essays

Thinking of becoming a Professor: Interview with Danielle Law

 

As we enter spring and summer, students are looking for jobs in this uncertain period of COVID. As if job hunting wasn’t hard enough, COVID makes it even trickier. We wanted to share some career-related posts from last years, like this one, that would be helpful to students who are trying to find work during this uncertain period.

We interviewed Danielle Law, Associate Professor in Psychology and Youth and Children’s Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, about her career journey from student to professor. While a B.A. degree provides students with transferable skills such as critical thinking, which can be used for a number of career paths, many choose to attend graduate school and eventually become a Professor.

DLaw Headshot 258x300 Thinking of becoming a Professor: Interview with Danielle Law

 

 Danielle is Associate Professor of Psychology and Youth and Children’s Studies at Wilfred Laurie University and Director of the Child and Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) Lab. Her research focuses on the social-emotional development of children and youth and their mental well-being. Danielle’s primary area of research focuses on online aggression, associated mental health concerns, responsible Internet use, and creating caring communities. She strives to connect academia with the community with her research, teaching and learning philosophies. 

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Can you tell us a little about what the daily work of a Professor is like?

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In the summer and spring, I’m usually preparing for the fall. I am preparing for my courses. I’m also writing manuscripts for publication and also working on research projects. I also supervise graduate students, which happens all year round. For example, next week I have a thesis defense for one of my students. Then, I also need to attend committee meetings for the university to talk about program development and recruitment and etc.

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What kinds of career options are there for PhD graduates in Psychology that are outside of mainstream academia?

Some of my students have gone into counseling or have become therapists. I have some students, and also my own colleagues and friends, who work for Statistics Canada. They do research for the government and I also have others who are researching for the private sector as a research associate for different industries because the thing about getting your PhD is that they’re training you to be able to conduct research. So, many of my colleagues and friends are conducting research outside of academia, but some are also working in school administrative positions, such as the school board. Some have even gone off to start their own research consulting firms. 

What advice do you have for first-year university students?

I think it’s really important to open your doors to as many possibilities and if there are people accepting bachelor students to volunteer in their research labs, I would take it because it’s a very rare opportunity to get that chance to research outside of graduate school. All of my students in my lab, apart from two, are undergraduate students. They all have this opportunity to conduct research and have their names on publications during undergrad. It will help them to get into grad school later, and that’s one of the reasons why I like having this opportunity for undergrads in my lab.

Danielle’s Book Recommendations and Resources

Books:

Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Give and Take by Adam Grant

Why we Sleep by Matthew Walker

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Podcasts:

The Happiness Lab” by Dr Laurie Santos

‎”How To!” by Charles Duhigg

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Thank you, Danielle, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Starting a Non-Profit: Interview with Megan Kee

 

We interview Megan Kee, the founder of 20/20 Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to the production of innovative art projects that raise awareness, visibility, and fund for charitable organizations, about Starting a Non-Profit. This week’s episode is part of our Careers in the Arts series, where we talk to young professionals with Fine Arts or Liberal Arts degrees, who have established themselves in an interesting and fulfilling profession. Deciding what to do after university, especially with a degree like a Bachelor of Arts that is often general and does not prepare you for any specific profession, can be daunting. What most students don’t realize though is that your Arts degree has provided you with a variety of transferable skills, such as critical thinking, research, organization, and communication that can be applied to a number of different professions. We hope that through these interviews students will feel less overwhelmed and hopeful about their career options.

Self Portrait 2021 Megan Kee 300x300 Starting a Non Profit: Interview with Megan Kee

 

Megan has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Ontario College of Art and Design, as well as a Master of Art in Museum and Gallery Studies from Kingston University in London, England. She has over ten years of experience in the Fine Arts industry, including working as a Gallery Assistant at Lausberg Contemporary, Head Exhibition Designer at Quaycrafts, and Project Manager at Pursuit Inc. She is passionate about bringing people together over collective values, beliefs, and passions, amplifying the voices of charities/non-profits through the most powerful medium she knows of: ART.

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It seems like you have a clear vision of who you are and who you want to be. How did you know what you wanted to do?

To be honest, I did not always know what I wanted to do or who I wanted to be. It was a journey of self-discovery and it took a lot of patience, consistency, practice, and time. When I was also a young adult, I had a lot of uncertainty about my future and I felt the need to have all the answers, but I just did not have them. I have been interested in art from a young age. It was the first thing that I was ever got good at, so I was able to gain satisfaction from art as it fulfilled me in a way that nothing else does. I always knew that I want to work in the Arts field; however, it took me several years to figure out what that work would be. I initially wanted to be an art practitioner and a painter. I also had interests in becoming a tattoo artist, but it did not really necessarily pan out as I planned. I tried out different types of work and slowly gained more experience and built my resume. The various experiences helped with my process of self-discovery and developing my passions. Through starting my own exhibitions and working on my different projects, I figured out what I enjoy. Eventually, I quit my full-time job, built a team, and started my own non-profit organization.

