student life

Grad School Experience: Interview with Dane and Aravind

 

We interviewed Dane Mauer-Vakil and Aravind Rajendran about the transition from an undergraduate degree to a graduate degree, particularly in conducting graduate research. As an undergraduate, you are working to meet certain requirements and receive high grades. However, when you transition to graduate school, the relationship you have with your professors, colleagues, and the research changes. This term, many of you are starting Grad School for the first time, so we thought it would be a good idea to talk a bit about that transition.

Dane MV Headshot 277x300 Grad School Experience: Interview with Dane and Aravind
Dane Mauer-Vakil is a Master student enrolled in the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto with a focus on mental health and addiction services in community settings.
E308A80C A989 4951 B0A8 874A1D365954 300x295 Grad School Experience: Interview with Dane and Aravind
Aravind Rajendran is also a Master student enrolled in the Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation at the University of Toronto with a focus on tobacco control policy. Aravind is currently a Research Assistant at the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit, and has an interest in the tobacco control policy, with a focus on e-cigarettes.

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What advice would you give incoming Masters students to help them with the  transition from Undergrad to Grad School?

Dane: Going into graduate study is definitely a transition, but I would recommend to be as relaxed as possible, and enjoy it as well because it’s definitely an exciting time in life. You’re going to meet a lot of new people and learn a lot of cool stuff. That being said, I would also urge students to manage their time well, and really be as organized as possible. The workload, in terms of reading specifically, is considerably more than what would be seemed as commonplace for an undergraduate degree. Be cognizant of how you spend your time, but to enjoy it as much as possible. Seek help from your friends and colleagues and your supervisors when needed.

Aravind: I think Dane really put it very nicely. The only thing I would add to what he said is that the point of graduate school is a little different than undergrad. In undergrad, you’re learning a bunch of courses that are already decided for you because of the program you’re in, especially in the first or second year. And you only get some choice in the upper years. Whereas in grad school, you will specialize in a particular topic. Thus, whether you go into a PhD or not, the point of grad school is to really develop your research skills and knowledge in a particular area of interest for you. Another important thing to do would be to try to make the best use of your time in grad school to learn as much as you can about your topic outside of the courses you’re taking. So that means reading up on research papers that interest you, reading separate books that interest you, etc. You want to try to make use of the time as best as you can and try to soak in as much as the knowledge of your area of interest as you can write well because you have access to the library and so many resources.

 

What would you say has been your biggest challenge transitioning from undergraduate school or graduate school?

Dane: I would say personally the transition for me was potentially a bit smoother than those who came in, either straight from undergrad or came in with little or no research experience. I had a couple of years between undergrad and starting my Master’s where I was working on research so I was able to kind of get into the mindset of doing research. My biggest challenge in grad school was probably just kind of altering the way I thought about what constitutes success or progress towards my goals. In undergraduate, your, or at least in my case, my main priority was to get high marks, so that I’ll be able to go to grad school. And now, as Arvind had alluded to, we’re really in graduate school  to develop ourselves as researchers. It’s less about grades and more about your output, such as writing for journal publications and presenting your work at conferences.

Aravind: For me, I think one of the main challenges was actually living away from home because I lived at my parents’ house in undergrad, whereas now I’m on my own. Apart from that, one of the things that I found a little different in terms of he actual academic experience was definitely the volume of reading that you’re required to do. And, the other thing that was a bit challenging was the extra learning that goes on outside of courses. For example, at the University of Toronto, there are these things called collaborative specializations, which are sort of like minors degrees in undergrad study. I was in one of those collaborative programs, and that was a very new experience for me compared to undergrad, in a good way. I was able to partake in a separate series of lectures and learned about this other topic of interest to me. I think that was really creative and it was also a little unique perhaps to UofT. But, even if you don’t go to UofT, I’m 100% sure that there’s definitely going to be a bunch of lectures beyond your coursework. It’s going to be a challenge to manage your time to try to attend these, but I think it’s super important that you do because you’re going to get a lot out of it.

