The Unlikely Academic Podcast, The Real Graduate School Experience! show

The Unlikely Academic Podcast, The Real Graduate School Experience!

Summary: Academia can appear glamorous. Professors take on many different roles: subject matter experts, educators, advisors, researchers, community leaders, and more. Having a doctoral degree gives aspiring student professionals plenty of opportunities outside of the university environment. Getting accepted into, and subsequently surviving graduate school can seem overwhelming for anyone, especially for the “unlikely” among us—those who do not fit the common stereotype of “grad school material.” Regardless of whether you fit the academic mold or are sure to break it, the Unlikely Academics podcast has tips and tricks to help you along the way. This is a podcast which discusses the underbelly of the Graduate School Experience, addressing some of the unwritten rules and culture related to applying and thriving in graduate school. The hosts of the Unlikely Academics Podcast each have their own experiences of strife, adaptation, and tribulations to share from their respective quests for academic and career achievement. We hope through our discussions and advice each week; we can help other unlikely academics find their voice, maximize their educational potential, and find the path to success that best suits them as future scholars and/or practitioners by navigating both the spoken and unspoken rules of graduate school. Visit our Website at Join our private Facebook discussion group at or email us at questions [at] Podcast Theme Song: The Outsiders ft Aj Aka Zhou - I Know We Gon Make It

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  • Artist: Dr. Christopher F Silver, Dr. Jenny Holcomb, and Mr. Thomas J Coleman III
  • Copyright: 2019 The Unlikely Academic Podcast


 S01E35 -- The Self-Reflection Series on Gratitude Part 2, The Reboot | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:37:28

In the second episode of the gratitude episode, Tommy joins Jenny and Chris to discuss his gratitude for not only those faculty who have helped him achieve his goals, but most importantly, family. A sentiment shared by Jenny and Chris as well. They continue to discuss ways to help others and “pay it backward” for the kindness shown to us. The reflect on not only the professional connections between the co-hosts but, most importantly, the personal and social relationships shared by the co-host. Chris shares a story about seeing Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes at a recent showing of the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot Movie in Chattanooga and the importance of sharing experiences and scheduling personal time in the graduate school experience. The co-hosts conclude by saying how appreciative they are of all the warmth and support listeners have provided, and we wish everyone a happy American Thanksgiving.

 S01E34 -- The Self-Reflection Series on Gratitude | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:51:16

In this episode of ULA, Jenny and Chris (Sans Tommy) discuss the importance of gratitude while in one’s academic journey. Both Jenny and Chris reflect on those personalities in their lives, which helped them achieve their career goals and prepare them for higher education. They discuss the benefits of appreciation and the psychological impact having gratitude has on each of us. They also provide some cultural insights into living in the southeast United States and how these cultural experiences have an impact on one’s worldview.

 S01E33 -- Technology Is Your Friend, Preparing for Graduate School or as a New Faculty Member through Capitalizing on New Technologies | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:45:42

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics podcast, all three co-hosts are back and discussing ways to capitalize and plan for technology needs as a student. This episode shifts to recommending methods for preparing for classes and research utilizing new technologies to ensure compatibility over the course of one’s program while also using other technologies to work smarter, not harder on course work. The co-hosts suggest a variety of vendors to help save time, such as natural speech programs, capitalizing on textbook resources for teaching classes, utilizing simple project management tools for time management, and adopting new technologies during low-risk productivity times in one’s program. They discuss some of the ways these technologies can be employed to protect data, be productive, and prepare for any requirements within specialized courses. As an example, the cohosts suggest consulting with your program and IT Professionals to ensure you buy the correct computer for course work and research, including technology that should last saving money overall without the need to purchase new technology later.

 S01E32 -- I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. Listener Feedback Episode related to Departmental Creepers and What YOU can do to protect yourself and others. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:02:51

In this episode, Jenny and Chris discuss the issue of department creepers and what listeners can do address such behavior. This episode was based on an anonymous email to the hosts. Sans Tommy, the hosts discuss not only the problems created by creepers in a department or lab but also how departmental politics can create challenges in reporting including power dynamics within the learning hierarchy. Given his experience in university and policy enforcement, Dr. Silver discusses how such environments create a hostile working or learning environment, what a person can do to protect themselves and others, and methods for avoiding retaliation in reporting. The hosts discuss why some students, faculty, or staff may be hesitant to report and the moral imperative to report such behavior to the appropriate authorities and ways for dealing with department politics and one’s fear of retaliation. Finally, the co-hosts suggest that listeners read the campus policies and procedures in addressing such behaviors.

 S01E31 -- Seek and Ye Shall Find, the Importance of Research Experience in Undergraduate Education | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:57:19

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics, cohosts Tommy and Jenny (sans Chris) discuss getting involved in research and finding ways to increase graduate school admission probability. They discuss ways to make connections with faculty both at one’s home institution but also in other institutions. Further, they discuss the benefits of bringing one’s skillset to offer value to a professor’s lab or research work. They discuss some of the misconceptions of seeking collaboration and researching different programs and areas of study to work with others. They conclude by offering some of their insights and ideas to help listeners find opportunities to collaborate and to ask for authorship on papers.

