Grad Student Elections 2016-2017

After much hard work by many of your fellow graduate students, the new Media School Graduate Association (MSGA) is ready to hold their inaugural election for the 2016-2017 academic year. The MSGA Executive Committee includes 7 chair positions. Additionally, we will be electing 3 representatives to the GPSG (Graduate & Professional Student Government). As this is our first election, we have included the description of these positions along with the candidate statements below.

The election will run from Monday, April 25 to Friday, April 29.

MSGA Chair

The MSGA Chair shall be the official ambassadors and spokespersons of the MSGA. The Chair shall have, among others, the following duties, responsibilities, and authority:

  • be responsible for ensuring that the executive chairs and representatives uphold the goals and responsibilities of the larger organization
  • Set and organize all MSGA meetings times and agendas
  • To preside at all meetings of MSGA and the Executive Committee
  • To re-register MSGA with the Student Life & Learning office prior to the start of each fall semester
  • To fulfill the duties of the Financial Chair in the event that one is not elected separately

MSGA Chair Candidates

Niki Fritz

Hi all! For those of you I haven’t had the privilege to meet yet, I’m a first year PhD student in the Media School. I’ve also received my Master’s from the Telecommunications Department, so I’ve been lucky enough to call Bloomington my home for three years. I’m continually impressed with the community here especially our now expanded Media School graduate community. One of the biggest reasons I decided to stay in Bloomington was because of the support and collaboration that I’ve experienced within the graduate community. The collegiality and friendliness of the graduate program is something that I think makes the Media School truly special.

So far this year, it has been an awesome experience getting the new graduate student organization off the ground and I can’t wait to see all the great stuff we can accomplish next year. I see the graduate student organization as being a key part of this new graduate culture we have started to create. There are a lot of passionate, creative, and dedicated people on the team so far, and I think we are going to do great things in the future. My primary goal as Chair would be to make sure the lines of communication stay open and transparent between the administration, faculty, graduate students, and the graduate student org. I would like to also help welcome new students into our community and make sure that legacy students also still feel like they are a part of the Media School community. Finally, one of the coolest new aspects of the Media School is we are now multi-disciplinary. I would like to make sure we have more events like the Mini-Conference or learning co-ops that include multiple types of scholarship. I think it is key that we all have the chance to talk and possibly collaborate both inside of halls of Franklin and outside as well. I’m looking forward to working with everyone to create this organization that will become part of the culture of the new Media School!

Josh Sites

Joshua Sites is a first year PhD student, continuing at Indiana University on from his work as a graduate student in the Department of Telecommunications. He has a background (should I just use first person? You all know I’m the one writing this)… I have a background in leadership of student organizations. I have separately served as secretary, warden, various ad-hoc chairs, and president of my fraternity’s chapter where I did my undergrad. Don’t leap to too many conclusions, now. It was a social music fraternity. Band geeks and music nerds. I’m the latter – not even cool enough to be in marching band.

Anyway. What I have to offer you all as an elected representative is a steady hand, a relaxed attitude, and years of experience with exciting things such as parliamentary procedure, running meetings, taking notes, planning events, and delegating tasks efficiently. Add that to my familiarity with IU and Bloomington, and I feel like I have what it takes to make sure that all graduate students in the Media School have their voices heard.

MSGA Institutional Voice Chair

The Chair shall serve as the official liaison to the Media School’s Graduate Advisory Committee. The Chair shall have, among others, the following duties, responsibilities and authority:

  • To preside at all meetings of MSGA and the Executive Committee in the absence of the Chair;
  • Serve as the student body’s primary liaisons as Graduate Representative to the Media School’s Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC)
  • Send GAC meeting minutes to the MSGA members;
  • To work with the faculty and administration to obtain and retain seats on standing and ad hoc committees;
  • To implement a protocol by which the Media School faculty and administration will promote and actively solicit student participation on all matters pertaining to the academic well-being of the School

MSGA Institution Voice Candidate

Laura Partain

After my first year as a PhD student at Indiana University, I am excited to run for a position in the new Media School Graduate Association! My previous experience as a co-President in two student organizations has prepared me for the position of Institutional Voice Chair. As the Institutional Voice Chair, I would be committed to developing increased and diverse graduate student representation in administrative processes in our department, as well as the wider IU student body. I look forward to getting to know and working with current and incoming Media School graduate students, faculty, and the other MSGA Chairs.

MSGA Financial Chair

The Treasurer will uphold the following responsibilities:

  • To provide a brief financial update at each MSGA meeting;
  • Developing the budget for the duration of the academic year;
  • Tracking and maintaining the finances of MSGA activities;
  • Developing knowledge of grant opportunities from the University.

MSGA Financial Chair Candidate

Joe Roskos

My name is Joe Roskos and I am currently an MA student in the Media School. You might be thinking, “Wait, an MA student? Isn’t he too young to run for office? What experience does he have? Why is he running for financial chair? How can we trust him?” These are all great questions I’ve put into your minds.

Jokes aside, I am excited about working with my fellow graduate students in establishing the financial integrity of the Media Students Graduate Association and serving as your representative. It is especially important during this formative moment to set excellent financial precedents that will benefit current and future graduate students in the Media School. The association is young and its future will be bright (preferably golden) if you entrust me to manage the association’s finances in order to ensure that social and professional events are funded for Media School graduate students. Our time as graduate students is brief, but one thing you can count on is that MSGA will never run short on funds during its inaugural year if you vote for Joe Roskos as MSGA’s Financial Chair.

MSGA Communications and Publicity Chair

The Communications Chair will uphold the following responsibilities:

  • To facilitate publicity for all MSGA activities by working with the Social Chair
  • To ensure MSGA elections are sufficiently publicized such that all interested parties have an opportunity to participate and/or voice their opinions;
  • To maintain MSGA’s public facing Web presence, such as websites and social media accounts;
  • Manage all University and community-wide outreach;
  • Write and issue all press releases;
  • Take detailed minutes during all meetings and distribute to MSGA members in the event the Records Chair is not present.

