Graduate Survival Guide

Information on everything from financing your education to how to write a dissertation.

      • Out and About the 5Cs

      • Teaching Community College

      CGU Study Abroad

      Guide to Self-Publishing

      Writing a Dissertation

      CGU Club Guide

Out and About the 5Cs: cutting-edge academics, innovative arts, and gratis hors d'œuvres

The life of a graduate student can easily slip into a cycle of work, class, and endless reading and writing. But if you’re looking for some academic enrichment, want to connect to the 5Cs community, or simply need something to do in the dead hour from noon to one, the 5cs community offers ongoing, lively, and free to low-cost events almost daily. So if you have a penchant for transdisciplinarity, classical arts, or crudités, keep reading.

Athenaeum Events at CMC

Claremont McKenna College will continue to host a diverse series of events that include speeches and performances from some of the world’s most recognizable musicians, businessmen, politicians, actors, academics, and journalists. Previous speakers have included Bill Clinton, Bono, Michael Eisner, and Karl Rove. Unless noted otherwise, events begin at 6:45 pm and take place at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum on the CMC campus. A list of fall speakers will be available at in the coming months.

CGU Art Exhibits

There’s just about always something going on at CGU’s art galleries. Bi-weekly shows curated by art faculty start August 29; weekly student exhibits begin October 25. Exhibits usually open with wine-and-cheese receptions, and all students are welcome. During gallery hours exhibits are open to the general public. CGU art students are doing impressive work and there is no substitute for seeing it in person, and nothing makes you feel more fancy than hobnobbing with artists. Art exhibits are located at the East and Peggy Phelps Art Galleries, 251 East 10th Street. For a schedule of exhibitions and events, visit

CGU Concerts at Claremont School of Theology

Resuming this fall, the CGU Music Department will once again host its on-going concert series. Concerts include faculty performances, student recitals, and music lectures, hosted on Tuesdays at 4:15 p.m. in Mudd Theater, 
Seeley G. Mudd Building or Kresge Chapel. Admission is free. For a fall schedule as well as videos of past performances, visit

Friday Noon Concert Series

Each Friday at noon, as the event’s name suggests, the music departments of Pomona and Scripps Colleges sponsor free concerts by professional musicians. Concerts are held at Balch auditorium on the Scripps campus and have featured an eclectic variety of traditional classical and world music, from Brahms’ quartets to Zimbabwean Mbira music. For a detailed schedule, including musicians and event specifics, visit

Global Health Seminars

The School of Community and Global Health will host speakers from diverse backgrounds throughout the year on a variety of subjects. Seminars are currently in development. For more information log on to

ISS Brown Bag Lunch Speaker Series

Alternating Thursdays throughout the semester, the Institute for Signifying Scriptures (ISS) hosts a diverse selection of presentations on various scriptures and their impact on society and culture. Additionally, the ISS has a Distinguished Speaker Series, which has included Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, and world-renowned literary and cultural critic Gauri Viswanathan. The events are free an open to the public. For more information, including schedule, visit

Pomona College Literary Series

The Pomona College Department of English will host a series of readings from visiting authors of poetry and fiction. Readings take place at 4:15 pm in the Ena Thompson Reading Room located in Crookshank Hall on the Pomona College campus unless otherwise noted. This semester’s lineup includes Samuel Delaney, Steve Erickson, and others. More information available on the department website at

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

A stone’s throw away from the CGU student apartments, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is one of Claremont’s most notable locales. Admission is $6 with a student ID, which grants you entry into one of the most unique collections of California native plant life. Become a member for $45 annually and get free admission for the year. For hours of operation, events, and details log on to

Social Socials

Hosted by CGU’s School of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences, this bi-weekly event features presentations by graduate and professional speakers in the field of social psychology, as well as career workshops and discussions. Past symposiums have included “Surviving Graduate School: A Students’ Perspective,” and “Is Conscious Thought Good for Anything?” (Don’t think too hard about that.) Socials are typically from noon-1:00 p.m. and include lunch. Anyone with an interest in the subject discussed is welcome. For the fall schedule and other information, visit:

SPE Lunch Talks

In this on-going series, the School of Politics and Economics (SPE) speakers ranging on topics from the geo-political to the community specific – all of which you’ll be more ready to tackle thanks to the swell lunch provided. Previous speakers have included ambassadors and government officials from across the globe. Watch your CGU e-mail for announcements or visit for further information.