 S01E30 -- Fear and Loathing in College, the Undergraduate Episode | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 00:46:34

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics Podcast, the Undergraduates have occupied the Unlikely Academics Studio at UT Chattanooga, offering their experiences as unlikely academics navigating admission to undergraduate, navigating living in a new city, and learning the rules of university. Each guest (Kelsie, Nicole, and Paris) co-host discussed their experiences of coming to college, learning to make connections, and finding resources to survive and thrive in college. They discussed the challenges of overcoming deficiencies in their high school education, overcoming socio-economic challenges of coming from working-class families, and also issues of diversity particularly coming from a Latin American Country. The co-hosts shift the discussion to navigating the graduate school admission process, including the GRE, finding the right program, and offering questions to address in future episodes of the Unlikely Academics Podcast. Kelsie Anderson - Kelsie Anderson is a senior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is incredibly passionate about solving educational inequities. Throughout her undergraduate career majoring in both psychology and sociology, she has worked with non-profits focused on education policy and has assisted in research. Her future plans include becoming a teacher and getting her master's through a teacher residency program and eventually lead schools in the district in which she works. Paris Wright - Paris Wright is a 19-year-old, junior psychology major at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She plans to work on getting a master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology following graduation, as she is interested in studying the “people” side of the business world. Outside of school, she enjoys volunteering, music, working and spending time with her family, friends, and cats. Nicole Ribera-Ergueta: Nicole Ribera-Ergueta is a 21-year-old from Bolivia. She will be completing her Bachelor's of Science in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice in December of 2019 at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Her future plans include working and going to graduate school, while also making sure to travel and keep up with her artistic hobbies.

 S01E29 -- I Was Told There Would Be Cake, Unwritten Expectations in Graduate School and the Unexpected Costs of Tradition. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:19:04

Jenny and Chris (sans Tommy) discuss how there are unwritten expectations that can be cost-prohibitive or set expectations for students that detract from their educational goals or focus. Jenny and Chris discuss how these perspectives can be not only mentally taxing but also are highly distracting from requirements such as proposing or defending a thesis or dissertation, purchase equipment, materials, graduation expenses, etc. They discuss the push by many institutions to address these expectations through policymaking and behavioral management. Jenny and Chris discuss their own experiences regarding these unwritten expectations and how they create social tension to participate in these traditions.

 Active Learning in the Classroom, the Signs and Predictors of a Great Classroom Experience for Students and Instructors. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:16:33

Jenny, Tommy, and Chris discuss the classroom experience and teaching tips and tricks for a great learning experience. The hosts discuss the unforeseen challenges of teaching and grading and the need for clear expectations in a class both in terms of behavior but also in terms of grading, assignments, and in some cases, testing. They discuss the pros and cons of rubrics and how they can save your butt as a student or an instructor. They discuss the importance of clear communication among all those involved in learning and how such communication can help avoid common pitfalls such as high stakes grading. The hosts also discuss the various classroom mediums from traditional face to face classes to hybrid or blended learning, as well as online learning and how each medium has its own challenges. The three conclude by discussing their own experiences teaching and learning and the ways they have deployed new methods such as classroom exercises, group work, and avoiding lectures where possible as a means to engage students.

 S01E27 – Working as a Team in Higher Education for Graduate Students and New Faculty, Discussions of Self Reflection, Adaptation, and Role Confusion in Academia. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:35:04

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics, Jenny, Tommy, and Chris discuss the challenges of working within various teams and new situations where the rules are unclear. They discuss working in research teams, faculty committees, and in new academic departments and how people cannot assume the same rules of engagement always apply at all times and all contexts. They discuss how politics and interpersonal dynamics can shape team goals and outcomes. They explore the importance of assigning roles and responsibilities within a team, being explicit regarding expectations, and approaching groups, new academic departments, or teams as a new culture. Just like visiting a new country or place, we are mindful of what we say or do as not to be misunderstood. We must make a similar assumption when in a new context, even with those we may have known for a long time or worked with in the past. Only then can we best protect ourselves from the common pitfalls of stress, emotionally charged situations, and politics when dealing with others even when we consider our team members as long-time friends. Ultimately this approach results in avoiding groupthink, laying out a clear plan with responsibilities, and setting expectations regarding team outcomes. The hosts end with an impromptu discussion offering feedback to each other regarding things each host would like to see the other improve in group work as a real and frank conversation.

 S01E26 – Things That Should Have Been Brought to My Attention Yesterday, Discussing the Experience of being a New Full-Time Faculty Member in Higher Education. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:22:47

In this podcast, Jenny, Tommy, and Chris discuss their experiences of shifting from graduate school to new faculty and many of the unforeseen challenges of acclimating to a faculty position. As part of this discussion, the hosts reflect on making the transition to faculty, the expectations of a new faculty member, learning about politics, and meeting research and curricular goals following the honeymoon period of taking a new role. The hosts discuss how cultures vary from program to program and department to department. They discuss being mindful of the political landscape of a new department, asking explicit expectation questions, and planning for curricular development and deployment in coursework. The hosts offer suggestions for preparing one’s time and not committing to too much until you know exactly what is expected of you as faculty.

