Making the most of your grad experience!

Today’s post comes from Laura Valle. Laura has just completed her first year as a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida.  Laura shares her advice to new grads about making the most of their first year!

Making the most of your grad experience

“I wish that I could somehow tell the new graduate students coming in that everything will be okay.

As simple as an answer as that sounds, I have found that those words are the most comforting as a first year. Everyone will tell you how hard graduate school is going to be and everyone will tell you some horror story of an experience that they had throughout their assistantship. It is way too easy to let everyone’s negative experiences from graduate school paint a picture in your mind.

Packing up and moving my life across the east coast is already a scary process, but having those negative experiences in my mind was only adding to my anxiety.

Yes, graduate school is challenging. And yes, your assistantship will have interesting stories sometimes. But overall, being a first year graduate student is beautiful.

The amount of learning and development that will happen is something that can’t prepare for…it just happens. Let your experience as a graduate student be your own and don’t let it be shaped by the stereotypes of the position or the experiences of others.

Everything will be okay.”

Laura Valle

Laura’s career goal is to be a dean of students. When she is not at work or studying, she spends her free time enjoying the Orlando area and eating ice cream. You can connect with Laura via email or Facebook!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond

Today’s post comes from the one and only Alexandra Garney. Alexandra has served a Graduate Residence Coordinator at the University of Central Florida for 2 years.

As an outgoing grad, Alexandra shares her advice to incoming grad. Although she wrote this for incoming grads, all professionals will benefit from reading what she has to say as her lessons learned are salient to transition at all levels!

Transition Advice for Grads and Beyond…

“Ask anyone I have worked with and they will tell you I love questions. I love learning and questions are my vehicle. In the beginning, I asked questions to combat the confusion of starting a new role. I asked how to schedule my supervisee’s shifts. I asked how to submit maintenance requests. I asked how to fill out my timesheet. I learned the ins and outs of my new role. The nuances became more clear each day.

The answers to my questions helped quiet the voices in my head that said I didn’t know what I was doing. Still though, some of these voices remained. For all of the questions I asked, many questions stayed silent. Am I enough? Can I do this role? Are they sure they hired the right person? What if I mess up?

I’m not sure why I never told anyone I was scared or confused. Part of me thinks it was because I thought I was the only one that felt that way. I was afraid that if I admitted I had no idea what I was doing, then maybe someone would agree.

Time has passed since I felt lost. These days, I know how to complete my timesheet and submit maintenance requests. Completing my timesheet and submitting work orders are not the greatest lessons I have learned though. Starting your first graduate student affairs role is about more than learning the skills included on your position description. You will learn these skills. This will take time.

You must learn how to present your authentic, mistake-making, confused self. I have some great people in my life now that I have been able to talk to about feeling this way. In these relationships, I have learned I am not the only one that starts at a new place and is overwhelmed with feeling like not enough. So find great mentors. Admit that you are still learning. Sometimes the hardest part is saying that you are struggling. Once you share your experience, you can connect with other people who can support you through this new role, share their experiences, and help you feel like you are not alone.”


You can connect with Alexandra via email.

5 Leadership Lessons of a Ragnar

In mid-April, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to run my first Ragnar race. What’s a Ragnar you ask? It’s a 200-ish mile race run by you and 11 of your closest friends…or strangers who become your closest friends by the end of the two days you spend traversing the course in two vans! Seriously!

I am typically a solo runner. I enjoy getting out there, putting in my earbuds and losing myself in my thoughts and cadence. I was nervous about joining the Ragnar team. I knew only 2 runners in my van and 2 runners in the other van…none of them well enough to be totally comfortable sharing my stanky butt in the close quarters of a van for two days! On top it that, as an introvert, when/how would I find alone time to recharge?

The race delivered! This was a fantastic experience !

As I look back on our time together, I am reminded of the following lessons in leadership:

You can’t do it alone. Well, you can, but it will be lonely and painful!

Running with a team is a great experience! The same is true in leadership. You can try to lead alone but just like running alone, it won’t be near as much fun, it will hurt more than it needs to, and you’ll miss out on feeling part of something bigger than yourself!


“When you need me, call me! I’ll be there!”

My third leg of the race started long before sunrise. I had run in the dark before and was not too worried about it. However, this leg was 8.9 miles of hard terrain completely alone. I saw maybe 3 runners pass me the whole time I was out there. During the second mile, I was on a small one lane road with tall trees on either side and not a single light (street, house or car) in site. I was scared! I called my husband to have him talk to me for a while. That lasted for a mile. Our son needed his attention back home. A few miles later, I texted my van-mates to share how far along I was and how $%*&%# scary it was out there. A few miles more and there is my van! My team came to cheer me along! I was so grateful to see them! They helped pick up my spirits and my pace!


Leadership is similar in it’s dark scary moments. I learned I can not only count on family but also my teammates to get me through! All I have to do is call (or text), and they will be there!

Sharing is caring!

Each exchange where we traded runners was filled with the excitement of welcoming the current runner in and cheering the next runner out! These races take true team work. As a runner, it is your job to stay focused on your current leg, run or walk it to the best of your ability and then hand over the reins to the teammate up in the rotation.


It’s easy when leading to think you have maintain ownership over the whole project. However, do so robs others of their opportunity to contribute to the group. Any age, any skill level, any speed (sprinter or walker) can help carry the over all load with excellence!

Everyone stinks!

I am a very stinky person when I run. I was worried about sharing this part of me with my van-mates. Not long into our first set of legs was I reminded that we all stink, but we all have our own weird little habits that get us through! I learned a few new strategies to apply to my own running routine.


No leader is perfect. We are all works in progress. When we open ourselves up to those close to us (literally in this case), we learn we are not alone in our areas of growth as well as new and effective strategies we might not have ever considered on our own.

The beauty is in the scenery!

One of the best parts of running through the foothills of Texas was the views! Our legs would be screaming out in pain, begging us to stop or slow down but just one moment to observe the surroundings could give you all the energy needed to move forward.


Sometimes, leaders can get caught up in narrow focus of the road ahead and forget to look around. To take in the view. To smell the roses. These brief pauses in focus allow us to remember how small we (and our worries) are, how beautiful our surroundings can be, and all the things we are grateful for (like being able to run out there).


I carried a few worries into the race that were dispelled quickly as we began our run together. The team of The Road Goes On Forever will forever have a special place in my heart! I am grateful for their spirit, sense of humor, support, and friendship!



When we travel the road of leadership with a team, 200-ish miles doesn’t seem so daunting! Together, we can do great things!