Thursdays at the HRC

Every Thursday the CGU Humanities Resource Center hosts guest speakers and discussions on a variety of topics relevant to careers in academia and academia itself. Information ranges from advice on CV/resume design and career management to discussions of media and web resources. Events are open to all CGU students and have been known to serve cured meats and imported beer. Huzzah! For more information, e-mail

Tuesday Noon Academy

Every Tuesday at noon Mallott Commons, located in the heart of the Scripps campus, hosts both local and visiting speakers on an eclectic array of subjects. Previous topics have included stargazing, queer theory, ancient animals, and minimum-wage policy. See the Mallott Commons website for more information at


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There are some things that can’t be taught

(for everything else, there’s you)

The distance between being a grad student and becoming a professional is vast. Not only are you supposed to be an expert in your field, but you are expected to convey your wisdom to the next generation of students. Whether teaching is your primary goal or a necessary side job that will allow you to conduct your own research, the fact is that it is something you will have to do, and have to do well. But in an a market where the job opening to recent graduate ration is 400:1 (or at least feels like that), getting a foot in the door can be as hard as actually doing the job. That’s why we called in the experts.

Last December the weekly “Thursday Nights at the Humanities Resource Center” seminar and workshop series hosted four seasoned professionals to discuss the ins and outs of teaching at two-and four-year colleges. From the application to the interview, to negotiating your pay to your students, what follows is a rough transcript of what you need to know to get in the door as an adjunct or part timer at the community college and Cal State level.


Most Cal State and University of California (UC) jobs have applicants submit their applications and accompanying materials online. As people who have been in college for upwards of eight years, we are all pros at following directions.  While it is essential to submit an application in the requested way, it’s also important to remember that your application is now one of 400 gathering virtual dust in someone’s inbox.

Bill Jones (History, Mt. San Antonio Community College [Mt.SACC]): Human Resources is the black hole of CVs and application letters.
Jill Gold-Wright (English, Mt. SACC): For an adjunct position, I would recommend sending your CV and cover letter to HR, but also to the department chair.
Judy Miles (Philosophy, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona [CalPoly Pomona]): Yes! As department chair at Cal Poly, I was always impressed by people who took the time to find the university, figure out where to park, get themselves to the building, find my office, walk in, and introduce themselves. It shows infinitely more effort than pushing a button and sending everything by e-mail.
Jones: Keep in mind, too, that one of the most important contacts you are going to have in any department is with the department secretary. One look from them to the right person can make you or break you. So for goodness’ sake: be polite!

Of course, even getting to the point where you decide to apply for a job can be daunting. “For graduate students who haven’t taught yet, it can be frightening,” said Miles. “They think, ‘I don’t know enough, I don’t know my topic well enough, I haven’t memorized my dissertation yet.” My advice to you: Just go for it!”

According to Allison M. Vaillancourt, Vice President of Human Resources at the University of Arizona in her January 27 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Ready for the Job, or Not?”, certain people wait to be perfectly qualified for a job before pursuing it:

“While I would never encourage anyone to be reckless in applying for positions for which they are not qualified . . . [and while the] distinctions between ‘required’ and ‘minimum’ qualifications should not be ignored,” she recommends “always apply!”

The Interview

For most of us, our professorial careers will start out where most jobs do: at the bottom. These part-time and adjunct positions are easier to snag and often lead to tenure-track positions. “At Mt. SACC, most of our hires for full-time positions come from our adjunct pool, so make sure to take the job seriously and establish networks in your department,” said Jones. So if you made it as far as the interview, what can you expect?

