Grad School Life
Some blurbs on my adventure as a grad student!
Jul. 10, 2020
Title: Defending In The Time of COVID-19
Graduate school defenses typically consists of a university classroom, a screen with a projector, some snacks and coffee in the back and the physical presense of people. The picture below of my computer and monitor on top of my kitchen countertop is how the day of my COVID-defense looked. Everything has definitely changed in this global pandemic, but life has had to continue. Graduate school has been really rough and it's funny because at the time I decided to pursue my masters was also the time Guam was targeted to get nuked by North Korea, so it's really all just reaching a full circle. So thanks to COVID-19 the classroom was replaced with zoom and the physical bodies of people were replaced with virtual ones signified by their usernames as many were too shy to turn on their webcam. Nevertheless, I was still very nervous when June 26th finally rolled around. Although my defense wasn't until 1pm, I woke up at 6 am despite staying up pretty late trying to study last minute changes. I wanted plenty of time to go through my 50 min presentation of what I've been doing for the last 2 years. The morning was quiet, but a litle chaotic with the unwashed dishes that has piled up and the unmade bed. I was alone in my apartment because my roommate was off doing fieldwork, so it kinda felt lonely, but thankfully my boyfriend decided to take off work and sit in my apartment with me while I presented. Originally, the plan was that my family would be here to watch me present and celebrate at a brewery afterwards with my grad school friends, but it is what it is. By the time I presented I probably practiced this talk at least 10 times, which was great because I felt very relaxed when the time finally came. Preparing this talk was pretty rough as evolution is not the easiest subject to teach, but thanks to the comments of my advisor and peers I think it went pretty smoothly. Once the talk was over, everyone was congratulating me and I cried during my special thanks portion. It was very heartwarming to see friends from grad school and family from Guam wake up at 5am just to see me present. Once the talk was done, my committee told me to take a 10 minute break and then log back into Zoom. I didn't realize that there would be an intense question portion, but there it was. I did my best to answer their questions, but my brain was honestly fried at that point and by that time rolled in. I wasn't as eloquent as I would've hoped to be, but it must've not been totally awful since I still passed. Once everything was done I remember feeling so exhausted. To the point where I was kinda glad that no post-defense party was set up because I would have just dropped to the ground from exhaustion. I sat for a bit, ate some left overs as I was starving after skipping lunch and then I found myself sobbing really hard as I shoveled food into my mouth. I'm not sure if it was exhaustion/sadness/happiness, maybe everything, but it came in like a tsunami. Growing up, graduations were highly celebrated and it was like the whole village/community was celebrating your achievement. I think the importance of the celebration doubled knowing that people like me do not usually get this far. Here I was, completing one of the highest degrees anyone in my whole family have ever achieved and almost no one was physically here with me. It was very bittersweet, but I know people were excited and proud of me. For example, Dr. Jonathan Koch, who was my undergrad research advisor sent me some fresh leis (pictured below) from Hawaii to wear for my special occasion and my friend Magda (I should reffer to her as Dr. Garbowski) made a special cake (pictured below) for my close friend Cetan and I for completing our MS together. Soon, I will also get to celebrate with my family as I prepare to take some time off to visit Guam. It all definitely is a new normal, but I am so proud of my achievement and proud that I succeeded despite the hurdles of a global pandemic. After completing my MS in Ecology, I will now enter the first year of my PhD in the fall not as the doe eyed grad student with 0 confidence in her ability to succeed, but instead I will enter as an ecologist, who truly believe that I belong in this space.
I dedicated my MS thesis to Mama and Ann for always supporting my dreams, the village that raised me and to the shoulders of the brown giants I have stood upon.
