Category Archives: School

Profile of a Super Supervisor

For some students, their graduate supervisor is the first “boss” they have ever had. So, what makes supervisors super?

They have good communication skills. Super supervisors are good listeners. They take the time to hear students’ comments, suggestions, and concerns before they give their own. If they do not have time to listen at the moment, they say, “Thank you for sharing. I’d love to hear more about that, but I have to attend a meeting. Let’s do this later.” When they do respond, super supervisors are clear and concise with their points and mainly give suggestions to move the conversation forward. They paraphrase for clarification and probe for understanding. They also communicate in an honest and open manner.

They are supportive. Supportive supervisors create an inclusive atmosphere by sharing opportunities with and soliciting ideas from students. They also stick up for their supervisees. Supportive supervisors have their students’ best interests at heart and are flexible with students’ evolving interests and life circumstances. These supervisors also have confidence in their students. They trust that their students will get work done unsupervised but will provide input and help make decisions when necessary. When things go wrong, supportive supervisors are quick to forgive.

They provide coaching. Super supervisors care about their students’ academic and personal development. They push their students by providing challenging yet achievable goals. Supervisors who coach give guidance (not necessarily answers) and share their personal stories about overcoming obstacles in graduate school.

They offer recognition. Super supervisors acknowledge their students’ contributions and hard work. They thank students for their efforts and praise students for exceptional work. Occasionally, they throw parties to celebrate these achievements.

They make excellent role models. All in all, super supervisors are those whom students want to emulate. They work hard and get lots of things done but also possess work-life balance. Super supervisors are both good leaders and team players. Despite being an expert, they continue to expand their knowledge. They are passionate about their career and motivate others with their enthusiasm, work ethics, and integrity.

If you have a super supervisor, take a moment today to thank her or him for making your graduate life incredible!

Note: This has recently been submitted to Psynopsis: Canada’s Psychology Newspaper, which is CPA’s newspaper that is published quarterly (without the picture, of course). I hope my article makes it!

Acknowledgment: I’d like to thank my super supervisor for inspiring this article! And I’d also like to thank my friend Julie for proof reading!


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Perils of an I/O Grad Student Life

1) Lack of Work-Life Balance

One topic that Industrial/Organizational Psychologists study is work-life balance. However, I don’t study this topic, and I feel that I have no balance. It’s a lot of work, some social life, and almost no personal life.

2) Detriments to Occupational Health

I will probably get carpal tunnel or some form of permanent damage to the forearm muscle on my right arm and the area between the thumb and forefinger soon. Oh, and permanent lower back and trapezius pain.

3) Delays of Payment

As of May and June 2010, I’ve completed 2 paid Consulting Projects (subcontracts). I have received $0 from these endeavors. I’m completing one more at the end of July. We’ll see where I get money from first!


Filed under Consulting, Life, Money, School

Getting far in life

I was helping my landlord put up a border in one of their rental rooms today, and one of the other rooms was empty so we walked in to check it out. The tenant has left for the summer and is subletting it so all his stuff was gone…

Except for 3 curious items.

1) Half a bottle of white wine –> I guess he’s leaving it for the sub-letter? Apparently they are good friends.

2) Two strips of condom packs! –> with a note, “Use at will.” ROTFL

3) This is the most interesting item: A piece of paper stuck above his desk that had his goals on it.

This paper was entitled, “Get into Berkeley, A.I. PhD Program” (For those that dunno, A.I. = artificial intelligence). Below this was a table with 3 rows. The top row were the co-op/school terms for the rest of his undergrad. The second row were his goals for each term, for example, “Get a 90% average” and “Get an excellent review for the co-op term” etc. The bottom row were what he had to do to achieve each goals, for example, “Memorize the course syllabus” (I kid you not*) and “Work at least 10 hours a day.”

When I saw that, it made me realize how the hardcores get to where they are in life. How many undergraduate students you know have this!? I was impressed and thought that I will copy it.

This brings me back to the condoms. Perhaps he has so many left over because he’s so hardcore with school…

And did I mention this kid is Korean? Makes so much sense doesn’t it? (The hardcore with school part, not the lack of condom usage part.)

*..but how does that help with getting a 90%? That cognitive space could’ve been spared for other things and he can just look at the syllabus!

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Lessons from a Brown Bag

via Brett Campbell Mosaics

In the psychology department, we have these lunch-hour seminars called “brown bags,” and I presented my first one as a graduate student today. Here are some lessons I learned from the experience.

No one cares about how your slides look.

I have a thing for design and art, and I want things to look good. So I spent time making my own background for the slides and making sure everything looked professional. But guess what, NO ONE CARES.

No one cares about how you present.

I was super worried over the weekend that I wasn’t making eye contact because I was still attached to my “script” because I had to talk about some stuff I had no idea about, but when all was said and done, NO ONE CARES.

In fact, no one cares about how you look.

