Here I share thoughts about wellbeing – my own, that of the graduate students I work with, and that of my colleagues in educational development and graduate student development. I’ve been interested in the support and development of graduate students ever since I was a graduate student myself. I enjoy being with graduate students at their personal and professional transition points (e.g., orientation, identifying mentors and committee members, qualifying exams, writing, defending, exploring next steps, partnering, and parenting). I aim for an intersectional, holistic, and phenomenological approach in validating and supporting graduate students’ developing identities and integration of their research and teaching experiences.

Blogs (most recent first)
  • Slow down! Graduate student developers at play
    Graduate student developers regularly perform pure magic with professional development programming for graduate students: pedagogy workshops, learning communities, feedback on teaching philosophy statements, classroom observations. At the same time, we make invisible what a project really costs in terms of specialized time, skills, and energy. 
  • Remembrances of my father
    My father’s work often meant trips to Washington, DC, and we occasionally went with him. I have many fond memories of exploring the National Mall, the National Air and Space Museum, and the Natural History Museum with my dad. We went up the Washington Monument at night. Those trips are part of a connection I feel with him about space-related things. I was in sixth grade when Halley’s Comet made a close pass in 1986; we woke up at 3am multiple times on his work days to hang out in dark fields with amateur astronomers and their telescopes to see the comet.
  • Leaving the hibernation den
    I promised myself that the first day I would work only a half-day in-person. Even that was a lot. The office lights were excruciatingly bright and the considerate, everyday noise of people in the office overwhelmed my sensory system. I retreated to my office “den” where I used desk lamps instead of the overhead lights and kept my door cracked or closed.
  • Baby steps
    Discomforts started setting in by around day three. Sensations which I had long ago adapted to and learned to manage subconsciously were now very consciously noticed new sensations. I felt really overstimulated and mentally exhausted. And cranky and impatient.
  • I identify as a facilitator
    In distant kinship to midwives and doulas, I help graduate student individuals and groups give birth to new ideas and new self-/group-concepts. It’s up to the person or group to decide what direction they want to grow in, and then I help them develop their capacities. That might be about having new ideas, developing a more complete understanding of a problem, nurturing compassion for difficulties, practicing new skills, or committing to a bold action.
  • Reflections and intentions: Being in community
    I am entering into this new calendar year with more self-compassionate approaches to reflection and intention setting. What did I learn about myself for this year? What did I do for myself this year? What values do I continue to uphold and want to focus on for next year? 
  • I want to be a turtle grandma
    The turtle grandmas are shepherds, protectors, and keepers of space for the nestlings. They do pastoral work, watching over the nests and being present before, during, and after the turtles hatch. They facilitate the flow of nature.
  • Making decisions
    I’m making everyday decisions with harsh critics watching over my shoulder. I act as if I have to have The One final outcome imagined with detail. What if making that one tiny decision IS the decision? The question: do I want to get these toes fixed now? Notice the question is not, will I get these toes fixed now, and who will do it, how, how will it feel, when, what if…, who will take care of.., and then what about…? Just the simple question, do I want to get these toes fixed now? The answer: yes, I want to get my toes fixed now.
  • This is fine
    I am today years old in realizing the extraordinary self-doubt I feel in my capability to discern “this is fine” from “this is not fine.” I don’t believe myself to be a reliable narrator.
  • My dislocated toes: A thorough update
    I’m inviting friends to help me tend to my fears about pain, loneliness, and urgent need as best I can. I get to have new experiences of care from and with my friends. I get to expand my self-knowledge about what feels good to me. I get to learn more about the people in my community and what they like to do. 
  • Self-reflection: Developing awareness of your inner spark
    I want PhDs to be able to communicate about their skills, interests, values, preferences, and strengths: who they are, what they need, and what fulfills them. Self-knowledge helps PhDs make conscious choices in all aspects of their lives that are aligned; they will know why they are doing something and whether they are acting in alignment with their values and commitments. When graduate students and postdocs are consciously engaged in the curation of all aspects of their lives, their academic work can be in balance and harmony with rest, play, movement, creativity, friendships, family, and community.
