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Winter 2009

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Keyword: Proactive
Cici Cruz-Uribe

How to be a Successful Graduate Student

During the interview that generated Sparkly Things, Cici Cruz-Uribe shared her best advice on being a successful graduate student.

Professor Tom Hoisch and Cici Cruz-Uribe
Cici Cruz-Uribe and Professor Tom Hoisch

1. Be a proactive graduate student because nothing is handed to you.

2. For your advisor, find a person that you can work with, someone who is respected in his/her field, and someone who wants to do research.

3. Look for sources of funding on the NAU campus. For example, I went to this conference and my funding came from the Graduate Student Organization AND the Office of the VP for Research AND from the Pioneer Travel Grant that was given to the Geology department by Pioneer Oil Company, even though I am not an oil geologist. But I went around and basically pestered every person I could think of, saying, “I really need to go to this conference, but I don’t have funding. Where can I get the funding?”

4. Look for resources beyond campus. There’s nobody to tell you how and where to look; there’s no handbook. Advisors vary in how much they tell you, like “you should apply to this grant and this grant.” In geology they tend to do a little more of that, but in other fields some students say, “I don’t even know where to start.” So talk to people in your field and also other fields and figure out where to get the best information.

5. Find a project you’re truly interested in: something that the more you know, the more you have questions. That’s what graduate education is. It’s not learning things out of a book. It’s having a base knowledge of something such that you can move beyond that and ask intelligent questions about it.

6. My last piece of advice is balance. So many students are so burned out. Balance your work with all the rest of your life. For me that happens to be playing outside, doing other things, reading. Be a well-rounded person who is interested in a lot of subject areas beyond your field. Indulge your thirst for knowledge.

Cici Cruz-Uribe, MS Geology '08