I made sure to dress up professionally, but really that doesn’t matter either because NO ONE CARES.

What people DO care about

They care about the organization and logical flow of your presentation.
They care about whether you can defend the theories you are discussing.
They care about the constructs you are conceptualizing.
They care about whether your methodology is sound.
They care about whether you are clear about the data you are presenting.
They care about your study’s limitations.
They care about your future directions.
They care about how fast you talk.*

So my advice to aspiring brown baggers: Just use the stock powerpoint theme for your presentation and don’t waste time animating so much, just present but don’t practice your style too much, and just wear the first thing you grab out of your closet the morning of.

But MAKE SURE your theories, ideas, methods, and data analysis are solid.

*But only if you’re a lowly first year student. If you’re a big deal professor who talks at the speed of light, no one will care.

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I ♥ Autonomy

I had the pleasure of participating in a meeting with the leaders of the University of Waterloo’s Organizational and Human Development today as they have approached my supervisor to help them develop a workshop and also to come up with new workshops regarding culture.

What I loved the most about the session (besides that fact that I’ll get some consulting – well, training/facilitating – experience) was the response one of the leaders gave to my supervisor when she asked how OHD makes decisions to implement something: “We do whatever we want!”

When I heard that, I thought to myself, “I want to be in that position.” I want to be in a position where I can make all my own decisions and have the power to execute them. I want to do whatever I want.

That’s also why I’m doing a PhD.

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BOY’S FAN – a grammar lesson

I’ve been attending the free 6-week long Writing Tutorial for Graduate Students at the Writing Centre, and today I learned about coordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions are:


They join “things” of equal value. What that means is whatever are on either side of the conjunctions must be equal. For example, verb conjunction verb, independent clause conjunction independent clause, etc.

I learned that commas after a coordinating conjunction are necessary only when there is a possibility for misreading.

For example, a comma would be needed here: “The police arrested two protesters and a reporter was detained for questioning.”

At first, you might think the police arrested three people, the “two protesters” and “a reporter,” but then you realize “a reporter…” started a new independent clause.

Therefore, this sentence requires a comma: “The police arrested two protesters, and a reporter was detained for questioning.”

A comma is not necessary here: “The weather was clear and the pilot landed.”

But to be safe, if you see a coordinating conjunction, just ADD THE COMMA!

I guess it’s my anal nature, but this is why I enjoy going to my writing tutorials (today was my last day!); I learn so much! People judge you on your writing, and as a non-native English speaker, I gotta compensate 😉

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“If you don’t ask, then the answer is always ‘no’ “

I’ve heard this advice from a couple of places, and I was about to put this into practice until my landlord cautioned me. He said that he’s also heard of that advice and variations of it (“You can’t score if you don’t shoot.”), but he thinks it’s not an absolute statement. He said that depending on the situation, sometimes, you don’t want to put yourself in a position to “shoot” because if you miss, then you’re the one that created that opportunity to miss in the first place. Sometimes, it’s better to pass the puck or play defense (Note: we’re discussing this in Canada, so of course there’s a hockey analogy).

Now, I have been afraid of “missing” and hence I have been postponing my negotiation with my supervisor for awhile. Basically, I just started my Masters program with her, and I want to ask her if she would be able to provide a desktop computer for me and at least one of her graduate students. Obviously you don’t go around asking for stuff randomly, but I feel that in my situation, I am in a position to ask because:

a) Me and another graduate student of hers are her first 2 PhD students (the other left after 2 years after their MASc degrees…we’re stuck here for at least 5 more years)

b) The other graduate students in her labs have worked with her as an undergraduate before, and they (obviously) have never asked her for such a thing. However, because I am new here, I don’t know the “norm” and thus, it won’t be so bad if it were me who asks the question

c) We have a computer lab on the first floor of the building and also we have a common room that students in my division share, but the former is far removed from other students and professors (we’re on the 4th floor) which would hinder interaction and communication, and the latter only has 3 computers for 8+ students who need them.

d) My laptop is 15″ and to carry it to and from school is very awkward. Plus, with all confidential and important data on our research stored on my laptop, it would be bad if I were to lose it along the way between home and school

e) there are more personal reasons I can think of that won’t be used as argument with my supervisor

The other thing stopping me from negotiating with my supervisor for it is that she’s one of the experts on…negotiation. “You can’t beat your supervisor at her own game!” cautions my landlord. However, I feel that going in knowing this and the fact that she just recently got tenured might help in my cause. Being tenured means she’s more relaxed and would be opened to “ideas” and also means she should be in a better mood in general.

Timing is also obviously key. I’m not going to walk in tomorrow to ask for it when my project hasn’t even started yet. Of course I’m going to wait until I have something “accomplished” before I ask for something. But I can’t wait too long or else my back will break for carrying my laptop in addition to a million other things to school everyday (in order to sustain myself there from 9am to 8pm).

I think it’s time to review some negotiation literature to see the best way to approach this!

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