  • Accompaniment in graduate student development
    Graduate students, postdocs, and colleagues are contemplating change, a process of dramatic and emotional self-examination, assessing their environment, weighing options, evaluating their aid systems, and assembling their supportive relationships. Their imaginations are wild with possibilities. They know they are approaching a choice to voice what they want for their true selves. They know they are preparing to, but aren’t quite ready to, decide whether to let a past version of themselves go and a new version emerge. I hold space for graduate students, postdocs and professional development coaches who are contemplating, considering, preparing for, and committing to change.
  • I am the snapping turtle
    That late-summer evening in 2019, in cutting a snapping turtle free from lake weeds, I started the process of setting myself free from codependency and internalized oppressive mindsets.
  • Wanderings
    I participated in these conference wanderings as a temporarily physically disabled person. I acknowledge many layers of privilege of my social position. Also, I hope that, through my social position, I can raise awareness about ways we can do meetings that are more accommodating and inclusive. Knowing that I was experiencing pain and tiredness in ways most others weren’t, I had to learn to self-advocate to make my life manageable to attend these events. I told my friends in advance what to expect from me and what help they could offer. And I offered myself opportunities for more rest, more solitude, a place to sit, ice, more time between locations, and quiet protected time to talk one-on-one.
  • I am my grandmothers’ dreams
    I didn’t remember that I had this dream until I opened my email at the breakfast table this morning. I opened an email from pinterest of things I might like. Among the recommended pins was a picture of glass-bead earrings shaped like peacock feathers.  The dream rushed right back into my consciousness and I let out a deep sob. The river of tears seemed to emerge from nowhere and everywhere.
  • The hats we wear, the masks we wear
    We wear different metaphorical hats to reflect our roles, functions, and responsibilities with each other. To what degree do we also wear masks to manage others’ perceptions and to control our belonging?
  • Drawn to the light
    You’re not wrong, surviving and thriving is challenging right now. And also, I want to share some beautiful things in the midst of all that.
  • Smoke and mirrors
    First, I want readers to notice how we currently serve as smoky mirrors to each other in many of our communities, from Don Manuel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Second, I want to offer a strategy for being a truer mirror to people in your communities, from Ora North’s I Don’t Want to Be an Empath Anymore.
  • Surrender
    Despite the chaos and uncertainty of my health at that moment 20 years ago, I allowed my colleague to attune to me. I allowed his protection of space around me to create our own little bubble world that was perfectly quiet, still, and safe.  This moment of letting go was completely contrary to my default way of walking through the world, where I _always_ masking myself, attuning to others, and acting as their caregiver.
  • Hey there, punty girl!
    I earned the title Punty Girl last night in glass blowing class. My classmates harmoniously sing out “Punty” to get my attention and request my assistance. I am honored to serve the role and I enthusiastically offer my punty abilities to my glass blowing classmates. I’ve already made some Weird Al songs variations for myself: Hey There, Punty Girl and Pass the Punty.
  • Magic items
    I have a childhood memory of owning a “Barbie suitcase.” It was a small case that could hold two Barbies and clothes, shoes, and accessories. The Barbie suitcase held the objects that mattered to me at that age and that I tended carefully. Its magic feels like tenderness, serenity, innocence, play, care, and reverence. 
  • Glass, alchemy, and community
    There is differentiation at the same time there is harmony, synchrony, and integration. We call each other by our preferred names now. Without prompting, each of us has taken on a role we’re happy to do.
  • What would it look like if…?
    If the wrong person knew our dreams, they could out-compete us, drive us out of the market, and squash our dreams. At the same time, no one can help us and support us in our dreams if they don’t know about it.
  • My first day of glass-blowing class
    Everything was loud. The flames were loud, the light was loud, the heat was loud. Strangely, with all that sensory input, there was no differentiation to give me information about changes in my environment. I couldn’t hear anything else but those jets. I couldn’t see the surface of the glass. I couldn’t feel anything but searing heat on my skin. I had to draw upon internalized imaginings of the movements I had seen Ben make. I had to “feel” my way through it.
  • Toolboxes and Treasure Chests
    On the radio on a drive to pick up dinner last night, the interviewee mentioned having a “treasure chest of responses” in regards to their parenting. Not a toolbox. A treasure chest. That shift in word choice changed a lot about my perspective on the relationship of teacher-student and facilitator-instructor.