Book Recommendations

Dane’s recommendation:

The Focus Effect: Change Your Work, Change Your Life by Bruce Bowser and Greg Wells

The Ripple Effect: Sleep Better, Eat Better, Move Better, Think Better by Greg Wells

Aravind’s recommendation:

Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts

Lisa’s recommendation:

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

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Thank you, Dane and Aravind, 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.

The Art of Writing: Interview with Laifong Leung

 

We interviewed Laifong Leung, a Chinese Language and Literature scholar, about the art of writing. Writing is a unique form of communication that relies on our ability to create imagined realities with the deliberate and careful use of words, punctuation, grammar, and style. It is unlike any other form of communication in the mammal world, and it requires a lifetime of practice to master.

Laifong Leung photo edited 2 The Art of Writing: Interview with Laifong Leung

 

Dr. Leung received her BA from the University of Calgary, and MA and Ph.D from the University of British Columbia, and is currently Professor Emerita at the University of Alberta, where she taught for over three decades. She is passionate about classical Chinese poetry, contemporary Chinese literature, Chinese diasporic literature and language teaching. She continues to publish on these topics, having written and co-edited over 10 books, and several academic articles, many of which discuss the art of writing and storytelling across cultures and historical periods. She was also the initiator and co-founder of the Chinese Canadian Writers’ Association (1987) and currently serves as its Executive Chair. 

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What made you decide to pursue a career in literature?

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When I was young, I lived in Hong Kong. My maternal grandfather was a calligrapher, a poet, and a reader. He lived with us and it was very fortunate. He told me a lot of stories about classical Chinese literature and about the lives of poets, interesting, anecdotes, and famous poems. He would ask me to recite from memory, “Bei Shu,” some classical pieces. So I did that, but sometimes I didn’t know exactly what they meant, but I did memorize. I did quite a few of those important pieces, and I didn’t know they were important until I went to high school. I remember in grade eight, I opened my textbook, and the essay that my grandfather asked me to memorize was there! After that, I recognized the value of what I learned from him. I remember doing calligraphy with him too. He sat next to me and watched every stroke. He really was the initiator. I liked learning Chinese calligraphy. Later on, it would help with my career. When I applied for my first job at the University of Alberta, they were looking for someone who could teach Chinese calligraphy. Not many people were really interested or were able to teach calligraphy. During my time at the university, I started with the study of classical Chinese literature, and then I got interested in post-modern literature, which is very contemporary. These were my main two areas of study. After I retired, I got interested in Chinese Canadian literature.

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What would you say has been the most rewarding part of the career path that you have chosen?

I love reading, writing, as well as teaching. As a professor, I had to do all these things, so I enjoyed my job. I like sharing my knowledge with my students, and I do not feel tired of teaching. I love to see how much the students have learned. Overall, it is a very rewarding experience. I first started teaching adult classes at the Vancouver school board. I taught once a week with the purpose of gaining teaching experience at that time. And later on, I was recommended by my professor to teach Cantonese in the Vancouver city police station for one of the departments. I taught there for over a year before I did my Ph.D, which was a lot of fun. I enjoyed those few years. I just love teaching and doing research. When people recommend me to teach any class, I always take the opportunity, and the process has been really rewarding.

 

You’ve written and co-edited several books. That is a huge endeavor. When you’re thinking of a new book idea, what does your process look like?

I was really interested in the generation after Mao’s exile, especially the Red Guards, which was a group of young people who were very supportive of Mao during the Cultural Revolution. They started with very idealistic high hopes for the revolution. So, they had a very special style of writing. I read a lot of stories written by these generations, but the publications available at that time were very limited. So after I got my first teaching job at the University of Alberta, I applied for a grant and went to China to interview some writers. They talked about the whole horrible experience they went through in the Cultural Revolution. I recorded the interviews, and I came back with a whole suitcase of tapes. The tapes of interviews inspired me to start a book with the theme of the Chinese Writers of the Lost Generation. I began transcribing the tapes and drafted a sample chapter entry. I also developed a book outline. Afterward, I sent my idea to a lot of potential publishers and got 11 positive responses. After carefully selecting a publisher, I was able to publish the book.