Gold-Wright: At the community college, they want to make sure that you get what the community college is all about. It is about teaching (as opposed to research) first and foremost. We think it’s great that you published six papers in the past year, but our real concern is that you can handle the students at our school, 98 percent of which have tested into remediation in at least one of three subject areas. We especially are interested in hearing about how you would teach critical-thinking skills.

Miles: At a school like UCLA, they will expect to see your first book manuscript as well as a description of your forthcoming second book. At the community college level, they couldn’t care less. In fact, an extensive publication history may lead to your detriment, as the hiring committee will see you as someone with no intentions to stay at the community college.
Jones: Another biggie is coming off like you know what you’re about, and if you don’t have the teaching experience to answer that question, start getting some: tutor, sit in on undergraduate classes, anything to give you more of an indication about the types of students and classes you will be dealing with. One thing we don’t want to see is people who are going to teach a textbook course; we prefer to see primary sources on your syllabus (and yes, you will have to submit sample syllabi).

Gold-Wright: Be true to what you are. I got asked “What kind of technology are you planning on using in the classroom?” and I answered “none.” I still got the job and haven’t done a Powerpoint yet. Meanwhile, make sure you have every bullet point on the “desired/required qualifications” section, because applicants for these jobs are often scored in large part on a point system.


If you’ve gotten so far as to get hired for a job, they next step would be negotiating your salary, right?

[Unanimous laughter.]
Miles (after wiping away tears): There is no room for negotiation in the CalState system. Sometimes there is a two-dollar difference in hourly wage if you have a lot of teaching experience, but other than that, the pay schedule is pretty cut and dry.

(Good thing none of us went into this for the money, right? . . . )


The CGU Career Center (see page three of this issue)
Not only can they point you to current openings, but can help you refine your cover letter and CV.
Database for all open positions across the disciplines. Most community colleges use this southern-California specific database.
Huge database of all academic jobs, with the ability to filter searches by full-or part time, location, and type of institution. Also has administrative job postings.

The 5Cs
If you’re crafty enough to snag your own funding, or are willing to work for a few hours per week without pay, consider approaching professors from the 5Cs in your field and offering to be a teaching assistant. 


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CGU Study Abroad

After a couple of years of graduate study, Claremont can start to feel (how do I say this?) cloistering. Getting to LA is kind of a schlep, and finding the time or money to travel is a luxury few can afford. But if the walls are starting to feel like they’re closing in, (and if you needed to take that T-course, anyway) CGU’s various study abroad and exchange opportunities may offer the perfect pairing of staying focused on school while getting out and living a little.


When most people think of Oxford they picture the cobblestone streets, imposing spires, manicured lawns, and yes, the dining hall from Harry Potter. Each summer the Drucker School hosts a t-course at St. Peter’s College (one of the many smaller institutions that make up the larger Oxford University) in the heart of the city, which any past student will testify, exceeds all expectations for the grandeur of Oxford.

The course being offered in August 2012, “Doing Business in Europe,” covers European financial markets, management, marketing, and a social perspective on how businesses interface with society. If the topics covered sound intimidating to students outside of Drucker, they shouldn’t: While each class is taught by seasoned professors and local experts, the assignments are tailored to accommodate students without any previous exposure to the topics, so fear not.

Of course, the six hours of class time per day is peppered with an adequate amount of free time, including a free weekend in London, and in years past, a private tour of Wembly stadium, a Shakespeare show, and intimate tours of the roughly 700-year old colleges led by Oxford dons.

But the resounding sentiment among students of years past is that the highlight of the trip is the weekly high table dinners, a tradition nearly as old as the university. Beginning with cocktails and entertainment in the garden, each student gets a chance to sit at the high table, which sits atop a platform at the front of the dining hall and is traditionally reserved for fellows and visiting dignitaries. Dinner is at least three courses (and include such British favorites as pork belly, roasted tomatoes, and Cornish game hens) and invariably great conversation and revelry ensue – for the wine is free and it never runs dry.