 S01E25 -- Implicit Bias in Graduate School, An Interview with Dr. Michael Olson from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:20:29

In this one on one interview, Chris Silver interviews his advisor and mentor, Dr. Michael Olson regarding implicit bias in graduate school. This interview was prompted by listener feedback about the need for discussing how implicit bias has the potential to influence graduate school perceived performance. Dr. Olson discusses current research on implicit bias and how his experience with graduate students, teaching, and serving as an advisor. He also discusses the mentor/mentee relationship and how we prefer people like us as an innate drive. Dr. Olson discusses how awareness of one’s behaviors can help them adjust their teaching and mentor style with students. Further, Dr. Olson discusses the importance of allies and making connections into the various communities in advising students in graduate school.

 S01E24 -- The Psychology of Interpersonal Dynamics, Understanding the Role of Personality in Graduate Work and Beyond | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:12:12

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics, Jenny, Tommy, and Chris discuss how various personality traits can result in misunderstandings, interpersonal conflicts, and enhanced or inhibited group productivity. For this episode, the Unlikely Academics utilize the Big Five Personality Factorial Model to explain the various ways personality differences can result in miscommunication. The unlikely academics discuss how the main effects of each factor can influence one’s perceptions of others who differ in personality. Further, the co-hosts also discuss the various interactive ways that high versus low scores influence miscommunications such as low on agreeableness with high conscientiousness can result in rigid thinking. Further, they discuss how extroverts can perceive introverts as lacking teamwork in their projects. They suggest that an awareness of personality diversity can strengthen communication as well as capitalizing on the strengths of the various personality styles as a form of cognitive styles. They conclude by suggesting that listeners consider taking the Big Five Personality Assessment to understand better how misunderstandings may occur.

 S01E23 -- The Day Before, the Day of, and the Day Following in Taking the GRE. A Graduate Applicant’s Guide to the Psychology of the GRE. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:33:21

Based on listener feedback, the Unlikely Academics discuss the experience of taking the GRE and by extension, other standardized testing for admission to graduate-level programs. Drs. Jenny Holcombe and Christopher Silver whose expertise is in evaluation and assessment discuss the experience of taking the GRE, things to be prepared for on test day, and planning if the scores do not meet the test taker’s standards for applying to graduate school. They discuss preparation the day before, things to do on the day of the GRE, and things to do in coping with one’s experience following the GRE. The hosts reiterate their position that applicants should prepare for the GRE, including test preparation, taking a practice test, and actively planning to take the GRE with plenty of time. They take the listener through a typical GRE experience, including security checks, offering suggestions as to what to bring when one arrives, and how to cope following the test. This episode is based on the feedback from one of our listeners Lincoln who requested we revisit this topic as he is applying for graduate school as a non-traditional student and is unclear regarding the experience of taking the GRE.

 S01E22 -- Opening up about Open Science for Grad Students | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:30:51

In this episode of the Unlikely Academics, the Co-hosts Tommy and Chris interview Ms. Sarah Charles, a Ph.D. Student from Coventry University in the United Kingdom. Ms. Charles discusses the utility and benefits of Open Science and preregistering research and studies in the Open Science Framework ( She discusses the origins of scientific review, the epistemological aspects of the evolution of scientific research as well as the applied benefits of openness in addressing the replication problems and the perceived p-hacking scandal in social science research. Ms. Charles offers solutions and insight into how these approaches could be employed to further the role of higher education and science in furthering human knowledge with a focus on consistency, accuracy, and outcomes. She concludes by offering some of her own experiences and insights into the topic. Sarah Charles is a Ph.D. student at Coventry University (UK) in the Brain, Belief, and Behaviour research lab (she is one of my lab mates!). Her doctoral research explores the psychobiology of social bonding. She is also one of the local authorities on Open Science practices at the university

 S01E21 -- She/He Stole my Research, How to Prepare for Academic Creepers Scoping Your Work at Academic Conferences. | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: 01:12:25

One aspect of academic conferences many people are not prepared for is the conference “creepers.” In this episode, the Unlikely Academics discuss these individuals who go to conferences to capitalize on the research and science of others (generally undergraduate and graduate students as the target of creepers). While science is a collaborative, some take the ideas of others and attempt to present them as their own. Many times, these individuals have access to resources such as money, a lab full of research assistants, or charismatic students who are looking to make their mark in a particular academic field. The result is that they are quick to conduct research and publish in an attempt to own your work as their own. Those who are respectful will cite your work if they are drawing on your research presented at a conference. However, we are talking about those who do not cite your work and work quickly to replicate and publish the same or similar work as their own. The Unlikely Academics provide solutions for protecting yourself against this type of conference attendee. We also suggest to be careful as some faculty and fellow graduate students may have legitimate interest in you or your research but always be mindful of such exchanges.


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