Laifong’s Book Recommendation

 

Contemporary Chinese Fiction Writers: Biography, Bibliography, and Critical Assessment, Laifong Leung.

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Thank you, Laifong, 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.

Making the Transition to University: Interview with David Zarnett

 

We interviewed David Zarnett about how to make the transition from high school to university. For many students, this is their first time being away from home, living in a big city, and being around so many other smart competitive colleagues. It’s a major transition that seems to either go well or terribly wrong over the course of a year. It’s important to be mentally prepared for this transition, and take advantage of as many of the campus resources available in order to set yourself up for success.

David Zarnett photo 1 205x300 Making the Transition to University: Interview with David Zarnett

 

David Zarnett is the Undergraduate Student Advisor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. He is also an experienced lecturer on global security, human rights, international cooperation, and war and peace. As the Undergraduate Advisor, he helps students address the many challenges they face during their undergraduate studies and helps them prepare for life after they graduate. He is passionate about empowering students of all abilities to be successful on their own terms. 

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How did your interest in foreign policy, in particular in the Middle East, develop?

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 I come from a Jewish family, not religious, but, in that sense, the Middle East, Israel, Palestine were sort of always in the air in the water. You grow up thinking about the politics of the region. I had taken a few classes as a history student in the Middle East and we started to discuss the controversial aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the Jewish community. I’m drawn to controversy and I like figuring out why people disagree so strongly so vehemently on a particular issue, how do they come up with these conclusions, and the different types of evidence they use. So, that made it really appealing, in addition to the personal connection I have.

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What kinds of challenges did you run into while in school, especially undergrad?

There’s a few ones that I think a lot of people talk about – like balancing social pressures with the responsibilities of a student and confronting new perspectives and different opinions and time management. But I think the most important, or the thing that  I really struggled with, and I will continue to struggle with it is dealing with some type of an academic failure. I remember my first-year political science class POL101. I think I must have gotten maybe a 58 or 60 in the class. However, I am in fact very lucky to have had that experience because I can now tell students who come to me saying – “oh my god I screwed up my first-year classes or my second-year” – don’t worry because it happened to me and I managed to get a PhD! In university, things do suddenly become far more honest and a bit more brutal, and the question is what do you do to overcome some of those challenges.

What would you say is the difference between writing essays in high school vs. university?

I think the major difference is the reflection or the manifestation of thinking; in other words, how someone thinks through a difficult question. So, I think the most fundamental difference is that at the university level, writing requires higher quality thinking, more rigorous thinking, more in-depth thought, and more time to think about exactly what a question is getting at and how to answer it. There are three important things to know when writing a university level paper. First. you need to have a sensitivity to the readers needs and make your ideas very clear, presentable, logical, as well as well-organized. It is crucial to know your audience. The second thing would to be have a core argument that is backed up by solid evidence. And, the third would be to have fair and reasonable engagement with counter arguments.

Having helped several students over the years as a teacher and advisor, what is the most important thing you think a first-year needs to know?

I think one important resource would be the professors’ office hours. Do not be scared of being judged or feel intimidated by professors. You’d be surprised at how many professors enjoy speaking to students, having them ask questions, and getting to know who they are. Going to office hours is a great way to build a connection and to feel connected to a class. And, I think students should know that professors are humans too. Professors also have flaws.. And often what can seem like some sort of social awkwardness, can be just really attributed to some degree of insecurity. So, I would advise students: to be courageous, be brave, and go out and get the information you need from your teachers!

David’s Book Recommendations and Resources

At the Existentialist Cafe: freedom, being, and apricot cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

Find more about David at the UofT Pol Sci Website or email him at David.zarnett@utoronto.ca!

Thank you, David, 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.

An Inside Look into the Life of Professor: Interview with Danielle Law

 

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 An Inside Look into the Life of 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.

_

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.