Most evenings end with excursions to Oxford’s famed pubs, the Purple Toad, the Tavern, or the famous Eagle and the Child, where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien decided to see who could write the best allegory for Christian history (and thus, the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings). Suffice it to say, one feels that they are at the seat of western history when in Oxford, and as the dons will tell you, they are probably correct.


But if the Medieval is just too new for your taste, consider taking the t-course in Akko, Israel, a town whose history stretches from the 16th century b.c.e., to the Maccabean revolt, to the Crusades (during which time it was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller), to the modern, ethnically and religiously diverse city it is today.

There are usually two courses offered: “Archeological Field Methods” (a religion course) in which students work daily at an excavation site and learn all facets of archaeology, including recording the finds, taking levels, filling out tags for pottery buckets, and taking soil samples (real deal kind of stuff), and “Public Archaeology, Conservation, and Heritage,” a transdisciplinary course that focuses mostly on the dig site but also introduces students to the city of Akko from numerous perspectives, including history, archaeology, religion, culture, tourism, and city government through a series of lectures presented by the faculty on site, work and tours of the Tel and the country, and guest speakers.

English PhD student April Frykenberg, dubbed the “pickaxe surgeon” of the excavation site, said that despite archaeology being a far stretch from her own academic work, which focuses on 20th century American literature, she found connections she had not anticipated.

“Given the social climate of scientific interest at the turn of the century, it’s not surprising that so many authors of the period were interested in or influenced by archaeology. Thomas Hardy did excavations in his backyard. Agatha Christie actually went on excavations,” said Frykenberg. “Beyond that, though, there was a tactile pleasure to the digging that I haven’t experienced for a long time.”


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To Self-Publish or not to Self-Publish: a short critique on the avenues of academic publishing

Imagine the doctoral student. Imagine her slaving through the dissertation process – the proposal, the writing, the defense. Imagine her elated anticipation of making the transition from student to working, professional scholar. Now imagine her panic as she prepares her CV only to discover a large blank under the heading “Publications.”

This is, in all likelihood, a rather narrow hypothetical scenario given that many graduate students understand the importance of publishing both before and after moving into the professional realm. And yet not all students are privy to the various avenues of publication available to them. Or if they are, they remain unsure of the advantages and disadvantages of one path over another.

Take, for instance, the option of self-publication, a once (and to a large degree, still) dubious endeavor that nonetheless seems to be growing – at least at first glance on the web – in prominence. “Gone are the days,” Publishers Weekly rights columnist Paul Nathan recently wrote, “when self-publishing was virtually synonymous with self-defeating.”

It is often noted that we are children of the digital age. And in this age, the increasing accessibility, promotion, and convenience of self-publication has given rise to a slew of websites (,, etc.) that offer students, scholars, and wannabe writers the recourse to self-publish. But what are the advantages of such recourse? What do these and similar sites really offer an emerging scholar?

Let us return to our hypothetical doctoral student – now a full-fledged PhD with dissertation in hand. The graduate division of her particular university will, most probably, submit her dissertation to a private publishing firm – such as ProQuest Dissertation Publishing – which caters exclusively to universities. Once submitted, copies of her dissertation will be transferred to microfilm, shelved in her university’s library, and made digitally available in ProQuest’s online database. But, to the degree that this is the common fate of all dissertations – and while certainly important to the furthering of academic discourse and scholarship – it remains a far cry from actual professional publication.

In the pursuit of an academic career, the steps taken next by our doctoral student will most likely involve the daunting task of seeking out a mainstream academic or commercial press for her dissertation. This process involves transforming her dissertation into a book proposal she will submit to various publishing houses to be rejected, revised, rejected again and again, revised again and again, and finally – if she’s lucky – accepted. At which point, she will again revise to meet the particular provisions of the publisher.

