Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vegas Week: Grad School Style

The title of my post refers to SYTYCD, for those of you who didn't understand...

I'm going to share with you a story.  This story is about my first class ever at graduate school at Syracuse University.

This class is called IST 601: Information & Information Environments.  Sounds exciting, no?

So I go to class the first day.  It involves picking up a name tag at one building, and being herded over to another building with hundreds of other students from the School of Information.  This doesn't just include Library Science students, but Information Management and Telecommunications grad students as well (which a very, very large amount are Indian, just so you can get a picture of what my day looks like).  They give us a schedule of the day, and it is 8 hours of lecture.  Before they send us off to our separate lecture spaces (we would be rotating around all day), they explain that we will be doing a group project DUE THE NEXT MORNING.  We were put into groups, based on our name tags, and after the 8 hours of lecture, we would get to spend the evening working with our groups to create a 10 minute presentation on a topic of our group advisor's choice.  We would present in small groups, then vote on who gets to go on to present to everyone.  Then we'd all vote again, and choose an overall winner.

I love how my professor put this, "This is where you learn the fine art of coming in second."

So we get separated and go with our different advisors, and find out who is in our group.  I look around, and, of course, don't recognize any of them.  So after my advisor tells us what we will be presenting on (e-books), we meet our group.  We decided who was going to what lecture for the rest of the day, and came up with a place to meet when we were all done.  The next several hours were sitting in various classes learning about how to write the paper we had to complete after this whole ordeal, how to incorporate technology, and good presenting skills.  The only redeeming part of the day was lunch break, where they brought Dinosaur BBQ for us (Syracuse's most delicious restaurant).

After attempting to stay awake in all of these lectures, it was not time to go home and take a nap, but meet with my group, and plan our presentation.  There were six people in my group: myself, another girl in the LIS program named Molly, one guy in the TNM program named Chandan, and 3 guys in the IM program named Jeff, Prahar, and Abishek.  Our advisor had given us the topic of e-books, but we had to figure out what problem we wanted to address and how to solve it in an innovative way.

Doesn't sound too awful, right?

Two hours later, we had finally decided what our problem was going to be.  We would identify a problem, come up with a solution, but then realize there was something wrong with it, and then have to start over from the beginning.  This happened several times.  Needless to say, we were all incredibly frustrated.  I was looking around at other groups wondering how they were doing, and the whole time picturing SYTYCD, where you have one group that has it all together and is working things out beautifully, you have the group that doesn't take things seriously, and then you have the group that is crashing and burning.

 I was pretty sure that was my group.

We were all showing our stress in different ways, some people more outspoken, while one guy just put his hood over his head.   Which is really how we all felt.

But then, magically, we came up with a problem and solution that worked.  And we started planning it out, and it all came together.  It was amazing.  And our group dynamic changed before my eyes.  All of a sudden we were all laughing and best friends with each other.  We figured everything out that we needed to, and I actually went to bed before midnight.  Wahooo!

The next morning it was up early again to present.  My group was just super happy we had even come to a problem and solution, so we were not expecting or even hoping to go to the final round.  We just wanted to get through our presentation and get a passing grade.  One of my teammates had put together the presentation and it was beautiful.  We were the first group to present, and we actually hadn't practiced beforehand.  I had no idea how my group was going to do.  But we got up there, and everyone did a fantastic job.  They were great presenters and made our presentation really entertaining.  It was supposed to only be 10 minutes, but we took 15... oops.

So we sit down afterward, and breathe a sigh of relief.  I mean, we were DONE.  We got to sit back and enjoy the rest of the groups' presentations.  There were some excellent ones in our groups, and we did not think we had a problem with going to the finals.

Then it was voting time.  My advisor put the group numbers up on the board, and everyone could vote for which group did the best.

We won by a landslide.

I was furious.

Our group had a ton of things to fix.  We basically hadn't put any data into our presentation, ours being more hypothetical (and we're all in the School of Information... ya, we're good.)  There were other groups that would have had very, very little to fix.  This meant that we had to spend the next two hours fixing our presentation to make it good enough for the final round.  We had the class help us figure out what we needed, and give us tips and advice, but it was chaos.  I really appreciated their help, but really, they were giving us so many things to do, and it was overwhelming.  The most helpful thing someone did was bring me lunch.  Which I am eternally grateful for.

So guess what?  It was back to the stressed out, frustrated feelings we had the night before.  We were all on the verge of losing it, and it was not looking good.  After everyone had left for lunch our presentation started coming together again, and we got back to the fun, easy-going group that we were the night before.  We were all laughing and were getting along again.

Then it was time to present in front of everybody.  The hundreds of students, and the professors.  We were one of the last groups to go, and it was excruciating to wait.  The other groups were doing an excellent job, and I felt very intimidated.  Then it was our group's turn to go, and... well, we did okay.  We definitely went over our time, but you know, we did it, and that's the important part.  Plus, we ended our presentation with a slide of this, so it couldn't have been that bad:

After sitting through a few more presentations and a final "what did we learn from all of this" session, we were finally done.  We voted, and after a quick count, they announced the winners. 

And it wasn't us.

But we were okay with that.  Because we had gotten through this hell-of-a-week.  And let me tell you, I wouldn't have traded my group for anything.  They're wonderful, wonderful people.

And there you have it!  My first class as a grad student.

I hope I never have to do anything like that again.

Chandan, Me (In case you couldn't tell), Prahar, and Abishek.  The other two disappeared after the presentation.