Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Post 96: Maintaining momentum when everything else is against you.

I don't recommend to anyone to be a graduate student who needs to seek work in order to keep life trucking along. Whenever you need to be working along side school, it slows you down, even when you are an expert productive procrastinator like me. At some point, the weeks become months become a year or two, and you're tired, grumpy about the process, and you really, really want to be done.

So much work to dooooo! :D
I'm there. I'm definitely happy to see the end of these revisions and to get this project finished. I think that this research is important and worthwhile, and hope that it contributes to some understanding of contemporary science-policy relationships within a rapidly changing world that is trying to respond to climate change, even as it's changing the rules of the game of life.

Happy little lemon flower and green lemon soon to ripen at a friend's place! :)
So this is me writing again about self care and getting good sleep and being kind and compassionate with yourself -- these are things that I am known to struggle with: I am inclined to stay up late in order to get work done, or to have an internal negative talk with myself about not getting enough done in the down time I have (although getting work done during down time isn't exactly giving myself a break and taking down town -- sometimes I can see my own mistakes in reasoning).

Blueberry gyoza at The Noodle Box. Good food = happy Heike.
I've recently started to use an app called "SAM" to help me process some of my unhelpful internal habits around anxiety, in particular. So far, mixed results, but I am feeling a bit better about some things. I did yoga for 40 minutes before a work meeting on Sunday, and that felt good. I'm trying to cycle to work a few days a week to build some exercise into my work routine, and honestly, given the horrendous traffic along Craigflower, Highway 1, and the Island Highway, it is faster, some days, to cycle my 20 minutes up the roads or along the Galloping Goose to get home. So, biking for the win! (I will actually admit some glee to passing my commuters in their cars when I'm whizzing past on my bike. I don't have to compete for traffic, and even if it's raining, I've found it refreshing to ride.)

Healthy Heike also includes lovely afternoon walks. :) 
In the long run, it's best take care of your health and your happiness, and keep life only as difficult as it needs to be in grad school. Long hours of sitting, not getting exercise and not balancing out enough work and fun and down time so that you get sick, overworked, burned out, or have stress injuries, won't help you get your thesis done. There is a requisite amount of time that your bum's got to stay in a chair in order to get writing and revisions done, for sure, but do, do, do keep an eye on your health and your happiness.

Self care is immensely important, and grad school is the perfect place to put your resilience to a test. Be ready for it.

Even now, when I'm close to being done, I'm working full-time, and it's a challenge to get everything done, feel like I'm putting my best foot forward, and managing to keep on top of everything, but then I think of the race between the turtle and the hare, and the turtle does, in the end, cross the finish line. :)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Post 95: New Job Update and Revisions!

I've made it through my first month of work!! Yippee!

Work has been quite an adjustment to my usual schedule, and the workplace environment is different. By the end of this month I feel like I'm getting my feet under me. Meeting new people, getting into a new routine, figuring out basics like "Have I packed enough food for the day?" and a slight wardrobe adjustment have been fine -- these are simply questions and thoughts that I haven't asked anew for a little while, because of the previously established schedule. So, my take on the first month: my new colleagues are awesome, I miss campus, and yet I am excited about all the happenin' things at my new job. I have a diversity of project on the go, from a presentation on a backgrounder on mining in BC that I researched, to providing help on a few different projects my coworkers are working on, to helping out with a Division strategic plan, to building an inventory of Environmental Assessment Board decisions under the Environmental Management Act, with accompanying summary-analysis documents that I'll write... and lots more. I am enjoying the dynamism, for sure!

***
Walking the Gorge at sunset on my way home from work. Gorgeous November evening.
Thesis-ing continues! Amazingly, my committee member prioritized my thesis for a very quick turnaround (I am eternally grateful; I know she is immensely busy), and read the whole draft and provided comments. My committee member has a keen eye and is very skilled at getting to the heart of exactly what the issue is, and her feedback on my thesis draft was no different. So, a bit more reading, new writing, and further editing needed on what's currently there. That was to be expected.