The advantages of such a process is that, by submitting to a major publisher, she has also, by extension, entered into the process of professional peer-review. This is the most important aspect of academic publishing – whether it is a book or an article in a journal. When an academic work is sent to a major publishing house, it is read and evaluated by some of the top scholars in that field, which, if the work is finally accepted, published, and critically reviewed, translates into a proverbial stamp of approval and legitimacy. This is why an academic work ultimately published by a commercial press is what most hiring committees look for when evaluating a candidate – and why anything less remains suspect within the professional community of academia.    

Notice that the key, here, is therefore not book sales or even access. Of course, it is possible for a dissertation, once self-published as an ebook or a Print-on-Demand publication, to gain a certain amount of notoriety or even financial success, thereby increasing its chances of being picked up by a commercial press. But this is, by and large, a long shot.

In point of fact, self-publishing seems to be regarded with a certain amount of skepticism or even disdain amongst professionals in higher education. The discussion forum of the Chronicle of Higher Education website, for instance, features a long and fairly one-sided dialogue about the negative effects of self-publishing an academic piece. Most commentators cite the eminence of peer-reviews as well as the advantages afforded an academic in understanding the standards of commercial publication.   

So when should our doctoral student consider self-publication? It might, for example, be the case that our doctoral student’s subject matter is extremely obscure and/or controversial; she may be the next Albert Einstein attempting to publish a game-changing work on the processes of the universe, confident that the genius nature of her work will ultimately project her into academic stardom regardless of who publishes it.

On the other hand, she might simply require a few bound copies of her dissertation to pass out to friends and family (or to flip through herself while alone in her apartment with a glass of wine, reveling in her own scholarly achievements). But as long as the world of professional scholarship remains one dominated by standards of conventional publication, it is really only narrow contingencies such as these that preclude a serious evaluation of how self-publishing will effect one’s career.

In the spirit of full disclosure, although the majority of academic opinion regards self-publication as a sign of a scholar’s inability or unwillingness to face professional criticism, it surely has its benefits elsewhere. Self-publishing a creative work, for instance – say, a chapbook of first poems for the aspiring poet, or an art-book featuring the work of an emerging visual artist – has for centuries remained an important resource for the artist looking to secure an audience.

A recent article promoting self-publication on the website provided a list of “self-publishing hall-of-famers” that included literary figures from William Blake and Walt Whitman to Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Robert Bly. In general, self-publishing a creative work bears none of the defeatist connotations associated with that of an academic effort. On the contrary, examples of success in this sphere abound, and gaining public or professional attention for an artistic endeavor through self-publication remains a truly viable option.  

Overall, however, self-publication remains a venture that should be weighed carefully in relation to a student’s distinct needs and goals, academic or otherwise. While there are very few shortcuts to success for our hypothetical doctoral student – and anyone considering a career in academia – the alternative of self-publishing your first novel or book of poems might prove decidedly worthwhile.

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What to expect when you’re expecting a PhD

So you are working on a PhD. Or, you are an MA student considering a PhD program. Whichever the case, the word that ominously looms over every doctoral candidate’s future is DISSERTATION

A daunting prospect, to be sure. However to keep the d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r  out of your “DISSERTAtion” it helps to understand the dissertation process before get ting started. Briefly, the dissertation has four distinct phases: forming a committee and selecting an advisor, submitting a proposal, writing the dissertation, and the dissertation defense.

Below is an outline of the distinct steps of the dissertation, along with practical advice for each step, including common pitfalls and how they can be avoided.

Advisor and committee

Securing supportive advisors and committee members is the most important aspect of the dissertation process. You want a committee that is convinced of the importance of your idea and will back you up in a pinch, but will also engage critically with your work. Take time and consideration in picking your committee, but also make yourself known to potential members. This means taking their classes, becoming familiar with their research, and planning meetings to get to know one another and discuss your academic goals.

“You do not need to be best friends with your advisor,” said Chair of CGU’s English department, Lori Anne Ferrell. “This does not need to be a cookie-baking, best-friends-forever type of relationship. In fact, that can be counterproductive. It does have to be straightforward and professional because it is the advisor’s job to sometimes say some very uncomfortable things. In short, it has to be someone you trust – someone who can help you start growing the thick skin you need to survive in this world.”