  • Truthtelling
    Parrhesia is an ancient Greek concept of an obligation to speak the truth for common good. Truth: Say what you know to be true Frankness: Say all you know Criticism: Criticize those in positions of power Duty: Obliged to speak the truth  Danger: Speak the truth despite the risk
  • Guest post: Collaging as Creative Exploration and Academic Production
    Maggie: “I think a big part of why learning to view myself as creative was so difficult was that it required so much unlearning…I had to unlearn what I thought it meant to be good at creating and to be more intuitive and fun with my work. Creative work, just like scholarship, is iterative, collaborative, reflective, and never really finished. ”
  • Learning Communities: The Golden Ticket to Teaching Centers for Graduate Students
    For most people, orientations are likely their first and last interaction with the teaching center. A subset of people take advantage of a consultation or three to talk through a specific teaching challenge, draft a new approach, reflect, and revise. I contend that the learning community is the Golden Ticket™ to your teaching center. If your CTL has one for graduate students specifically, it’s where the really great CTL stuff is. 
  • Cherishing wild things
    I should have made a plan for returning to work, both in August 2021 and again in June 2022. Guess what? The work culture hadn’t co-evolved during my leave to align with these lessons. While I had found new values and ways of being during my leave that were important to me, productivity mindsets were still the dominant force. The work detritus tried to bury me again. 
  • Reminders during a Revolution
    I’m offering this kindling in solidarity with our collective liberation from human supremacy, imperialism, white supremacy, ableism, capitalism, resource and labor extraction, patriarchy, and power over.
  • What I learned from Blown Away about my own learning communities
    Graduate students have heartaches that need care and witnessing as well as successes and dreams. What can Blown Away teach about facilitation of graduate student learning communities?
  • The parenting manual didn’t include a chapter on pandemics
    What aspect of pandemic parenting should we be talking more about? The hard stuff: the reality of human cruelty, Bandaid solutions to bleeding out situations, and relationships that got developmentally frozen in 2020. And also the human capacity for love, acceptance, truth, communication, interdependence, liberation, rest, reciprocity, stewardship, and emergent abundance.
  • Follow the Bubbles
    What if, instead of drowning in everyday life of productivity and competition, we did what lights our spirits, brings us meaning and purpose, and puts our gifts in service to others?
  • Exploring my relationship to grief
    Like many of you, I’ve experienced a lot of grief during the pandemic. Yet I had convinced myself to keep working at full capacity through these transitions in relationships. I spent some of my leave of absence processing grief.
  • Spread sunshine
    For much of my professional life, I have maintained an impossible, “I will enjoy myself and life when…” fantasy. But I was denying myself the rich life I was trying to offer and protect for others.
  • So many (grad development) books!
    In the work of graduate student development, there are student affairs people and academic affairs people. We need communicative bridges between these communities.
  • Beyond one-size-fits-all teaching tips
    “We think graduate students have a story to tell about their teaching. How have you come to think about teaching as you do? What are the most meaningful teaching activities, accomplishments, barriers, and outcomes for you?”
  • Journey back to integrity: Therapeutic relationships
    My current role in a graduate school doesn’t automatically have direct, community-building work in it (which opens up lots of questions for me). As I went on my leave of absence in April, I knew that when I came back I would need to deliberately engage in work that is in integrity with my heart and spirit: community-building with graduate students. 
  • What does educational development even mean?
    I hope colleagues in educational development take some time to think about what “development” means to them and the work they do. I hope they will think about how the term “educational developer” fits or doesn’t, especially as many of my colleagues’ roles have expanded into mentoring and diverse career exploration. Maybe I’ve provided some insight into the work I do to make it legible to others.
  • My return from leave
    I took a leave of absence because I was burned out and exhausted from working and parenting during the pandemic. When I’m being honest with myself, however, a misguided, naive goal I had for my mental health leave was to “cure” and “get rid of” my mental health challenges.
  • Scholarship AS creative activity: Meeting your inner artist
    I am currently reading The Artist’s Way, and it’s leading me to think about the ways I can guide graduate students as they explore their research, writing, and teaching AS creative activities and learn how to protect and nurture their creative spark. 
  • How was my leave?
    I don’t think most people would have known I was having an internal experience of turmoil. I wear a happy, warm, reliable, productive, functional mask. The reality hit hard in March 2022 that I was in denial about my ability to continue coping with life-as-usual. My life had become unmanageable.
  • Rebirth
    You know how, when a crayfish molts, It’s new skin is kind of translucent white? A little soft. Squishy. Glistening. Like all those Brood X, Larvae hanging off the oakContinue reading “Rebirth”
  • Making Meaning (Part 2): Why focus on grad students?
    It is possible for graduate students to check the boxes and to zombie-walk through the initiations and benchmarks of graduate school. Graduate students need and deserve mentoring that is intentional and cognizant of their meaning making process.
  • Making meaning (Part I)
    To me, meaning-making is the way we make deliberate mindful observations, recounting and interpreting stories we find significant and important. It’s the “being” part of human beings.
  • Guardrails and bowling bumpers: Reframing boundaries
    I’m starting to reframe boundaries now as the abundance of time, space, and energy I need to bring my love-based self to the table. Instead of boundaries, I’m thinking about guardrails and bowling bumpers – adaptations to my life that make it less likely to get off track or fall off the cliff into fear, shame, and scarcity mindsets. 
  • If you’re on leave, be on leave, Katie
    I’m sharing with you my journey through recovery from burnout, the struggles I’ve encountered, what and who has been helpful, and how my thinking and behavior are starting to change..
  • Dissertation Blues
    I often see PhD students, successfully on the other side of these passages, in a state that looks like mourning (as if they hadn’t passed). Even students who have successfully defended their qualifying examples or dissertations experience a lost sense of purpose, listlessness, languidness, low motivation, and lack of direction. I want graduate students to be able to talk together about these experiences and their attendant complex, competing, and ambivalent emotions.
  • What I’ve been doing on my break
    I’ve been on a mental health leave from my employment in graduate student professional development for almost two weeks now. I’m spending this time recovering physically and mentally from pandemic burnout. I’m sharing some reflections on my physical and mental recuperation. For graduate students reading, I hope my story helps you check in with how you are _really_ doing and gives you courage to ask for what you _really_ need right now.
  • Journey back to integrity: Why am I taking this leave?
    I decided two weeks ago to take a seven-week medical leave of absence for my mental health. I have also decided to share some of that journey with you. I hope that my courage to share my vulnerabilities gives courage to graduate students and their mentors to check in with how they’re _really_ doing, decide what they need right now, and claim their right to have those needs met.
  • Back to “Normal”
    I’ve been thinking about what it means to me to both move forward and return to normal in a psychologically and socially healthy way. And I’ve been thinking about how this transition relates to the work I do in helping graduate students make sense of their significant transitions during graduate school
  • Grad student stress and distress
    I am sharing this story because I want readers to know what graduate student distress sounds like. I want readers to be moved and affected by these graduate students and their peers.
  • There’s something about graduate students
    This is the time of year when many grads and postdocs, curious about non-faculty careers for people with advanced degrees, ask me about my journey to my present position as an “assistant dean” in a graduate school. Inevitably, I find myself explaining the field I’m in now and what “graduate student development” means.
  • Crossroads of heart and mind
    I’ve witnessed a lot of distressing, prolonged, overwhelming, and inconvenient-to-productivity experiences among faculty, graduate students, and staff. Here I want to share some trauma-informed practices that promote individual and community healing and support interdependence.
  • Finding my voice/Finding your voice
    I want to catch you up – for those who know me and those who are meeting me for the first time – with what I’ve been up to between 2017 and 2022 and what interests me now.
  • Graduate School as a Hero’s Journey
    [Image of Moana from the 2016 Disney movie, Moana] “What all myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness. You have been thinking one way, you now have toContinue reading “Graduate School as a Hero’s Journey”
  • What’s love got to do with academia?
    “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” In All about Love, bell hooks “Graduate school should be hard,”Continue reading “What’s love got to do with academia?”
  • I think about grad student wellbeing. A lot.
    Image: several people with cupped hands holding a small plant in dirt. Graduate students: I want to speak with you directly in this blog about your holistic wellbeing during yourContinue reading “I think about grad student wellbeing. A lot.”
  • “Introduce yourself, Katie,” WordPress said…
    Image: Diana the Huntress. Guillaum Seignac (1870-1924) Look at people’s profiles on their professional websites and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Notice how they describe themselves. WhatContinue reading ““Introduce yourself, Katie,” WordPress said…”

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