Every time an application or presentation requires a bio, I struggle. Whenever I have to do a quick introduction for an informal meet up, I feel panicked. 

For me, writing a simple bio begs me to be transparent yet dynamic about who I am, what I do and why I do it. For me, a bio, or a “detailed description of a person’s life experiences” is a deeply intricate representation of how I want a person to see me — but a portrait of how I see myself more importantly.

Let’s take the bio I wrote for my SciGirl’s presentation: 

Briana Green is a second year graduate student at Michigan State University, pursuing a PhD in Educational Psychology Educational Technology. Briana's research interests focus on 1) how Black youth are making meaning of their early STEM experiences and 2) supports for students' STEM identity and motivation towards STEM careers. Briana enjoys learning with Black youth and has several experiences designing and implementing engineering activities for students, leading camps and workshops with Black and Latinx youth, and working with teachers, parents and community organizations to support the education and motivation of local youth. Briana is also born and raised in eastern North Carolina and expresses herself through creative writing, supporting others’ goals and socializing with friends. 

Sure this is who I am.. but is it who I really am, or all that I am? 

My issue with this bio and the unconscious way that I have begun to self-define is that it is limited to work and academia and does not represent my LIFE experiences. 

When it came to writing the Artistic Bios section of our poem book, The Playlist, earlier this year, me and my co-author STRUGGLED to write our individual bios. Being that I write academic bios more regularly, I felt disappointed that many of the bios I scrapped focused on being a student or researcher and included tooooooo much formal jargon. 

Frustrated, I called a kindred spirit, someone who knows me as a woman, scholar and friend to help describe myself. Within a few moments she came to:

“A life-long learner and explorer of self. She writes as an act of exploration, safety and creativity. She continues to utilize all of her God-given talents to connect with people and make sense of herself and the world around her."

I absolutely love this bio. I love its simplicity. How it reads like a breath of fresh air. How it allows the mind to wonder all of my God-given gifts. How it portrays that I am constantly seeing the world as the ultimate teacher and me and my experiences as the ultimate student.

In reality writing a bio is equal parts about authenticity as well as knowing your audience. How much do I want them to know? How much is pertinent to know? What can I say clearly and confidently? 

While this post was not intended to help you write your next bio, I hope this inspired you to think about what you put in your next bio. 

3 Tips for Executing Summer Goals

The onerous thing about research (and much of our work) is that it never stops.. The silver lining in that, is you can always improve how to realistically get work done.  

In that light, here I outlined a short post about productivity. I wanted to share how I am planning, managing time and holding myself accountable this summer as I strive towards the goals listed in my The Annual Review post. 

First things first, I am a procrastinator but I love to plan. I ruminate on a task for days when it will only take me 30 minutes in real life. I brainstorm ideas in my head for weeks, then give myself 3 days to write a thesis, book chapter and poetry book lol. I’m exaggerating; but, this isn’t too far fetched.

The first tip is to utilize Google Sheets. 

Here is an example (and screenshot) of how I broke my semester tasks down into weekly, then daily goals. 

For me this was a way to break down projects or assignments with longstanding due dates into realistic, manageable tasks on a daily basis. The 'working date' column served as my daily to-do list and the 'notes' column was handy for specific links, guidelines or instructions or place to simply leave a few comments about the task.

In my opinion, its easy to sit with my syllabus, input due dates and “reverse engineer” how the task will get done. For me, it was a step closer to also outlining ALL the baby tasks that make up writing a literature review. Think about all the smaller tasks:

  • A day in online libraries and databases.

  • A day reading through abstracts. 

  • A couple days actually reading articles. 

  • The time it takes to annotate or write notes on a paper. 

  • Organizing the thoughts. 

In my experience in academia I found it extremely hard to be realistic about how long it takes (minutes, hours) to complete a task. How long does it actually take you to read a journal article? How long does it actually take you to run that SEM model? How long does it actually take you to code that video? The Google Spreadsheet was helpful in helping me prioritize those small tasks.

The second tip is to try a timer system like Toggl

Toggl has been invaluable to my time management and productivity. Toggl is an online timer platform that allows you to create folders for your different projects. For my obligations as a research assistant, I can pinpoint how long it takes to enter data, to pull video excerpts or to code a video. For my tasks as an instructor, I can track, on average, how long it takes to edit teaching slides or grade writing reflections, in addition to keeping time for my own coursework. I can track how long I spend working on In Her Lane or The Write Playlist and use these times as a parameter for scheduling my days.

All in all, it helps me to be realistic about time on a very micro and macro level. 

My final tip is to join or create accountability partnerships or groups.

What I am learning is that a big key to being realistic about executing any goal is to understand the power of connection and accountability supports.

I don’t know if it’s the only child syndrome, the high-achiever syndrome or simply stubbornness, but I struggle with telling people what I have going on and asking for help. On one hand, I don’t like to share my plans or goals because I do not want people inquiring about the progress (especially since I tend to start but not finish things). On the other hand, not sharing feels like a safe way to only half commit to my goals and only let myself down if things don't pan out as anticipated. Yikes! 

In 2020, accountability partners have been my saving grace when it comes to being present and working towards consistent, quality results in both work and non-work related matters. 

In my annual review post, I mentioned quite a few goals that span my academic and personal life. And honestly, I am thanking God for all types of accountability partners and groups to keep me focused and continuing to execute. 

For instance, with certain Sista-scholar friends, I have set working times for collaborative projects which means we are holding each other accountable for progress. With some sista-scholar friends, accountability looks like freedom to brainstorm and theorize about creative and academic passion. On a more personal level, I have joined two groups this summer to realistically support my goals. One is Black Girls Brand Club, a group for Black girls with budding brands. I need that! The other, a summer book club with a group of Black women which supports my goal to read more this summer. 

For me, accountability groups are encouraging me to open up about my goals, ask for help, share my knowledge and execute in a supportive environment.

This summer, being realistic is the name of the game. I am learning that my motivation wanes a lot, but finding ways to self-regulate is extremely important and necessary in this marathon of graduate school and life. 

If you haven’t already, check out my post The Annual Review and do a little self-assessment before these planning and executing stages. 

Until next time, 

In my Master’s program, there was no formal annual review process. 

Broadly speaking, my first year was dedicated to supporting Black teachers’ instruction; developing curricula, planning professional developments, being around their schools and learning bits of educational psychology theory along the way. 

In my second year, because everything was swirling in my brain with no real structure, I struggled miserably to synthesize the literature, make sense of my data and thoughts AND write a thesis. In hindsight, I wish there had been a review process in my first year. Some type of formal process to explicitly review all the skills I was learning and refining, and then modify or refine my research interests before embarking on another season of research. 

Coming into my PhD program, I knew the annual review process was pretty standard. One of those things people call a “big deal” while trying to convince you that it’s really not that big of a deal, ya know? 

In my program, the annual review or preliminary exam is a portfolio of exemplar writing samples from coursework, summaries of teaching and research assistantships experiences and a series of questions about strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments and future plans. 

All year the annual review or preliminary examination was largely talked about as a distant benchmark; but, as the end of spring semester approached, it felt like an unwanted self-assessment.

Although I doubted my committee would scrutinize my year-in-review as harshly as I would, it was hard to remember a year of experiences with the last nine weeks of Rona shrouding a nine months worth of memories. 

As writing and grading papers turned into editing my CV, and skimming Finder for Fall 2019 assignments with professor feedback, I realized that the most profound or inspiring moments and interactions this year would not be captured in the annual review. The annual review did not ask about or attend to my mental and physical health. It would not capture my inconsistency around In Her Lane or how fulfilling and aspiring intimate check-ins with Black faculty were this year. 

In other words, my program’s criteria for in annual review was not holistic enough to critically assess myself as a woman, graduate researcher, teaching assistant, daughter, friend and blogger. For this reason I wanted to pose and share questions that may be worth reviewing as we close out this past semester/season and continue to walk into the next. I also wanted to briefly respond to them and invite you into my reflection. 

1. What promises were revealed to you this year?

When I decided to move to Michigan to begin at Michigan State University, I had no idea what would be revealed to me in terms of personal growth, my research or the communities in which I would find belonging. Deep inside I knew the desires of my heart, but of course it was a mystery which ones would be attended to.

Here are a few of my favorites: 

I turned 26 and was able to celebrate with my mom and sisters. I applied for and received a summer fellowship that will allow me to explore my own research this summer. I discovered that I did not like the particular research project I was working on and after advocacy and patience was moved to another. I prayed and asked for new and creative ways to talk about my research and I have been invited to do two webinars. I launched a blog and published a book. I learned that I can uproot my life and bloom wherever I am planted. 

2. What/who supported you this year or had a significant impact on your experience?

I was blessed to enter grad school with an all-women cohort. For me, having a cohort to ask questions to, to vent to, be frustrated with, to celebrate with was invaluable to getting through this first year. In particular, Harmony and Madison were my backbone -- shoutout to them for understanding me without requiring me to over-explain myself. 

In addition, my dire need for connection led me back to myself and God this year and towards exploring my spirituality. I plan to go into more detail about this later, but knowing that I was yearning for an indescribable connection had a significant impact on how I thought about and navigated through this academic year. 

3. What challenges did you face this year? What limiting beliefs held you back?

“Inconsistency is a form of disbelief.” I love this tweet by Mattie James. In a nutshell, I struggled with consistency this year and much of it had to do with the limiting beliefs I held about asking for help, being a procrastinator and unfortunately believing that my work and creativity were not good enough. I can see how this statement not only applied to my coursework and research efforts, but also when it came to starting and promoting The Write Playlist. 

4. How did your research interests evolve this year? 

This year I explored the literature on ‘belonging’ -- What does it mean for Black students to belong in school and out of school learning environments? How do teachers and instructors support Black students’ sense of belonging? Growing forward, I am interested in studying the process in which Black teachers deconstruct and construct meaning to the word and how they support variation in students’ sense of belonging. This semester I also learned a great deal about educational technology and amid this pandemic, I have growing questions about how Black teachers are supporting the motivation of their students via online learning. 

5. What are your new goals? What strategies and/or resources have you identified to support you in achieving these goals?

We all take different approaches to goal setting. This summer I have three research goals, one business goal and one personal goal. In hindsight, do I recommend five goals? No. But it’s also important to create goals that speak to different aspects of yourself. 

Research-wise, my goal is to develop a classroom observation protocol with one of my colleagues (based on my summer funding), finish writing a qualitative paper about design-based research with another colleague and begin to write an academic book chapter with one of my advisors and another colleague. Whew! 

Related to business, my goal is to rebrand In Her Lane this summer and expand to a platform that will allow me to dig into theory + real life more profoundly. Lastly, my personal goal is to take more pictures (short, sweet and practical)! 

Honestly, for each question I could probably write paragraphs about the lessons learned in this academic year. By no means were these brief responses supposed to dig into the fullest of these questions, but hopefully they present the opportunity to think about the year as more than a period to get things done and yourself as more than a do-er. 

You probably noticed that in my response to the fifth question, I decided to list my goals and come back to the strategies part for later. Super intentional. The annual review is about the reflection. How are you checking in with yourself?

In a later post, we can move into the prioritizing, planning and preparing to work towards our next set of goals.  

Until next time, 

"There is no greater agony than bearing the burden of an untold story."
-Maya Angelou

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