Here is my heads up about getting feedback: getting feedback is not as easy as we would like it to be. Make yourself comfortable. Have a cup of tea at the ready. Getting feedback on revisions can be a little bit emotional, as someone else has taken a fine-tooth comb through your thesis, and is giving you constructive feedback. I always feel a bit of horror when I get feedback, because I can see all the places where I made simple errors (grammar, didn't finish a sentence, etc) that slipped by because my document is

These cute little white flowers in the neighbourhood greeted me on my walk to the bus!
132 pages and I was tired...., as well as engaging with the bigger picture of, "What's your thesis doing? How are the ideas organized, explained, situated, framed?" And sometimes, too, the "What do you mean here? Clarify? Explain  more." type of comments as well.

It can be a lot. I find I often feel deflated after getting feedback, and it takes a little bit to get my realist lens back on, in terms of assessing what are they asking, what needs work, what do I need to prioritize? I think it is a learned skill not to take the feedback personally, and to recognize that the work is not an illustration of your character and person.

The coolest seagull, chilling on a post right by work. Sunshine break! 
So here's to that. My committee member's comments are really good, and very fair, and it's apparent that I have a few sections that need some more explaining. So here's to a few more hours of sitting down, reviewing articles and books and getting to a better thesis draft!

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Post 94: My thesis adventure is starting to come to an end!

I start a new job on Monday! I got hired to fill a paternity leave in the Ministry of Environment, and I am very much looking forward to learning more about how policy work happens in our provincial government. I'll try to keep some updates coming about how my understanding of what a policy analyst does, exactly, evolves in the coming months. I've never had work like this, but it seems promising on both an intellectual and interest basis!

I lined up the job interview shortly after I arrived back from my trip home (mid-September), and by the beginning of October I had a new job lined up! Even now, thinking over the past month, I'm still struck by how quickly the whole process went!

Rosa nutkana, one of our wild rose species on the West Coast! Look at those rose hips!
I really quickly had to put my thesis into an even higher gear than the pressure that I had been putting on myself prior to my trip home. BUT, so much has come together in the past few weeks! I finished a full draft of my last chapter, then I went through all the previous chapters and completed all of the edits according to feedback from my supervisor (and a few of my own revisions that I felt were necessary), put together the formatting of my thesis into the UVic Thesis Template, and sent off a full draft with a somewhat more rough introduction, missing an abstract, and an unformatted Bibliography.

What a difference it was to put the whole thing together and see it looking great!! Now I'm waiting on my committee member to have a read of the thesis and give me suggestions to strengthen and clarify the writing and the ideas. While I have some tasks in terms of cleaning up the Introduction, writing the abstract, and finishing the bibliography (I had used the write and cite function of Papers, which handles all the journal articles and the grey literature and government documents that I've used, but I have some books that I need to make sure are included in there!)

Whew! What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! Now, I'm gearing up for my new job. I attended what may well be my last lab meeting this morning, and I was definitely feeling sentimental about it. I am going to miss Eric's wonderful stories and the regular check ins with everyone, and the camaraderie that comes with a lab group. I don't think that the camaraderie will disappear simply because I'm no longer in the office, but something special happens when you get a small-ish group of people together regularly. You build rapport, and a sense of community that's hard to come by! And now it's coming to an end much faster than I had anticipated! (I didn't expect to find meaningful work so quickly, when I emailed a few friends in the late summer!)

So here I am, feeling the feels.
The coming months will be challenging: working full-time in a dynamic workplace, and trying to balance finishing up the thesis. I will be carrying on trying to finish the research contract work, which also wraps up around Christmas. Time management and scheduling my time carefully will be my best friend, I think!

So here's to new beginnings and endings: I'm sitting in my office listening to Sia's "The Greatest," feeling happy and excited and sad. I've loved being at UVic for so many years now. It's starting to sink in that my regular time here is coming to a close. All I can think to say now about the thesis process is that perseverance pays off.