What traits would you say someone needs to do something like start and run a non-profit organization?

Our organization is slightly different from traditional non-profits as we strive to educate, inform, and inspire audiences to challenge the stigma associated with mental health, homelessness, and addiction instead of building a shelter to help people on the front lines. For me, the key is to figure out exactly how we add value, which has been a very long and arduous process. I think building a base of concepts and proving their value is critical for non-profit organizations. You should be able to recognize the target demographic and critical feedback to learn from people’s responses. The feedback is from both the community that you are trying to serve, as well as the donors or sponsors that you are trying to get funding from.

 

Good communication is also crucial. You need to be able to communicate your organization’s values. What is your pitch? If you were to sell somebody on your idea in two minutes or less, can you do it? It has taken a long time for me to be able to build that and I think I am still working through it. It can be such a terrifying thing to put your heart and soul out there for everybody to criticize and possibly provide feedback on. If they do not like it, you may start to have internalized fears and doubts about yourself. However, I think as long as you build yourself up and recognize that your value is not reliant on somebody else’s opinion, rather, your value comes from within then everything else is secondary.

Running a non-profit is no easy task. What do you do to establish a clear work-life balance and prevent burnout?

I think a work-life balance really comes from listening to yourself and getting to know how the things in your environment impact you. I schedule time in my life for my work and myself, and I make the time for myself non-negotiable. For example, one of the things that I do now is on Wednesdays, no matter how important the person or the call is, I will not schedule a call on that day. I allow Wednesdays, which is in the middle of the week, to take time off if I need it. Sometimes I will work through a full Wednesday focused on my work with no calls or emails because it gives me a moment in the middle of my week to reflect on how I feel. I would ask myself: “do I feel like I’m mentally okay?” Sometimes I take the full Wednesday off if I feel that I really need that time off. It is just about listening intuitively to yourself. There are times in your life when work is going to demand more of you. There are also times when the family is going to take priority over work. So, even though I try to maintain this work-life balance, I think life is always going to dictate otherwise and you just need to be responsive when those things happen. I believe that the more that you can make time for yourself, the better you are going to be at work; and, the more focused you are going to be at work, the better you are able to show up for the people in your life.

What lessons have you learned over the years that you think have helped to become a more confident leader and role model for other young women?

I would say that I am fairly confident now, but I think that comes from just having a sense of value within myself and feeling like I have value. I understand that it is a long process for a lot of people. I think one key lesson I learned is to spend more time with myself and try all kinds of different things. I think confidence really comes from self-love. You should take time to appreciate yourself as we often let negative thought patterns repeat themselves. I recognized that when I started meditating. I was totally unaware of it before. Over time, you start to value yourself, and the more you value yourself, the more confidence you are going to have. As a result, even if someone may try to talk down to me, belittle me, or make me feel less, I can respond confidently say: “No, thank you, this isn’t for me.” You should build a sense of self-worth and have enough belief in yourself, your abilities, and your value as an individual that other opinions don’t bring you down. Also, it is important to recognize that not everybody needs to like you and that is okay. You should not allow the opinions of other people to dictate your own self-worth or value.

Recommended Books and Resources

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

20/20 Arts

Thank you, Megan, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Finding a Job as COVID Continues: Podcast Episode Live!
PFAU 5 panel 2 300x295 Finding a Job as COVID Continues: Podcast Episode Live!

 

Last spring, we discussed the challenges of finding a job during a pandemic withcontent marketing specialist, Alif Huq. Unfortunately, we are still in a COVID lockdown, which is discouraging for new graduates. All hope is not lost though. Alif shares some tips with new grads to make the best use of this tricky time.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Job market changes during COIVD-19

How to stay motivated when job searching

Social media strategies and what not to do

The art of marketing yourself online

 

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute consultation with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The art of negotiation
Getting Comfortable with Conflict as a Woman: Interview with Alexandra Kutilin

 

We interview Alexandra Kutilin, a full-time MBA student at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, about being a strong woman and speaking up for what you want and need. This week’s episode is for all the strong women out there, who struggle with balancing their tactical professional self and caring compassionate self. I know this is an internal conflict that I deal with regularly as an entrepreneur in a care-giving and creative sector. How can I highlight my expertise, intelligence, and strength without losing the softer side of myself? This struggle is particularly evident in negotiations, where we are required to bargain for something we want, such as a better grade, performance from a group mate, raise from our boss, or new opportunity. Women are typically socialized to step back, give in, and avoid conflict. So, how do you harness your inner shark without losing yourself?