MSGA Communications and Publicity Chair Candidate

Julide Etem

As a candidate for the Communication Chair, I will facilitate publicity for all MSGA activities, and generate opportunities to increase participation and inclusion of diverse opinions. I look forward to working with the other chairs to manage University and community-wide outreach by generating MSGA’s presence in the social media and other forms of electronic communication.

MSGA Records Chair  

The Records Chair will uphold the following responsibilities:

  • Keep record of institutional memory, including conducting event evaluations, changes in academic policy, and any other records that would benefit future members serving on the organization’s board;
  • Keep detailed minutes and records of all meetings and distribute minutes to MSGA members
  • Maintain listserv;
  • To photograph and otherwise document MSGA events with the Social Chair for purposes of financial backup;
  • To ensure that the Constitution and by-laws are complete and current;
  • To set up and run the student elections for all positions on the MSGA Executive Committee.

MSGA Records Chair Candidate

Pallavi Rao

As a candidate for the Records Chair, I hope to be an active participant in the Executive Committee meetings, as well as to communicate the happenings at the Committee meetings to the graduate student body accurately and efficiently. Being a part of the first MSGA Executive Committee will be a great pleasure and responsibility, and I look forward to being a part of something big at the Media School.

MSGA Social Development Chair

The Director of Social and Professional Development will uphold the following responsibilities:

  • To organize beneficial social activities for Media School graduate students;
  • To encourage inclusivity, diversity, networking, and participation in MSGA;
  • Assist the Communications Chair with elections;
  • To photograph and otherwise document MSGA events.

MSGA Social Development Chair Candidate

Megan Connor

Megan Connor is a first year PhD student in the Media School. She has a wide range of experience in coordinating social events in both a professional and personal capacity. Most notable is her time serving on student government as an undergraduate student here at IU, where she planned regular events for students in the residence centers, that emphasized diversity and the specific needs of her upperclassmen and honors students, including her second best Oscar party of all time (so far!). Megan’s favorite event to organize was a tri-state junior Amazing Race competition as an intern for Evangelical Community Church, which included a chili eating contest in Ohio, and also juggling.

MSGA Professional Development Chair

The Director of Social and Professional Development will uphold the following responsibilities:

  • To organize regular professional development activities for Media School graduate students;
  • To encourage inclusivity, diversity, networking, and participation in MSGA;
  • To photograph and otherwise document MSGA events.

MSGA Professional Development Chair Candidates

Cole Stratton

I came to graduate school with a decade of professional work experience. I’ve worked sales, construction, manufacturing, customer service and retail. These experiences taught me much about the need to be professionally competent. And now after three years of graduate school I have a good sense of the many pressures that we face as students, and as future faculty. I think we can do many things to better prepare ourselves for the professional challenges we face now, and those that we will face someday soon.

If elected, I see my role as a facilitator for your professional development. Niki’s Grad Learning Co-Op is a great format we can use to educate ourselves and learn the skills we need to master. There is a lot for us to know in our profession and the chair should help in the learning process. I have ideas about what we need to know, but I also want to help you develop the skills and knowledge that you find most important.

However, improving our professional skills is not enough. We also need to create our own opportunities for professional advancement. This is why I propose we work together to create an IU Media School academic journal and yearly conference. We do great work here, and we should be broadcasting ourselves to the academic community. A journal and conference would not only give us experience administering our profession’s most important elements, but venues for our hard work, and of course lines for our CVs.

These are some of the ideas and goals that I have. I will work toward them whether or not I am elected, and I hope that you will join me. I look forward to working together with you in whatever capacity through our new Media School Graduate Association!

Yanyan Zhou

Yanyan Zhou is a third year Ph.D student (will be candidate soon). She got her Bachelor degree in TV Directing in China. While at college, she has won several national rewards in college student film festivals and advertisement competitions.

After being an English teacher for one year, Yanyan came to Bloomington and received her M.A in Telecommunications. Currently, her research focuses on sex in media. She conducted a line of research on how sex is depicted in sexually explicit materials and how sexually explicit materials influence people’s sex knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors. Candidate statement: I have just finished my qualifying exam and decided to stay two more years in Media School. This allows me to have sufficient time running for the position of Director of Social and Professional Development, which does require a lot of time and energy.

I have experience in organizing different types of activities. White at college, I had served for the department’s student union for three years and had organized activities including big gala, academic competition, community recruitment, and campus talk. Some of the big activities require collaborations with other departments and I had developed both my leadership and cooperation ability in the process.

In my own study and research, I have cooperated with people from different disciplines, including public relation strategists, sociologists, public health people, clinical psychologists, big data analysts, and computer programmers. I have experienced the advantage of interdisciplinary cooperation as well as how lack of this kind of cooperation could inhibit the possible development of my research. Therefore, I am eager to expand the network for the Media school students. I am familiar with nearly all media-related programs in America and have acquaintance and friends in most of these programs. In addition, I also have friends in applied research area and in industry. I am sure that every other Media school student should also have his/her unique network and I want to connect all these networks together to a bigger and better one.

Finally, as a documentary director before, I have enough experience in photographing and video recording. Therefore, it will be an easy target for me to photograph the MSGA events.

As a Chinese student who has lived in America for 5 years, I believe that I can bring diversity and surprise to the Media school, if you would like to give me a chance.

GPSG Representatives

MSGA members will select a total of three representatives to the Graduate and Professional Student Government (GPSG). GPSG representatives will be required to attend monthly GPSG meetings and report back to MSGA. GPSG representatives will be elected during the annual election in April. Executive Officers may serve as GPSG representatives.