While it is important to begin considering potential advisors and committee members early on, you could be doing yourself a disservice by not keeping an open mind. Take the time to consider a variety of options, and even interview potential members to find out more about their work and to see if they are a good fit. Ask about their availability, how many doctoral students they have worked with, how often they expect to meet, and what their working style is. You may find that your coveted professor simply does not have the time to offer you the guidance you need; or, conversely, requires too-frequent check-ins that could hamper your progress.

The proposal

David Madsen, author of Successful Dissertations and Theses, contends that the research proposal is often the key element to the successful dissertation and, as such, the most important step in the whole process: “There is no question that the care lavished on the proposal will be repaid a thousand times.” With this in mind, what exactly is the proposal and how should you go about, er, proposing it?

The first step is to pick an original research topic. Although you should have had a basic idea about your topic when picking your advisor and committee, now is the time to refine it. In Secrets for a Successful Dissertation, authors Jacqueline Fitzpatrick, Jan Secrist, and Debra J. Wright outline five criteria that will help guide your decision: Your knowledge of and experience in the specific area; career advancement potential; access to the needed data; time required to collect the data needed; and acceptability to advisor/committee.

Once the topic is picked, the writing begins. The proposal should introduce and summarize your research goals, as well as methods of investigation. The more clear and guided the proposal, the easier the dissertation will be. Would you build a house without a blueprint? Not likely.

The dissertation

Having already bestowed meticulous attention on your proposal, the psychologically epic proportions of the dissertation are now drastically tamed. Outline in hand and sources ready for review, the dissertation is the step that moves you from one type of writing to another and, ultimately, from student to scholar.

According to Secrets of a Successful Dissertation, “This style of writing is not about creativity or casual writing, it is basically a defense and exercise in your ability to meet academic rigor established more than 100 years ago. Remember, you will have to defend every subjective statement you make. Your opinions at this point are worthless: You are just a struggling doctoral student, so what do you know?”

Lori Anne Ferrell agrees with this sentiment: “Trying to sound smart and original is wrong. Trying to sound clear and definite is right.”

But thinking clear thoughts and getting them down on paper are two different things, and many students find that their biggest pitfall is the writing itself – something of an issue, considering that the dissertation is, well, written. Students deploy a variety of methods – some sound, some not – to stoke the writing process, including swilling several Big-Gulps of coffee, rewarding word-count goals with an episode of Tots in Tiaras, or just going to The Press. But according to Ferrell, writing is not ushered in by inspiration – or elaborate reward schemas – it is simply the result of showing up and doing the work.

“It’s a professional way of working, it’s not waiting for the muse to show up. The muse shows up when you’re sitting in your chair; the muse doesn’t put you there,” said Ferrell. “You might as well treat it like a job, and stop treating it like it’s precious and angelic. It’s work. And all those things can come, but they’re not going to come when you’re avoiding them. They come when you’re sitting down.”

The defense

The dissertation defense is typically a meeting with your advisor and committee members in which you present the main arguments of your dissertation, followed by a question-and-answer period. The purpose of the defense is twofold: First, it determines whether you understand not only your own argument, but also the discourse around your topic, including pertinent research and counterarguments. Second, the dissertation defense is the time to prove that you actually wrote the dissertation. This means being able to speak to every point you made and every piece of research used.

To prepare, research the defense protocols for your school and discipline. The more you know what to expect, the more at ease you will be. Sit in on colleagues’ defenses and practice by anticipating questions that could be asked of you.

A note on staying connected

All of the literature about writing a dissertation emphasizes the importance of study/discussion groups. The grey lady of academia herself – the Chronicle of Higher Education – noted this in a recent issue:

“Life for advanced graduate students is inherently isolating – and that isolation can easily stall a dissertation. Consider that a graduate student goes from taking courses (where everyone reads and talks about the same texts) to studying for comprehensive exams (where candidates often work together in reading groups). Then it’s time for something completely different: writing a dissertation that’s supposed to be creative and original, that takes each student into a specialized world uniquely his or her own.”