Alexandra Kutilin 8 200x300 Getting Comfortable with Conflict as a Woman: Interview with Alexandra Kutilin

 

Alex is passionate about career mentorship, professional development, and entrepreneurship for women, topics that she regularly explores on her blog. As an ambitious young career woman, she is also very active on campus. She is currently the President of the Graduate Women’s Council, a Student Ambassador, and a Mentors in Business participant, and has been a competitor in the 2019 BC MBA Games and 2020 National MBA Games.

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Negotiation, or more specifically, conflict is an area that women stereotypically have been socialized to avoid. What strategies do you have for individuals who find negotiations challenging because of a fear of conflict or disapproval?

For this question, three things come to mind. First, recognizing that I have my own thoughts and perspectives, which I can get into in a little bit. Second, being prepared by going into a negotiation having done the research. Third, knowing that you can just chill out and keep your cool in a situation that can get very tense. Building these skills and confidence takes time and practice, and I think are something everyone should invest in.

We are in negotiations all the time, and some of them are comfortable, some of them are not. However, if you prepare yourself for different situations, you can get more comfortable by actually being in them as yourself. This means that you are not overly concerned with sounding silly, which oftentimes is the internal voice that discourages us. I feel like this is a huge barrier for women in particular as we are socialized from a young age to be people pleasers. I think that, as I move on in my career, I am starting to get used to that, and I do not experience it as much as I did when I was younger.

Business is typically viewed as a male pursuit. Where do you think that comes from and what can we do to encourage more young women to consider business?

I think it’s a combination of the sentiment is something “men have always done”, traditional gender roles, and the way that history has portrayed those roles. Even though the Western workplaces slowly started to welcome women into their ranks into the early to mid 20th century, this assumption persists.

Things are slowly changing as we see more female CEOs and business leaders. I also see more young women in my MBA classes. I think it is important to have strong female role models for young women, so that they can see that it’s possible to be a businesswoman.

For undergraduate students out there who are considering an MBA in the future, do you have any advice for them?

Definitely. Looking back now and reflecting on my experience, the things that I know now were not obvious at first. My goal was to figure out what I wanted to do, and I did that by taking initiative, pushing my comfort zone, and trusting myself.

First, take initiative with the goal of learning, instead of the goal of getting something out of the experience, like a job or a raise.

Second, take chances and push your comfort zone. I don’t just mean blindly say: “okay I’m going to take this chance and step off the cliff”. For me, it is about taking chances when the stakes are a little beyond your healthy comfort zone. For me, that was losing a year’s income to enroll in an MBA program.

Finally, trust yourself and your ability to achieve a challenging goal. You have already accomplished the big goals that you set for yourself in the past, so what makes you think that you cannot do that again in your future?

Recommended Books and Resources

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez

As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto by Joan Reardon

Alexandra Kutilin

 

Thank you, Alex, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Exam Anxiety: Interview with Lisa Pfau

This week we will be interviewing Lisa Pfau, the founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writing, about the stress caused by assignments and exams. We thought this topic would be helpful to our listeners who are about to enter the final exam season. Exam anxiety is a real and serious problem that can hinder students’ academic performance.

Lisa 300x200 Exam Anxiety: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

As you may know, Lisa has over 20 years of experience supporting students through academic challenges. I first met Lisa three years ago as a first-year International student at the University of Toronto. Lisa has helped me with the transition from high school to university, giving me lots of great tips about how to deal with the pressures of university.

 

What are some symptoms of exam anxiety?

Before I start, I should preface this with a disclaimer: I’m not a psychologist. I am a writing coach and I am basing my responses on 20 years of experience dealing with students, as well as my own research and readings on the topics. We do provide some links to mental health resources at the end of this post though.

 

Physical symptoms of anxiety: sweating, shakiness, increased heart rate, dry mouth, nausea, loss of appetite, crying, shortness of breath and dizziness. In some cases, some folks may even get physically ill, experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. I threw up one before my first provincial exam in Grade 12 because I was so nervous. Exam anxiety can be debilitating.

Cognitive symptoms of anxiety: procrastination/avoidance, addictive behaviors, inability to focus, loss of memory, lack of concentration, negative self-talk, easily distracted, lots of thoughts bouncing around in your head. I can usually tell when a student is anxious because I have to ask them the same question repeatedly and I get a distracted response. Or, oftentimes they fail to do their work in-between sessions because they are so worried about failing the assignment that it is better to completely avoid it, than try and make a mistake.

