My first Toastmasters Club session

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student 

I had heard about Toastmasters a couple of years ago from a friend who was looking for a way to overcome a crippling fear of public speaking. I mirrored similar feelings but due to some circumstances, I could not find out more and join. Last semester I came across an e-mail from the RIT chapter of Toastmasters. I was keen on attending a meeting but unfortunately, the timings of their weekly sessions coincided with classes so I was not able to take part.

This semester I happen to be free during their meetings so finally in the 5th week, I got myself to go for a session of Tiger Tales Toastmaster Club. I walked in apprehensively, got greeted at the door by a smiling greeter (I found out later that one member is assigned to be a “greeter” each session) who realized almost immediately that I was a newcomer and patiently walked me through the sign-in process, handed me a copy of the day’s agenda, and found me a spot.

It was 6:28 PM and the session was scheduled to start at 6:30 PM. I saw people walking around chatting with others so I expected a delay in proceedings. I could not have been more wrong. At exactly 6:30 PM, the “opener” walked up to the front of the room, banged the gavel, and started speaking. And just like that, everything was engrossed in what was being said. I found out that there was a pre-decided theme of the day, which on that day was “realization”. The “opener” spoke for a couple of minutes about it, giving the audience his view on what realization meant to him. It was short, yet informative. At 6:33 PM, he introduced the “toastmaster” for the evening, whose primary task from then onwards was conducting the meeting. The toastmaster then welcomed all members and paid special attention to the guests for the evening. The guests, or newcomers as I would call us, were given a quick overview of how Toastmasters works, how their goal is to promote public speaking and to help anyone hone their speaking skills. He introduced several key positions for the evening, a person oversaw time-keeping, another one kept track of the grammar being used, while another person counted the number of times a speaker used filler words (“ah”, “umm”, “like”).

And then the session got underway properly. There was a range of speakers for the day; one was doing his first Toastmasters’ speech, while another one was practicing to participate in an international Toastmasters competition. There was also a section where open questions were asked and anyone in attendance could go up and answer. This addressed the impromptu part of public speaking and served as a perfect complement to the previous section where speakers gave prepared speeches.

In the end, the meeting was concluded by reviews given by the “timer”, the “ah-counter”, the “grammarian”, and the general evaluator. Each person’s comments were well-appreciated and applauded. There was even a small prize given to the person who gave the best answer for the open question section.

The last thing that the president of the club did before adjourning the session was to speak to the guests of the evening and made us give our two cents about the experience. I absolutely loved the whole thing and made sure that everyone knew how much I enjoyed.

I would love to join the club and learn the art of public speaking from others and was thoroughly impressed by the ease with which each speaker spoke and the way all constructive criticism was given and taken. I cannot wait to go back next week and I hope that this will be an enriching experience for me going forward.

The Minimalist Journey

by Ami Patel, Computer Science MS student

It was the onset of Fall, and I had already decided to move from my off-campus apartment to someplace with better commute options to RIT. I hadn’t decided where, but, I knew I was moving out. My mind was already prepared for shifting, and slowly, I started sensing the materialistic possessions around me. My closet was overflowing; the drawer was full of random stuff, the shelves brimming, and random piles of boxes in the storage area. A thought crossed my mind; I can never fit all that in the three suitcases I came with. And just then the Minimalism video I had watched a few months ago popped into my head.

I binge watched few videos on Minimalism, and I felt connected with this idea because there was so much clutter around me, it was just too much. I went through my entire room and the apartment to remove things I didn’t need anymore. While I was at it, I realized three major causes of my situation, two of which are prevalent to other students too.

Of course, the first is bringing 3 FULL medium size suitcases along with me. It was the first time I was moving out of my house to live independently, and I thought, I needed All my stuff. Almost all incoming international graduate students I came across, were carrying that much belongings and that’s where the problem lies – normalizing the fact that we will need so much stuff.

As far as you are not moving to a remote island, you can buy things as you need. That brings us to the second cause – Students buy things, a lot of things. Though we brought so many clothes, we are going to buy clothes pertaining to trends in the new city. Something else we students buy a lot is electronics and gadgets to ease our life. For this, I would ask you to go through your online order history and analyze if you have extensively utilized all the products you ever bought. The third issue in my case is that I was a hoarder. I wasn’t good at letting go the things.

