It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…..Well, almost!

5d264783332d570e36d280666b9772c82f76a148bb3191c5d145cb93460e2ed1It is easy to get sidetracked this time of year when thoughts of Life After Finals enters our minds. Students, faculty, and staff are all guilty of allowing ourselves to peer too long into the light at the end of the tunnel, one hopefully filled with holiday cheer and important time reconnecting with family and friends. I am writing to offer perspective on how to successfully navigate the coming weeks, so that your Life After Finals is filled with time spent not thinking about finals.

Students have already accomplished so much this term, from academic achievements to building life-long relationships, that it may seem almost unfair to have one last hurdle (one with a draconian name, “finals”) standing between you and the finish line. While these assessments may seem like an exercise in stress management, rote memorization, and the ability to function without sleep, consider finals week to be one greater test; a test of character.   School, perhaps serving as a microcosm of life in general, will not always be easy, nor should it. The way in which we address challenges and adversity demonstrates who we really are; perhaps much more telling than a final letter grade in Marketing, Geography, Theatre, or Biology.

Building a stronger character is fundamental to a successful university experience. The best chance at academic, relationship, and career success comes when you develop strong character traits. We should not define ourselves by taking shortcuts, procrastinating (even if we are guilty at certain times), and blaming others for our problems. Being honest with yourself, working hard, and preparing for your challenges are signs of strong character. Practicing these qualities will allow you to take control of the closing minutes of the semester and prepare you for any outcome. Doing your best allows you to end the semester without stressing the “what ifs” or comparing your results character1with the accomplishments of others.

As you depart from campus in the coming weeks, forever or until late January, make the effort to know that you truly did everything you could to succeed. Knowing that you gave it your all, regardless of the outcome, enables growth. Growth and failure can go hand in hand, so as long as the personal failure generates the proper response and introspection. If so, then you will walk away knowing you’ve grown, and have shown the character by which you would like to be judged.

I hope you can now step back and view your finals through a broader lens.

Below are some helpful reminders for the final weeks of the semester:

This week

  • Map out your coming week. Where do you need to be, and when?   Do not arrive late! Parking issues at Towson are not new, and they tend to be magnified during Finals.
    • When/where will you study? Preferably not when you’re tired!
    • What is your current standing, and how much of an impact will the final assessment have? Reach out to your professors. Hopefully it isn’t an introduction at this point in the term!
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare. Finals week may be the opportunity to reach or exceed your goals. Will you walk away successful, throw a Hail Mary pass, or fail to act?

Post- December 17th

  • The Big Exhale: give yourself some time to relax, reconnect with family and friends, and acknowledge your accomplishments. You’ve earned it. Students, professor, administrators, and just about everyone on campus, have just completed a 15-week marathon. We all need this time.
  • What went well? What could you have done better? Personal failure and shortcomings can lead to growth.
  • Think ahead. What will you do in the coming weeks to solidify your academic and/or post-academic career? Winter break is an excellent time to reassess your interests and goals, explore internships and careers, and solidify your degree plan. Check out TU’s Career Center and register a Hire@TU
  • Review your Academic Requirements Report and Degree Completion Plan. Are you on track to graduate? Contact your program advisor or the Academic Advising Center to review your progress.

Campus Resources

Towson University has an incredible staff that is here to help TU students in all areas of their academic lives.

Jon Lesh
Academic Advising Center

Fa la la la la Finals Frenzy

Twas the night before finals and all through the dorms, all the students were studying, worried about how they’d perform….The holidays can be a great source of joy and excitement, but they can also be a time of high stress. In college, there is still the usual merriment of gift giving and other traditions, with added pressures of doing well on finals and moving out of the dorms. With effective time management skills, you can navigate the 12 days of finals successfully and still be wearing a festive grin come December 17th!