 

How does exam anxiety impact performance?

For me, I used to blank out at the beginning of the exam. For the first few minutes after sitting in the exam room, I would not be able to recall anything. However, after taking a few deep breaths and ritualistically setting up my exam table, my memory would start to come back and I could write the exam. Developing awareness about this response to exam stress helped me not to get overwhelmed by it. 

 

Another major impact is procrastination. When we are scared about something, we tend to avoid it, and that can mean avoid even starting an assignment or studying for an exam because we are afraid to fail, in the end creating the outcome that we were scared of, and validating our original fears.

 

Anxiety also makes it hard to focus and plan ahead, so we may think we studied, but since we were anxious our thoughts are all over the place and we likely are not hitting on or absorbing the key concepts. This is usually what happens when someone appears to have logged a bunch of hours in the library, but can’t seem to get a good grade on their work or exams. They are not sitting down to make a plan, note key information, memorize it, review it, and reflect on their mistakes, so that they can improve in the future. This is because when you are anxious you cannot access the part of your brain that deals with long-term planning and long-term memory. Your body is focused on fighting off the threat, which doesn’t require you to recall theoretical concepts or historical dates. It just requires you to know how you use your legs and run like the wind…or, hid under your bedspread watching Netflix.

 

What are some practices or strategies to relieve stress?

Anxiety affects everyone differently, and so we all deal with it differently and some strategies that work for me, may not work for everyone, but here are a few that I like:

  • Deep breathing: 7/11 breathing – breath in for 7 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds and breath out for 11 seconds

  • Journaling – Writing things down really helps me to get clear on why I am feeling a certain way, so that I can make a plan to resolve those stressors. It also can help me to identify and combat negative thought patterns.

  • Exercise – I find that I collect a lot of stress in my body throughout the day. If I don’t get at least an hour of intense exercise (weights or cardio) each day, it will build up over a few days and I will eventually find it hard to focus and want to start avoiding my desk.

  • Healthy eating – Sugar in-take really impacts my mood, so I tried to avoid sugary treats as much as I love them. I try my best to eat more fruit or bake treats out of natural ingredients or increase the fiber content to balance out the sugar. This is definitely a tricky one for me though because I baked goods.

  • Making lists – making a to-do list and setting intentions for the day helps me to get back on track when my brain wanders off on a tangent. I also keep a blank page for random thoughts that I pop into my mind throughout the day that I need to deal with, but not at the moment. I can then add them to my list for another day.

  • Professional help: Finally, I’m a big believer in psychotherapy. I think we spend some much and time working on my physical appearance, why not invest in your mind and mental health as well. Good friends are wonderful, but a therapist provides you with insight you often cannot get from others in your life unless you happen to be best friends with a trained therapist.

Recommended Resources

Presence by Amy Cuddy

School Counsellors

My SSP

Good2Talk

Student Care

 

 

 

 

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

Missed the podcast? Listen here:

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Black Leadership: Interview with Reggie Waterman

 

We interviewed Reggie Waterman, the director and founder of his own branding agency, XPRESSIVE, about the student experience as a Black man. Although laws have been changed and attitudes adjusted, structural racism is real in Canada and it exists in our educational institutions too. Black, Indigenous, South Asian, and other minority students often experience racism and ethnocentrism on and off campus. 

Latest Head shot Jul 21 2020 239x300 Black Leadership: Interview with Reggie Waterman

 

In 2019, Reggie uncovered a gap in the post-grad job search experience and he has made it his mission to close the gap by providing students with a winning formula to ensure career success. He is particularly interested in how students who identify as visible minorities can use this to their advantage when creating their personal career branding. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reggie also decided to facilitate a Zoom series called Discover Your ‘Other” Self to provide inspiration and help people overcome life’s challenges, especially during these abnormal times. More importantly, he’s achieved all of this while facing racial barriers as a Black student and businessman.  

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What kinds of barriers to Black students face compared to non-racialized students?

I think the biggest barrier is the access to resources. For example, when I went to university, I did not see a lot of Black people, and part of the reason for that is we just do not have the same access to resources. A lot of the Black people that are my age are first generation Canadians whose parents immigrated from the Caribbean or Africa. As a result, they do not have access to the financial and social resources necessary to obtain higher education themselves, and build social networks to help their children to access gainful employment. Often the education they gained in their home country is not recognized in Canada, so they are forced to work jobs that do not require higher education in order to support their families. Since they are working hard to help their children to improve their socioeconomic status, which makes children of these immigrants, like me, trailblazers in education and work in Canada.

On the other hand, the majority of White Canadians have their networks already established since their families have been here for generations. This establishment creates a situation where social networks are dominated by White Canadians, who may have different social norms and expectations than Black Canadians, making it hard to break into the group and be accepted. Social networks are essential for access to education and employment. Without these social networks, it can be hard to get referrals and endorsement to help young Black to propel their careers forward.

What can we do to break down some of these barriers?

I think that institutions, such as schools and well-established corporations, need to really take a stand if they truly believe in having a diverse workforce. The way to do that is by putting audits in place and promoting more visible minorities to positions of power. What I mean by audits is, for example, the HR team, on a semi annually or annual basis, should look at the landscape of the organization and actively adjust it to make sure that it represents the multicultural reality of Canadian society. They also need to hold their teams accountable for diversity practices. For example, what are they doing to promote inclusion? When they are hiring new people, should there be a specific allocations for visible minority hires? Do their teams truly reflect diversity? It’s one thing to say that you support diversity, and another thing to do it in practice.

How can self-identifying as a minority help with your personal brand?

Personal branding is about uncovering one’s superpower and leverage it in a manner that you could add value to yourself and others. Focus on how you serve others, give not take. There currently are not a lot of visible minorities in positions of authority and leaderships in Canada and the US. Certainly, things have improved over the years, but more can be done. If you identify as a visible minority, this can be turned into a strength as your experiences and perspectives are valuable to companies as they attempt to diversity and reach a wider global audience. Turn what appears on the surface as a barrier into a strength. It’s really about mindset and finding tools to promote your own unique message. That is where Xpressive comes in, as an agency that I launched, it focuses on helping individuals to build their brand to help them demonstrate and showcase thought leadership and value.

What tools are most valuable for students and young adults who are trying to promote their personal brand?

LinkedIn is definitely a tool to build your personal brand and promote your unique professional expertise. For example, if you are interested in getting into the marketing industry, do a simple post on how to do a marketing plan, like “The five top things you need to have in your marketing plan”. Thought leadership is about your thoughts. You want to demonstrate the knowledge that you have and provide value to your connections and followers.

Recommended Books and Resources

Think and Grow Rich: The Landmark Bestseller Now Revised and Updated for the 21st Century (Think and Grow Rich Series) by Napoleon Hill Arthur R. Pell

The Lemonade Life: How to Fuel Success, Create Happiness, and Conquer Anything by Zack Friedman

Reggie Waterman

Thank you, Reggie, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

_

_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

 Thank you for joining us for the Breath In, Write Out podcast this week. Since many students are currently working on their papers or preparing for their exams, we thought this was the perfect time to re-run our interview with Daina Sparling on the Art of Proofreading. We hope that this podcast helps you to learn the value of proofreading and strategies to complete a quality paper!

We interview Daina Sparling, an editor and proofreader at PFAU Academic Writing, about something students often take for granted – editing! Good writers know that the first draft is never going to be their best work. They need to put aside time to revise, edit, and proofread their work. The best writers have colleagues or professionals to provide them with insights on their work and to fix any issues. Like all art, writing takes multiple drafts to reach a level of greatness.

Color headshot 300x200 The Art of Proofreading: Interview with Daina Sparling

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Daina has a Psychology degree from the University of Alberta, and several years experience working as a Research Assistant for the Department of Medicine, Division of Studies at the University of Alberta. While at the university she collaborated with other academics in the creation, editing, and statistical analysis of examinations used in the medical school. Diana also has over three years of experience editing graduate-level dissertations and publications with PFAU Academic Writing. In her free time, Daina enjoys travel, beekeeping, and camping with her husband and two children.

What is the value of receiving editing support?

It is important to have somebody look your work over because we do not see our own faults very well. For example, if I studied abroad I would absolutely ask somebody, who is a native speaker, to look at my work because different languages have different expectations and structures. The real value is that you not only end up with a more polished version of your written work by hiring an editor, but you also learn from them how to become a better writer. For example, if there are common errors that I see in the work, I will point them out to client so that they can avoid those errors in the future. In addition, the comments made on the draft related to content or questions asked about what the writer intends to say, helps the writer to become more clear in their ideas and expression as they continue through the writing process. It is also beneficial to have the help of an editor, who has experience in writing and working with different kinds of text so that they can teach you how to adapt your work to appeal to different audiences. Writing is just another medium through which to communicate your ideas. If you can work with someone who will help you to improve those communication skills, then you have more opportunities and avenues through which to share your research and thoughts.

What skills and knowledge do you think good editors have?

