Category Archives: Workshops

Two upcoming events: mindfulness and politics

Managing with Mindfulness: Meghann Gerber, PsyD and licensed psychologist, will be giving Women in Chemical Sciences an introduction to mindfulness meditation on Friday, July 29, at 10:00 AM in CHB 239. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that involves cultivating attention to the present moment in a nonjudgmental manner. Over time this practice strengthens attention and promotes an open attitude that is particularly helpful for responding to life’s challenges. Please come and enjoy a relaxing wind-down from your week!

Women in Science & Politics: Women in Chemical Sciences will host a talk by UW Chemistry alumna Jennifer Brookes (PhD ’15). As a SPIE/OSA Arthur H. Guenther Congressional Fellow, Dr. Brookes spent the last year in Washington, D.C. working as a special legislative assistant for Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D–NY). She will talk about her experience as a scientist working on public policy issues around gender in science and education, and how her work is more broadly connected to the underrepresentation of women and their voices in Congress. The talk will be held on Monday, August 1, at 5:00 pm in 261 Bagley Hall, and all are welcome to attend.

Mentoring and more mentoring! Workshop 3/30 at 5 in CHB 102

WCS is excited to announce the new chemistry department peer mentorship network! The goal of this program is to help incoming grad students with questions about starting grad school (research, classes, moving to Seattle, work/life balance etc.) as well as integrating them into the department when they arrive.

We’re currently recruiting both mentors and mentees! If you’re a current chemistry graduate student, check out our mentor sign-up survey and expectations here. If you’re an incoming UW chemistry grad student, check out our mentee sign-up survey and expectations here. We’ll be pairing mentors and mentees based on survey responses and would love to have as many people involved in the program as possible.

To kick off our mentoring program and start broader discussions about mentoring, we’re having a workshop on Wednesday, March 30th at 5:00 pm in CHB 102. Entitled “I’m an experienced graduate student?! Tips and advice for sharing your knowledge”, this event will feature a brief presentation by Janice DeCosmo, the Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Research. Following this, we’ll have a panel discussion with Janice as well as Julie Cass and Dr. Lindsey Madison, both experienced graduate peer mentors. Also, there will be pizza! You can RSVP on facebook and invite your friends here.

Whether you’re pursuing a career in academia, industry, or something else, mentoring is an important skill related to management, leadership, and teamwork. Experience with peer mentoring can help you develop these valuable skills for working with people. Plus, understanding both sides of the mentor/mentee relationship can help you manage your relationships with your advisor and other mentors. We’ll keep collecting and sharing more resources beyond our mentor network and workshop, so stay tuned!

 

Body Language Workshop Wrap-up

Last week, WCS partnered with Monica Cortes Viharo, an actor and PhD student in the Drama department, to host a workshop on body language and communication. The turnout was awesome, with a diverse group of individuals at different career stages and from departments around campus ready to learn about presenting. We talked briefly about specific issues that affect how we speak, ranging from uptalk to overzealous hand gestures, before beginning the active part of the workshop.

Apparently, a significant portion of people’s problems with public speaking stem from anxious tension. In order to relax everyone, Monica had all of us stand and try consciously breathing. When people get nervous they tend to breathe shallowly and from their chest, which activates the fight or flight response. This has a counterproductive effect of actually increasing stress and isn’t ideal for projecting a calm, confident demeanor. Monica’s number one piece of advice was to take a few deep breaths from your diaphragm before speaking. These breaths tell your body to calm down and can help stop shaky hands, something that happens to me during presentations.

We then started to stand up straight, since it turns out pretty much everyone slouches constantly. Since the workshop I’ve been trying to maintain proper posture and it requires a surprising amount of effort. As an added bonus, it’s an ab workout! While standing nice and straight, we all proceeded to look ridiculous while stretching our facial muscles and attempting various tongue-twisters. These loosened up our facial muscles to allow for easier and clearer enunciation, all while being fun and silly.

At the end Monica took some time to address specific questions people had about their own presentation skills. If you couldn’t make it to the workshop, or just have a big presentation coming up, she suggested getting some free help from the UW Speaking Center (http://www.com.washington.edu/speaking-center). I know that I feel more confident about my next presentation and plan on using these resources for my next talk!

Next workshop: Body Language and Public Speaking

We’re hosting a workshop this week, “Body Language and Public Speaking,” on Thursday, April 16 from 12:30-1:30 pm in CHB 439. The workshop is hosted by Monica Cortes Viharo, an actor and PhD student in the Drama department.  She will focus on ways to use your body as a better instrument for communication, as well as public speaking fears, body language, and the qualities of a strong speaker.  Get ready to prepare for your next academic presentation or job interview!  And come hungry, because there will be free pizza!!

BodyLanguage

Social Justice in Action: Small Steps Leading to Change

Yesterday, WCS hosted a workshop entitled “Social Justice in Action: Small Steps Leading to Change” and led by Dr. Caprice Hollins of Cultures Connecting. Dr. Hollins is a very engaging speaker, and she made a point of introducing herself to everyone in the room and remembering all of our names. She began by telling us about her family and background, helping to set a context for our discussion and providing frequent examples of how she recognizes and applies these ideas in her own life.

One topic we discussed was how developing self-awareness can be a starting point for improving your interactions with people from other cultures and groups. If I start by considering my own story and motivations, I can better understand how I react to other people, interpret situations, and make assumptions. I can also acknowledge the contexts where I have privilege as a member of a dominant culture, and admit when I have biases about people of other cultures. Although most people want to believe that they’re fair and unbiased, we’re still all susceptible to unconscious bias (remember the study where male and female professors rated male applicants more highly than female ones?). And I can’t do anything about my own biases if I don’t admit that they exist.

Dr. Hollins also mentioned the importance of admitting how your assumptions about others affect your interactions with them. As an example, she told us about a time when she approached someone and realized he was in a wheelchair; she felt self-conscious and tried to act like she hadn’t noticed, which just made the conversation awkward. Trying to ignore others’ differences (in race, ability, or any other area) can make them feel like their experiences are invalid. These differences can have a huge impact on someone’s life, and acknowledging that is necessary for engaging with them – even if it also forces you to acknowledge your assumptions, which makes you uncomfortable.

Another point we discussed was the difference between equality and equity. While equality is giving everyone the same resources or treating everyone the same, equity is leveling the playing field and helping everyone have a positive outcome. Dr. Hollins used this image to sum up the difference:

The difference between equality and equity (source unknown)

Finally, someone asked for advice on what to do when you’re on the other side of the conversation – when you feel offended or discriminated against. Dr. Hollins outlined two common types of responses, which many of us could identify with: predatory listening (finding points to argue and being confrontational) and avoidance (waiting and venting to someone else rather than addressing the problem directly – I definitely do this one). She then advised us to get good at asking questions. It can be challenging to find real, curious, non-snarky questions that actually open up dialogue and engagement, but it is a worthwhile strategy to practice. Instead of treating someone as an enemy, I can help them learn, grow, and change.

Overall, Dr. Hollins led a really interesting discussion and gave us all a lot to think about. I’ll definitely be more aware of my own biases and their effects. on myself and on others, from now on.

Thoughts on the Gender Diversity Workshop

As we were planning the Gender Diversity Workshop this summer, I remember feeling a little bit of anxiety about attending. Mostly, I just did not know what to expect about the types of conversations we would have at this event. I was nervous I would sound ignorant, or worse, offensive in trying to discuss this important topic in identity politics. I like to think of myself as an open-minded person. I think most people do! But to be honest, this was a subject where I felt very in the dark, especially about language use and how to even approach the subject. How can I be a good ally and also not put my foot in my mouth?

All my fears were for naught as Jen Self from the Q center gave an amazing presentation that was both educational and also felt very safe. The group that came out for this event was ready to listen and offer ideas. We started with going around the room and asking everyone what they hoped to learn. I think one person’s comment summed it up best, “Gender is confounding!” Jen did a great job of giving us the basic break down of sex vs gender and the power dyanimcs of why such a paradigm exists. Then we started to think about what other options are out there. It really is incredible how quickly the binary breaks down upon just a little bit of scrutiny! Observing how, from such an early age, we are placed somewhere in this rather false binary of male v female really helps explain the awkwardness of trying to think about it in a different way. But what is even more amazing is how from just a relatively short amount of time, the hour and a half of this event, I was able to learn how to bring complexity and reality to this paradigm that has been ingrained in me since birth. I was introduced to an amazing breadth of identity that, honestly, had not even occured to me. As a straight, white, female that identifies with “she/her” pronouns I rarely have to be put in a situation where I feel like I am obscuring some aspect of my identity. Thinking about the daily conflicts that arise for someone who identifies outside of the binary really hit home for me during this event.

We also discussed the push on campus to help address issues of gender accessbility, especially with regards to gender neutral bathrooms. It was great to find out that the University is conducting a survey of these issues and that there is really great advocacy work on the part of the Q Center and folks like Jen to get these changes instituted. Additionally, we discussed the on going issue of healthcare coverage for transgender students that is currently a huge topic that the union, UAW, is taking on. I highly encourage anyone that is interested in these issues to get in touch with the leadership at the UAW to find out how to can get involved.

I am very appreciative to Jen and everyone that took the time to attend this workshop and share their ideas. It can be very unsure footing when you are trying to better understand something as complex and personal as identity politics. Having a room full of curious and open minds is a great way start to what needs to be an ongoing conversation.

This post was written by S. Vorpahl

Imposter Syndrome Workshop with Professor Alexes Harris

Last week, Professor Alexes Harris of the UW Sociology Department discussed ways to combat imposter syndrome with us during one of our lunch-time workshops. Prof. Harris shared her own struggles with imposter syndrome as well as techniques she continues to use to overcome it. Below are some key points and suggestions from the discussion that resonated with us chemistry graduate students. Thank you to everyone who came for your excellent questions and participation!

– Develop a support group of your peers. Find people with whom you feel safe sharing your concerns and struggles. You will probably find many of your peers are dealing with the same issues as you and also feel like they are imposters. You will gain a sense of belonging and strength from your support group, as well as valuable advice and insight.

– Ask your friends/support group for a confidence boost when you need it.  Let them know exactly what you need and when. For example, you may want an (honest!) compliment before an important presentation or exam to remind you of your strengths and calm your nerves.

– Seek out people with a positive outlook and don’t let yourself be brought down by negativity. Politely minimize your interactions with negative people.

– End the self-doubt and guilt today! Promise yourself to not allow these unhelpful emotions to affect you. After all, they are only emotions, not facts.

– Give yourself time to decompress and relax, but most importantly, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about it! You deserve (and need) at least a few hours a week to do something for yourself that you truly enjoy. Don’t feel guilty about the work you’re missing. Don’t be embarrassed about what you enjoy doing, no matter what it is (even trashy TV).

– Make a list of your goals and reward yourself when you complete them. Breaking projects down into small tasks will help you complete the larger goals. Perhaps make a board of post-it notes so that finishing a task requires the physical motion of removing the post-it note. Congratulate yourself for finishing even the smallest tasks.

– Regularly remind yourself of why you are here and what your end-goal is. Use your end-goal to motivate you to finish!

Jessica Wittman, WCS-UW Treasurer