GPSG Representative Candidates

Lucía Cores

Lucía Cores is from Spain and she is currently finishing her first year as a PhD student, majoring both in  Media Arts and Sciences, and Cognitive Science. Her research interests lie at the intersection between cinematography, perception and cognition. By applying to this position, she plans to work as a link between the larger graduate body, GPSG, and our recently formed Media School. While she has not pursued a political career (yet!), she used to be her class representative at the school, high school and bachelor levels.

Jess Tompkins

Jess Tompkins is a first year Ph.D. student in the Media School. In addition to her research on video game content and effects, Jess is the lead intern for the Women in Game Design special interest group affiliated with IU’s Center of Excellence for Women in Technology. Jess will put her award-winning leadership experience to work as a responsible and effective GPSG representative. In this position, Jess will ensure a successful relationship between the Media School’s graduate organization and the wider university graduate student government.

Josh Sites

(Refer back to first candidate statement.)

Different Spaces We Presently Inhabit

By: Niki Fritz

The clock is ticking. In a mere four months, the Media School will be in Franklin Hall (if the master plan holds out.) Although it will be nice when we have one building to call home, I have certain wistfulness for the buildings that have housed us thus far, our hometowns if you will. So with a bit of nostalgia-colored classes, let’s look back at the spaces we called home.

Radio/TV Building: Former Telecom Space

tv radio

One of my first memories of the Radio/TV Building is that of an insane gigantic mural that took up the entire dry erase board in the graduate computer lab. Clearly, it had been installed for writing notes, drawing figures, and other such things. But then the wall took on a life of its own, with the creative and slightly kooky musings of a grad cohort that felt the need to take a break from classes to draw a castle complete with doors to free burritos, bespectacled unicorns, and trees of knowledge.

One of the more intricate Grad Lab murals (circa 2013).

On the other hand, the room designated the graduate “lounge” – housing a TV, video game console, and a mini fridge – is often filled with people talking serious stuff. The chalk board behind the plush leather couch is often filled with random stats, perhaps of the first years trying to grasp the meaning of normal curves before Andrew Weaver’s new media statistics class?

And of course who could forget Room 169, where all Telecom students took T501 Philosophy of Inquiry in Telecommunications with Annie Lang. The room leaves much to be desired (like working whiteboard markers) but given that we had so many classes here, including our first year theory class, this sparse room holds a special spot in many hearts.

The windows that look out to the boring hallway of Room 169.

Ernie Pyle Hall: Journalism Space


Named after the famous WWII journalist, Ernie Pyle Hall looks like a small off-shoot of the Union. Indeed proximity to the Union, and thus good coffee, is one of the advantages of having classes in Ernie Pyle. Inside the building it is a bit like a maze, with little annexes around every corner. It also houses the student newspaper – Indiana Daily Student.

The place where you are most likely to spot a grad student is in the grad lounge on the second floor of Ernie Pyle. With comfy red chairs and student lockers, grad lounge offer a real nice place for grads to congregate. There is a quiet area for serious study and then the common area for sociality and as one student noted “for occasional venting.” It should be noted that all-nighters have been known to happen here! You can feel the dedication!


Ernie Pyle’s grad lounge.

Classroom Office Building: Critical Cultural Space

classroom office building

With a less spectacular name than that of Ernie Pyle Hall, the Classroom Office Building definitely has its own unique personality. Most striking is the amazing view overlooking Third Street. Grads often congregate here.

The view from the Classroom Office Building.

Of course there is also the break room in Classroom Office, filled with coffee mugs, leftovers in Tupperware and socially-aware signage. Nothing goes un-analyzed in this building.

The library is at the heart of the building, where graduate classes met, dissertations line the bookcases, and a mysterious silver-painted snow globe randomly sits in the middle of the table. This room has been home to many discussions, cups of coffee, and intense pontification.


By this summer, all the ribbons will be cut and we will all (for the most part) be residents of Franklin Hall. Check out the progress of the remodeling of the Franklin Hall  here. But until then let’s enjoy one last semester in our hometowns. It may be true that you can never go home again, but you can appreciate the view while you are there.

Conferences Are Made of Failure, Intellectual Discomfort, and Moments of Insight

By: Niki Fritz

I have organized events before. I have even organized big events before: charity auctions, spoken word events, protests, and fancy donor dinners during which I was forced to wear heels for 13 hours straight. Naively, I thought that putting together the first Grad Student Co-Op Mini Conference would be easy, or at least straightforward.

The idea behind the first Grad Mini Conference was to give Media School graduate students the opportunity to present their work, get in some presentation experience, and possibly learn from each other in the process. I – perhaps over ambitiously – wanted the mini conference to be a full afternoon of scholarship complete with three panels, moderators,  coffee breaks and of course homemade cake by 1st year Ph.D. student and baker extraordinaire, Julide Etem.

Easy peasy, right? Find scholars, put them on panels, plug in coffee and that’s it. What could go wrong?

Of course it was not nearly as easy nor as peasy as I had hoped.

A week before the last Friday’s mini conference there was flurry of emails back and forth between presenters and myself. One presenter had to teach a class at 2:30 and therefore her presentation needed to moved up. Another had a meeting and therefore his presentation had to be moved back. Another had to drop out. Another wasn’t sure his topic fit the panel.

The coordination of three panels made up of nine extremely busy and overbooked grad students can only be described as a struggle – a messy, chaotic struggle. It was a struggle that of course was made more complicated by the sheer size of the Media School. The more I tried to integrate new people and different perspectives and topics, the more the delicate structure of three orderly panels seemed to tip and turn precariously on some mysterious and unknown pinpoint that was delicately holding everything together.

In addition to this delicate mess of precarious schedules and personalities, I was forced  to confront the very uncomfortable fact that I simply did not understand the scholarship of many of my peers. Many sent me beautifully written and nuanced abstracts that I read, and reread, and then consulted a dictionary, and still I could not quite grasp their arguments.