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First, I think that whatever language you are using to write your essay or dissertation, it is always beneficial to find an editor who is a native language speaker, especially for international students. I think it is a helpful added step to have another pair of eyes to look at your work.


Second, a good editor is someone with a strong set of technical writing skills, such as: grammar, punctuation, spelling, structure, format, citation styles, etc. You want to be able to trust that they will recognize and fix your mistakes.

Third, and possibly most importantly, a good editor should also be able to figure out what is the person actually getting at. In other words, what does the writer intend to say. A good editor does not change the writer’s meaning, but enhances it. I think good editors tend to be empathetic. We can get a sense of the person through their writing and adapt it in a way that is suitable for them, as opposed to having some sort of formula. I think a good editor needs to be able to work together to accomplish the goal of the client. I do not want that client’s work to sound like my own, but rather the best version of their words. As a result, a good editor will be able to suss that out and decide what is the actual content that this person is trying to convey.

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Tell us a bit about your own process. How do you edit a paper?

The first thing that I do is just take a quick scan through the work to see what is it about how long it is. Then, I will go back to the original project instructions. It is always really helpful to be given a copy of any assignment or submission instructions to ensure that all the requirements have been fulfilled. If your writing submission does not have the right components, it is not going to help you even if it is edited perfectly. Then, I will read through the paper looking for structural issues, content issues, and clarity. At this point, I will suggest broad sweeping revisions where relevant. Then, I will take a second look reviewing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. I usually let it sit for a day, and then do a final read to make sure that I haven’t missed any mistakes.

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What are some common mistakes that you often see in the essays that you edit?

The first one that is absolutely glaring for me is the tense. It is necessary to make a determination and decide whether you are in the present, past, or future before writing down 40 or 50 pages of work into a document. Which tense people should use is going to be dependent on what they are writing. A paper talking about literature may use a different tense from a personal response essay. There is nothing more difficult than editing for 10 or 20 hours and having to go back and forth wondering what the author is talking about because they switched from present tense to past tense in the middle of a paragraph.

The second common mistake is acronyms. Students should make sure that they have spelled out the full name of any acronyms they use in the essay, and placed the acronym in brackets after the full them. Only after that, can you use the acronym consistently throughout your essay. You cannot assume that people will know what you are talking about, for example, what BMJ stands for. Do you know? I still don’t.

The third thing would be capitalization, such as the capitalization of names and organizations. People often get proper nouns and common nouns mixed up. For example, China and china mean two different things when you change the capitalization in the word. You need to check whether or not the technical terms that you are using need to be capitalized or not. The internet is your best friend for checking this out. This is another one of those errors that can be missed easily, but to a technical reader or an employer, it is a big problem if they see that their organization is not capitalized.

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Resources Recommendation

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Style Guide (APA, MLA, Chicago)

Purdue OWL

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Thank you, Daina, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Customizing Mental Health Support for Students: Interview with Holly Smith

 Thank you for joining us for the Breath In, Write Out podcast this week. Since many students are currently experiencing a stressful period of the semester because of the due dates and finals coming up, we thought this was the perfect time to re-run our interview with Holly Smith on Customizing Mental Health Support for Students. We hope that this podcast helps you to understand that it is normal to feel stressed out sometimes and provide you with strategies to take care of your mental health while studying.

We interviewed Holly Smith, an experienced clinical occupational therapist in the field of mental health and substance use, about some of the mental health challenges that students encounter, and strategies to create a healthier study environment. Despite campaigns put forward by governments and corporations in the last decade that encourage a more open discussion about mental health, there are still a number of stigmas and taboos that surround mental health concerns, particularly mental health struggles that are connected to addiction.

Holly Photo edited 2 300x300 Customizing Mental Health Support for Students: Interview with Holly Smith

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 Holly Smith is a Kanien’ke:haka (Mohawk) of the Haudenosaunee people from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, and she currently works as a clinical manager at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). She also recently established Indigenous Wellness Services, mental health therapy, and consulting business which offers a decolonized approach to mental health treatment.  

What kinds of struggles do you often hear that students face compared to those in other stages of life?

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Typically, the majority of students are under the age of 25, and it is a really interesting time in life because people are still finding out about their identity. Students’ brains are still developing, and being in school is a high-stress period of time. There are a lot of social pressures and expectations, either from the family or themselves. It is a highly competitive environment. There is also a lot of social pressure, especially with the advent of social media. In addition, the upheaval of COVID-19 has been having a negative impact on society as a whole and creating additional pressures for students to try to manage the workload, finances, home life, and personal life at the same time. For international students away from family, there is also the impact of social isolation. The disruption of normal routines and activities caused by the restrictions placed upon students due to COVID-19 can have a lot of impacts on people’s mental wellness and mental health.