A study group can help keep you sane and connected, but can also offer insights into your work, progress, and dubious hygiene. Secrets of a Successful Dissertation offers several handy pointers for making sure you select the right members for your group: beware the “emotional vampires . . . the needy folks who want to take large bites of your knowledge and energy, offering nothing in return”; and the “Darth Vaders” who can sabotage your work by giving misleading information and offering negative comments (before ultimately cutting off your hand with a light saber). They also offer a checklist for group members, including (but not limited to):

•    Did members support any and all dissertation discussions, no matter how outrageous?

•    Did members take a blood oath of confidentiality regarding the evening’s conversation topics?

•    Do members readily crack jokes; do faculty and student imitations; plot successful revolutions; and maintain a code of silence as they tilt at ivory towers without getting caught?

•    Will members appear at your dissertation defense, willing to stare down the committee in an attempt to intimidate them into total submission and speechlessness, and graciously hand over the pen for members to sign their approval?

Of course, group members should also be reliable and of high intellectual caliber (coaxing you out of your Fortress of Solitudes even when you only long for the steadfast companionship of your MacBook and flannel pajamas). But what can be gleaned from the wry observations above is that along with supporting your dissertation, group members should support you.

Also . . .

In each issue, we at the Pedant have, in our infinite wisdom, published a tip from CGU professors Paul Gray and David E. Drew’s book What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career. For the dissertation, it would be downright negligent not to share their advice about the dissertation, which, surprisingly enough, amounts to: get it done!

“Finish your PhD as early as possible. Don’t feel that you need to create the greatest work that Western civilization ever saw. Five years from now the only thing that will matter is whether you finished. If you don’t finish, you are likely to join the ranks of the “freeway flyers,” holding multiple part-time teaching jobs.”

While the idea of holding any job at all may rule out all other practical considerations, Gray and Drew have a point: though you may consider your dissertation the magnum opus that will define your career, it is only the opening act – your ticket into the club that is academia, but far from the final word.

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The Ultimate Guide to Joining and Starting Your Own Club at CGU

As a commuter school, feeling part of a community at CGU can be fleeting. Many students come just for class and leave, drawn away by work, family, or the worsening traffic on the 10. As such, romantic visions of hours in the quad – with or without someone playing the guitar – are often at odds with the realities of graduate life. But where organic communities may lack intentional communities are thriving at CGU in the form of clubs, groups, and activities.

Here at the Pedant, we set out to find what groups are on campus and how you can get involved.  Apart from professional organization, which focus on career and academic development, there are at least 14 groups on campus with an ideological, lifestyle, or hobbyist base, and the consensus among participants is that whatever the club, the benefits of being a member far outweigh the time lost on studying.

J.P. Dulay, founder of the CGU Flames (our much beloved softball team with a membership nearing 20 and a neighborhood reputation to boot) bases his enthusiasm for group activities on the “Broaden and Build” theory of social psychologist Barbara Fredrickson (leave it to an School of Behavioral and Organizational Sciences (SBOS) student).

“When people have fun and create friendships with others who have a similar interest, they experience positive emotions,” says Dulay, “These positive emotions, according to Fredrickson, can expand a person's thought-action-repertoire (another way of saying that a person can potentially think and behave more creatively). This creativity can then build physical, social, and cognitive resources from which a person can draw. In other words, when people are having fun and making friends on the softball field or elsewhere, the resulting positive emotions can improve their quality of life.”

CGU Flame teammate, Anna Fagergren, cites the monastic character of graduate life as her impetus for joining the team.

“I get individualistic in my studies. The team has been invaluable to me for a sense of interdependence. We are social creatures and interactivity can provide a balance to solitary schoolwork.”

SBOS-speak aside, becoming part of a community of like-minded people can do wonders for your social life and overall attitude. With a common interest as a base, new friendships are bound to form and a greater community at CGU will follow. Danielle Batol, another CGU Flame, says that camaraderie doesn’t end on the field; practices and games are typically followed by a meal or drink, and that she has formed connections to people she doesn’t ordinarily get to interact with at school.