Mar. 31, 2019
Title: MURALS & Feminist Thoughts: Diversity Matters
This weekend I had the opportunity to attend two events that focused on inclusivity and feminism. First, I volunteered as a graduate student evaluator for the CSU Multicultural Undergraduate Research Art and Leadership Symposium (MURALS) (http://www.murals.colostate.edu) and it was such an amazing experience. Reviewing the students' abstracts alone was so inspiring and I was amazed at the passion that the undergraduates (predominantly from diverse backgrounds) had for their work. One project that stuck out to me was a study on detecting toxoplasmosis in playgrounds in Mérida, Mexico. Toxoplasmosis is spread via cat feces and causes abortions in women. This stuck out to me because almost all of the women in my family has experienced miscarriages and the place in the Philippines where I grew up is similar to Mérida in that it is a poor and warm/humid area. This made me wonder whether something like toxoplasmosis caused this high rate of miscarriages and how the rates could have changed if there were funding for crucial research like this. It is amazing that CSU students had access to do research like this. During lunch, Bridgette Johnson, who is the main coordinator for this event and the director of the CSU Black/African American Cultural Center Staff, made this remark expressing how in MURALS we do not need to switch codes and that we can be ourselves. If you're not familiar with the term switching codes, its in reference to how minority groups often have to create different masks to fit into western culture. Code-switching was never really an issue for me until I moved to Colorado where my experiences and how I grew up was very different from everyone else. I don't think I realized I code switched so much until I was in a space where I didn't need to any longer. Overall, I really enjoyed MURALS and I will definitely volunteer again next year.
The second event I attended was the Feminist Thought and Activism conference (https://wgac.colostate.edu/events/conference/), which was organized by the CSU Women and Gender Advocacy Center. My friend Cetan (https://sites.google.com/view/cetanschristensen/home?authuser=0) and I missed the first session of the conference, but made it just in time for lunch (can't miss that) and the keynote speakers Diosa and Mala from the Radiophonic Novela, Locatora Radio (https://locatoraradio.com). Locatora Radio is a podcast that "discuss the layers and levels of femmeness and race, mental health, trauma, gender experience, sexuality, and oppression" (taken directly from their website). The thing that made this show and these two women stick out for me is that this is the first time that I've heard feminism in the context of women of color. Before attending this conference, I've really only read/heard about being a feminist in the narratives of white women, which does not have the same layers of complexity that is added on by strict social constructs of non-western cultures. Although I am not a part of the LatinX community, I often find myself relating to a lot of the struggles they go through due to the overlaps in Filipino culture brought on by Spanish colonialization. During the final session of the conference, Cetan and I decided to attend the "Femme defense" workshop that was facilitated by Diosa and Mala. It was amazing and empowering to be in a room with women of color discussing the issues we all faced that for a long time I thought was singular to me. The workshop left me feeling like a strong feminist woman and re-affirmed how important it is for me to be a champion for myself and other women. It was also great to meet Diosa and Mala because they embodied characteristics of strong women rolemodels of today. They were intelligent, strong, assertive, and fashionable, which are all things I aim to be.
Although graduate school gets pretty busy, I've been making it a point lately to attend symposiums, workshops, or events that I know I can really learn from and more often than not I come out glad that I attended even if it took up most of my Saturday. It has been a while since I felt so comfortable in sharing my non-western views and I even made some new friends along the way. Events like MURALS and the Feminist Thoughts and Activism conference are so crucial in letting minorities be a part of the narrative because we are often overshadowed by western views. For a long time the idea of being a feminist seemed like it was only available for white privilidged women, but I learned that I have a place in it too. MURALS and larger nationwide conferences like SACNAS need to continue because they empower people from diverse backgrounds to pursue non traditional careers. If universities really want to increase their diversity and inclusivity, then they need to support or create events that allow minorities to share their stories and experiences. As these events are created and supported, us minorities need to make it a point to attend and volunteer for these diversity/inclusivity events and own our seats at the table.
Mar. 6, 2019
Title: Lets Make a Website
A few days ago we had a lab meeting centered around web presence and creating a website. I haven't really thought about making a website, but I liked the ability to control what is put out there about my emerging career in science. So as a treat after my first STATs exam of the semester, I decided to start the journey of making website. I decided to use google sites because it was easy and free, then purchased a domain for only $12 a year via google. This whole process took me back to the good old myspace days where I used to spend hours coding in the perfect profile. Thankfully I did not have to code anything to get this website started. Since this is my first and only website, please bear with me on this website journey. I would also love to hear any constructive criticism you may have to offer for my site. Lastly, if you have questions on how to start a site please feel free to contact me!