Lovely October sky, with a ghouly ghost saying hello, too!
Wishing everyone a happy and safe Halloween! I hope that I'll have a few more guest posts coming in soon! I've asked a few more people with specific topics to contribute, and we'll see if any of those can materialize.

For my next post, I'll summarize the short presentation I gave about "writing in grad school" last week at our lab meeting.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Post 93: You Are More Than (Just) Your Thesis, and Celebrating the Small Successes

Writing a thesis is to undertake an ultra-marathon. For many students it will be the longest and most in depth account of research they have undertaken to date. It’ll take a lot of training and practice to get good at the writing. It requires perseverance, good time management skills, the ability to set long and short term goals, and a commitment to follow through. It’s for this reason that I’m very much in favour of celebrating the small successes, and undertaking shorter term projects along the way.

In my case, these small projects have taken the form of writing the occasional newspaper article, writing these relatively short blog posts, participating in my first 5K race, and making a set of personalized hand made cards and keeping up with my pen pals, among other things. In some ways, even doing chores can feel like successes, as can staying on top of doing the dishes, and doing your own cooking (which is also a good way to keep food costs down and manage your finances).

I love the geometry of these! <3 

I submitted a draft of my last chapter on Friday last week, and now I’m in revision mode, and it’s actually a lot of fun. But it was really nice of my partner to help me to celebrate and recognize what an accomplishment it was to finally finish a decent draft of that chapter, which I’ve been working on for months now.

I find that when I keep up on small projects along the way, my motivation stays higher than when I don’t. I finish a blog post, up it goes, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something. It hasn’t been that often that I have that feeling with writing another paragraph of my thesis, or straightening another set of citations. So I encourage you to do what you need to make sure that you feel good about what you’re doing, whether it’s going to the climbing gym and figuring out another boulder problem (climbing lingo for route), or hosting a successful potluck with friends that you can’t make the time to see individually, or cooking up a storm and having meals for a week. Have your hobbies!

Big leaf maple (Acer mycropyllum
I suppose what’s behind all of this is encouragement to establish a good work-life balance, which I struggle with, for sure. Undertaking a thesis can seem to be all-consuming, and I think sometimes it can be difficult to feel good about taking on other projects and non-grad school related things, but in retrospect, I'd say don’t be afraid to register for that pottery class, or join that soccer team, or develop a writing group. These are all things that can help us realize how important it is to support ourselves in different ways all along the way, and reinforce that we are not only our theses or grad work. 

View from the Gorge on a beautiful fall day!
Of course, don't be filling up your schedule to the extent that your thesis becomes a low priority, but a bit of a mix of things is definitely good.

Next I’ll write about my new job coming up, and transitioning out of grad school!

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Post 92: Effective Altruism and Grad School

Bit a hiatus from the blog since my trip home—I was ridiculously busy when I was there—but now I'm back, and determined to finish this thesis. However, before I speak more directly to thesis things, I wanted to revisit my trip to Berkeley for the Effective Altruism Global Conference I attended at the beginning of August. I've been thinking quite a bit about the people and ideas I encountered there, since. (I've just noticed that a significant number of the talks are posted, so go check them out!)

What's effective altruism? I won't rehash effectivealtruism.org's introductory essay about EA because you can read the whole thing here, but the general idea is to use evidence and reason to find the best way to make the biggest difference you can over your lifetime. If you're interested, I also recently co-wrote an introductory article to EA with Wray McOuat that you can check out here.

Gorgeous bougainvillea on a street in Berkeley.
So how is EA relevant for grad students? Well, we're pursuing training in a particular kind of skillset (research, teaching, critical thinking) that we will likely work to make a difference in whatever field we go into, so I actually think there's a lot of compatibility with pursuing careers (and an educative experience that emphasizes learning critical thinking, applying reason, and assessing different kinds of evidence for different causes).