There is intellectual discomfort in not understanding someone else’s vocabulary or syntax. As a grad student, and as someone who often identifies oneself as “smart,” it is difficult to admit that I simply did not understand the work of some of my peers.

For one, I could not wrap my mind around 1st year Ph.D. student Cole Stratton’s abstract for his paper on iPhone advertisements. One day, in a slight panic, I approached Cole at a non-proverbial (real) water cooler and asked him if he would explain his project again to me, maybe in layman’s terms. He did. And then he re-explained. And then I kind of got it, which was exciting as well as extremely humbling.

To be honest, organizing this conference wasn’t the first time I had to confront some very real intellectual discomfort. One of the key goals of graduate school seems to be to force you into intellectual complexity that often creates mild if not extreme disorientation. Media School has amped up this discomfort though, as we are all now in constant contact with the people who know the things we do not know, and study in a way that we do not understand.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges – more so than even attempting to understand – was allowing myself to not understand, to try to sit with that dull intellectual discomfort of not exactly understanding.

Then there was the other kind of discomfort, the sharper more attention-grabbing feeling of failure I was learning to move through as well.  Mini failures defined the week before the grad conference. First, I failed to find moderators for any of the panels. Then a panel was missing a third presenter. Then I realized the conference was scheduled the same day as the all-professor mandatory faculty meeting. Then we had a room change. The not-so-genius idea I had of getting people to present new ideas in 5 minutes or less, like a longer PechaKucha, was a total bust since no one was interested. That failure led to a  half hour gap in the conference.

By the time the conference arrived, I thought I had grown immune to the now familiar slightly panicked, sharp feeling of failure. Yet last Friday there is was; during the first panel on translating one’s thesis into a publishable article, a Power-Point presentation failed to work work … By the last panel on privacy and technology, most of the participants had left for meetings or classes … And then it was over …  I helped myself to a rather generous slice of homemade cake make by Julide.

Despite the fact that the conference was over, the buzz continued; grad students were chatting about privacy in the digital age, how to inform our students, and how to inform ourselves. Second year Ph.D. student Mona Malacane mentioned wanting to integrate some of Cole’s presentation into her future lectures on social media. And there it was: a little moment of insight and intellectual growth. I realized there had been moments throughout the conference such as this. Once when a faculty member noted that the first rejection from a journal is always painful, the room murmured in agreement, encouraging the presenters who were struggling with negative reviewer comments. Or when the social scientist and cultural scholar both presented on fan fiction and agreed that the current explanation about why women write fan fiction was problematic.

It seems kitschy (and perhaps it is) to wrap up my experience into a neat little bow of a happy ending of intellectual insight. Of course, the truth is my first experience organizing a grad mini conference was perhaps 60% of what I hoped it would be. I would give myself a solid D+.

But partially that is because I was expecting so much. I was expecting grace, and brilliance and ease at every moment. Instead as I tried to maneuver this bulky conference, I hit corners, and chipped off some paint. I wanted perfection and got reality. And reality actually gave me some brilliant and unexpected moments of insight along the way, like when that perfect song you haven’t heard in years comes on the radio at the perfect moment in your road trip.

In many ways it reminds me of the media school.  I expected one thing, I expected ease and shiny perfection. Instead I got struggle, intellectual discomfort, sharp little stabs of failure, and of course moments of well-earned insight.

But, perhaps most importantly, I learned this: low attendance at a conference always has an upside, which is there is always plenty of cake to go around.

A Few of the Rock Star Panelists from the Grad Co-Op Mini Conference

Friday Research Meetings: Support, Fun, and Stupid Questions

By: Niki Fritz

I felt bewildered the first time I walked into a Friday morning research meeting of the Institute for Communication Research (ICR). This gathering of media science-oriented minds was new to me and a bit intimidating. As a first year master’s student, I was interested in research but I didn’t entirely know what “research” really was. I was still struggling just to read the methods section of my assigned readings. Sitting in this group of “real” scholars, I felt like an imposter.

Yet these “real” scholars were friendly and laughing. Someone announced they got a paper published and the group in unison slapped the table and yelled – “Hot damn!” I remember I jumped a bit in confusion but was assured this was part of the culture of the research meeting. I would learn, they promised.

Of course, as the years went on, associate instructor assignments, courses schedules, and general laziness got in the way of attending research meetings. When I returned this semester after an almost 2 year absence, it was a different meeting, with different people, in a different room, with a totally different format. I again felt slightly bewildered as I introduced myself.

Thumbs up for Friday mornings in the ICR Research Meeting!

I sat down to talk about these changing dynamics of the weekly research meetings with Dr. Annie Lang and Dr. Rob Potter, who started them at IU years – dare I say decades – ago.

“Every semester [the research meeting] changes a little bit. We want to make it useful for everyone,” Annie explains. “We also want to make it comfortable for people so they can bring their problems. There are so many other people that can help, so I encourage people to bring their problems to the whole group.”

This can be easier said than done. It can be difficult to bring up what you perceive as an inadequacy in front of a group of your peers. Annie explains that this is exactly why she started what she then called lab meetings when she was at Washington State University.

“I started [lab meetings] at Washington State because I had a lot of grad students and I didn’t have tenure and I had small kids. I wanted to know what all my students were doing in one meeting,” Annie explains. One meeting a week, everyone would bring both their progress and questions to the group. When Annie moved to IU, she brought the tradition with her. At IU, Rob became one of Annie’s students and also an active “geek” member of the lab meetings.

“Then I went away and I started a lab meeting at the University of Alabama,” Rob explains. “There the lab meetings became a college-wide research group.”

Of course Rob couldn’t stay away from IU for long; eventually he came back to IU and become the director of the Institute for Communication Research.

“When Rob came back, we started to do the lab meetings together but they became an ICR thing,” Annie says.

