Thursday, July 23rd, 2015...7:58 pm

Using the University as a Resource and Vehicle: Tips from a Ph.D. Student

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By guest blogger: Jacob Hogan, PhD student

I read in a book for my comprehensive exams that a University is a tremendous resource for all those willing to tap it. I forget the book’s author, title, and argument. These things will happen. I have not, however, forgotten the book’s most salient message. Since I survived the ordeal and odyssey that is comps, I have endeavored to tap the resources at this University. Over the past two years, my network contacts and experience at this University have expanded immensely. I feel confident that I will find meaningful work, outside the academy, once I graduate. Below are a few things that I wish I had of known when I started here:

1)         Expand Your Network outside Your Department

Explore opportunities outside your department – whether at Hart House, School of Graduate Studies, ULife, Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation, the Academic Success Centre, Centre for Community Partnerships, Graduate Student Union, Grad Room,and Gradlife—as soon as you get here. Since your second year will be consumed with comps, be proactive early and often. If you do not have a LinkedIn account, create one, and start adding connections.

2)         The Money is Mandatory

Familiarize yourself with the Career Learning Network website; this platform continuously advertises on-campus and off campus job opportunities. Since working can be time consuming, volunteer as much as you possibly can. It feels great and people remember when you volunteer. Familiarize yourself with the Co-Curricular Record, a centralized website with an endless amount of volunteer and work-study opportunities, alongside club and committee positions.

3)         Write Early and Often

What are you going to have to write while you are here? First and foremost, will be those SSHRC and OGS proposals. Next, will be the foundational thesis proposal. Oh yes, and that dissertation too– eventually. This past year the Academic Success Centre created inter-disciplinary writing groups, dedicated to three hours of improving on silence and writing.

4)         Sweat as Much as You Can—In a Positive Way

You pay for the Athletic Centre and Hart House. Use these facilities. Going to the gym, running the treadmill, or swimming a few laps are all great ways to sweat away the stress. Join a yoga class. Organize an intramurals team.

Use this campus as a resource. Rather than just a venue for four or five years, approach the University as a vehicle to help drive yourself to the next destination in life after you graduate. Finally, after a year or so here make a decision: Do I want to live in Toronto for the rest of my life?

For website links for divisions mentioned in the article, and many more, consult the following:

The Academic Success Centre

Career Learning Network

Centre for Community Partnerships

Centre for Teaching Support & Innovation

Co-Curricular Record

University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union

Grad Room


Hart House

School of Graduate Studies

Student Life


Jacob Hogan is currently a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Department of History and a workstudy student with the Co-Curricular Record Program.

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