Resilience Boosting During COVID-19: Interview with Sarah Lang

We discussed how to boost academic resilience during COVID-19 with Sarah Lang, a certified coach. Since the past few months have been a difficult time for many, with dramatic lifestyle changes such as being isolated at home. While it is easy to feel discouraged, by taking small steps to build resilience, you can feel more in control and empowered in your life.

JanisLempera SarahLang1 25 1 300x200 Resilience Boosting During COVID 19: Interview with Sarah Lang

Sarah supports people to dream big, launch new projects, and bring creative visions to life. Sarah is passionate about helping her students develop their speaking confidence and skill set so they can make a bigger impact. 

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How did you begin your career as a coach?

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I would say like many people out there, I had a bit of a circuitous journey or winding road to get to where I am now as a full-time coach. Of course, when I look back I see the dots connect, but it wasn’t obvious at the time. I have been really passionate about personal development since I was a teenager. However, I put this interest in coaching on the side for many years. In the meantime, I tried out a lot of other interesting things, which I think helped me to become a well-rounded and experienced coach. For example, I lived abroad in Tokyo for four years. I was a student in Hong Kong as well. I did a Master’s in Asian Studies at the University of Toronto, which is where I met Lisa Pfau. I also built a career in the non-profit sector, where I worked as an events manager and a project specialist. I did a lot of interesting work, but on the side, I had this deep interest in personal development and leadership coaching.

Finally, when I was pregnant with my second kid, I started my coaching credentials. I took my time because I was working full time, had a child at home, and was pregnant with another. I took it one course by one course, and I was eventually certified at a place called CTI, where I did the entire certification process. And then, once I certified as a coach, I started this career off the side of my desk, just working at it part-time from the desk in my basement. I did that for a few years and three years ago, I jumped into it full-time.

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How does building resilience work?

I look at building resilience as if I have two inter-interlocking circles, like in the shape of an infinity symbol. That’s my model that I’m working with. On the first side of the symbol, the first loop is all about learning to process and handle difficulty, learning to be with what is difficult and accept it. And then, the second loop is amplifying the positive, which means bringing more joy and purpose, consciously into our life. So to me, this is really a model that incorporates so much of what we know about how to build individual resilience.

We need to learn about how to accept. Just truly admit “yeah I’m suffering or scared, terrified, worried, sad or depressed” – all of these emotions are just so normal to be experiencing right now, so it is an opportunity right now to really learn how to be with that. Try to find ways to allow our bodies to process those emotions. Allow ourselves to understand that our thoughts are creating our feelings; rather than, just completely numbing out and spending the whole day on the computer.

Why is being resilient so important, especially at this time?

At the beginning of the interview, we highlighted how challenging the past few months have been for all of us. Our ability to navigate through and move through this period of change and uncertainty is paramount. My definition of resilience is that I work with is linked to why I think resilience is so important, all the time, especially now. I think resilience is our ability to move through a challenging, or stressful times and come out the other side. But it’s more than that too. It’s coming out the other side, having been transformed by that challenge and become stronger than we were before. We can become wiser and more able. People often have more of a limited idea of it as like – you know the bouncy ball or the elastic band. We can turn discomfort from stress and challenges to transform ourselves, making us stronger, while giving us the gift of wisdom.

How does being resilient impact our performance at school?

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I have two points on that. The first, and the more obvious answer is that more resilience means better wellness. Better wellness means better results. You are going to have improved mental health to manage stress. If you are feeling resilient, then you will feel like you can cope and thrive, regardless of what the circumstances are around you. So if you are motivated by thoughts such as” I’m going to be okay” and “I can do this,” then the decisions that are going to come through will lead to positive actions in your life. You’re going to take care of yourself, study hard, go to the gym, and make healthy choices. You’re going to care for yourself because you are motivated by a belief that you can succeed.

My second point is that if you’re more resilient, you’re going to be more open to taking risks. You will trust that you can cope with the consequences of risks because you are not scared of dealing with failure. If you are scared of feeling embarrassed, then you will have fewer options that can help to improve your performance at school.

