

Jie Cheng in Guangzhou

I was one of those finalists. My plan was to provide QR-code-based coupon management and circulation solutions upon which social network is built to establish brand recognition. My plan was considered to have a clear technical route, significant creative points, competitive advantages and very good market prospects, according to the committee’s comment remarked.

Because of this experience, my eyes were opened to start-up business opportunities. I found out that the UNL Center for Entrepreneurship has two types of start-up event each year. During the fall semester, it has a “3-2-1, Quick Pitch” and during the spring, it hosts the UNL New Venture Competition.

I hope this encourages engineers and other graduate students to consider the potential in start-up companies. I know I will take the great opportunities presented to me and make the most out of them.

As Dr. Yong Zhao from the University of Oregon says, "The world needs creative and entrepreneurial talents who are globally competent to take advantage of the opportunities brought about by technology and globalization and tackle the tough challenges facing human beings.” — Zhao, Yong. (February 2013.) Tech Forum- Chicago 2013.

For more information about UNL and Nebraska resources for entrepreneurs:

Grace Troupe: Starting your literature review

By Grace Troupe. Posted May 30, 2014.

I’ve been crawling through the beginning phases of my literature review for what seems like months.  It is a nebulous task with no definite beginning or end.  As I have plugged along, I have learned some lessons and had some shared with me.  Hopefully these lessons can help you too!

  1. Before you even think about starting, define the task as best as possible.  This short article is quite helpful in doing just that.

    In addition, pick the brains of other students and members of your committee.  Ask them their advice.  This help is priceless.

  2. Start your literature review AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.  The point of a literature review is for you to establish what is already known and what questions remain.  This can help you refine your research questions so that you don’t spend your time looking into questions that are already answered.  It also helps you learn standard procedures in your field.
  3. Define you research questions (to the best of your ability) before you start.  It will likely change as you read articles, but you need some direction to start with!
  4. Visit with your subject librarian.  Did you know you had one?  These are professors who specialize in research support and instruction related to information in your subject area.  What a great resource!  You can find yours here: The librarian can point out the best resources to search, recommend efficient searches that are as comprehensive as possible, and train you to use citation management software (see #6 below).
  5. Write a small summary or list the main points of each paper you read (that you think you’ll use).  Keep it in your computer or on a sticky note on the article.  This will help you when you start to write.  A paper may seem very clear and memorable in the moment, but 50 papers later when you are actually writing these summaries will really come in handy!
  6. Keep up your bibliography as you go.  The University Libraries pay for us all to use RefWorks, which can be pretty slick.  You can import the reference information and even attach PDFs to keep your own little resource library.  A librarian can help you learn to use it.  You can set up an account on this page:
  7. UNL Libraries pay for subscriptions to a lot of e-journals and article databases for us to use, and you can access from off-campus.  If you install the virtual private network software provided by UNL’s Information Technology Services, you can seamlessly log into the Libraries e-resources.  Voila!  You can access e-journals, e-books, and article databases from home. 
  8. Develop a uniform way of organizing your materials.  For me, it was printing articles off and putting them on a binder on my desk.  On the cover I wrote, “Articles:  Have you read one yet today?”  Some people can read all of theirs online, but I need mine to be waiting there on my desk begging me to read them.  I like to highlight, take notes, and use different colored pens to indicate different items I wanted to remember.
  9. Set goals for yourself.  If you set goals such as reading an article a day for the next month, the task is not so large.  Breaking the task into manageable pieces with defined deadlines helps you make progress…and feel like you are making progress!
  10. Agree on a deadline for the first draft of your literature review with your advisor.  This can give you accountability and pressure to get it done.  It is a huge blessing to have your literature review out of the way before you tackle the rest of your thesis writing…and it helps guide your research, so start early!

Christy Burger: Graduation

By Christy Burger. Posted May 27, 2014.

As my educational career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has come to a close, I have been reflecting a lot on the time I’ve spent here. I am one of those crazy people that did their undergraduate and graduate education at the same institution. For the better part of the past six years, I have called this campus home and the thought of leaving is really kind of crazy, but exciting at the same time.

I got my BS in 2012 in Nutrition and Health Science with a specialization in Nutrition Dietetics and went straight into the Community Nutrition and Health Promotion MS program the very next semester. I was lucky enough to have a teaching assistantship in the same department that I was enrolled in. This assistantship has been a challenging, yet wonderful experience. I have been able to work with many different classes, including a lab, and a wide variety of students. This experience has allowed me to develop important time management, communication, and organizational skills. I would highly recommend that people entering graduate school look for an assistantship. It has provided me with real life experience that I would not have otherwise. I’ve also made great friends within the department I work in. I am very pleased with the time I spent in the Nutrition and Health Sciences department.

Graduate school was in no way easy. The amount of projects, tests, papers, and presentations was at times overwhelming. There were many times, especially in the last two semesters, that I thought that I was going to give up. I had to keep reminding myself that I was doing this for me, to better myself and to try and figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. The biggest lesson I learned is that it is ok to not have it all figured out. Life is constantly changing and the best part is that we are all along for the ride. The thought of the unknown has always scared me. Knowing that this chapter is about to end and that the “real world” is about to begin is frightening.

I would not have made it to this point if it weren’t for several people. First of all, I need to thank my roommate. She has been so supportive of me through this whole experience. I could not have asked for better friends. They are all very supportive, and I am excited to have more free time to spend with them again. I need to thank the person who told me that I deserve to do things for me and to take the chance to figure out what I want out of life for myself and not for anybody else. The department I work in and my advisor have also been very flexible with me and allowed me to explore many different aspects of health and nutrition, which allowed me to finally figure out what I may want to do with my career.  My family has also been very supportive, pushing me to keep at it even when I wanted to give up. This is especially true of my mom. I could not ask for a better supporter and cheerleader. And to anyone who ever received a late night phone call from me crying, I could not have gotten here if it weren’t for every single one of you.

Although I would not trade my educational accomplishments for anything, I am really excited to be able to start doing things because I want to do them, not just because I have to do them! Over the past semester I have been developing a post-grad to-do list. Currently I am still unemployed, so I can begin on this list right away! It includes a large array of random things that I really want to do, but just have not had the time.

  • Learn Spanish
  • Learn about religions
  • Read for fun
  • Read Game of Thrones
  • Watch TV
  • Learn basic computer programming (because why not?)
  • Go back to the ocean
  • Train for a half marathon
  • Do more yoga
  • Go to happy hour
  • Cook
  • Eat 
  • Spend time with friends
  • Go sky diving
  • Volunteer
  • Travel
  • Travel more
  • Start painting again
  • Finally try out some Pinterest crafts
  • Have fun and enjoy life
  • Relax
  • Reconnect with people I have lost track of
  • Plant a garden
  • Learn to golf
  • Learn to ski
  • Explore
  • Entertain
  • Meet new people
  • Spend more time with my family
  • Start my career
  • Find myself
  • Love more

What’s on your list?

Adrian Lara: Planning your summer

By Adrian Lara. Posted May 12, 2014.

It’s finally summer time! After a colder-than-normal winter, it’s time to enjoy the warm weather. Here are some ideas about different summer plans, including going home, staying in Lincoln, or getting a summer internship.

Going home

I’m always impressed by how personal the decision of going home is. I know people who can be away from home for years without thinking much about it and others who want to spend their Spring Break and weekends there!

For international students, summer is a great time to go home because you have more days available to spend with your family. If you feel like going home, talk to your advisor and try to negotiate for how long you can go.

Because going home is such a personal choice, I’ll move on to more local options to spend your time in Lincoln if you decide to stay here.

Staying in Lincoln

I spent an entire summer in Lincoln and had a lot of fun! Here’s a list of 100 things to do that could be useful. Here I’ll give you some options that are specific to Summer 2014.


Cornhusker State Games: Are you looking for sports more competitive than the UNL Intramurals but still amateur? Here’s a quote from their website: “The Cornhusker State Games is a statewide amateur sports festival for all Nebraskans. The purpose of the Games is to provide top-quality amateur competition in a wide range of activities. The 2014 Games are scheduled for July 18-27 at more than 70 sites in Lincoln, Omaha and surrounding communities.”  The variety of sports to compete in is huge- just take a look at the list! If there is a sport you are interested in, you’ll most likely find it here.

College World Series: I know you aren’t supposed to use Wikipedia as a reference, but hey… this is a blog! Wikipedia explaines the College World Series as: “… an annual baseball tournament held in Omaha, NE that is the culmination of the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship, which determines the NCAA Division I college baseball champion. The eight teams are split into two, four-team, double-elimination brackets, with the winner of each bracket playing in the best-of-three championship series. The tournament takes place in June of each year.”  This is good, quality baseball! If you’re in Lincoln and you like baseball, this is an absolute must since Omaha is only an hour away.


Always keep an eye on what’s coming to the Pinnacle Bank Arena. So far this summer, there is Zac Brown Band and Cher in May; Rod Stewart, Carlos Santana, James Taylor, Circle de Soleil (Michael Jackson World Tour) in June; and Paul McCartney in July. Take your pick!

Getting an Internship

I’ll start by admitting that when I first got to grad school, I was not into the idea of doing an internship because three entire months of holiday seemed so much better than three months working! But after having an internship last year, I have to say: do it!

Internships will:

  1. Provide practical, industry experience which looks good on your CV.
  2. Give you a chance to visit new places.
  3. Provide the opportunity to experience a work environment in the US (for international students).
  4. Teach you a lot about your chosen field and yourself!

My internship was at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, California. I stayed in the International House with hundreds of other visiting students, and we explored California from top to bottom. Plus I learned a lot… and got paid for it! Summer 2013 was among the best times I’ve had in my life!  I made friends that I will never forget and I have memories that will stay with me forever.  The industry experience didn’t hurt too bad either.

These are just a few of the options for your summer.  I hope you get to experience as many of these opportunities as possible!


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Grace Troupe: Places to study on campus

By Grace Troupe. Posted May 2, 2014.