Together, the two built a lab that originally was in a house on Park Street. Annie described how the lab equipment was in the kitchen, while the participant room was in the dining room. Rob laughs remembering the experimental construction of the first lab space the ICR team attempted with help from Tudey, Annie’s husband and volunteer ICR contractor.

“I wish we had pictures. I remember Tudey was smoking his pipe and making drawings [of the wall],” Rob laughs. “Eventually we got a wall [between the kitchen and the dining room].”

“Everything is like that. We bootstrapped it,” Annie says. “Every time we had some extra money we would add something … From the beginning I was building a shared space because I knew there wasn’t money for everyone to have space. I wanted everyone to be able to join.”

Years later, the ICR lab moved to Radio-TV Building and then eventually to a larger space in Eigenmann, where there are three participant rooms, a director’s office, a grad lab space and a content analysis room. Since the bootstrapping days, research meetings have also grown to encompass all social scientific research in the school.

“The word lab has a lot of connotation with an individual person’s lab,” Annie explains.

“It also connotes experimental research. We want every social scientist to feel welcomed,” Rob adds.

So while the research meetings are often still called lab meetings, they very much are a time and space for any student or faculty member to come and talk about their research with supportive peers.

As for the structure of meetings, they are still working on that.

“[The research meeting] needed a different structure because it was becoming a new thing. We never got people to bring their problems to the lab meeting because they didn’t want to look stupid in front of other people,” Annie says. “It is what I see in academia all the time because it is so competitive. People want to look good instead of learn. We want to create knowledge. Being ignorant should be okay but it’s not because everyone is competing all the time.”

“We want to create a culture where you want to use the brain trust around the table. Where you can say ‘Here is my idea that is half baked, but let’s talk about it,’” Rob elaborates.

Both scholars emphasize that researchers are welcomed to bring in their data and ask for help. Recently 1st year Ph.D. student, Lucía Cores Sarría, asked the research meeting group for help with her thesis.

“I studied for my master’s in a Danish university, but I left Denmark without having analyzed my data properly,” Lucia says. “At the meeting, I presented my experimental design and some graphs about my data. People gave me very positive feedback. More than anything, it was great having my peers tell me that it was an interesting research, because at that point I was sick and tired of it. So it helped me recover a bit of the love for my study.”

Lucia adds that she also got practical solutions to her data analyzing woes and was able to finish her thesis.

From first year master’s students to Ph.D. candidates, we all have a bit of the imposter syndrome. It is easy to feel like we don’t belong among scholars. But the lesson of the research meetings is you do belong!

If nothing else, come to the lab meetings to be inspired by other people’s passions. Come to hear about cool new social scientific projects. Come to become part of this community where stupid questions are welcomed and hot damns abound.

The research meeting attendees getting goofy on Friday morning.

Getting your Dream Job … When You’re Still In Grad School

By: Niki Fritz

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts and Biblical Studies, Becca Costello wanted to go into journalism. She dreamed of becoming a news reporter at NPR, of telling stories that really mattered to people. Last fall, Becca decided  to enter the professional journalism master’s program in the Media School as the first step to her dream job.

“I had this timeline in my head. I had no journalism experience. I was desperate to try to get some sort of internship at NPR getting people coffee or something,” Becca explains. “But my first week here, I got lucky and [WIFU, an Indiana affiliate of NPR] offered me a part time job.”

Although her part-time gig might have been lucky, it was all grit and determination that landed Becca a permanent job this January. She was busy with three classes and her part-time job, when the Digital News Journalist for WFIU [Bloomington NPR affiliate] and WTIU [Bloomington PBS affiliate] left the job. For three weeks during the holidays Becca stepped in to fill his shoes. By the time she interviewed for the full-time news journalist position, she was already doing the job of her predecessor.

Becca in the studio for the first time.

Becca’s gusto impressed her bosses who hired her in the first week of classes. Since then it has been a bit of a juggling act.

“I’m still in two classes. It is a lot of reading and trying to figure out how to balance all that. So far I have been handling it poorly but I’m getting better!” Becca adds enthusiastically.

She still has to have some quality time with her pup, Cincy. Sometimes the job keeps her away from Cincy longer than she would like.

“It is unpredictable when I will be home. Last Thursday I was ready to go home and then news broke … so I didn’t get to leave until 7:30 and then I had to work at home for 4 hours,” Becca says. She’s now looking into the possibility of some doggy daycare.

Despite some of the sacrifices, Becca loves her new job.

“[the 24/7 news cycle] is definitely stressful. I have to be way more purposeful about getting enough sleep and eating proper meals but I think it is worth the stress,” Becca says. “Every day is a sense of satisfaction, which is very different from grad school. I have a really consistent sense that I’m doing something. It is cliché but I feel like it matters. Public radio gets to go a little deeper.  We are normally the last ones there at the scene. We get to tell peoples’ stories instead of just giving them a few sound bites.”

As for the biggest change in her life since she found out she got a full-time job after only a semester in graduate school, Becca says in all sincerity that she now has to wear matching socks.

“I have to be more professional now. I’ve worked full time before, but this is so different. I feel like I’m on call all the time. Not in a bad way but in a ‘this is my life now’ way,” Becca says, proudly displaying her matching and very stylish socks. “This is what I do and I love this. This was my end goal; it just happened a lot sooner than I thought it would!”







Does this blog make you like us more?

By: Niki Fritz

At our core, whether we admit it or not, we all want to be liked. It is the same for graduate students, faculty members, big businesses, small startup companies, and even newly formed academic institutions, such as the Media School. We all want to be liked, to be looked at as worthy, and to enjoy a good reputation.

Media School Professor Sung-Un Yang’s brown bag on Friday got the Undoctored talking to him, as he spoke at length of all things on the role of blogs in community formation!  Here we venture to offer some of the nuggets we picked up, at the brown bag and in a subsequent conversation.