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Sarah’s Book Recommendations and Resources

Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness by Rick Hanson and Forrest Hanson

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck

Blog Series: Everyday Resilience by Sarah Lang

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Thank you, Sarah, 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.

Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa Pfau is the founder, CEO, and Sr. Coach at PFAU Academic Writing. We discussed how she came to be an entrepreneur, writer, coach, and teacher. We also talk about her own experiences writing papers and applying for Grad School, and how she uses those experiences inform the coaching she provides to clients. As the economy continues to be hit by COVID, investing in further education is a great use of your time and energy.

DSC05764 300x200 Meet our CEO: Interview with Lisa Pfau

Lisa currently assists high school, college, and university students to improve their research in writing skills through a combination of individual coaching sessions and writing courses. Lisa cares deeply about her students and PFAU team members, viewing success as a collaborative effort where everyone learns from and grows together. She feels grateful to wake up each morning, and use her creativity and passion for learning to build something meaningful.

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What inspired you to take this career path?

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I kind of stumbled into teaching. It was something that I was always doing – helping a friend or classmates with an essay – until eventually I became a Teaching Assistant in my Master’s degree and began to tutor high school and college students on the side. It was at this point that I realized there was a real deficit in solid writing skills, and educational supports to guide students in the art of writing. Still, since I enjoyed teaching and editing so much, I didn’t really consider it a career until I underwent a really difficult life transition and really had nothing to lose in starting my own academic coaching business – something that had been on my mind for quite some time, but that I never really took seriously.

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What are you favorite aspects of teaching students? 

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My favorite part of teaching is the relationships that I build with my students. I love seeing them succeed and gain confidence in their own special skill set. For example, one of my long-time students, who original came to me because he was failing his classes and had been put on academic probation, was just accepted into the Toronto Police Service and started training this month. I had the honor of being one of his references, and it was such a treat to reflect on how far he has come. It was been inspiring to watch him over the years improve not only his research and writing skills and graduate with an A- average, but also to see his overall growth in confidence and work ethic. He had a dream, and now he is making it happen. I couldn’t be prouder!

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What do you think is currently lacking in the current education system?

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When I took my first TAship at the University of Toronto, I failed a bunch of students because of their poor writing skills. The Professor told me that I had to raise everyone’s grades by one whole grade point average, and that I needed to lower my expectations given that Grade 13 in Ontario had recently been discontinued. The results were good for the students in the short-term, but that moment sticks in my memory as I wondering about the long-term impact of such leniency. I am still grateful for the predominantly red marked up thesis drafts that I would receive from my Undergraduate supervisor because of how much it taught me to be more mindful in my written communication. I know that we focus a lot on presentation skills and oral communication, but writing is such an important skill set that is often overlooked. I mean, most people are online for the majority of the day, and a huge percentage of content is written, even the videos that we love are often scripted ahead of time. So, to give a long-winded response – I think attention to fundamentals of written communication and critical thinking are overlooked, especially in high school.

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What kind of help can students expect at PFAU Academic Writing?

I think the best way to find out the true answer to this question would be to ask one of my past or current students, but I will try to answer this. I think I see each students an unique individual, and as such, I try to provide the resources and support necessary to help each student succeed in achieving their individual goals – whether it be passing a class, getting an A, graduating university, getting into a great school, or gaining and marketing their transferable skills in order to get a job. I still find this the hardest question to answer because honestly at work I am just myself – Lisa P. I just sit down, figure out what someone needs to succeed, and put a plan together to make that happen, and then, get on the ride with them and help them along the way when gaps show up. So, I suppose a student can expect compassionate, kind, inclusive, professional (I do know my stuff – or so I’ve been told), and individualized support with a focus on getting results.

Lisa’s Book Recommendations and Resources

The Adventues of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

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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.


Sleep Hygiene: Interview with Erin Spencer

Erin Spencer is a registered Occupational Therapist. We discussed goal setting and routines, particularly around sleep hygiene. Since students often have a varied and flexible schedule that allows them to stay up late and sleep in, particularly as we move into online classes, establishing and maintaining daily healthy routines can be a challenge. 

Profile photo summer 2019 Sleep Hygiene: Interview with Erin Spencer

Erin currently provides community-based assessment and treatment of persons with physical, cognitive and/or psychosocial disability due to neurological, orthopedic or soft tissue injuries with chronic pain. She provides education on sleep hygiene, building routine, re-engaging in activities post-injury, ergonomics and mindfulness.

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What inspired you to take this career path?

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I kind of stumbled into it. I had decided in my mid 20s, to go back to university, and I knew that I wanted to go into rehabilitation. I’d actually originally thought physiotherapy. So, I was completing my undergraduate in kinesiology and one of my professors tapped me on the shoulder and said, you know, you should really consider applying to occupational therapy. I was really uncertain about it, but I thought I would apply regardless and I got an interview with the master’s programme at UBC. I prepared really, really thoroughly for it and that’s really when I began to understand what occupational therapy is in terms of the scope, the people that you could be working with and the approach. I found the balance between science and art really appealing.

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What can students do to improve their sleep hygiene and build effective routines? 

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So, if we can add some structure and routine to the day again, perhaps in the morning and in the evening, so that a student feels a little less frazzled with how to manage their time and the tasks and demands of their curriculum, I think that that could be a huge benefit. There’s a couple of different tips that I can offer here. So, one is to have a bit of routine at the end of the day, around your classes and review and what have you. So, for example, once your classes are done for the day, take a look back at your notes, perhaps review them organize them, but that allows you to then review what you’ve done for the day it helps to solidify the knowledge. It’s a bit of a closing activity as well for your day.

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What is something that our listeners can do today as the first step towards building healthy routines?

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As we all know, screens are very stimulating for our eyes and for our brain system, especially blue light. So we can start to remove some of those usual activities and start to substitute in more relaxing activities. So, for example for myself, my bedtime routine is I’ll do some light stretching or rehab exercises, I’ll journal and then I’ll read. I find that reading for me is the most relaxing before I fall asleep. And I find that it helps me to more easily drift into sleep.

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Erin’s Book Recommendations and Resources

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

College of Occupational Therapists of Ontario – COTO

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Thank you, Erin, 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.

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

We interview Erin Spencer, a registered Occupational Therapist, on sleep hygiene and building routines.

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.

Communication for Second Language Learners: Interview with Catherine Steele

Catherine Steele is a pronunciation coach, accent reduction specialist, and owner of English Pronunciation of Success. We discussed the importance of clear communication in professional and academic environments. For students whose first language is not English, clear communication can be a barrier to getting those great ideas across.

Catherine Steele 300 dpi Communication for Second Language Learners: Interview with Catherine Steele

Catherine Steele has a Bachelor’s of Education and TESOL certificate specializing in Languages, Literature and Linguistics. She has travelled extensively, won speaking and training awards, and provided language support to Canada Immigration Settlement, the University of British Columbia, and over 7000 clients around the world. 

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Why do you think proper pronunciation is so important?

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It has an immediate impact. It doesn’t matter how strong a person’s speaking ability is, their grammar, their vocabulary choices, their education, if the listener doesn’t understand, or even worse if the listener fears I’m going to be giving a presentation for nursing. One of the biggest fears in nursing engineering, accounting, science, is numbers. If I don’t understand the way you express your numbers, I will doubt safety. In English, any change in tone is important. Any change in tone means something’s wrong and is understood as the person being angry and not liking the person that speaking, or the person that was listening. So you have to be very aware of tone.

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What are some words that people often mispronounce?

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Yeah, there are a lot. Focus is dangerous and we use it a lot, it ends up sounding like fuck us and it’s because of our O’s. We have eight different O’s and most languages have maybe one or two. So the letter O in spelling can get you into big trouble. That’s something I would encourage people to look into if they can. L and R and D and TH so most languages don’t have TH. Most people are making an R that sounds to us like a D and that gets in the way hugely.

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How can they practice, for vowel sounds specifically?

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Three affirmations that relate to the 8 different O sounds are:  

“I’ve already proven myself.”   One O sound.

“I’m good at this.”   Another O sound.

“I’m going to be the top person in the world in my field.”  Four other O sounds.

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Catherine’s Book Recommendations

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Pronunciation Pairs by Ann Baker and Sharon Goldstein

Clear Speech by Judy B. Gilbert

Phrase by Phrase by Marsha Chan

The 5 Love Languages is by Dr. Gary Chapman

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Thank you, Catherine, 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 professional development and 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.

Careers in the Arts – Social Work: Interview With Janelle Lewis

 Janelle Lewis is a social worker in the Toronto area who has experience working with vulnerable populations. While jobs in the sciences are sometimes considered to be “practical” an arts degree provides skills and opportunities, which can be used for careers that make meaningful differences to the community.

LewisJanelle 1 1 768x1024 Careers in the Arts   Social Work: Interview With Janelle Lewis

Over the past two years, Janelle has worked as a Program Resource Worker within the Regent Park community, where she manages intensive cases in supportive housing and provides life skills training and interventions to those experiencing mental health struggles.

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What inspired you to get into social work?

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The first thing would be the area that I grew up in as a child and the second thing would be coming from a working-class family. So, to further elaborate, the area that I grew up in, it was predominantly an area that had a lot more crime than other parts of Toronto and it was home to a lot of working-class, immigrant families. And at the time when I was a child, there was a shortage of social services. So, that definitely made me think about how I could contribute to my community. Just seeing my parents struggle made me think about what I could do for people who are also living in poverty or living in low income, and just seeing how I can make a better impact on them.

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What has been the most meaningful part of your career so far?

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So, currently, where I work in Regent Park, I work with those who experience mental health issues. I would say just hearing a thank you and how I’ve helped them, is honestly the most meaningful part of my career. A lot of my residency experience anxiety and paranoia, and just seeing where they’ve come at the beginning of when we started working together until a few years later and how they’ve developed skills and coping strategies and they’re stabilized and much more independent. As an outreach worker, I work with a lot of people who experience poverty and homelessness. So, for them to share their story about how they got there and the struggles and the struggles that they’re experiencing. It definitely is so meaningful for them to find some sort of comfort or trust to share that story.

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What are some of the challenges of being a social worker?

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I mean, within the social work profession, it can be a very heavy and emotional job just because we’re experiencing a lot of stressful, traumatic situations. Number one would be taking my work home with me. I’ve gotten a lot better at this where I say okay if I end at five o’clock, that’s it. I’m going to be in the present moment, and I’m going to go home. But sometimes I do hear some very difficult stories. And I’m a very sensitive person. So, after hearing some difficult stuff, or just maybe seeing a crisis that I was assisting with, and going home with that I just sometimes need time to reflect on what happened. The second challenge that I would say is wanting to do more with me that people are experiencing homelessness. I want to do more. I wish I could provide housing, I wish I could spend a little extra more time with my residents who are experiencing isolation. But at the same time, I have to remind myself that sometimes you can only do so much.

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What is the process of becoming qualified as a social worker?

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There are so many different ways of becoming a registered social worker. I attended George Brown College for the Social Service Worker programme, which is a two-year programme. And the reason why I decided to go to George Brown College rather than University is that I wasn’t exactly sure whether social work was the career I wanted to go into. I felt that it was very daunting and scary committing for years and to a degree that I wasn’t exactly sure about and it made me feel better knowing George Brown College that they provide placement for both years. So, once I graduated from George Brown, I transferred to York, and I did a double major. So, I double majored in sociology and social work. If you have your bachelor’s in social work, you can stop there and you’re asked to sign up as a registered social worker, but then sometimes people want to continue their education. So, for me, I’m going back to school for my Master’s in social work.

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

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Book Mentioned in the Episode

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan

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Missed the podcast? Listen here:

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_

For more advice about professional development and 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.