You are in grad school, so you probably have an office.  Congratulations!  It can really feel like a step up in the world.  Your office, however, is often shared with awesome people who you want to talk with.  Where can you go to focus?  After studying at UNL for a while and finding some good places to tuck away, here are a few of my suggestions for study spots.  You can pick an obscure one where people won’t find you, or go for one that is close by.

Background noise

  • Union – City or East Campus
    Both Unions are stocked with computers, tables, chairs, and plenty of background noise.  This is a good place to meet for group projects.  If you like to snack while you study, there are also places to buy food in both Unions.
  • The Academic Grind – Oldfather Hall, City Campus
    This coffee shop in the middle of campus is a great place to study between classes.
  • Keim Hall Lounge – 2nd floor Keim Hall, East Campus
    This is good for in between classes, as well, but it may have too much bustle for long study sessions since it boarders a hallway.
  • Food Science Lounge – Food Science Complex basement, East Campus
    This is very similar to the Keim lounge.  It is a good spot on the go.


  • Love Library – City Campus
    Not only is this library HUGE and full of good study spots, there is an entire large room dedicated to silent studying.  Walk in and ask a librarian where to go.
  • CY Thompson Library – East Campus
    This library is full of windows for natural light and is almost always as quiet as can be.  My favorite spot is on the second floor at the top of the steps.  This area is full of desks with plug-ins and faces two-story windows that look over a large green space.
  • Geology Library – Bessey Hall Basement, City Campus
    Did you know there is a geology library at UNL?  Most people don’t, which is why this is such a good study spot.  It is not as bright as CY Thompson, but it sure is quiet!
  • Biology Resource Center – 402 Manter Hall, City Campus
    This room is stocked with computers, a Uniprint printer, conference table, and desks.  Perfect for a studying between classes.
  • Architecture Library – 308 Architecture Hall, City Campus
    This room has great lounge chairs and a quiet atmosphere.

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Become an ambassador

Posted April 3, 2014.

Apply to be a Graduate Ambassador for 2014-2015

To apply, submit these three required items to by email by April 28.

  1. Ambassador application form
  2. Your resume or CV
  3. Your answers to the supplemental questions listed at the bottom of the application form

By applying for this opportunity, you affirm your commitment to the following duties.


Roles and responsibilities of Graduate Ambassadors

Graduate Ambassadors are selected representatives from colleges and disciplines across the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  These individuals are expected to represent their department and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in a professional and positive manner at all times and be good stewards of the University and its brand.

Expected responsibilities of a graduate ambassador include but are not limited to the following. 


  • Assist with Office of Graduate Studies events during the academic year
    • Assistance at the annual Fall New Student Welcome and Spring Research Fair are mandatory for ambassadors
  • Serve on event planning committees when needed

Social Media

  • Be responsible for social media postings (including blogs, Facebook, and Twitter) posted on UNL Graduate Studies related pages
    • As a University of Nebraska–Lincoln ambassador you are a representative of the University and must exercise caution when engaging in social networking sites, blogging, or other forms of internet communication. If abused, your internet communication can have an adverse effect on your ambassadorship.


  • Attend semesterly group meetings
  • Attend additional meetings as needed


  • Act as liaison between department and Graduate Studies
  • Be available to meet with prospective students within their college or program during campus-visits
  • Be available to communicate with prospective and current students if needed
  • Be available to travel to research conferences and graduate fairs to help recruit prospective students

Jess Tate: Starting your personal statement

By Jess Tate.  Published April 25, 2014.

As a second year doctoral student I can remember as if it was yesterday the graduate application process.  After about twenty different drafts of my personal statement later and having three professors that I worked closely with make edits, it is safe to say that this particular document can be a daunting task. It is also often one of the more difficult components of the graduate application process.   More specifically, writing, editing, and sending off the final draft of the personal statement is one of the most rewarding yet frustrating aspects of the application process.

During my senior year at Iowa State University I attended a McNair conference in which Donald Asher the author of “Graduate Admissions Essays” presented several workshops discussing how to effectively write a statement of purpose.  I took several notes during the conference and then purchased his book to use as a resource during my writing process.  Now as a graduate student I still refer to this book for my own professional development as well as to use with students that I advise.

From these learning experiences at conferences and multiple resources given from several mentors I have created a handout (as seen below) that I utilize for myself and as a supplemental resource for students that I advise.



Past (Before College)
  1. Think about where you are from. How did growing up in your hometown shape you?
  2. How have you changed since high school graduation (focus on scholarly development)?
  3. Were there any people from your life who were influential to your academic and professional plans?
  1. How did you choose your college? Your major and/or minor?
  2. What courses have you most/least enjoyed? Why?
  3. Who has had a significant impact on you since coming to UNL? Why?
  4. Describe a specific example of your leadership.
  5. Describe your most satisfying public service activity.
  6. What is the single most important concept you have learned in college?
  7. What research have you completed? What did you learn? What research or lab skills have you honed?  Will you present your findings at any type of conference or meeting?
  8. Will you complete a thesis or capstone project?
  1. What are you specific post-graduate career plans? Where were you and what were you doing when you first thought of pursuing this?
  2. Will a graduate education facilitate those plans? If so, describe the graduate education program(s) you intend to pursue. Also, what position do you hope to have on the completion of graduate studies? Do you know what a graduate degree in your field will bring you?
  3. What is your five‐year goal? Your ten‐year goal?
  4. What personal attributes make you particularly like to succeed in your new career?
  1. What writers and which particular articles in your field of study have had the greatest influence on the development of your thought?
  2. Of which decision or accomplishment are you most proud? Which do you regret? What did you learn from these situations?
  3. What do you do in your leisure time? What do you wish you had more time to do?
  4. What events in your life have had the most positive impact on your intellectual and personal development that would be appropriate to share in an essay?
  5. Name one thing you wish you understood better (an issue, field of study, machine, etc.)
  6. What makes you unique? Different? Unusual?

Outlining a Statement of Purpose

  1. Attention Grabbing Paragraph

    Your opening paragraph should say something about you as a person and a student – perhaps some moment at which you realized what you wanted to do and that graduate school was the path to get you there. Your opening should be tailored to your particular interests in the program you are applying to. Your opening should be sufficiently interesting, engaging the committee to read on.

  2. Educational/Research Background

    Here, you might talk briefly about the courses you’ve taken that influenced you to pursue graduate school, your research experiences (e.g., research assistantships, honors thesis work, independent studies, research projects and skills, internships, field schools), and discuss how these courses and experiences led you to focus on the areas of interest you have chosen. You can also address issues such as changes of major, poor grades in certain semesters, GRE scores, and other “red flags” if you have a plausible, legitimate explanation for them. The key here is to synthesize – the admissions committee will have your transcripts, GRE scores. There’s no need to repeat that information. It is important NOT to simply list what you did, but rather the impact it had on you: what you learned about the field, yourself or the research process, how the experience shaped your decision to pursue graduate work in this particular field, etc.  You want to provide the committee with a narrative of how you became the kind of scholar you are today.

  3. Reasons You Are Applying To a Specific Program

    Give the admissions committee a sense of what it is you want to do in their program. Identify the particular areas of interest you have (fields you want to study, courses you want to take), as well as a preliminary direction for your research interests.  Talk about what draws you to this particular program.  It is important to show that you are familiar with the unique features, focus, field experiences, or faculty, etc. If you’ve already contacted faculty members in the department, note that here, as well as why you are interested in working with them.

  4. What This Specific Program Has To Offer You

    This section should provide the general reasons you’re interested in a program. You don’t want to restate the things you said directly above; rather, address things like research, teaching, or funding opportunities. You want to show the admissions committee that you’re not just randomly applying to their program, but that you’ve done some research on the program, what it’s like, and what life in the department (and city) may be like.

  5. What You Have To Offer a Program

    The admissions committee will want to know if you will be a good match with the program – not just in terms of your research interests, but also personally. This is your chance to highlight the academic preparation and other kinds of personal and educational experiences, as well as how they’ve prepared you to go to this particular school.

  6. Summary and Conclusion

    This paragraph should work to tie everything you’ve discussed so far back into the kind of experience or moment you discussed in section I. You want to integrate everything you’ve presented the admissions committee so that they see the entire person – not just GPAs and GRE scores, but the full picture of who you are and why you want to be a part of their program.  This is your chance to tie everything you have mentioned above into the bigger picture of what you want out of your graduate degree. Finally, you should end your statement in a positive and confident manner with a readiness for the challenges of graduate school.

Guidelines adapted from Dr. Laura Damuth’s “Personal Reflection: Getting Started by Taking a Personal Inventory”, Donald Asher’s “Graduate Admissions Essays”, and Dr. Carla Trujillo’s “Writing the Statement”.


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Derrick White: Creating your professional persona

By Derrick White.  Posted April 17, 2014.

There are multiple strategies that can be employed to help enhance professionalism and professional identity in your respected field.  I will try to touch on some strategies that could help guide you through the development process. However, the most important element is to conduct yourself in a manner that fits the aims of your mentor, institution, and peers.

  • Web persona:  When searching for a mentor, the internet is the first place to look to get a feel of what that mentor does and can offer as we journey into graduate school.  Their web persona is vital for attracting prospective students to their lab.  Believe it or not, you can do the same even if you are beginning or have just started in your graduate degree program.  Why is this important, you may ask?  When you are almost finished with your degree program and looking for a job or post doctoral position, your future employee can look you up on the internet to gain valuable information about your accomplishments as a graduate student.
  • Business card:  In graduate school it is very important to network.  Networking allows for collaborations that can be beneficial for both parties.  Some of these networking opportunities come up during conferences (regional or national), and interesting conversations can take place.  You will meet many people, and the exchange of business cards can go a long way in making sure that person remembers you and your research. 
  • Leadership roles:   Participation in organizations in your department can help with your professional development skills.  Usually the organization is very structured and you get to interact with other students that may not work in your field of interest.  This also helps hone your interpersonal skills.  Furthermore, it will help you with your organizational skills and time management to make sure you meet deadlines.

These are just few pointers that could help with your development as a professional and a graduate student.


Jie Cheng: The art of Chinese seal engraving

By Jie Cheng.  Posted April 17, 2014.


Chinese seal engraving can be traced back to more than 3,000 years.  Originally, seal engraving print was a way to show ownership or authorship. It was primarily used on legal documents, commercial papers, or business contracts.

With its development, seals gradually became the symbol of personal status or social hierarchy.  While the average civilian used fingerprints, the upper class owned private seals.  The Chinese Emperor owned a kingdom seal called “Yuxi”, which represented the power of the empire.

With the popularization of seals developed an art form. Integrating calligraphy and sculpture art, a seal can demonstrate the beauty of Chinese character within a 5 inch square or less, showing the flexibility and variety of its strokes or lines.

Tools of seal engraving

Seal engraving requires stones with fine texture, fine hardness and excellent ink-saturation property, therefore, seal engravers gradually set down their options for 4 major type of stones:.

types of stones
Fujian Shoushan stone, Zhengjian Qingtian stone, Changhua Bloodstone, and Inner Mongolia Balin stone.

Some essential tools of seal engraving include setting, knives, inkpaste, a dictionary, mirror, chalk, brush and so on.

seal dictionary
A seal dictionary.
seal setting
Setting:fixing the stone.
engraving knives
Knives used as the main engraving tool.
Inkpaste for developing images.

Production of Chinese Seals

seal layout
Step 1: Layout of Chinese characters within available area of the stone.
mirrored seals
Step 2: Mirror-writing Chinese characters.
mirrored stone
Step 3: Carve following the design until finally done.

There are two easy ways to sure the image has developed.  The seal engraver can either dip the carved design in a little inkpaste or fill in the groove with chalk dust.  It is important to view the carving in the mirror to make sure it is the glyph you want. 

Jie Cheng personal seal
Cheng Jie personal seal (程捷).

Dave Stamps: Take advantage of grant funding opportunities

By Dave Stamps.  Posted March 10, 2014.

Many of UNL’s colleges offer grant funding for research, presentation, or other scholarly activities…take advantage of those resources!  However, the financial support is only one benefit of applying for these awards; you will also gain valuable practice at writing grant proposals, and your mentors, advisors, and administrators will recognize that you are serious and proactive about your endeavors.  This will play to your advantage when requesting letters of recommendation.

I have written several grant proposals within the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts and have been awarded two significant grants.  The most recent (2013) helped solidify and influence my doctoral document, while proving to be a great networking opportunity at the same time.

This past spring, I travelled to Romania to perform with Eastern European jazz artists and teach at the National University of Music-Bucharest.  Additionally, the trip gave me the opportunity to continue my research on traditional Romanian folk music, the life and music of composer George Enescu, and the dualism of Romanian culture in both Bucharest (urban) and Brasov (historically rural).  The majority of my time in Romania was spent in the city center of Bucharest, the capital city, where I enjoyed time exploring museums relating to George Enescu and photographing architecture for future inspiration.  I also travelled by train to the medieval town of Brasov, which lies at high altitude in the cross section of the Transylvanian Alps and the Carpathian Mountains.  There, I walked the ancient battlements that used to be the outer walls of the city, visited the famed Black Church, and enjoyed the contrast of 750-year-old buildings set against neon signs and Western restaurants.  This trip afforded me great insight into their cultural aesthetics and inspired a full recital of new music, which has been compiled into a collection entitled “Garden of the Carpathians” to be presented on March 14, 2014, at 7pm in Kimball Recital Hall.

This particular grant funding allowed me to strengthen my resource pool as I strive to delve deeper into my research interests.  As I begin my transition into a career in higher education, I am exceptionally grateful for the support, encouragement, and opportunistic ventures that I have garnered from the UNL community and the Hixson-Lied foundations.  I would encourage all of you to go after these same opportunities!

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Jess Tate: A day in the life

By Jess Tate.  Posted March 5, 2014.

In hoping to give everyone a glimpse into life as a graduate student, I thought I would go through my typical day as a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology, which looks consistently similar to that described below:

7:00am: Wake up, look at calendar to see meetings and schedule for the day, and respond to emails that I may have received from my students throughout the night (Each day is very different)

8:30 am: Kickboxing at Farrell’s (huge stress reliever and gets my day started on the right foot)

10:00am: Let my dog, Koda, outside and walk him, shower, get ready really quick then head out the door for a busy day in which I am always rushing from one meeting or place to the next.

11:00am-4pm or so

  • 1-2 classes each 3-4 hours a piece
  • In between class I work at my assistantship (20hrs per week)
  • Several meetings with students each day that I advise
  • Checking email constantly
  • Head to Lincoln Northeast to see my clients
  • Snack on food and eat lunch/dinner that I pack (attempting to eat very clean)

4:00pm: Head home and let Koda out and walk/play with him for about an hour

5:45pm: May go to another workout if I am really feeling ambitious, mainly to get out of my desk space

7:00pm: Head home and let Koda out and walk/play with him for about an hour

8:00pm: Head back to my office and tackle homework/reading/papers until about 11pm

11:00pm: Come home and go straight to sleep.


As a second year doctoral student my life has continued to increase with intensity; however I have learned to embrace it and remind myself of the end goal! The schedule above is my average day for this current semester. Next year it will change drastically because I will start my field placement and will see clients at the prison for 20 hours per week in addition to 20 hours per week at my assistantship, plus 12 credit hours of courses.

With this schedule I have learned to cherish the moments of relaxation which tend to occur on the weekends or when I schedule time for it.  Self-care is essential for any graduate student, but first it is important to identify what that may be.  Personally, working out/exercising is my release from the busy days and serves as my self-care. Below are just a few tips for preserving your health and sanity.

  • Identify what internally fulfills your needs.
  • Take deep breaths at each stop light and reflect.
  • This may require stepping outside of your comfort zone at first.
  • Schedule times to participate in your favorite hobbies.

I believe self-care is such an overlooked portion of life as a graduate student, and will expand my views and tips in a future post.


Jenny Beth Johnson: Finding your focus

By Jenny Beth Johnson.  Posted February 28, 2014.

The biggest challenge for me in graduate school has been finding a focus and maintaining motivation on my chosen research topic.  After spending hours, days, months, and years researching a single topic, burnout can easily occur.  The following five points have helped me immensely over the past five years.

  • Read, read, and read.  Not only should you read journal articles from peer reviewed journals, you should also read other news and industry articles.  You never know when something will spark a question that will become your passion.
  • Draft research questions and potential methods for a research study.  This stage will help you to determine if the study is feasible regarding the resources you have available.  It will also bring to light who you will need to ask for help, how much time and money it will take, and if you have the knowledge to be able to complete the study.  This stage could also help guide you to focus only on a certain phenomenon or set of variables, greatly enhancing your study.
  • Step back and take time away.  To regain a sense of motivation and increased focus on your topic, sometimes it is best to take time away from the topic.  This may include a couple of hours or even a week until you feel refreshed to tackle the topic and concentrate on current issues.
  • Tackle the topic head on.  After a period of time away from the topic, sit down, set both short term and long term goals for the research topic, and put the plan into action.  This may require you to force yourself to sit in a library and hammer things out. 
  • If you are stuck, create bullet points.  To help with writer’s block, I have been known to write bullet points instead of full sentences.  This helped me to get ideas, or even partial ideas, out on to the paper so they are not forgotten.  Later, I would go back and write a sentence addressing the bullet point, which was a lot easier to do once the idea was thought through.

Remember that research projects, theses, and dissertations are written one word, one sentence, and one paragraph at a time. It is possible to walk away with your sanity!

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Adrian Lara: Your winter in Lincoln

By Adrian Lara.  Posted February 13, 2014.

Nebraska has seasons, and winter can be the most misunderstood of them all. For me, winter is one of the most exciting times of the year. (Yes, I love snow!) So you can appreciate the season a little more, here’s a quick list of some things you can enjoy around Lincoln complete with the where and how as well. I seized my chance to also write some tips about this season at the end. Enjoy!


What: Cross-country skiing
Where: Holmes Lake, Pioneer, and Wilderness Parks
How: When Lincoln gets at least 5’’ of snow, the parks suddenly become the perfect place for a day of cross country skiing. Go to the Outdoor Activities office (right outside of the Rec Center) and rent skis, boots and poles!

What: Mountain skiing
Where: Mount Crescent, Iowa
How: Although we don’t really have skiing hills in Nebraska, there is a nice skiing location in Iowa, just one hour away from Lincoln. This place is mostly good for beginners; intermediates will have fun; advanced will miss the big mountains and the fresh powder. If you want to get a feel of skiing, this is the place to go before you make big plans and head to Colorado for a 3-day skiing escapade!

What: Ice Skating
Where: Ice Box or Haymarket
How: UNL hosts ice skating nights once a month during winter. With your NCard, you can skate for free and pay only $3 to rent skates. The new Railyard area (next to the Haymarket and near the Pinnacle Bank Arena) recently opened an ice skating place on Canopy Street too.  Admission is free but skate rentals are $12.  The great thing about this place is you can skate here and then go directly into the Public Market to enjoy some hot chocolate or to Hiro88 for some sushi!

What: Sledding
Where: Holmes Lake or Pioneers Park
How: First, go to Walmart to buy a sled (they’re quite cheap!) Then, head to Holmes Lake or Pioneers Park. Holmes Lake has one of the nicest hills for sledding. Pioneers Park has a man-built ramp. The hill at Pioneers Park is longer, but the one at Holmes Lake is steeper. They’re both a lot of fun!

Tips for planning trips during winter

  • If possible, think of the weather before planning! Don’t go skiing if it’s -10 degrees and windy; you won’t enjoy it.
  • Avoid long drives. It’s a lot of fun to drive to Chicago or to Denver, but if it starts snowing, it won’t be fun anymore! Prioritize Amtrak or flying when planning such a trip.
  • If driving, consider carrying a snow shovel, some extra blankets in case you get stuck on the highway…and some chocolate! It will make everybody happier in case there’s any trouble.
  • If flying, be aware of Chicago and Denver airports or any others a little further North! In case of winter storms, it’s extremely likely that your flight will be canceled. So don’t go through those airports if you’re on a strict schedule and give yourself at least three hours if you are just arriving to the U.S.

Tips for driving during winter

  • Keep your car in good conditions! A battery in bad shape will fail when trying to turn on your car at 0 degrees. Also, tires in poor, snowy or wet conditions can be dangerous.
  • If you’ve never driven in the snow, be careful the first couple of times! Learning how to drive in the snow can be as scary as just learning how to drive. The best tip is just to go slow. Try your first time to drive with an experienced snow-driver to get some good tips about turning, accelerating, and braking.  If you don’t do this, at least go online to read some tips on snow driving! And if you don’t do this either… it’s because of people like you that driving in winter can be so dangerous! :)
  • Be extremely careful on cold days following rain or snow. When you see everything white, it’s quite easy to be careful. But the next day, when it seems to be clear, then black ice shows up, and that’s when it gets really dangerous. So remember just because you don’t see any snow on the street doesn’t mean it won’t be slippery.

Final tip

Fall in love with snow and cold. If you’re going to be here for five years, it will make winter so much better!


Dave Stamps: Let class assignments work for your future

By Dave Stamps. Posted February 11, 2014.

As many of the previous UNL Grad Ambassador posts have mentioned, time management is an important aspect of a successful graduate career.  We have all learned that finding balance amongst our academic and personal lives, exercising/sleeping/eating well, and focusing on the task at hand is beneficial…but we don’t always think about our class assignments in the same light.  How many of you have wondered what the importance of a specific assignment is?  “Why do I need to do this project?” and “How is this going to benefit me?” are common questions amongst students.  I believe that asking these types of questions are good for our development.  But, it is also dangerous to ask negative questions without giving yourself a positive answer.

In my first year of my doctoral study, I took a class titled College Teaching in Music, taught by music professor Dr. Rhonda Fuelberth.  Having taught at the collegiate level before returning to school, I asked those same questions alluded to above.  “I already know how to draft a CV…why do I have to go through this again?” “Conference proposal?  How hard could that be to put together?”  But, I was missing the point of the class.  Many of the students did NOT have previous teaching experience, and the point was to examine music teaching practices in Higher Education and to make sure that your dossier is professional and marketable.  Dr. Fuelberth expertly facilitated pedagogical debates and guided all levels of student experience through the process of creating CV’s, cover letters, white papers, and more…all without telling anyone how they should or should not do it.  It was motivational…and it taught me a very valuable lesson.  I could submit projects that met the guidelines for the class and gave me a decent grade…or I could think about the future and tailor my assignments to those goals.  I chose the latter.  I reworked my CV, changed the way I formulated cover letters, REALLY thought about how I would set up a curriculum if given the opportunity, and approached my white paper report from an angle that I thought may have broader conference presentation appeal.  It was a lot of work, but the forward-thinking paid off.  The white paper was accepted for presentation at an international conference in my field, I will be starting gainful employment at a great institution next fall, and I have already designed and submitted a new course for consideration at said future employment. 

When things are tough and demanding, we often tackle projects one step at a time and simply do what is asked of us for that particular task.  I challenge you to look past the short-term and ask yourself what you truly want to accomplish after school…and then use that vision to make school projects work towards that goal.


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Jenny Beth Johnson: Budgeting in grad school

By Jenny Beth Johnson. Posted February 6, 2014.

Graduate school should be a positive experience, hopefully unburdened by financial challenges.  Below are a few tips that have helped me stay on track with my budget.

  1. Consider applying for and accepting an assistantship.  Each college and department has a limited number of assistantships available for graduate students.  Many of these assistantships waive your tuition and pay a monthly stipend.  Although some assistantships are highly competitive, each department does their best to fund as many students as possible.  Some departments award assistantships only to students who specifically indicate interest in receiving one, so ask your department whether you need to take any additional steps to be considered for an assistantship. Some administrative assistantships are also available via separate applications.
  2. Set up a budget.  As I entered graduate school, I set up an Excel spreadsheet that included all of my set expenses.  These expenses included tuition and fees, approximate cost of textbooks and computer programs, rent for my apartment, groceries, and utilities, such as gas, water, electricity, and the Internet.  Other miscellaneous expenses included medicine, doctor and dentist visits, and gas for my car.  Since I have a dog, I also included estimated veterinary expenses.  Each month, I also chose to set aside $150 for fun activities.
  3. Shop around.  Many retailers have deals and discounts that can be tracked.  Based on my interest in consumer behavior and retailing, I am always eager to analyze each retailer’s sales.  For example, I have found that Super Saver always has the cheapest milk, but meat tends to be cheaper at HyVee.  The lowest priced textbooks are usually on, while the cheapest place to rent textbooks is usually on
  4. Have a stash of “mad money” for leisure activities.  While in graduate school, you may want to partake in some costly activities.  Lincoln is home to many sporting events, festivals, and performing arts.  I used my “mad money” this year on Husker football tickets and University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey tickets.  Taking part in leisurely activities can also help you reboot and regain focus on school work and research.
  5. Search for free (or almost free) activities around Lincoln and Omaha.  If you keep an eye out for events in the Lincoln and Omaha areas, you will undoubtedly come across free (and fun!) activities.  I usually use Eventful to find local event information. You can also check out Adrian Lara’s recent post about fun things to do in Lincoln. UNL’s main webpage also provides great, up-to-date information on current events.  My favorite event includes free ice skating at the Ice Box on UNL’s Innovation Campus on select Sunday evenings.  Bring your ice skates or rent them for $3!


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Derrick White: Research tips

By Derrick White. Posted January 31, 2014.

  1. Read journals articles relevant to your research: One of the most important exercises for a graduate student during his/her time in graduate school is reading literature published that pertains to their interest. A graduate student’s ability to read the information, critique the work, and understand how this research impacts their own, is crucial for success when conducting experiments in the lab. It is important to read the research thoroughly so, as we say in the Blum lab, you “DON’T RE-INVENT THE WHEEL.” In short, the first skill a graduate student should obtain is to become an expert in reading and soaking up all the knowledge that has been published by researchers before you. This tactic will mold your research and help you achieve your research goals.
  2. Conduct a solid literature review: Upon starting your literature search and as you read scholarly journals, it is important to file journals, articles, and even books in a specific database, such as an Excel file or Word document, just for your lit review. By using this database it will be easy for you as a researcher to find articles that address different areas of your research such as mechanisms, enzymes, and genes. Furthermore, it will allow you to focus on searching for journals articles that are relevant to each individual topic. When utilizing this system it is important to record the following: journal/article/book name, the year it was published, and author’s name. In this document, you may also want to create a space summarize each piece of work you have read. When you have documented each article in this fashion it will do two things for you: 1) be a back up to the actual literature review document; and 2) give you a record showing that you have reworded or summarized the original literature if you are accused of plagiarism. It is very important to practice literature reviews because these documents may be used for future publications, chapters in your thesis, and it can really help you writing research papers.
  3. Plan experiments: As described above in my first tip, understanding what has already been done will allow you (the researcher) to formulate a research objective that can give you good results. By understanding prior research and the methods used to conduct that experiment, it will guide your work and make it easier to obtain solid and reproducible results. This planning ahead is another key element to becoming a successful researcher in your respective field. For example, I work in lab in which we grow different microorganisms. It is vital to understand the purpose for each solution, how the different apparatus work, the expiration date for each chemical as well as what the organism requires for optimal growth. This process can also be applied for researchers in math, engineering, music, and so forth. Adequate preparation will guarantee reliable results.
  4. Assistance from colleagues in your lab or from other labs: Learning from a senior graduate student in your lab or other graduate students in a different lab is another key component in conducting solid research. These individuals are a valuable source of information because of several factors: 1) they are more than likely well-read and have more insight and experience with the research; 2) usually mentors are busy and will suggest you ask for guidance from a senior graduate student so taking the initiative yourself is good; 3) they can help you plan out experiments and help you avoid major pitfalls; and 4) these people have been through what you are about to experience. Furthermore, their criticism may not be as harsh as your mentor, and they can give you insight into how your mentor likes for you to present your data. They also may be willing to you with your writing.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly.

— Langston Hughes

Christy Burger: Getting involved

By Christy Burger.  Posted January 24, 2014.

When I was in my undergrad career, I spent a lot of time involved in various clubs and activities on and off of campus. Like most undergraduate students, I was concerned about building up my résumé. Now that I am in graduate school, I have noticed that most of my fellow students only come to campus for their classes and/or research.  We tend to be so busy with balancing home and school life that we forget to get involved. This lack in community involvement can lead to a severe feeling of being disconnected between graduate students and school.

Why get involved?

  • It is good for you.
    • There are various physical and mental rewards to being involved in a community. Being involved in the community can be a good stress reliever. It lets you change your focus to something other than your studies. Sometimes a good distraction can help you refocus and gain a new perspective on a problem at hand.
    • Being involved can also have health benefits. It can impact your mood and emotions. People that are in higher spirits tend to have healthier immune systems.
  • It brings people together.
    Community involvement is a great way to network and get to know people. It brings together people with similar interests from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common cause. It also helps build social skills and teamwork.
  • It can help you gain professional experience.
    Community involvement that is related to your field of study can help you in the future when looking for jobs. The experiences may aid you in answering tough interview questions. 
  • It promotes personal growth and self esteem.
    You learn a lot about yourself when you are helping others.  It can also help you understand empathy and self-efficacy.
  • It strengthens that community.
    Supporting the community helps the community support you.

Various departments around campus have clubs for their graduate students. In addition to interdepartmental clubs, the UNL GSA (Graduate Student Association) is always looking for new members who wish to get involved!


Adrian Lara: 100 things to do in Lincoln

By Adrian Lara.  Posted January 17, 2014.

Hello! Here goes my suggestion for 100 things to do in Lincoln. I hope you’ll learn about football, restaurants, parks, museums and many other interesting places here in this beautiful city.


  1. Nebraska State Capitol: Tallest building in town, very beautiful! Make sure you take the 1h guided tour. It will be a much better experience than if you go on your own.
  2. Memorial Stadium: Home of the UNL Cornhuskers! It’s a must for anyone visiting Lincoln.
  3. Haymarket: The historic market preserves an old-fashioned, very beautiful style. There are many restaurants; you can also visit the train station and some local shops.
State capitol building
Nebraska State Capitol.

Parks and lakes

There are so many beautiful lakes and parks around Lincoln. If you haven’t gone to Pawnee Lake for a BBQ on Sunday, you definitely should!

  1. Sunken Gardens: This is a must. It is located very close to campus and it exhibits a variety of flowers and plants. Just drop by and walk around, you will love it!
  2. Children Zoo: This is certainly not a park! But it’s a great experience to see penguins, ride a camel and other interesting things! Fun for both kids and adults.
  3. Holmes Lake Park: Conveniently located close to campus. I’m a big fan of this park during winter (keep reading to know why).
  4. Wilderness Park: Wilderness Park is great for running, biking or just walking around. It has very nice trails and the forest is quite dense.
  5. Pioneers Park: One of my favorites! Surrounded by a very nice trail (walk it, bike it or ski it in winter), and you can see buffalos all year long!
  6. Pawnee Lake: My favorite for a BBQ. The view of the lake is magnificent. It’s windy so it’s never too hot. There are grills for you to throw your BBQ party.
  7. Branch Oak Lake: You should go to this one if you’re planning on swimming. I think it has the prettiest swimming-section of all.
  8. Vineyards: These are not parks, but an afternoon of wine-tasting in vineyards such as the 17 Ranch Winery or the Silver Hills Vineyard is a great plan!
Camel ride
Camel ride at the Children’s Zoo.

Downtown bars

In terms of social life, Lincoln’s downtown is everything between N, R, 12th and 16th Streets. The list below is suitable for lunch, a drink after work and mostly, for night life.

  1. Yia Yia’s: Known for its pizza and large offer of imported beer. It also has a pool table.
  2. Iguana’s: If you go here, make sure you order the Frog Sperm: a shot in a tube with a frog on top, for only $1!
  3. Duffy’s Tavern: The one place where fishbowl drinks are available. It has a nice outdoor patio on the back (good for summer, and it has a fire during winter).
  4. Jakes Cigar: This bar is important for soccer fans. Here is where you’ll catch the Euro final, World Cup, UEFA Champions League matches, etc.
  5. Mix Bar & Arcade: Drinks and dancing… with real arcade machines! Don’t forget your quarters. They also have Mario Kart 64 competitions every now and then.
  6. Barrymore’s: Classier drinks and good music.
  7. Sandy’s: We all sing in the shower, but if you like to do it in public, Sandy’s has karaoke on Wednesdays.
Yia Yia's
Playing pool at Yia Yia’s.

Haymarket bars

  1. Starlight Lounge: My personal favorite! Underground lounge, 1960’s decoration with an old-fashioned environment and comfy sofas. Great for a relaxing evening.
  2. Doc’s Place: A “classier” elegant bar. There’s no loud music and it has a large list of beers and cocktails.

Going out other than downtown bars

If bars are not your style, you can also consider:

  1. Bowling: There are two nice places to go bowling, Sun Valley Lanes or East Campus.
  2. LaserTag: I discovered this by chance and it awakened my inner kid! Yes, I’m a grad student and I have in my list a place where you point your laser gun to the other guy. But I just love it :)
  3. A blind date with a book: At “A Novel Idea Book Store”, you can find books that are inside an envelope. You won’t know the title or the author, but you can decide to go on a blind date with the book if you like the keywords on the envelope!
Bowling on East Campus.

Quiet places to study

Here are some suggestions of where to go study, for those who don’t really like staying in their office.

  1. Love Library: If you don’t want to go that far, Love library is a common study place. You know for sure that this place will be quiet. :)
  2. Starbucks: Everybody knows Starbucks! It’s not the cheapest, but it’s good and definitely quiet.
  3. Coffee House: More discreet and therefore less crowded. Their coffee is delicious and people understand that this is often a working place, so it’s also quiet.
  4. The Mill: This is one of the coziest places to have coffee and it’s really good. Because it’s in the Haymarket, this is also a gathering point for conversation. But it’s still a nice place to study.


Now let’s talk about arts. Before coming to Lincoln, I had never seen so many museums so close to each other!

  1. Lincoln Children Museum: If you have kids, this is the place to go!
  2. University of Nebraska State Museum: I like to think of this one as the museum in front of the mammoth. You’ll learn a lot about many animals and how Nebraska looked like many years ago.
  3. National Museum of Roller Skating: If you’re a roller skating fan and want to know more about its history, this is the place to go!
  4. Museum of American Speed: This museum has a nice collection of racing-related stuff! All the way from toys to cars. If you like speed, this is a must!
  5. Hyde Memorial Observatory: This one is for those who are curious about life outside Earth. The planetary is great!
  6. Frank H Woods Telephone Pioneer Museum: Another tiny and hidden beautiful museum in Lincoln! Good place to go if you're interested in the history of telephone industry.
  7. International Quilt Study Center and Museum: This is the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world!
Mammoth in front of the University of Nebraska State Museum.

Enjoying arts

Besides all the museums, here are some things you can do to entertain the art side of your brain.

  1. First Friday Art Walk: The Haymarket’s art galleries host on the first Friday of every month an “Art walk” with access to the galleries, wine offerings and cheese.
  2. Lied Center for Performing Arts: The Lied Center offers a wide variety of shows. For some of them, students get free tickets!
  3. Lincoln Symphony Orchestra: The Lincoln Symphony Orchestra is a must for those who like this type of music. Follow their schedule; they have presentations in the Lied Center quite often.
  4. Theater: The Lincoln Community Playhouse is a local live theater with monthly presentations.
  5. Concerts at the Pinnacle Bank Arena: It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the Pinnacle Bank Arena schedule. The arena has seen everything between Bon Jovi and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.
Pinnacle Bank Arena concert
Bon Jovi at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.


I tried to come up with different styles of restaurant: American style, Indian, Latin-American, Asian, you pick! There’s also a list of fast food, for those days when you need something for lunch.

American food

  1. Lazlo’s: The widow maker might be the best hamburger in town!
  2. Red Robin: Competes with Lazlo’s for the best hamburger.
  3. Applebee’s: There are many Applebee’s in USA, this is not “local” food. But it’s good!
  4. Olive Garden: Same as Applebee’s, not local but delicious!
  5. Fazoli’s: Another American version of Italian food, similar to Olive Garden.
  6. IHOP: International House of Pancakes… you got it, it’s a brunch place! Delicious!
  7. Farmers market: A completely different option. During part of the year, the Farmers market is open every Saturday morning at the Haymarket. Great place for handmade food!
  8. Buffalo Wild Wings: 50-cents wings on Tuesdays. A typical sports bar with good hot wings and beer to enjoy American Sports (Football, Basketball, Baseball…).

Indian food

  1. The Oven: There are two Oven locations in Lincoln. The one in the Haymarket is better known and a very nice place. The one at 70th and Pioneers has, according to what I’ve heard, better tasting food.
  2. Sher-E-Punjab: Not as classy as The Oven in the Haymarket, but their food is really good too!

Latin-American food

  1. La Mexicana: my favorite Mexican food in town!
  2. El Potrero: In my opinion, food is not as good as La Mexicana, but the place is nicer and better decorated.
  3. Mazatlan: A third option of Mexican food.
  4. Rodizio: This is Brazil! You just take a sit and the waiter brings lots of different meats. You’ll pay $18 and that’s all you’ll spend during the day, because you’re definitely not having dinner after this crazy Brazilian-style lunch. Not a meat lover? The salad bar is one of the best in town.

Asian food

  1. Blue Orchid: very classy restaurant and not so expensive. Delicious food!
  2. Imperial Palace: Really good Chinese food, quite close and serves really fast. Tip: Ask for the “white menu” if you want more traditional dishes. The default menu is slightly Americanized.
  3. Mr Hui’s: A little place, hidden in Cornhusker Highway and 33d street. Really good Chinese food!
  4. Kinja: I’m not a sushi fan, but according to the reviews, this is one of the best sushi in Nebraska!
  5. Dozo: Great Japanese restaurant in a great location (Haymarket). If you go during happy hour, you’ll get great deals on sushi!

To grab some food during lunch

  1. Burritos: Chipotle and Qdoba are the best at huge and great burritos.
  2. Subs: There are so many options for eating a sandwich that I just packed them all together: Jimmy Johns, Goodcents, Subway, Firehouse Subs… you pick.
  3. Hamburgers: Five Guys is, by far, the best hamburger you can get for 5 bucks. Also, Runza is a locally owned fast food restaurant. Support local restaurants and go there!
  4. Gyros: For a gyros lover, Ali Baba Gyros is the place to go grab lunch. Their cooking is really good.
  5. Mediterranean: Sultan’s Kite offers yummy Mediterranean grill food.

For a yummy dessert

  1. Ivanna Cone: In my opinion, this is the best ice cream in Lincoln! Conveniently located in the Haymarket, there’s always room for an ice cream!
  2. Red Mango: For the lovers of frozen yoghurt!
  3. Dairy Store: University of Nebraska home-made ice cream. It’s delicious!
  4. Cookie Company: It’s really close to campus and they sell cookies. No marketing required for such a beautiful idea!
  5. Licorice International: Are you a fan of licorice? Lincoln has one of the best in the country! Drop by to get your candy.


  1. Marcus Grand Theater: This is where you want to go when usual movies (Hollywood or any other famous movie everybody’s expecting). Tip: You get a buy-one-get-one-free deal at Qdoba with a movie ticket from here!
  2. The Ross: The Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center is where you want to go to see all the non-Hollywood movies! If this is your style, you’ll develop the habit of checking the Ross’ website every couple of weeks to see what they are offering. Great alternative option!


  1. Gateway Mall: Gateway mall is indoors, with several department stores such as Dillards, JC Penney or Sears. They also have small shops. If you’re buying souvenirs for your family, this is the place to go!
  2. South Pointe Mall: This mall is outdoors. In my opinion, this one has more “high quality” clothing options, such as Scheels, Old Navy, Von Maur. If your goal is to invest some money on good clothing, this would be my first stop.
  3. From Nebraska Gift Shop: The other great place to buy Nebraska souvenirs is the gift shop on Q Street. Everything they offer is related to Nebraska.

Exploring the trails

Did you know that Lincoln has more than 130 miles of non-vehicle trails? I can bike to campus and I only need to cross three streets! Here’s my opinion on some of the known trails.

  1. Nacho rides: This is a bike ride organized weekly by the Outdoor Adventures Office. It’s a great way to start getting familiar with the trails, knowing people and eating nachos/burritos!
  2. Mopac trail: This trail heads east all the way to Omaha. It gets very quiet and beautiful after 84th St!
  3. Billy Wolf trail: This trail stays within the city, but it’s a nice option if you’re heading south-east (Holmes Lake, for example).
  4. Jamaica trail: This trail can seem endless! It heads south on crushed limestone. It’s quite challenging, because it can get windy out there.
  5. Rock Island trail: My personal favorite. Consider taking this trail all the way to South Pointe Mall in Fall and you’ll be amazed!
  6. John Dietrich trail: This one seems to be less popular, it heads north-east and then east. It’s very beautiful and very convenient for all students living north-east to bike to campus.
  7. Bison and Pioneer Park trails: Another favorite. You start on Jamaica trail and then head west towards Pioneer Park. Very quiet and very green! If you want a half hour of silence and trees, here is where you’ll get it. And you can have a picnic at Pioneers Park before heading back.
  8. Antelope Valley Parkway trail: This one is conveniently close to campus and follows the Antelope creek. It was recently renovated and you’ll see parks, fountains and art on your way through it.
Antelope Valley
Antelope Valley Parkway Trail.


UNL is all about American football and my list would be awfully incomplete without addressing it. The more you know about it and the more you enjoy it, the more you’ll feel like you belong to UNL!

  1. Go to the stadium at least once: Please, please, please… if you’re a UNL student, don’t go home after a few years without witnessing live how 90 thousand people go crazy about the Huskers. This is an absolute must!
  2. Opening Day: The game with the best feeling in the entire season! If you’re only going to watch one game in your life, let it be this one.
  3. Tailgate: Tailgating is all about having a huge party right before the game, just to make sure that you’re not hungry and thirsty by the time it starts. It’s arguably as fun as the game itself! If you watch a game, make some time for tailgating as well!
  4. Barry’s: I’ll just quote Dallas on this one: “You can’t call yourself a true Husker fan until you’ve fought your way into Barry’s bar before or after a Nebraska game”. Give it a try! Barry’s is a nice place, even when there’s no football game. It has a nice rooftop to enjoy drinks. The rooftop has heaters during winter.

Following other sports

Although the Football Cornhuskers are by far the most popular team in Lincoln, there are other teams that you can follow.

  1. Volleyball: The women’s volleyball team is a 3-times national champion. They are excellent and you should go to at least one game if you like this sport!
  2. Saltdogs baseball: The Saltdogs are a member of the Central Division of the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Go watch a game to the stadium near the Haymarket!
  3. Lincoln Stars hockey: The Lincoln Stars are a Tier 1 junior ice hockey team playing in the West Division of the United States Hockey League (USHL). They play in the Ice Box, near the Devaney Sport Center.

Doing sports yourself

  1. The Rec Center: If you’re a student at UNL, you can go to the Rec Center for free. Swimming pool, climbing wall, gym, basketball, volleyball, spinning, yoga… you name it, the rec has it. Great opportunity to do some exercise.
Rec center climbing wall
Rec center’s climbing wall.

Once a year events

The following only happen once a year and it’s a real shame that we can’t have them more often!

  1. Lincoln Marathon: This flat, fast, Boston-qualifying race is the best around! The crowd is the best and registrations sell out in 3 days (no joking). If you like running, this is a race you don’t want to miss.
  2. Halloween: I know this is not very “local”, but this goes mostly for international students. Lincoln goes crazy on Halloween! Everybody dresses up and it’s a lot of fun. This is your chance to experiment something that might not be popular at all back home.
  3. 4th of July: This date is very meaningful to Americans and they make sure they celebrate it. For international students, the best place to be in Lincoln is Oak Lake Park. The fireworks are great!
  4. Big Red Welcome: This event is held the last weekend of the Summer holiday, right before the beginning of the Fall semester. Great place to have fun, play games and get prizes and free food!
  5. Tunnel Walk: Want to go inside Memorial Stadium right at your first week of class? Go to the Tunnel Walk, where freshmen are welcome to UNL and we all run into the stadium just like the Huskers do!
  6. Zombie Walk: This is organized during early Fall semester. If you’re into make-up and being a zombie or a resistant soldier with NERF guns, this is a must!
  7. Homecoming week: Once a year, UNL welcomes alumni and this is a very fun week! In particular, don’t miss the parade on Friday afternoon, when they kick off home coming week.
  8. Get Rec’d: Very exciting event organized by the Rec Center. Come in and have free food, lots of prizes and lots of fun.
  9. Cornhusker State Games: Tired of the intramural tournaments only? This event, held in July every year, is a good chance to get some good quality competition in many sports.
  10. Diwali Night: Diwali night is a wonderful event where you get to eat and dance the way Indians do. Don’t miss this! I cannot insist enough on how the best thing of being a grad student is to have the opportunity to know other cultures. Diwali Night is one of those.
  11. Free ice-skating night: From October to March, there are monthly free ice-skating nights at the Ice Box for those with an NCard. Never skated before? This is the best place to learn, a majority of people are beginners!
Tunnel Walk 2011, making new friends.

Many thanks to Grace Troupe, Dallas Hartwell, Tingying Lee, Rafa Leano, Carmen Cano, Sara El Alaoui and many others for all their ideas. Hope you’ll find something in this list that you didn’t know about!

Grace Troupe: Five time management tips

By Grace Troupe. Posted January 2, 2014.

Grad school can feel like a circus, so here are some strategies to make your life more manageable. And they're much easier than tight rope walking!

  1. Make a list of things you need to do on a dry erase board. The satisfaction of crossing something off a list is a reward in itself, and a dry erase board is a great way to keep tasks in one place that's easy to erase or add to. You can also number the tasks by how important they are, which will help you decide what to do next if you feel overwhelmed.
  2. Reward yourself. Allow yourself a break once you've completed a task. Maybe spend time with friends for a few minutes or watch TV to allow your brain to rest for a while. Snacks can also be a good reward, but be careful. Try eating something healthy such as almonds or fruit instead of junk food. 
  3. Come out of hibernation. Get out from behind that computer screen or desk and walk around! Being productive gets harder the longer you don't rest your brain and activate your body. Go to the Rec Center on City Campus or walk around East Campus--it's beautiful! If the weather permits, work outside. Nothing can replace physical activity and Vitamin D for rejuvenating your body and brain.
  4. Put every appointment, meeting, and assignment in one place. Maybe you keep a calendar on your phone or computer or use a planner, but whatever you choose to do, put everything in one place. A great way to stay on top of long-term deadlines is to have a yearly planner with a monthly or weekly planner that you check regularly.
  5. Stay ahead of the game. Do homework and projects as promptly as you can as soon as school starts. As soon as you get behind a little bit it will be hard to catch up again. Try to determine how much time you have to spend on each class. This will help you plan your time later when things get really busy.

The main rule of thumb for managing your time and balancing your life is to plan ahead and stay organized. But most importantly, enjoy it!

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Derrick White: Finalizing your application

By Derrick White. Posted December 12, 2013.

For some, the application process can be more stressful than interviews with potential mentors in your department of interest.  However, if you manage your time appropriately, the application process can go smoothly and be done in a timely fashion. 

In your efforts to find the right university, it is important to make sure you have the following in order:

  • List of potential Principal Investigators (PIs) at your prospective institution of interest
    • This is very important because the PI(s) whose lab you may want to join can look at your application before the panel from the department make their decision to admit you to the program
    • Furthermore, you will want to contact the potential PI(s) before submitting the application in an effort to alert them of your application submission
  • Know the application submission deadlines
    • For each institution you are interested in, make sure you have a saved document you can check to remind you about the deadlines.
    • Consider these deadlines early so you can take required tests and get test scores sent on time.
    • Always remember that your late submission of any part of your application may lead to the department not looking at your application- SO DON’T BE LATE.
  • Review the application two weeks before submission
    • More than likely you will have 3-5 institutions that you may want to attend.  With this in mind, you should give yourself time to review each application thoroughly to ensure all mistake have been removed before submission
    • Another helpful tip is to allow another set of eyes to go over your application.  A faculty member in your current department is best, but there may be other resources across campus you can utilize as well, such as your institution’s writing center or your program director. This is a good tactic to take advantage of because they may catch some mistake that you missed.
  • Make sure your funds are in place
    • For each application submission there is usually an application processing fee. This may vary from university to university, but the cost is usually $50-75 dollars.
    • HELPFUL TIP:  IF YOU DO NOT HAVE ALL THE FUNDS FOR EACH SCHOOL, TRY CALLING THE DEPARTMENT AND GET AN APPLICATION FEE WAIVER. Many institutions have fee waivers for students who are Pell Grant eligible or a member of a program for diverse or underrepresented populations.

Jessica Tate: Valuing diversity and fit in graduate education

By Jessica Tate. Posted November 27, 2013.

The McNair program at Iowa State University is one of the primary reasons that I am currently in an APA accredited doctoral program in Counseling Psychology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Not only did it prepare me to assess the university as a whole, but more specifically my program of interest during the interview process.  During my evaluation, it was clear that Nebraska was the perfect fit for me, mainly because of the welcoming and genuine vibe I experienced my first time walking on campus.  The support within my program, the Office of Graduate Studies, and other university organizations, such as the Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, are pivotal reasons as to why I was comfortable and confident with starting my story and new chapter as a Ph.D. student at UNL.

I decided to accept my offer at UNL because I felt confident that this was a place where I could live for the next 5-6 years and have a memorable and worthwhile experience.  When I interviewed for the program it was evident that the university as a whole was supportive of my graduate program and towards enhancing diversity, which is one of the most important components for me as a graduate student of color.  For example, the university is constantly developing programs to enhance the college experience for students of color, such as the Black Graduate Student Association and Graduate Students of Color group.  Nebraska also offers events for social and professional development for us, like the career panel with alumni of color last month, and the Empowerment Forum in the spring, among many others.   

I am currently in the second chapter of my story as a graduate student at UNL.  It has been extremely busy but enjoyable at the same time.  I have expanded my network and thus have developed amazing relationships across many programs and disciplines.   Overall, I am happy with my decision to attend UNL for graduate school and am thankful every single day for the opportunities and experiences I have had and will have in the future as a Cornhusker!

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Jenny Beth Johnson: Getting the most out of a conference

By Jenny Beth Johnson. Posted November 22, 2013.

This past month, I had the honor of presenting my research topic of consumer socialization at the International Textile and Apparel Association’s (ITAA) annual conference located in New Orleans, Louisiana.  ITAA is the primary professional research organization for educators focusing on textiles, apparel, and merchandising strategies.

ITAA Conference
UNL Graduate Student Adrienne Anderson’s “Fight or Flight”
presented at ITAA’s Annual Conference 2013.

This experience was my first as a conference presenter and attendee, and I was driven to take in everything that the conference had to offer.  I found that the following points helped me gain the most from my conference experience and could help you when preparing to attend or present at a conference.

  • Be prepared.  It is difficult to be fully prepared for a conference when traveling to a new destination.  I found that my carry-on suitcase was filled to the brim, along with an overweight computer briefcase.  Despite airline restrictions, however, I had to prepare to present myself as not only an organization member, but as a presenter.  Just to present, I had a computer, power cord, a wireless “clicker” to advance the slides of my presentation, copies of my PowerPoint presentation in case of technical difficulties, copies of my resume, and a stack of business cards.  Every element in the list was needed and I was thankful to have those materials on hand.
  • Network with other graduate students, educators, and professionals.  Walk up to someone new and generate a conversation.  Most people at the conference are there to disseminate research and make connections, thus conversations are very easy-going and welcoming.  If a particular research topic of interest is presented, speak to the presenter, give out your business card, and tell him or her why you are interested in the topic.  I met many interesting, inspirational people at the conference, which reemphasized the idea that so much information can be gleaned from others if we are open to it.
  • Attend other research lectures.  You never know when a topic of interest will present itself.  At the ITAA conference, I found myself enthralled in a lecture about using Pinterest to teach in the classroom.  My creative juices started flowing, and I found myself preparing undergraduate assignments based on the presenter’s methodology.  I also gained much insight into theories, methodologies, and sampling strategies used in my field of study.  Since the ITAA also supports fashion design, I got to take in an amazing fashion show where one of my peers, Adrienne Anderson from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, got to present her innovative design.
  • Take opportunities.  I was nervous to present my research in front of a group of highly experienced researchers.  However, I knew that disseminating my research was important to adding to the body of knowledge on the topic and to advancing my own career.  I was surprised to find that giving my presentation was actually fun and yielded very interesting and complementary questions and comments.  I can’t wait to present at an ITAA conference in the future!

Before I attended the ITAA conference, I thought it would be an intimidating and stressful environment.  Through my experience, however, I found that a professional organization is a supportive community that not only forms to advance the industry of interest, but also comes together to encourage one another.

Dave Stamps: Attending grad school with a family

By Dave Stamps. Posted November 12, 2013.

Entering graduate school with a family in tow can appear to be a daunting challenge that discourages many from even trying.  But, it doesn’t have to be hugely taxing…at least not all of the time!  Like everything in life, perception is key…and everything is possible if you stay positive and go into the adventure with a good plan in place.

Three years ago, I entered UNL’s newly formed Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Jazz Composition as a “bachelor.”  Having decided to give up a great job in Colorado to pursue further education, I arrived in Lincoln relatively carefree and ready to tackle the rigorous academics.  School was an adjustment, but very manageable.  Before the second semester started however, I was married, became a stepfather to a vivacious three year old, and was coordinating their move across the country.  All of this was planned before arriving in Lincoln, of course, but I was not mentally prepared for the adjustments that would need to take place in order to effectively balance school and family.  It took some getting used to and a few months to reconfigure my schedule.  But since that turning point, all has settled in and I am on pace to graduate this next May…so I can testify that it IS possible to make it work. Included here are a few recommendations that I have for achieving a good balance.

Mutual Understanding
It would be wise to make sure that your family (or soon-to-be family) fully understands what your graduate education will entail.  Detailed discussions on how much time you’ll be away from home, school expenses, and the approximate duration of your degree will help keep the home environment happy and void from too many negative surprises.

Time Management
If you are a good multitasker, this will come much easier.  I am a multitasker and actually feel more comfortable hopping around from activity to activity and from project to project than focusing on one thing at a time, but I am most likely in the minority.  If you are a “single-tasker” only, I would recommend finding a calendar system that you like, entering in EVERY item in your schedule (including classes, study time, family time, child pick-up/drop-off, etc.), and then sticking to it.  Religiously.  Even though I am a multitasker, I do this too.  It has forced me to honor all of my commitments, including family, which is often the first commitment to take the hit.  Even if I have to work on my laptop occasionally, I am always at home in the living room with family during those designated times.  While not fully engaged, it feels like I am part of the family home life, which my wife and son appreciate.  As bachelors, we tend to have more flexibility in when we do activities.  As a parent, everything tends to run on a tighter schedule…so get used to staying focused.

Family Activities
I encourage you to take advantage of Lincoln.  Lincoln is exceptionally family friendly and affordable.  Every weekend, we make it a point to do some activity together as a trio.  Whether it is the Lincoln Children’s Museum, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Farmer’s Market, Nebraska State Capital, a movie, or a trip to one of the many parks in town, we always have a good time…and it puts life back into perspective for a few hours.

Date Nights
Don’t neglect time with your spouse.  I am fortunate to have a very supportive and understanding spouse, but with a lot of the parenting resting on her shoulders, she needs a break as well.  We try to go do something together every other week or so.  UNL basketball games are affordable, the Lied Center for Performing Arts has great deals on major touring shows and concerts, and the Haymarket District has an ever-expanding array of restaurants and bars that are of very high quality.  Babysitters are important, of course.  If your child will be in daycare, I would recommend asking the daycare center to offer names and phone numbers of babysitters that they support.  We have found a number of great options this way.

Finally, I would urge you to stay vocal about what is on your plate at any given moment.  Whether it’s your spouse, your faculty mentor, friends, support groups, or a combination of all, they are on this journey with you, even though it often times feels like you are isolated in your own little world of study.  I think you will be surprised at how much more enjoyable the experience is with open lines of communication.  Is graduate school challenging?  Yes.  Even more so with family?  I believe so.  But if it will help you achieve your goals and ambitions, make your plans, have your discussions, and go to work!

Stamps family
The Stamps family.

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Derrick White: Getting to know your colleagues

By Derrick White. Posted November 6, 2013.

The items below are some things that I do here at UNL to make sure I have close relationships with my colleagues, which could lead to bigger and better things in the next chapter of my life after graduate school. These tools will be vital to my success in my next endeavor.

  1. Attendance at monthly meetings coordinated by graduate students: One of your duties as a graduate student is to attend meetings that are coordinated by senior graduate students in your respective departments. These meeting are usually held by the organizations that are formed in different departments. For example, once I was accepted to UNL, I was automatically a part of the Biology Graduate Student Association. These meetings allow the graduate students to lay out a plan for the entire year, as well give you the time to interact with other students that do not work in your lab. Networking is important for every graduate student and your participation in meetings directed by your peers can go a long way into lucrative collaborations. These interactions can also assist with your PhD work, as graduate students bounce ideas off each other. Every graduate student comes in to their respective program with the goal of completing their degree and these meetings can be crucial to helping them obtain this goal.
  2. Interaction outside the workplace: The interaction between colleagues is not necessarily relegated to just the department here on campus. All graduate students usually have a hectic schedule and little time for socializing. However, monthly social events could be a good way to get away from the lab bench, computer, or book (depending on your discipline), and gives you another opportunity to get to know your colleagues. This relaxed environment could give you the opportunity to talk about your experience in your department, how to deal with particular issues that may arise, as well as give a colleague positive feedback if they are having second thoughts about graduate school. You should also consider joining other campus organizations that could lead to interaction with colleagues from different departments. For instance, I am the current Black Graduate Association president and through this avenue I have met other graduate students who are not in the Biological Science program.
  3. Classroom interaction and recreational activities: At the beginning of your graduate experience, the classroom will be essential for your growth as a graduate student. This is also where you will interact with incoming and senior graduate students in your department. While in class, the professor may assign group projects and some of the work could be intense. Your colleague may not understand some aspects of the class and vice versa. With this in mind, working together on assignments in the classroom could help initiate a good rapport with your colleagues. Some colleagues have common interests that do not pertain to working all day in the office and lab. This could be recreational activities that are both fun and keep you in good health. I currently play softball with my colleagues in the summer and fall, before Lincoln is blanketed with snow. This interaction outside of the lab allows us to enjoy other parts of our lives that are not associated with the lab.  I also go to the gym with another colleague in an effort to keep my body energized, so I can maximize my time in the lab and avoid sickness.

Remember, every colleague in your department may have beneficial advice about their graduate experience that could guide you on your journey to earn your PhD. If you are not willing to talk to your colleagues in effort to establish these bonds, then your graduate school experience could be a lonely and isolated few years.

"Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird,
That cannot fly."
— Langston Hughes

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Derek Schardt: What to expect when starting grad school

By Derek Schardt. Posted October 28, 2013.

Paying for it: It is true, graduate school is more expensive credit for credit than an undergraduate education is, but it does not have to be. Even before applying to a graduate school, it might be a good idea to ask what kinds of assistantships are available for the program you are applying to. Once you are accepted into a program you should apply for an assistantship you have already picked out or researched. It is not difficult to avoid taking out more student loans for your graduate career if you carefully study what programs and their respective Universities offer incoming graduate students in terms of tuition assistance for graduate assistantships. In addition, graduate assistantships usually provide a stable source of income for the work you put into them, which goes a long way in supporting yourself during your studies. Compared to a part-time job, they are usually much more beneficial to a student’s time and finances.

Have a plan, and make sure you love what you are doing: Today it is normal for most high-school graduates to pursue a college degree even if they have no idea what kind of career they want to pursue in life. Graduate school is much different. Any program will expect you to have a clear idea or direction of how your graduate studies will help you meet your professional goals. It is important to pick a program that allows you to focus on a field of study that you want to genuinely engage in and discover more about. In short, be sure you love your field of study. Although you may not have a particular job choice in mind, you should be well aware of the career opportunities associated with your field of study for when you complete your degree. Are you going to look for a PhD program after you get your Masters? Are you going to enter the workforce? These are tough questions a student should ask themselves before starting a graduate program.

Better faculty support…so utilize it!: One great thing about going into a graduate program at a large university is the change you get in terms of faculty and advisor support. Graduate student advisors have much fewer students to oversee and are available to help you out more often. Usually students and advisors form closer professional relationships and advisors are able to make the student aware of opportunities for classes or job opportunities they would otherwise might miss out on or overlook. Additionally, advisors are able to better guide students through obstacles they may encounter with their research or classes. Graduate student advisors have experienced graduate school themselves, plus have shared the graduate student experience over and over again with past students they have advised. In my experience, their knowledge is the best guiding resource a graduate student can apply to his or her own academic career.

A struggling social life: One thing that will change for students will be their ability to go out with friends and do fun things. Graduate school usually requires more time for studying, research, and work. All of these take more time away from friends or family. Your social life can be difficult to juggle if you are going to school in the city close to your friends and family. Graduate work will usually require large amounts of time throughout the week either researching, preparing, or going to class. Although these activities take up a lot of time, it is also important to learn to relax and take some time for yourself during the day or week. I personally try to have 1-2 hours of free time on average each night, and maybe a half day during the weekend to do something for myself. You might not be able to have a routine or schedule for this time, but it is important to remember not to stress yourself out. There is such a thing as working too hard on your graduate work, but it is also easy to get behind on school, so be sure to find the right balance between your graduate work and social life.

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Grace Troupe: What you need to know about American holidays

By Grace Troupe.  Posted October 18, 2013.

Some of our holidays are unique, others we adopted from some of the many nations embedded in our history.  No matter where our traditions came from, our country is just old enough to have its own unique flavor of old traditions.  Below are some of our most beloved and widely celebrated holidays here in the U.S. We’d love for you to celebrate with us!

Christmas:  December 25th

Of all the holidays, this is the most widely beloved…both here in the U.S. and in much of the world.  It started as a Christian holiday, but current celebrations have evolved to include a wide variety of both religious and non-religious traditions.  As a kid, Santa Claus brings presents.  As an adult, we all give presents to each other.  Many people celebrate in ways such as:  making cookies (and all sorts of sweets), spending time with family, buying and giving gifts, and decorating.

Halloween:  October 31st

This is likely the second most celebrated holiday as a culture, or at least it is for kids!  Although it has religious connections, this holiday is now a celebration of all things scary.  People celebrate by watching scary movies, going to haunted houses, and dressing up in costumes for parties.  Children dress up in costume and go from house to house “trick-or-treating” to collect candy.

Thanksgiving:  4th Thursday of November

This holiday started when early European settlers of America came to the East Coast.  They had made it through a hard winter and celebrated with a big feast with the Native Americans that helped them.  We commemorate this event on the 4th Thursday of November each year by eating as much as possible with friends and family.  Here in Nebraska, we generally pair this with watching football…then napping.

Independence Day (Often just called the 4th of July)

On this day in 1776 our nation adopted the Declaration of Independence, thus declaring ourselves as an independent nation.  We celebrate this day with fireworks, parades, barbeques, picnics, patriotic clothes and decorations, and other fun activities here in Lincoln.  Every year Lincoln has a fireworks show by Oak Lake.  If you want to see it from campus, simply go to the top of a parking garage, look west and you’ll have a great view!  The music accompanying it can be heard on the radio.  Most anywhere you go where the fireworks can be seen there will be cars playing the music on their radios with the windows down.

Easter:  March or April

This holiday, which is set by the cycle of the moon, also started as a Christian holiday. This holiday has been extended outside church tradition to include a variety of other celebrations.  Parents often fill baskets full of candy and leave them by the front door…which were supposedly left by the “Easter Bunny” (whose sole job is to deliver candy on Easter).  Easter egg hunts are also popular, where hollow plastic eggs are filled with candy and hidden for children to find.  As with many other holidays, families tend to gather and celebrate with a meal.

If you are an international student and are unable to go home for the holidays I HIGHLY RECOMMEND finding an American that will take you with them when they go home or have their own celebration.  Here in the Midwest, we are proud of our hospitality and you would be surprised how excited most students are to share their traditions with you!

Curious about other U.S. Holidays?  Visit this site:

Jie Cheng: Graduate education takes you places

By Jie Cheng.  Posted October 9, 2013.

In order to celebrate China’s 64th National Day, the Chinese Embassy hosted a reception on Sep. 28 in Washington. DC.

Over 700 representatives from across the country attended the reception. Those representatives are among notable American Chinese, outstanding Chinese oversea students, and respectable Chinese entrepreneurs.

As president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association (CSSA) at UNL, I was invited by the Office of Education Affairs in the Chinese Embassy. Because of the reconstruction and creative management of CSSA, I was invited to share our experience on CSSA event planning and organizations. 

During the reception, I also had a chance to meet with Mr. Cui Tiankai, Chinese Ambassador to the US, and take pictures with him. I discussed the status of UNL and invited him to visit our city of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska at his convenience. I also informed him I was involved in UNL Graduate Ambassador Program, and that is why I had a UNL lapel pin with me.

Jie Cheng in Washington DC
Graduate Ambassador Cheng and Chinese Ambassador Cui.

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Adrian Lara: Five tips to be a happier grad student

By Adrian Lara.  Posted October 4, 2013.

Grad school can be very demanding, stressful and sometimes even depressing. But it can also be a great time in life! I’m a 3rd year Computer Science Ph.D. student and I truly enjoy my life as a grad student. Here are some tips that, in my opinion, have made my experience exciting.

  1. Make friends: Friends are what you’ll remember for the rest of your life after grad school. They will celebrate with you, cry with you, laugh with you and they will be there when you need them most. You’ll be there for them as well and you’ll soon realize that they are your family here in Lincoln. The feeling of “my best friends are in my country, not here” is extremely strong, we all feel it. Keep a place in your heart for those who stayed home and try to stay in touch with them. But be also open to new friendships. With time, they will become memorable friends. A friendly warning: friends come and go very fast during grad school. You get to meet fantastic people, feel like you’ve known them all your life and one year later, they go back home! So cherish your time with them as much as you can.

    If you have no idea of how to start building new friendships, participate in everything you can think of! Sooner or later, you’ll find a group of people you enjoy spending time with.

    A great friendship.
  2. Travel: Travel, travel, travel, travel! So far, nothing has reloaded my energies more than spending a Spring Break in San Francisco, a weekend in Los Angeles or a Christmas holiday back home. Are you on a tight budget? We all are. That’s the life of a grad student! Remember I mentioned friends? Well, travelling with a group of five is a lot cheaper than travelling on your own! We all become experts in coupons, Groupon and many other ways of traveling on a low budget.

    “I’ll stay in Lincoln during Spring Break because I need to work on my research”… It’s true that staying in Lincoln will give you some productive time to work on your research. But I assure you that you’ll do a lot more if you travel for 3 days and then work for 4 than if you stay home the entire week. Resist that urge to work all the time and make sure you find some room for fun!

    Hollywood, Los Angeles, California.
  3. Be time effective: in a nutshell, it’s about making decisions, facing your problems and not spending too much time procrastinating. It’s always easy to say “I’ll solve this later”. The one thing that makes me panic is when my “to do” list has more than four or five items. I’m still not very good at it, but it’s important to actively work on solving things in that list. If you really depend on somebody or something else to get it done, waiting is the only choice. But it’s up to you and you’re only procrastinating, go ahead and solve it! It will feel great once you’re done with it.

    It also helps to use your energy wisely. Not everything is as important. Don’t go to bed at 2am because you wanted the font of your homework to look pretty. Be prepared for that extra mile when a big deadline is coming. If nothing is extremely urgent, then that’s the time to work on the other tips! If everything seems extremely urgent all the time, then step back and think about it. It’s probably not that urgent after all.

    One of my first conferences in Asuncion, Paraguay.
  4. Make your apartment feel like home: Spend some time making your place look beautiful. Buy some frames, put pictures of your family on the walls, get a comfortable sofa and a TV. Every single time I enter my living room, I think “I love this apartment” and this helps me a lot when struggling with homesickness. You’ll spend quite a bit of time at your place, make sure you’re happy in there!

    This is probably the most unorthodox of the five tips. But it’s very important to me. Some say there is no place like home and I agree. I miss Costa Rica so much! But I’m proud of myself for succeeding at decorating an apartment for the first time and I’m really comfortable every time I spend time at home. For some reason, this makes me feel like I miss home a tiny bit less. It makes me feel like Lincoln is also home.

    My apartment during Christmas 2012.
  5. Do some exercise and stay healthy: The number of opportunities that you get, as a student, to exercise is huge! For me, the Campus Rec Center is a gem, a place to work out and relax. Swimming pool, gym, climbing wall, table tennis, racket, yoga, Zumba, you pick! There are clubs for tennis, running, cricket, soccer, football, water polo and many others. The Outdoor Activities office also offers plenty of fun trips during the year. The Intramurals office organizes plenty of tournaments each semester as well. And keep in mind that Lincoln has more than 130 miles of trails begging to be explored! No need to be a marathoner here, but exercise is just a great way of staying healthy and forgetting about school for a while.

    Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Marathon 2013.

It’s up to you to be a happy person. Being sad, feeling lonely and homesick is perfectly fine. But at some point, you have to face it and go find some happiness! Eleanor Roosevelt would tell you: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why we call it 'The Present'."