Dr. Sung-Un Yang of the Media School.

According to Yang, in the past, communication professionals thought that the best way to create and maintain likeability and reputation was control.

“Traditionally communication scholars have myths about communication, which is that communication is all about control, a very essentialized top-down communication channel. Usually the audience is very passive and selective. But I don’t think that is the eco system of communication now. Thanks to evolving technology and the empowered public, the system has changed,” Yang explains. “Controlling the flow of info is very old fashioned. In that regard the blog is the perfect form of communication to tell the story.”

Back in the early days of the Internet, blogs may have been the preserve of antsy teens, a place for airing their feelings. But now blogs have the opportunity to create stories that people actually want to read and share.

“Websites are full of shameless promotional information. People don’t want to share that,” Yang says. “Blogs are beyond promotional. They are stories about how we manage this community together.”

The crew at Undoctored hadn’t spoken to Dr. Yang before we started the blog. (Although, in retrospect, that might have been a good idea!) When we started brewing the idea of the blog back in the summer of 2015, all we knew was that we wanted an open space for playful stories.

We wanted a space for students to tell their own stories. Then, story by story, we wanted the grander and more complex picture of the Media School to form. The truth is that we did not know then what the Media School would be, nor do we really now know. Our community is still coming together.  We want the blog to bring together voices and contribute to the advancement of the Media School in a way that is more raw and interesting than any 5-year plan.

Undoctored’s Word Cloud

Yang explains that our inclination towards the story is more than just entertainment; it is about empathy and community building, essential components for gaining that good reputation we all desire.

“The role of the narrative is both grounding and empathy. Both sender and receiver collaborate towards a common communicative goal,” Yang says.  “Also there is empathy. One of the key mediators [to a good reputation] is emotional connection.”

But in order to create this golden ticket of emotional connection, the narrative has to be authentic. By authentic, Yang explains we often mean exclusive, original, or honest. The public wants real. The public wants Goffman’s backstage up front. And blogs can often give them this (and boy do we try here at Undoctored!).

“Blogs are effective internal communication. It is a great tool to enhance sense of community and sense of belonging. And externally it has the same principle. Successful blogs create a fan community,” Yang explains.

These authentic narratives can both enhance a community feeling of connectedness but also possibly create fans (such as potential new students or faculty members) who may become kindred spirits and join us. This all sounds fine and dandy, but it got us wondering:  Is this blog, our undoctored Media School blog, working? Are we creating authentic and empathetic narratives for our community?

After a semester of stories, we at Undoctored hope we have contributed to the newly forming community at the Media School. As we continue to tell the Media School’s stories though, we would love to have any feedback or other story ideas sent our way. This is our way of saying, we are open to suggestions, or as Yang would say, a dialogical communication. As always feel free to send any story ideas to nrfritz (at) Or feel free to comment below.

Of course giving up some of the control over communication can be nerve-racking. Building a new school is full of political hoops and sensitive landmines. And yet Yang says it is worth it.

“We need to look at authentic communication not as losing but as giving up control for the sake of authenticity,” Yang states beautifully. And we here at Undoctored could not agree more.

Understanding our Families’ Misunderstandings about Academia

By: Niki Fritz

xia at wedding
Xia skyping into his close friends’ wedding in China.

“I am the only child in my family, which is very common in China due to the one-child policy. So I have developed very close relationships with my primary school classmates and my cousins,” 1st year PhD student Xia Zheng explained to me. So close, in fact, that recently, old primary school friends skyped Xia into their wedding back in China.

While his closest friends are getting married and building lives in China, Xia is here at Indiana University, pursuing a PhD.

“[My friends] think it’s very brave to study abroad and try to pursue a career in academia instead of pursuing quick and big money,” Xia explains. He goes on to say that his immediate family is supportive as well.

“After the cultural revolution, China went through a period when the chance of upward mobility and income heavily relied upon on one’s educational level,” Xia recalls. “I remember my grandpa encouraged me to study more since I was young. I think he would still now think that a career in academia is rewarding and even somewhat ‘sacred.’”

Halfway around the world, down in the outskirts of Savannah, Georgia, 3rd year PhD student Teresa Lynch grew up in a diametrically different setting. She was surrounded by a big immediate family, including two younger brothers she played endless video games with, a stay-at-home mom who inculcated a love of the outdoors, and a dad who worked shifts at the paper company and whose curiosity about the world inspired Teresa. It was the type of family Teresa describes as having a slight “bohemian sensibility,” where everyone encouraged each other’s passions. And yet, even though neither of her parents completed a bachelor’s degree, like Xia, Teresa grew up in an environment that prized education.

“Both my parents think education is just one of the most important things you can do in your life,” Teresa says. “They are my biggest cheerleaders.”

teresa and brothers
Teresa with her brothers.

No matter where we grew up, many in academia have similar experience of being raised in environments where education was key; key either to a better social class or to intellectual enlightenment or just to living a fulfilling life.

Often, we have received blind, unending, and unquestioning support from our families even if they have trouble actually understanding what we do.

This has certainly been MA student Joe Roskos’ experience as he has gone through college and now onto graduate school. His mom in particular is incredibly proud of him and invested in his education.

joe's family
Joe’s family includes 5 siblings and his supportive parents.

“My mom wants to read everything I write for school,” Joe says chuckling. “When I was living at home, she’d rummage through my paper waste basket and read copies of papers that I tossed out.”

And yet, for all their sometimes over-zealous support, many times our families just do not understand academia.

First, there is the issue of time. Most family members just can’t understand what is taking us so long. Recently, 3rd year PhD student Mona Malacane had this experience when she visited home over the holidays.