There are many different sources of stress this time of year from finals to moving out, everyone is extremely busy. The biggest source of stress right now is probably getting ready for one of the most important exams in all of your classes: your final. Preparing for your finals can be very stressful whether this is your first time taking college finals or even it is your last semester of school. Another source of stress this time of year is preparing to head home for the holidays. If you live in a dorm, you have to pack up your clothes and head home until January and this can be stressful whether you’re going across the country or just around the beltway. Effective ways to combat both of these stressors is to utilize time management techniques and to reward yourself for achieving your goals.

Time Management

Final exams are right around the corner. Learning how to manage your time will help you succeed when preparing for your exams. To help you along your way, here’s a quick list of hits for staying on track as you start your studying.

  1. Make a schedule and stick to it. It’s hard to plan every minute of your day around final exams. Do your best to create a realistic schedule and try to stick to it.
  2. Think about the courses you are taking. Some courses are more difficult, and therefore you may need to study longer for these courses, while others you don’t need to spend as much time on them studying for your exam.
  3. Set deadlines. When you set deadlines for yourself, it will keep you on track for long-term goals. If your final paper isn’t due for two weeks, start doing a little bit of research each day, and set a date to start writing.
  4. It’s okay to say no. When studying for final exams, it is okay to tell your friends you cannot hang out with them.

Holiday Rewards

Looking for a way to unwind after all the stress of finals, moving, and out-of-town relatives? Make sure to reward yourself after accomplishing specific goals you set for yourself. For instance, after finishing your studying for finals, you may want to go out to catch an early dinner with friends before settling in for a short winter’s nap; remember, you’re going to need a good night’s sleep before each exam! Well-rested students whose stomachs aren’t growling tend to perform better on tests and exams. Here are a couple ideas for holiday rewards near Towson and the Baltimore area:

  1. Ice Rink at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor: For $9, you can skate away in McKeldin Plaza, even on holidays! After your nose turns frosty, you can use your ice skating wristband for discounts at nearby restaurants and businesses.
  2. $1 Entertainment: This coming weekend, December 6 and 7, you can enter the Maryland Science Center, the National Aquarium, Top of the World (the World Trade Center), and The Christmas Village. Even if you stay for 30 minutes or so before returning to studying, $1 is well worth it!
  3. Federal Hill Moonlight Madness: On Friday, December 12, shops and galleries will stay open until midnight. Enjoy free gift wrapping, caroling, and light refreshments.
  4. The Walters Museum: This free museum—yes, that’s right, FREE—has an awesome permanent collection and is offering The Christmas Story in Art Walk-In Tour this Sunday from 1-2 PM. Take advantage of the free Collegetown Shuttle to get into town; it runs until midnight on Fridays.
  5. Miracle on 34th Street: Drive through hip Hampden and catch the lights on 34th street! For the past 67 years, neighbors on this street decorate their houses and generously encourage visitors to drive by and admire the twinkling lights, hon. Stop by Holy Frijoles, Golden West, or Frazier’s for a bite to eat afterward.

Finals Activities Offered by the AAC:

  1. Last-Minute Q&A Sessions

Worried about your final exams? Come by the Academic Achievement Center in Cook Library anytime between 5:00 and 8:00 PM on Monday, December 8 or Tuesday, December 9. We’ll have tutors on hand for subjects including FIN 331, ACCT 201 and 202, BIOL 190, MATH 111, and more. Snacks and beverages will be on hand to keep you going! Look for more information in T3 soon.

  1. Finals Workshops

Get ready-to-use tools and strategies for studying and planning for finals. Three workshop times are available for your convenience:

  • Monday, December 1 from 4:00 to 5:00 PM in CK 513
  • Wednesday, December 3 from 12:00 to 1:00 PM in CK 513
  • Thursday, December 4 from 6:00 to 7:00 PM ONLINE


Gina Sabo & Monica Padgett
Graduate Students

Allison Hutchison & Jeremy Boettinger
Learning Specialist

Conversation Starters for Thanksgiving Dinner

1289860839296_3899503Thanksgiving is all about food and family. But turkey legs and mashed potatoes don’t sidle up to you after three eggnogs and ask why you can’t be more like your sister.

The first big holiday of the season is here, and you need to be ready. