Life After Ripon – Madeline Poullette ’15
Chapter 2: Surviving the First Semester of Graduate School
[Editor’s Note: Raymond Allen ’15, Karena Schroeder ’15, and Madeline Poullette ’15 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]
This semester has been an absolute whirlwind, and I cannot believe I have (almost) survived my first semester of graduate school. As I type this, I am currently knee-deep in three huge projects that have all decided to be due on the same day, but I knew what I was signing up for. At our program’s initial orientation back in August, the professor made a point to warn us that graduate school would not be an extension of our undergraduate experience. He warned us that many of our undergraduate professors most likely did not read our written assignments and probably let a lot of things go. He outright stated that if you cannot write, you will not survive very long. I am confident and extremely proud when I say that Ripon professors actually read our papers and genuinely push us to improve in our oral and written communication and critical thinking skills. I am so happy that I went to Ripon because the small classroom setting and intelligent professors who care about you as an individual and your academic work has been absolutely priceless. Being expected to exhibit these written and oral communication skills before entering graduate school has been invaluable this semester. The high expectations held by Ripon as an institution of higher education, as well as by the academic professors, have fully prepared me for the demanding work in graduate school. After graduating from Ripon, I am not intimidated by the onset of a week that includes completing a 20-page analytical paper, a three-hour written Blue Book exam, and a 200-plus page reading.
The three courses I have been enrolled in this semester include: Survey of Cultural Anthropology, Survey of Biological Anthropology, and History and Theory of Museums. Each class normally meets once a week for about three hours. Even though I only have class two days a week, the reading and paper load is nonstop for the rest of the week. On top of that, I recently started working part-time at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Graduate Office as a Recruitment and Marketing Assistant. I have been working with the various graduate programs and schools on campus to design a tour specifically for prospective graduate students.
One of my favorite aspects of the museum studies program is the practical experience I am gaining through the program’s partnership with the Milwaukee Public Museum. On a weekly basis, I have class at the Milwaukee Public Museum and take every opportunity available to volunteer at the museum’s events. On Halloween, I volunteered at an event where thousands of museum members trick-or-treated throughout the exhibit floors and participated in other activities. The Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit has been reimagined for the 50th anniversary of its opening. I recently participated in a “Live Tweeting” event for the exhibit’s opening this month along with other students in our cohort. We live-tweeted the Great Third Ward Fire of 1892 on the same day of the exhibit’s opening in an effort to increase publicity and public engagement.
They say that in graduate school you can pick two of the following: good grades, enough sleep, or a social life. While it has been a challenge to juggle multiple priorities at once, I can safely say that it is more than possible to make time for each of these things—except during finals. That’s another story.
Until next time,
Madeline Poullette ’15