“We have one family friend that I swear asks me every time we see him, ‘So can I call you Dr. Malacane yet?’ And I’m like, ‘Well no, in the 4 months since you’ve seen me, I have not completed my advanced degree. But maybe in another 6 months!’ That last part is usually dripping with sarcasm but it never stops him from asking,” Mona laughs.

In addition to not understanding why this whole grad school thing is taking so long, the family often cannot understand why we still don’t have any money.

“My dad cannot understand how I have been in school this long and don’t have any money,” Teresa says. “The finance stuff my dad especially doesn’t get. The first time I published a paper, he asked me how much of a raise I was going to get.”

The economics of the amount of time spent working compared to the financial payoff often seems crazy to many family members. Trying to explain the peer-review process is even more impossible! In fact the funniest misunderstandings often arise when we try to explain our work to our family.

phd student what i do“When I first told my mom I was getting in to studying fear, she asked me if there was something she did wrong in my childhood to draw me to be curious about dark stuff,” Teresa says, smiling fondly. She reassured her mom that she had a lovely childhood and that her research wasn’t necessarily some sort of Freudian look into her psyche. Teresa is just interested in how human beings interact with fear.

Whether it is explaining our dwindling bank accounts, our 6-year long commitment, or our justifications for studying media, there are just somethings that our families just can’t understand.

This used to bother me when I was a new graduate student. I used to get frustrated with my mom when I explained to her again and again that I wouldn’t be getting paid when my research was published. I used to draw Venn diagrams to explain the organization of communication research, and create flow charts to explain all the steps in getting that “PhD” prefix to my name.

But now, as the years have gone on, I’ve realized how lucky I am to have a family that wants to understand and that supports me even when they tease me about my 6-year venture into “piling higher and deeper.”

The truth is we sometimes forget that academia is weird. It is a weird world with weird rules and even weirder social norms. It makes complete sense that our families wouldn’t understand. For the most part, our families live in a world where you get paid for tangible work, where you clock in hours, sick days and vacation time, and where you operate under what is conventional and known instead of venturing out to the edges of the known in pursuit of the truth.

Sometimes, if we spend too much time in our academic world, we can forget that this other world exists. Then it is good to have our supportive but confused family members there to remind us that there is more to the world than lines on a CV or your h-index on Google Scholar. Sometimes it is good to be reminded that our confused families are the ones living in the normal world, and we are the ones having a dalliance with the beautifully weird world of academia.

explaining phd


Grad Learning Co-op Workshop: Choosing a Minor


Psychology … Anthropology … Public Health … Cultural Studies … Sociology … The choices can seem daunting and endless when you are attempting to find the perfect minor. Join the Grad Learning Co-Op in three weeks for the first workshop of the Spring semester where we will explore all the different options Media School grad students have when choosing a minor. In addition to talking about the really fun stuff like paperwork and how to officially nominate your committee, wise elder grad students will be on hand to give some tips about how to wisely select a minor.

Taking in the feedback from last semester, these gatherings are now officially workshops (and bringing a treat to share is not required, although you will gain major Media School karma points if you do). If you have ideas for productive workshops in the future, please email Niki at Also, note that the workshops will now be starting at 5 p.m. and folks are welcomed to come by when they can.

We will be gathering in the Brigance Library of CMCL (Classroom Office Building) as always on Thursday February 11th starting around 5pm. Please feel free to stop by when convenient. We look forward to see and distracting you there!


Creating a Sacred Writing Time

By: Niki Fritz

Dr. Mike Conway spent the first half of his career jumping around different newsrooms across the United States as a TV reporter, anchor and later as a manager. Writing for Mike in those days was fast, essential, and usually on a 24-hour cycle. But after he started grad school, Mike found he struggled occasionally with writing.

One day, when he was a master’s student at UT-Austin, in a conversation in Dr. Maxwell McCombs’ office he told the legendary agenda-setting researcher about how he was struggling with a writing project.

“I was just so upset that it wasn’t coming the way I thought it should,” Mike recalls. “[McCombs] just said that the kind of thinking and writing you have to do in graduate school and as a professor is really deep hard thinking and writing. You can’t do that for many hours in the day. As he put it, you have maybe three or four good hours in the day so you have to figure out what are your good hours and then you protect those hours.”

glenna writing place in NC
This may be a bit of a commute, but Glenna Read’s favorite writing space is in northern Georgia by this beautiful window.

It is advice Mike still puts to good use – and preaches – to this day. For Mike, his best hours are in the morning, as early as possible.  Mike stresses that best times are different for everyone; scholars needs to reflect and see when their brains are at highest capacity to do the challenging, hard-thinking writing that is demanded of us.

After you figure out those times, Mike stresses that you have to guard that time like it is sacred, because it is. For Mike, that means being in a quiet space with as few distractions as possible to what he says: “really get your head in the right space.”

Mike explains that different people have different strategies that work for them but may not work for others. He says that we need find out what works for us and then we should stick with our new found schedule in a disciplined way. Grad school is a great time for trying out different strategies.

“You’ve got to do writing no matter what stage you are talking about,” Mike emphasizes. “Once you set that tone early, it is a good thing to keep doing. In grad school, you keep thinking, ‘okay I’ve made it through the next hurdle,’ but each step has its own challenges to writing and getting the work done.”

Mike has gotten inspiration not just from mentors and other academics but also from fiction writers and musicians. When reading an interview with a musician he likes, Mike recalls the delight he took in noting the similarities in how he and this popular musician wrote.

“The idea is you have to have dedicated time. If the inspiration is not there, you can’t walk away. You have force yourself to sit and stare,” Mike explains. “You have to try to make yourself sit there and go through the agony of not having ideas or writing that isn’t coming.”

pallavi silent reading room in Monroe library
Pallavi got most of her writing done in the silent reading room of the Monroe Library.

One of the most frustrating aspects, Mike says, is that there may be days when it seems like little is getting done; days when you stare at a blank screen for most of the three hours and think you should have been revising a syllabus or reviewing those grants. Those are the tough days.