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What do you think prevents or delays students from reaching out for mental health support before their situation escalates? 

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I think there is a lot of stigma around the topic of mental health and mental wellness in general. There is a lot of fear and anxiety around even asking for help or saying: “I’m struggling in a certain area”, or “I’m having a rough time.” Sometimes it’s difficult to go for help without the fear of being judged or not being taken seriously or not being understood. For me personally, these fears had prevented me from reaching out for help. Thus, I was trying to manage and cope with those pressures and those expectations in a way that was not always the healthiest. When those kinds of pressures start to mount and increase, it will eventually get to a point where things get really overwhelming, and different areas of your life come in can become impacted by that. However, a lot of suffering could be avoided by understanding these feelings are just normal human emotions, and reaching out for help to navigate those feelings in a healthy way.

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What gaps do you currently see in the ability of the current mental health services on-campus and off-campus to provide adequate support to Indigenous students, and perhaps other students who have felt unsafe or unheard?

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I think the gap within the mental health care system, in general, is that it is a bit of a “one size fits all” approach. Even the mental health services that are offered on campuses, for example, are not going to meet the needs of everyone. They are not going to be relevant to everyone’s needs; and as a result, people are not going to connect with them in the way that they were intended to. Personally, when I was trying to connect with mental health supports in school, I was not happy with what was available at that time, so I didn’t access as many resources as I probably could’ve. I know that accessibility has improved, but there is still room for improvement in terms of understanding and personalizing services more to meet specific student needs. In addition, the traditional model of meeting with a therapist one-on-one doesn’t work for everything either. There needs to be more variety in how mental health services are delivered.

What would you suggest be done to start filling these gaps?

I also think more informal mental health supports should be provided, such as peer support groups and culturally sensitive programming. I think campuses should provide safe spaces for black, indigenous, and other racialized folks to be able to have access to peer support workers, elders, or traditional psychotherapists. Students should be able to talk to somebody who represents them and their community. And that’s something that I feel is missing in the health care system as a whole, particularly on college university campuses.

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Holly’s Book Recommendations and Resources

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Books:

The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.

Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving: A GUIDE AND MAP FOR RECOVERING FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA by Pete Walker

Youtube Channels:

Crappy Childhood Fairy by Anna Runkle

Lisa’s Book Recommendations and Resources

The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times by Pema Chodron

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Thank you, Holly, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

Thank you for joining us for the Breath In, Write Out podcast this week. Since many students are currently receiving grades back for their midterms, we thought this was the perfect time to re-run our interview with Lisa Pfau on grade appeal. We hope that this podcast helps to answer any questions you may have on grade appeal and gives you more confidence when negotiating with your TAs or Professors.

This week PFAU Academic Writing Creative Marketing Assistant, Jingyi (Jane) Miao interviewed Lisa Pfau, the founder and CEO of Pfau Academic Writingabout how to successfully appeal a grade. Sometimes students work really hard on an assignment, but they do not get the grade they are expecting. This is usually because of a misunderstanding between the marker and the student. In these cases, it is often helpful to meet with your TA or professor to discuss the grading. These discussions are more challenging during Covid-19 because of social distancing; however, it is possible with strategies to successfully negotiate a better grade.  

DSC05821 edited 300x300 Grade Appeal: Interview with Lisa Pfau

 

Lisa has over 20 years of experience helping students with essay writing, application support and career development. Jane first met Lisa three years ago as a first-year International student at the University of Toronto. Lisa has helped her with the transition from high school to university, especially understanding the best way to talk to professors and TAs about assignments and grades. 

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In what kinds of situations would you recommend students appeal their grades?

It kind of depends on how you feel about the assignment or exam. Did you feel that you put a lot of effort into the work? Do you feel like you prepared well? Do you feel like you took the time to read the question and talk to the TA and talk to the professor? Is it a huge surprise when you receive this grade? Maybe students thought that they did a good job and were expecting a grade in the 80s or 90s, but only got 60-something. Then, I think it’s worth going to talk to the professor or TA. On the other side, if you are aware that you might have made some mistakes, then I don’t think it’s worth appealing your grade. It is really when your expected outcome is very different from the actual outcome then it is worth appealing your grades.

 Could you please provide us with an overview of the grade appeal process?

