Sunday, 31 July 2016

Post 89: Summer Endings, Beginnings, and TCG at UVic

July is ending! Another month done again. Sometimes I really can just sit back and wonder where the time has gone. For me this July passed with the birthdays of at least six family and friends, a lake-swim, lots and lots of work, and most recently, the conclusion of my Thesis Completion Group (TCG).

The wonderful, stylish Dr. Janet Sheppard (see photo below!) who has been a long-time counsellor at UVic, ran the TCG for years now, and there were always long waitlists for graduate students wanting to get into the two weekly groups, which I think speaks to the value and need for a resource for grad students such as this. The format of the TCGs were face-to-face, discussion-style group sessions, with there being an average of about 3-8 members in the groups. It's been a little quieter over the summer, which I've very much enjoyed.

Janet and I at our last TCG meeting! I was feeling very sentimental about the goodbye.
Students attending the group would report on their thesis work: progress made, barriers encountered, worries, concerns, personal and professional relationship/communication stalls, committee trials and successes—everything. Janet guided the discussions, creating a safe space to talk about all of these things, asking pointed, insightful questions, and reminding students like myself to think about not only work-related goals, but also health related goals. And, we all definitely benefitted from the wisdom of the group, with numerous students chiming in with their own experiences, advice, and resources. We'd leave one week's discussion with those goals in mind, and revisit them the following week, checking in about how they went, how the process of being in graduate school was going. I loved it. It hasn't really sunk in that these weekly meetings are ending.

Participating in the group really turned around my perspectives about my thesis experience. It was immensely valuable to learn that the struggles I was facing are universal among graduate students; that the uncertainties and lingering questions and doubt about my abilities were part of the impostor syndrome; that talking about my fears and worries made me feel loads better, and better able to cope with those concerns; that by discussing concerns about graduate research, I would open myself up to the kindness and generosity and insight of my colleagues in the TCG; and, that by participating in the group, I would be able to get excited with, cheer on, and root for students who actually finished their degrees!! In turn, finishing became an achievable goal for me again, which for a while there, I wasn't able to see, anymore.

Mystery tree down in Beacon Hill Park. So beautiful! :)
If I think about it, a lot of my blog posts were motivated by some of the discussions had during the TCG. Certainly, the discussions, shared insights, advice, and kindness of my fellow students have been indispensable for turning my graduate school experience into a productive one. While I'm sad that the group is ending, I'm happy that Janet is making choices to find ways to continue with her passions in a different capacity now. She is a very special person, who's found a way to apply her leadership, skills, training, and insights in a unique application that fits an important niche in higher education. A major force behind organizing the thesis-writing bootcamps that have taken place in the past year, and running the TCGs, I'll miss Janet and her wisdom, and I'm also now so glad that I've kept every one of her weekly list-serve emails. They were always chockablock full of resources, her enthusiasm and encouragement, and of course, everyone's weekly goals and progress. A one-line acknowledgment in my thesis doesn't seem like it's enough to say, THANK YOU for everything. So, on top of an in-person goodbye, I'm writing this post, so my thank you can live a little bit longer.

Water lily out at Thetis Lake! I scared up a number of green frogs getting to this photo. 
With the ending of one thing, comes the opportunity for another beginning. Right now I'm feeling a lot of uncertainty about how Counselling Services (CS) will adapt and modify the TCGs that have been running for so long. Janet mentioned that CS would likely be contacting students who were involved in these groups to let them know about the upcoming changes, but it's also been made clear that the groups as they've happened so far won't continue. It sounded to me like the format will switch to a more satellite organized thing, where staff from CS will check in with self-motivated groups whose formation they'll help facilitate in the fall semester. I'm crossing my fingers that the transition will be a smooth one, but for now can't do anything other than wait. I'll let you know how this resource changes in September, as soon as I hear. :)

I've kept in touch with two colleagues from my TCG, and if nothing else, will pursue check-ins with the two of them. We're on roughly a similar timeline, with the three of us aiming to wrap up our degrees in the fall. Here's to keeping up the momentum.

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