A few words about the conference: as with attending conferences, it was an easy way to very quickly learn a whole lot, meet fascinating people, and test out my ideas—I also really love that the conference explicitly encouraged participants to seek out people with (on the face of it) opposing ideas, and to chat them out. Because of the conference I have radically changed my opinion about the effectiveness of giving money; previously I’d always held the idea that it’s better to donate time or creativity or energy in some way, but of course money is a representation of all of those things, applied in a particular way. At some point when your career is taking off, your ability to generate a decent income in a developed country can significantly outweigh the time and energy you may volunteer to a cause. And, if you're working full-time, you might not have the energy or time left over to donate. So, donating money can be a really good way to contribute to a cause that you support. 

Grand University of California, Berkley, campus architecture!
Having only once, for a brief period of time, made enough of an income to be classified above the poverty line, I have never thought of myself as being in a position where I could donate much, and so I don't think I had seriously considered it as an option, and my donating happened sporadically, to causes that I have come to believe are important (and still are), but I wasn't thinking about evaluating their effectiveness as much. The little bit that I gave, I did so because "it felt good." And I generally preferred to go volunteer my time or skills instead. Meeting a few people who were well into their careers and who didn’t have the extra time to volunteer, and who were proponents of such a method of doing good caused me to examine my beliefs about that matter. And then of course, the key is donating so to causes that are maximally effective. BUT -- I am still thinking about what this means for me, and I will revisit this in a future post. 

Dr. Max Tegmark delivering his talk via Blue Jeans, about 10 AI Safety Myths.
Further, what I think was particularly unique about this conference compared to others that I have attended, is that I found both very like-minded people, who described themselves as being altruistic and now working on the “effective” part, and also people who were very dissimilar to me: artificial intelligence researchers, philosophers, tech start-up founders, people who worked for various governments, or for charities and development organizations. People from the UK, from Australia, from the US, and all over. Such a diverse set of people!

And, Berkeley was beautiful as well. Overall, it was a phenomenal conference and I am very glad that I attended. Getting to talk to Toby Ord, an ethicist at the Future of Humanity Institute (Oxford) and really brilliant person, was spectacular. I had several discussions with Andy Fallshaw, CEO of Belroy, and am convinced he's one of the most generous people I have ever met: bright, charismatic, caring, and more than happy to make reading recommendations. On his advice, I'm currently looking at Douglas W. Hubbard's "How to Measure Anything," which I hope to discuss with my sister, soon. I definitely wish him well. 
Hike up to the Lawrence Hall of Science, which was really the coolest! 
I met several other tech start-up folks (EA is hoppin' in San Fran and has considerable overlap with the ambitious folks and business culture in the Bay Area), and the sense of ambition, vision, and possibility there was intoxicating for a little while. I didn’t get to speak with Will MacAskill in person, but hearing him talk was great, and there were free copies of his recent book Doing Good Better available. I devoured it on my return trip, and also learned a lot more about EA. If you're interested, I definitely recommend it as an introduction to effective altruism. There were a few awkward conversations, of course, because I found it difficult to maintain social grace at all times as an introvert, especially when I frequently found my energy bucket running on empty, but it was a good time overall.
From the Lawrence Hall of Science: A display of early cyclotrons: the things that smash atoms together. :D
Overall, I feel that the methodology and approach of EA is really a good one—and one to be applied more broadly than simply to EA. Using evidence and reason to figure out how to do the most good in the world appeals to me and speaks to my values. While I think there are still ideas to be worked out with how to measure and compare the effectiveness of different charitable interventions, the complexity behind undertaking such measurements is not without difficulty, and I am content that it is being worked on. Something to keep an eye on in the future. 


Happy September! Happy fall!

In my next post, I'll discuss the value of small successes along the way, to help build momentum and motivation during grad school.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Post 91: September Coming: A Few To-Dos, including GTIOP, our new TAC, and the TA Conference!

I know I said I'd write about my experiences of the EA Global conference as my next post, but a few important things have come up between, and I'm still working on that post. :)

I'm leaving for my trip home tomorrow, and I've been populating a list of things to do before I leave. One of those was remembering that the Graduate Student Tuition Income Offset Plan, which sets up a preauthorized electronic debit (PAD) with the university for 4 equal monthly payments of your tuition, instead of having you pay all of your tuition at the beginning of the semester. I've written about it previously here, and have found it immensely useful for keeping up on my financial well-being, and organizing my finances more generally. The deadline to submit the form so you're set up for the year is 15 September.

Cute neighbourhood succulent #1! <3
Dr. Anita Girvan left for a prestigious year long position at a Bucknell University in Pennsylvania after she finished her PhD last year (yay!), and the position of Teaching Assistant Consultant for the School of Environmental Studies has remained open over the past year. I'm glad to say that now the lovely Ms. Kristen Walsh has filled that position!

As our new TAC, she's been working hard to complete the training that comes with the position. I bumped into her last week at UH4 where she made a few comments about the work involved. I hadn't anticipated there to be so much training, but it makes a lot of sense! Thinking back to Anita, she put quite a lot of effort into the resources and sessions she provided us as teaching assistants (TAs), and there's quite a lot to think about if it's your first time TAing. I'm sure the training would also cover how to talk to TAs that are teaching for the first time, and for the students that already have a class or two in their TA roster.

I remember having the thought that the leap from being an undergraduate student to two years later suddenly being in the position of grading students' work (especially when it seemed to me that I was little more qualified than when I had been a student myself) felt a little bit concerning. Between the training provided by Anita, and the TA conferences I attended, I felt much much more prepared to do a good job as a new TA.

Cute neighbourhood succulent #2! <3
Speaking of: the TA Conference is coming up again! Plan out your schedule for it this year. The beginning of the semester is always a busy one, not the least of which is because there are welcome events, the Fall TA Conference and training, and for new graduate students, other orientations as well. But, the TA Conference is one that I highly, highly recommend.

This year the conference is being held Tuesday 6th September to Friday 9th September.

I've written about my enthusiasm and experiences at the conference previously here, and here, and while I'll be away for the conference this year, I'll definitely be thinking about it!  For those of you who can't make the conference in the fall, no fear! There is also the Spring TA conference that happens early January. (No link provided currently because there's only 2016 information posted.)

And cute neighbourhood succulent #3! <3

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Post 90: Family Planning and Resources -- Considerations for Grad Students

This is another guest post with my lovely friend and colleague Dr. Garrett Richards!! The idea for this post came up during a catch-up the two of us had a few weeks ago, following the announcement that he and his wife would be expecting their first child in November. (So exciting!) So, here goes our post on parental leave and family resources on campus: 

As Garrett writes: "Early-career researchers (e.g. graduate students, postdoctoral fellows) tend to belong to the age group in which many people have their first child. As such, they may have to navigate the difficulties of parental leave and childcare without the standard benefits that apply to "typical" full-time employees. My partner and I will be having a baby in November. What follows are some of my thoughts on parental leave, based on my experiences as a postdoctoral fellow. I hope other early-career researchers might find the information useful. 




Gorgeous jasmine from the back deck! :)
Parental leave means getting some time off so that you can be with your new child and manage the transition, usually one year in total for each birth or adoption (i.e. having multiple children at once doesn't increase the time period). The parents can split this time however they like. For example, one partner could take a year off while the other remains at work, they could both take six months off at the same time, or they could each take six months off at different times to total one year. 

You should inform your supervisor of your plans several months ahead of time. For many graduate students, this will be a fairly simple request, unless your research is heavily integrated with that of someone else in your lab. You will generally need to get approval from both your university and anyone else that may be paying you. Check with your corresponding union to see if there are any particular provisions or procedures you should be aware of. By the way, it is a good idea for men to take some parental leave, since it helps break down the stereotype that only women make career sacrifices for their family. The far more complicated factor is parental benefits, which means getting paid while you are on parental leave, since you obviously cannot accept your normal stipend or scholarship while you are off work. 


Mystery flower down in Cadboro Bay.
Unions, again, are a good place to start your investigation on this, keeping in mind that you may belong to multiple unions. However, provisions for early-career researchers generally seem to be pretty scant. When I checked the collective agreement for sessional lecturers at my university, there was only a section on parental leave, not parental benefits (and when I phoned the union directly, they said no one had ever asked about that before, which I found surprising). Make sure to examine the provisions of your stipend or scholarship too, if you have one. For example, SSHRC fellowships (for both doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows) have a parental benefits program.

Although you should definitely look into these various avenues, your best chance of parental benefits is probably through employment insurance and the federal government. For information, head to the "Having a Baby" section of the Canada Service website (http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/lifeevents/baby.shtml). While this page is a fountain of general information, you'll want to examine the "Maternity and Parental Benefits" link in particular (http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/ei/maternity_parental/index.page). Here, you can read about eligibility for parental leave. In general, if you have worked at least 600 insurable hours in the 52 weeks prior to the start of your leave, you can receive 55% of your insurable weekly earnings during the leave period. A good way to check on your accumulated insurable hours is to register for a "My Service Canada" account (http://www.esdc.gc.ca/en/msca/index.page), keeping in mind that they will have to send you an access code through the mail, which could take a few weeks.



Lovely summer hydrangea, their colours starting to fade out. 
The trickiest part of all this is that the main work done by early-career researchers generally does not qualify as insurable hours (after all, you are probably getting "paid" through a scholarship, not a salary). Only the work you do as a TA, RA, or sessional lecturer will count, and in my experience it's pretty rare for an early-career researcher to amass 600 hours of such work in a given year. This means that planning is very important when it comes to having a child at this stage of your career. I was fortunate in a few ways. First, since my partner and I are splitting the leave, and my half won't start until next May, I had some extra time to figure everything out. Second, I have a SSHRC fellowship, which will cover my parental benefits (although, interestingly enough, I have to decline those benefits if I am eligible for any others, which means I have to make sure I *do not* work 600 insurable hours in the 52 weeks prior to my leave). 

In reality, I think a lot of early-career researchers make do without parental benefits. Aside from the financial implications, it can actually be a pretty good time to have a child, given its flexibility. The best thing you can do is make sure you know what options are available to you. In short, check with your union, your funding, and the government. Finally, it's never too early to start thinking about childcare options, which are often available on university campuses if you put your name on the waiting list early enough."

****
A very cool looking but very dead bug on the sidewalk that ants were fighting over.
Garrett did a really good job (above) covering some of the general information and considerations for taking parental leave and the resources you should look at in Canada. I did some poking around about what other kinds of resources there are for child care on campus, and UVic's Childcare Services information can be found here. For childcare, there are, as Garrett points out above, very lengthy wait-times: a minimum of 2 years for children under the age of three, and between 3 and 5, it's about a year and a half. I also highly recommend checking out the program fees for said childcare, because keeping on top of your finances is also part of your health as a grad student.

As a grad student, you can also apply to live in family housing right on campus, which is pretty great. There's both apartment or townhouse style accommodation available.

UVic's Residences Services Family Resources page also provides information on public schools that are close by to campus (one elementary, two secondary, and one French immersion elementary school), and the Family Centre also provides information for a variety of things, including to health care resources on campus, connecting with the Family Centre, their programs, and fun things like their Welcome Back barbecue. 


Wishing all those out there planning families and with families under way lots of love! You have supports you can draw on, and I hope this post can help illuminate a few you may not have know about right off the bat. 