“In the end, that is where it all comes from,” Mike says. “You have to go through some tough days so that some days it is just pouring out.”

Of course we all live for those days when inspiration just seems to fall from the sky. Mike says we need to capitalize on such flows.

“When I’m writing, I always write too much. Because when I get in the mode, I just kind of go off,” Mike explains. “Then, when I have to cut, I save everything I cut. Because sometimes things I cut might fit somewhere else. And many times, it is years lat … Don’t throw away anything. Put it somewhere so you may be able to come back and use it.”

Even though Mike spews writing advice like a pro, he still empathizes with the frustration of many students trying to find the time to make it all work. He understands the difficulties of carving out writing time.  Yet he encourages grad students to put up the good fight and try to fit it all in.

“[Grad School] is so overwhelming but the idea is for the most part, having survived it all, it is all good. It is challenging and there are a lot of different demands but when you get to the back end of [grad school], it is kind of like a pressure cooker, that it works … When you’re through [with grad school], you are glad you are exposed to all of it. Just keep your head above water.”

Or maybe at least just your nose. But, as grad students, now is the time to cultivate the habit of carving out such sacred times in our schedules. Writing is hard and blank screens are intimidating, but Mike reminds us that writing is why we do what we do. Writing being hard is part of what makes it sacred and worthy of our protection.

Managing Your Post Holiday Guilt

By: Niki Fritz

This is how I rationalize it to myself: I need to put 50 things on my to-do list so that I get at least 7 done. If I only put the 7 do-able things on the list, then I would, of course, only get 5 things done over my winter break. The gap between 50 and 7, that motivational force, is called guilt.

This is what three days of  cookie making looks like.

Guilt can be a powerful – and quite useful – motivator. Looking at my lengthy list of things do to while waiting in the Tampa Bay Airport for the flight to Indianapolis, I had an overpowering feeling that it was time to put the binge watching of Christmas-Hallmark movies with my mom in the past. There was no more time to make 14 dozen cookies, sit by the pool discretely drinking Irish coffee out of a Christmas mug, or talk about the Chinese economy with my dad. The list nagging-ly told me, now was the time to get things done.

I know I’m not alone in my over-zealous list making ways.

“Break or no break I always feel guilty if I’m not working,” 3rd year PhD student Ashley Kraus says. “So I write to-do lists. It makes me feel like, at least then, I have a plan.”

Whether we are first years or tenured professors, most of us have to-do lists that extend well beyond our capacity to actually “do.” And yet the list gives us some sort of control, a futile attempt at a plan to have it all and get it all done.

to do list
This is a partial to-do list.

Of course with lists, especially the winter break to-do lists, usually come some holiday leftovers in the form of that IRB you didn’t finish or the grant proposal you didn’t write. I know I am not alone in the almost-constant guilt that as a fledgling scholar, you are just not getting enough done.

For some of us, this scholarly guilt seems to be most potent right at the end of break, when one realizes that our over-ambitious list was just that: over-ambitious. The realization that one is not a scholarly superhero who can conquer a semester’s worth of postponed work in 4 weeks can be humbling and, quite frankly, can really suck.

Chatting with one of my fellow students who I consider somewhat of a scholarly superhero, I got the sense that there was also a feeling of guilt about feeling guilty. This guilt-filled individual, who wishes to remain nameless, described the week after the holidays this way: “The guilt is overwhelming. Crushing. I survive only because I was raised Catholic and have therefore adapted mechanisms to cope,” the guilt-ridden scholar added with a wink.

Talking with other students, I realized that trying to gauge the level of guilt was futile, as was trying to determine its source. For many of us, guilt was just this constant omnipresent thing, the air we breathe. Something that everyone knows exists, many people feel has to exist, and yet no one is really comfortable admitting to it. But why has guilt become some a natural part of being a scholar?

I have to admit, I need it. I need the motivational force of looking at a list and realizing there are things I need (and want to do) that are more important than binge watching another Netflix series. The problem comes when that guilt leaks over the cusp of useful and becomes shame, when we have guilt about having the guilt, this deep feeling that you are never getting enough done, and never good enough. Guilt stops being helpful when we start regretting the past instead of being productive in the present.

Talking with 3rd year PhD student Glenna Read, I realized some scholars have created ways to ease that seemingly never-ending guilt.

glenna at acquariam
Glenna checked “going to the aquarium and getting a cool photo with some dolphins” off her list.

“I tend to think of breaks as times to regroup, avoid burnout, and ensure that I continue loving what I am working on. Stepping away from projects helps me see them in a new light,” Glenna explains. “When I return to work I keep these insights in mind and they sustain my passion for research until the next break.

Musing on what Glenna said I started to wonder: what if we made lists of all the non-academic things we got done over break? What if we listed out all the delightful things we did that helped us connect to our family, or un-scrunch our keyboard-destroyed backs, or gave us inspiration to see the world a little different? What if we made a post-break list not of “to-do’s” but of “happy-I-did-it’s”?

Maybe, then we our two lists, we could both identify what we want to do and also the amazing stuff we already accomplished.

So no … I didn’t research new grant opportunities, I didn’t read all the articles in my “to-read” folder, I didn’t re-run those tests in SPSS. I did take my mom to dim sum on her 67th birthday. I did get to talk about global trade deficits over sugar cookies and coffee with my Dad. I did make cookie care packages for all the elderly neighbors in my parent’s condo building. I did learn how to perfectly cook glazed salmon. And I did, for the first time in a while, sleep a beautiful peaceful nine hours in a row.

It may not have been on the list, but looking back, taking a pause and learning to breathe deep again was probably one of the most important things I did.

With all that in mind, I asked some scholars to list of few of their non-academic successes. Below is some of the photographic evidence of a break well spent.