It is actually a very elaborate process that is kind of similar to going through the civil court system with a complaint. First, I would caution that not many individuals are going to go through the formal process, and it worth avoiding unless you really feel you’ve been treated unfairly. In a case where you feel that the professor or TA has a bias against you or has expressed some dislike of you, and you feel mistreated, I would suggest a formal appeal. Or, if your exam or paper being lost by the grader and you ended up receiving a zero would also be a situation when I’d recommend a formal appeal.

The first and best step regardless of your situation is to go and speak directly to your teacher, TA, or professor about the grade. Now, before you ask them to regrade your exam or assignment, take the time to clarify what you did wrong and why you received the grade that you did. If after that discussion, you still disagree with the grade that you received, then I would suggest requesting them to regrade it. However, I suggest you don’t do that on the spot, but take some time to think and prepare your grade appeal request. In many cases, in order to have an exam or assignment regraded, even by your Professor, you need to submit a request in writing. Students should prepare an argument to point out where they think the markers made a mistake and what they believe they deserve for their work, and submit this along with their official request.

If students think that the re-graded assignment is still unfair, then they can appeal to the department through another formal request. It is important to document each step through email and notes as much as possible, especially if you feel you have been discriminated against or are dealing with a missing assignment/exam. Students can go see their undergraduate advisors and talk to them and find out the specific process to appeal to a higher level. It is always good to have additional support and familiarize yourself with all the procedures before you proceed. As I said, I can be a lengthy process if you take it all the way to the top.

As you proceed, the process becomes more formalized, much like a court case. You will need to submit forms, provide documentations or proof, and meet submission deadlines. Usually, after the department you would appeal to the Faculty of Arts, for example, and then the University Senate, if you are very serious. This would be similar to taking a case to the Supreme Court of Canada in that it is your last resort and the final decision about your grade appeal. Students will often times appear before the Senate, and give some sort of statement. After which, the Senate would vote on your grade appeal, along with many other areas of administrative business. Very few students who come to me to ask about appealing an assignment or exam grade go that far. Most grade appeals are resolved after a simple conversation with a Professor.

What tips would you give students before they talk to professors about their grades?

I encourage you to take a growth-mindset. That means going to talk to your TA or your professor about why you received a certain grade, rather than simply claiming – “I deserve a higher grade!” There are a couple of reasons why I encourage students to approach with the intention to learn, not defend.

First, you will be more successful in your grade appeal if you have a clear understanding of what the grader was looking for and can demonstrate to them in concrete terms that your assignment or exam did in fact fulfill that criteria. If you can point theses areas out to the grader, it makes their job much easier too and they are more likely to understand your perspective if you can show that you also understand theirs. Thus, it is useful to gather more information about the grading process and where you might have gone wrong, before you go in guns blazing.

Second, no one likes to deal with complaints, especially TAs and Professors. Teacher’s are motivated by students’ passion for learning, and put off by the clamor for higher grades. If you can show that you actually want to learn and improve, you are more likely to get a positive response from the grader.

Third, it is possible your grade may decrease through the regrading process as you are risking the grader picking up on another mistake that they may have missed during their first review. Therefore, it is essential that you review your work and determine that there are actually areas that the grader missed and deserve marks before handing them your work again. They will pay much closer attention the second time around and do not want to be shown up by a cocky student, so make sure you know what you’re talking about before you accuse someone of making a mistake.

 

Recommended Books and Resources

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy

Slack

Trello

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing the excellent advice with us and our readers! 

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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_

For more advice about writing, check out our weekly podcast or subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

_

To get more help with your assignments, book a 20 minute discovery session with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.

Sleep Hygiene: Podcast Episode Live!

Thank you for joining us for the “Breath In, Write Out” podcast this week. Since many students are currently struggling with stress and late nights, we thought this was the perfect time to re-run our interview with Erin Spencer on sleep hygiene. We hope that this podcast helps you to get the sleep you need to succeed!

PFAU 20 panel 2 300x298 Sleep Hygiene: Podcast Episode Live!

We interview Erin Spencer, a registered Occupational Therapist, on sleep hygiene and building routines.She provides education on sleep hygiene, building routine, re-engaging in activities post-injury, ergonomics and mindfulness. In her personal time Erin enjoys running, hiking, baking and exploring the GTA.

HIGHLIGHTS

Her journey to becoming an occupational therapist

How students can manage stress

Importance of sleep in healing

Tips for sleep hygiene and healthy sleep routine

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To get more help with professional development and writing, book a 20 minute discovery call with us and start your journey to reaching your full potential on the page, and in life.


Both the written, visual, audio, and audiovisual content of this post has been created by and is the intellectual property of Lisa Pfau and PFAU Academic Writing. Please do not replicate any of the above content without our consent. However, please do feel free to share this post and its authorship widely.