Below is a list of current, non-academic clubs and organizations at CGU. Read on to see if one or more strike your fancy, and find information for starting your own club at the end.

Asian American Resource Center (AARC)

The mission of the AARC if to build a stronger sense of Asian/Pacific Islander community, to raise awareness of issues affecting them, and to develop student leadership.

Contact: Karin Mak, (909) 621-8639

Black Graduate Student Association (BGSA)

The BGSA is a student-run organization dedicated to supporting the Pan-African student experience at CGU.
Contact: Hasan Johnson,

CGU Flames (softball)

Made up of CGU students, the Flames are part of the Claremont intramural league, who regularly play (and win!) games against other local teams.

Chicano/Latino Student Association

Provides support services for Chicano/Latino students through academic, cultural, and social events.

Claremont Colleges Meditation Workshop

Join Claremont McKenna College Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Steve Smith, in exploring the benefits of a meditation practice. Wednesdays 7:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the McAlister Center (919 North Columbia Avenue).

Claremont Colleges Poker Club

A $5 buy-in gets you unlimited play with students from all the Claremont colleges. Fridays at the Platt student Center on Harvey Mudd College’s campus at 7:30.

Claremont Colleges Swing

Whether you are a beginner looking for lessons, or have experience and want to show your stuff at open dance, the Claremont Colleges Swing club has everything from lessons up to competitive dance.
Thursdays in the Grand Ballroom of the Masonic Lodge in Pasadena at 7:30.
200 South Euclid Avenue

Flag Football

Students of every discipline and any gender are invited to come out and play some not-so-rough-and-tumble flag football. Teams are currently forming.

Graduate Student Council

Participate in student life, plan social events, and create academic resources.

Health and Wellness Club

In the past, the Health and Wellness Club has partnered with Ecoterra and Myra House. This year’s activities include hikes, a community dinner and meditation, and a pre-finals yoga session.


Information and support for vegan, vegetarian, and raw eaters – and for those who wish to learn more.
Contact: Shanna Livermore,

Soccer Sunday

Get out and play with other CGU students. 
4 p.m. Sundays
Meet Sundays on the field across from CMC dining hall at 4:00.
Contact: Rob Hargis and Jesse Bettinger

Queer Graduate Union/Queer Resource Center

Educational, social, and social-justice-orientated programming that reflects the diversity within the LGBTQQIA community CGU.

Zero-Waste Club

Make CGU green by helping to implement environmentally sound policies across campus.
Contact: Shanna Livermore,


The Zine

Founded in 2009, the Zine is the alternative student-run publication at CGU. Write, review, edit, and design.

Getting Funded

Ever dream of campus yoga? Apply for GSC funds, hire a teacher, and you’ve got yourself a club. Wish you and your fellow oenophiles (it means “wine lovers” – don’t worry, we had to Google it, too) had the means to do tastings together? Start the wine appreciation guild and the GSC may foot the bill. Although various schools have funding set aside for student organizations, their support can often be limited to professional development. Having these types of resources is great, but getting funding through colleges and departments for a club that is not related to your academic field can be tough. The GSC has a special allotment of funds for supporting student-run clubs of any variety, and is eager to see more students tap into this underutilized resource.

GSC Vice President, Dallas Harris, encourages students with any interest to consider forming a club and applying for funding. “Any interest that students have – professional, lifestyle, athletic, academic – are welcome to apply,” says Harris. “We want to see all of the diverse interests at CGU expressed and supported.”

To apply for funding, a club must have a minimum of 10 students plus a faculty or staff advisor. New clubs must fill out a “new student club application form” in addition to the “annual club status form” (available at Approved clubs will receive $100 to start plus $100 each semester that they resubmit the annual club status form, with special funding also available. Clubs are approved by a majority vote of the Graduate Student Council. Submit forms to the GSC mailbox in the Harper mailroom (basement of Harper Hall). Direct questions to Dallas Harris, at

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