**Quick note: My next post will be covering my time at the Effective Altruism Global Conference in Berkeley, California this weekend. Keep your eyes open for it! :) 

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Post 89: Summer Endings, Beginnings, and TCG at UVic

July is ending! Another month done again. Sometimes I really can just sit back and wonder where the time has gone. For me this July passed with the birthdays of at least six family and friends, a lake-swim, lots and lots of work, and most recently, the conclusion of my Thesis Completion Group (TCG).

The wonderful, stylish Dr. Janet Sheppard (see photo below!) who has been a long-time counsellor at UVic, ran the TCG for years now, and there were always long waitlists for graduate students wanting to get into the two weekly groups, which I think speaks to the value and need for a resource for grad students such as this. The format of the TCGs were face-to-face, discussion-style group sessions, with there being an average of about 3-8 members in the groups. It's been a little quieter over the summer, which I've very much enjoyed.

Janet and I at our last TCG meeting! I was feeling very sentimental about the goodbye.
Students attending the group would report on their thesis work: progress made, barriers encountered, worries, concerns, personal and professional relationship/communication stalls, committee trials and successes—everything. Janet guided the discussions, creating a safe space to talk about all of these things, asking pointed, insightful questions, and reminding students like myself to think about not only work-related goals, but also health related goals. And, we all definitely benefitted from the wisdom of the group, with numerous students chiming in with their own experiences, advice, and resources. We'd leave one week's discussion with those goals in mind, and revisit them the following week, checking in about how they went, how the process of being in graduate school was going. I loved it. It hasn't really sunk in that these weekly meetings are ending.

Participating in the group really turned around my perspectives about my thesis experience. It was immensely valuable to learn that the struggles I was facing are universal among graduate students; that the uncertainties and lingering questions and doubt about my abilities were part of the impostor syndrome; that talking about my fears and worries made me feel loads better, and better able to cope with those concerns; that by discussing concerns about graduate research, I would open myself up to the kindness and generosity and insight of my colleagues in the TCG; and, that by participating in the group, I would be able to get excited with, cheer on, and root for students who actually finished their degrees!! In turn, finishing became an achievable goal for me again, which for a while there, I wasn't able to see, anymore.

Mystery tree down in Beacon Hill Park. So beautiful! :)
If I think about it, a lot of my blog posts were motivated by some of the discussions had during the TCG. Certainly, the discussions, shared insights, advice, and kindness of my fellow students have been indispensable for turning my graduate school experience into a productive one. While I'm sad that the group is ending, I'm happy that Janet is making choices to find ways to continue with her passions in a different capacity now. She is a very special person, who's found a way to apply her leadership, skills, training, and insights in a unique application that fits an important niche in higher education. A major force behind organizing the thesis-writing bootcamps that have taken place in the past year, and running the TCGs, I'll miss Janet and her wisdom, and I'm also now so glad that I've kept every one of her weekly list-serve emails. They were always chockablock full of resources, her enthusiasm and encouragement, and of course, everyone's weekly goals and progress. A one-line acknowledgment in my thesis doesn't seem like it's enough to say, THANK YOU for everything. So, on top of an in-person goodbye, I'm writing this post, so my thank you can live a little bit longer.

Water lily out at Thetis Lake! I scared up a number of green frogs getting to this photo. 
With the ending of one thing, comes the opportunity for another beginning. Right now I'm feeling a lot of uncertainty about how Counselling Services (CS) will adapt and modify the TCGs that have been running for so long. Janet mentioned that CS would likely be contacting students who were involved in these groups to let them know about the upcoming changes, but it's also been made clear that the groups as they've happened so far won't continue. It sounded to me like the format will switch to a more satellite organized thing, where staff from CS will check in with self-motivated groups whose formation they'll help facilitate in the fall semester. I'm crossing my fingers that the transition will be a smooth one, but for now can't do anything other than wait. I'll let you know how this resource changes in September, as soon as I hear. :)

I've kept in touch with two colleagues from my TCG, and if nothing else, will pursue check-ins with the two of them. We're on roughly a similar timeline, with the three of us aiming to wrap up our degrees in the fall. Here's to keeping up the momentum.