Well, this journey helped me to downsize heavily on the overwhelming materialistic possessions. I learned two lessons: one, what I really need and two, let go what I don’t need. Minimalism doesn’t mean to live with very few items, but, it means to live with things you really need. Minimalism was not a journey, it’s a lifestyle for me and I’m still exercising it.

My $0.02 to the students who will move to a new place for graduate studies is to carry just a suitcase and (maybe) a half of essential stuff. Buy the necessities as you adjust to your new life, but remember you may move to another city soon, so don’t hoard a lot.

Winter is Here

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

I look out of the window in the morning and my car is covered with snow. I am very annoyed and curse Rochester weather for making my life difficult. My mind quickly starts thinking about writing how to survive in this weather and well long story short I started writing this piece. I wanted to title it “Winter is Coming” but then realized it made no sense because winter has been around for a couple of months already. Now let me think about some ways to survive the Rochester Snow:

1) Snow Boots and Jacket: It gets very slippery when the snow melts and turns to ice so make sure you have a good pair of snow boots. Also, get a jacket that has fur lining on the hoodie because it keeps the snow falling all over your face.

2) Exercise: The cold weather is going to make you lazy and sleepy all the time so make sure you exercise in the winter to avoid those extra pounds and be more energetic.

3) Dry Skin: Your skin and eyes will be extra dry during the snow season. First and foremost cover yourself, get a good moisturizer and a humidifier for the home.

4) Emergency Kit: Snowstorms are not very common but I would still ask people to keep an emergency kit which has things like a battery pack, flashlight, snacks, etc.

5) Stay Healthy: Falling sick is a common thing in the snow season so always make sure you have a hand sanitizer with you, get good amount of sleep and exercise.

These are some of the main things that you need to look out for but there are many other like being careful while you drive in the snow. As I wrap up the article later in the day and looking for a conclusion by wandering outside the library, I see the sunset and a little snowfall which made me realize that I have a love-hate relationship with the snow season at RIT. There are days when I am looking forward to getting out of Rochester and another day when I realize how much I love the snow. Oh before I forget, the man in the picture is President Destler who retired in 2017 and was the 9th president of RIT.

It’s the Year of the Dog!

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

Last Friday marked the beginning of the celebrations for the Chinese New Year (aka Chinese Spring Festival), and it lasted through this Sunday, Feb 18th, at RIT. RIT Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) held a Chinese New Year Celebration Gala on Sunday night. The Chinese Zodiac is made up of 12 different animals and each of them gets an outing every dozen years. 2018 is a Year of the Dog.

Lunar New Year is always the most important and traditional festival of the year in Chinese culture, and we were so pleasantly surprised and glad that RIT president, David C. Munson Jr., also showed up at the event with his family and showed to support for the Chinese international students. During the event, we had performances including Chinese folk dance, rap, crosstalk and comedic skits. We were also honored to invite our well-liked admissions counselor, David Wivell, to give a welcome speech at the beginning of the Gala. Additionally, lottery drawing also drew the attention of the audience. The biggest prize that was given was an Amazon Fire Tablet.

In case you were wondering, Chinese people usually celebrate Spring Festival by having reunion dinner with family and watching Chinese Near Year Gala on TV. In general, people from the North prefer to make and eat dumplings on Chinese New Year’s Eve, and those from the South will eat spring rolls or sticky rice cake. This year I got to have the large banquet with all of my classmates in my program. It was a bit like a potluck, where people bring various dishes and snacks. But meanwhile, we also handmade dumplings, hotpot and other meat dishes for everyone to share. This New Year feast meant a lot to most of the kids in the program since it’s their first experience of Chinese New Year oversea.

For me, Chinese New Year is more like a celebration of friendship and Chinese culture now because it has been 8 years since I got back home for the Lunar New Year. Although I miss the feeling of having a big dinner with my family, I’m pleased that there’s always a new year atmosphere during the Lunar New Year time in the U.S., and I’m super proud of this unique experience and culture that I have. Happy New Year of the Dog everyone! 新年快乐 (Happy New Year in Chinese, pronounced Xīn Nián Kuài Lè/sheen nian kwai luh)!

 

#myRITstory – Sanjana Kapisthalam

Compiled by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS Student

Sanjana Kapisthalam is a current graduate student in the Imaging Science department and comes from the southern part of India. Throughout her tenure at RIT she has worked at Xerox Research Center, in France as a Computer Vision Research Intern, and for Amazon in Seattle as a Software Developer Engineer Intern. Sanjana also has a position lined up for summer 2018 with Fluxdata as a Machine Learning Research Engineer.

With her extensive resume it’s clear that Sanjana has interviewing basics mastered. Here, she shares her advice for other students:

Most of my interviews were completely based on two of my courses (Image processing and Computer Vision, Deep-Learning for Vision). I used to get calls from pretty much every company I applied but used to get rejects after the first round. I realized I lacked preparation and made notes from these two courses and I used to revise them before every interview. This helped me to crack the technical rounds very easily. Most interviews, I crossed the third round and then got rejected. That made me realize I wasn’t strong enough with my skills to crack the coding rounds. So I started taking online free coding lessons and solved interview questions which helped me a lot.

Upon being asked to share some of her experiences while doing her co-ops “Every internship of mine was very different. My first internship with Xerox was completely research oriented. I was reproducing the then state-of-the-art methods for which I had to read tons and tons of research papers. This not only helped me develop my thought process but improved my reading and writing skill from like scale 0 to scale 10. Apart from the work, this was in a tiny city called Grenoble in France. I got to polish my broken high school French and got to experience an international culture that could be never forgotten. My current internship with Amazon is very different from what I did before. I am a software developer here and I write code every day which is reviewed by my mentor and a senior member in my team. I have a 1:1 meet with my manager every week and this system is not only improving my coding skills drastically but also pushing me to be one step ahead and learn to work in a big company. Also, Seattle is amazingly beautiful. My next internship over the summer will be with Fluxdata in Rochester as a Machine learning Engineer. I am hoping to learn from my mistakes in the past and current internships and do even better.

When asked to give some suggestions to student who are on the job hunt, Sanjana said “Use all sorts of online portals LinkedIn, Angellist, Indeed.com. Make use of the career fair. To be very honest, this was the first time I got an offer through the fair but I never gave up. I used to see people getting calls from the fair so I kept trying until I got one.” She went on to give suggestions about preparing for interviews and said “ Apply to any company, if the posting sounds intriguing and if you think you will able to do the job. My suggestion from all my experiences will be DO NOT underestimate yourself based on the requirements of the posting. Apply, prepare based on the posting and be ready to speak if that is not your area of education. You will crack the interview if you are confident about yourself.”


Here is a breakdown from my experiences –
1) Build your resume: When I say this, it’s purely for those grad students who come here immediately after undergrad and have no industry experience. First step is to realize what sort of a job you want. It’s fine if you don’t know this. Try applying to various jobs and you will realize at some point what you want. There are on-campus jobs for every interest of a person. From Cafeteria jobs to being a research assistant, there’s everything. Use the student employment website and apply to the jobs you’re interested and those you can show on your resume. Don’t step down if you keep getting rejected. Participate in the competitions conducted at symposiums on-campus, work towards winning them. Participate in Imaging RIT. In-short, do things that will not only build your resume but also keep you occupied.


2) Apply – If you apply to 5 companies and you don’t get calls at all, it’s high-time you check your resume or get it corrected from a professional. Go to your career advisor or grad-coordinator (every department has one) and seek help. Unless you ask, nobody knows what you want. Don’t self assume things. SEEK HELP if you need it and there’s nothing wrong or to be ashamed about.


3) Interview call: Like I said, sometimes you could be interested in some jobs even if it doesn’t fall under your educational background. I would say it’s absolutely fine. Just be prepared to answer questions. If you don’t have what it takes for the job, tell the recruiter why you think you’re a good fit and why you applied. My second internship was  out of my interest. I am not a software developer by degree, I was interested, I applied and showed the ability to what it takes to be one. Just be prepared. It’s ok to be rejected multiple times. It’s just not ok to analyze yourself as to why you’re being rejected. You already succeeded if you got a call which itself means you’re worth a person for that role. So analyze your mistakes from your rejections and keep moving ahead.


4) Build-up your resilience, confidence levels and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just make sure to learn out of them. RIT is a great place guys. You ask for anything and you will get help from somewhere. Make use of the resources. If you think you’re an introvert or shy make sure to have a support system outside your family (i.e., FRIENDS). Be involved in sports, music, toastmasters or whatever you like. Realize what it is that you want by taking chances. “

 

 

Government of the people, by the people and for the people

by Sanjay Varma Rudraraju, Computer Science MS student

It was just another snowy day at RIT and I was having a conversation with my roommate about some food that is being thrown out by dining services at the end of the day. It deeply saddened me to hear food being wasted and I wanted to do something about it. After asking around I heard about the Student Government who is a part of the governing body at RIT which makes policies and votes on them along with Staff Council and Academic Senate. Their mission reads “To represent the interests of the student body through the implementation of innovative programs, services, and initiatives that enrich student lives. We will be the primary source of advocacy for students from Rochester Institute

of Technology and we will utilize our shared governance structure to voice student opinion and concern. RIT Student Government will be the forefront of change within the university.”

I was deeply intrigued by this and felt they would be the best people to talk to about my concern and I did end up talking to them about it. It was a great interaction and that is my first interaction with Student Government. In the next few months I kept learning more and more about them and felt very passionate about the change they are bringing about at RIT. Then came the wonderful day when I saw that they were accepting applications for different elected position in the Student Government. My eyes finally fell upon the Graduate Senator position and understood that the position is of a representative for the graduate students at RIT. After an intense month of campaigning and elections I have successfully won the elections and started in my role. As I went about in the role, I understood the kind of impact that Student Government has in the university. On a weekly basis, I work with the various Graduate Directors in order to discuss the new
programs that are being proposed by the departments and also propose any changes required to the graduate student policies. Apart from that I work with the different graduate student advocacy groups to address graduate student concerns like housing, transportation, etc. Also, I work with President Munson on the University Council where we discuss and vote on various university policy changes.

The presence of Student Government in the University Council ensures representatives who will be looking out for the best interests of students on the council. The impact that my work has on the students and various other stakeholders makes me feel more responsible to the role I have been elected to at RIT. Today as I write this blog I feel proud to be a student of RIT where students are given importance in policy making and this proves that indeed the school cares about its students genuinely and takes their opinions. I see the RIT Student Government as the Government of the students, by the students and for the students and glad to be a part of it.

 

Financial Funding 101

by Ami Patel, Computer Science MS student

Let’s not lie, Graduate school can be expensive and what’s better than financial funding to a grad student? But, at times it’s confusing what all are the available options, what do those options mean and how to approach? This article is going to be your Financial Funding 101. Let’s begin:

1. Scholarship: Based on previous scholarly activities, students are awarded merit-based scholarship upon admission. The amount varies based on how much funding the department has. This is the percentage value of your tuition and you don’t need to apply explicitly for it, each applicant is automatically considered for the scholarship. It might increase after 1-2 semesters based on your academic performance.

2. Graduate Assistantship: This role involves working as a support role or conducting research work for your academic department. The compensation includes some percentage of tuition waiver along with payment for the hours you work. Check your Department Office for any vacancy.

3. Graduate Assistant with RIT Student Affairs: So, this one includes a variety of roles like the resident advisor, Greek life assistant, orientation programming assistant, health promotion and marketing, assistant to Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement and few more. Compensation varies from hourly wage to stipends along with housing and meal plan. Check here for more details: https://www.rit.edu/studentaffairs/about/GA-opportunities

4. Research Assistantship: This one is simple. You work with a professor on a research project. Usually, the compensation is in the form of hourly wage but in some cases, you might receive some percentage of tuition waiver in-addition-to or instead-of the hourly wage. For this, you need to approach professors who are conducting a research project in your area of interest.

5. Teaching Assistantship: TA is generally assisting the professor with instructional responsibilities and you get paid for the number of hours you work. For TA opportunities, you will need to approach professors teaching a course you have completed before.

6. Clerical Jobs: These are on-campus jobs which involve clerical tasks like office assistant, student assistant with different departments, library, student center and various other offices at RIT. Compensation is in form of hourly wage. To apply, you can check for opportunities on RIT’s job portal: https://rit.joinhandshake.com/

7. Technical Jobs: These includes all kind of computing jobs from lab assistant, system administrator, web development for various departments. Compensation is in form of hourly wage. To apply, you can check for opportunities on RIT’s job portal: https://rit.joinhandshake.com/

8. Dining Services: If you love food and working with it, then this is interesting with roles involving food prep, production, inventory, cashier, dining room attendant for various dining locations on-campus. Again the compensation is the hourly wage. To apply, you can check for opportunities on RIT’s job portal: https://rit.joinhandshake.com/

Note: For all of these opportunities, you will need your RIT email address.

 

A focus on fitness

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

School can be taxing, both physically and mentally. As our minds stress our bodies tend to stress and breakdown as well. Life becomes a constant struggle to balance good grades, proper rest, and social interaction. On top of that, many students are usually involved in some sort of part time or full-time job. As a 1st year Grad Student I have paid my dues, thus I know firsthand how busy life can get. We end up so overwhelmed by the things we need to get done that we will often neglect to take care of ourselves. I know what you’re thinking. “This guy better not tell me that I should be working out.” Well I won’t say that exactly, but I will say that we should all be taking time to build healthy habits and take care of our bodies. Consider it a long-term investment, just as our studies are.

Mental and physical health are interconnected as study after study shows. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help you function better in your studies, and your profession. I know that the idea of even stepping into the gym or making time to work out seems crazy, but there are other things that you can do to start building better habits.

First step is to get up and move throughout the day. I don’t mean like walking from class to class. I mean frequent stretches throughout studying and working. If you can switch it up and work while standing for a bit, give it a shot. Dr. James Levine is credited with the mantra “sitting is the new smoking”. He has studied the adverse effects of our lifestyles for years and is known for inventing the treadmill desk. Because of his extensive studies Dr. Levine declared “Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.” I encourage you to look him up and read further into it if you have time.

Another step to take to boost your physical health is sweating. I know it sounds a bit gross but sweating has many positive impacts on the human body. Sweating can boost your overall mood and improve mental focus. This can come in the form of working out, or even using RIT’s sauna. Dr. Rhonda Patrick, a health specialist, has studied the effects of physical exertion on the human body. She found a correlation with sweating and mood, productivity, and longevity. She also found that sitting in a sauna provides the same benefits. She encourages people to sit in a sauna 3-5 times a week to boosts overall health. RIT has a sauna available to all students in the Fitness center locker rooms. Although working out provides you with more benefits then the sauna, if you don’t have time to work out try taking some time in the sauna as an alternative.

Other steps you can take to start increasing your physical health are just as easy as the last two. Start by setting small goals and try to hit them each week. Generally, a rule of thumb for remaining active is trying to walk 10,000 steps a day. We all carry our phones with us most of the time, so this shouldn’t be too hard to track. Another step is mapping out a workout plan and trying to get into the gym 2 to 3 times a week. Even if it’s just a quick 10-minute workout, it’ll help build the habit. Lastly be more mindful of your sugar intake and what you are eating. You don’t need to be on a hardcore diet to be healthier. Simply removing soda products, eating a few more vegetables, or not eating late night snacks can help. Whatever you do, implement it in small increments. You might find that it is easier to start forming new habits if you take it slowly rather than trying it all at once. Focus on hitting one or two goals a month, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly they become part of your lifestyle.

New Year, New Semester

by Kexin ‘Coco’ Wang, Visual Communications Design MFA student

This year, for the first time in four years, I got to spend the New Year back at home in China. Although I couldn’t stay long enough for the Chinese New Year, I appreciate that I was able to be with my family and friends in my hometown, wishing for a bright and promising new year together.

I recall that last time when I was home for winter break, I had just finished my first semester in College, and now I am a graduate student who has got one semester down successfully. Really, time flies so quick! It’s hard to believe how much I have grown and developed as a person through the college years and my first year here at RIT. “The only thing that is constant is change,” as Heraclitus said. However, I think for me, the only constant is my willingness to accept the change and thrive, and my adaptation to them. I believe that change creates possibilities that help me to live my life better.

From high school in Maine to college in Colorado, and to now in Rochester, along with trips to Spain, Germany, France, Portugal, Belgium, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Japan, I enjoyed every single challenge and opportunity that came my way. In the meantime, I keep training myself to develop greater confidence in my ability to navigate new surroundings and further expand my skill-set. So for the new year and new semester, I am still aiming at the achievement of the very same goal, which is to embrace and adapt to the changes.

What will my biggest change or challenge be in 2018? I guess at the moment it’s going to be trying to find a valuable internship and switching into “work mode” during the summer. Gladly, RIT has a co-op/internship and summer research program that could help students get a paid internship with real world experience. If you want to learn more about this opportunity, you could visit their website for more information. So hopefully, I could get an internship in my dream field and make summer meaningful.

That is just one big challenge I could name for now, but as I am in a phase of life with so many unknown experiences lying ahead, I might get surprised at any moment. Therefore, I am also learning how to prepare myself for any possible options and feelings and know how to make healthy decisions and plans. I am extremely excited for this year full of surprises and study/work mode changes, and hopefully I could get to live the life I wish to! And I strongly hope your New Year is off to a good start!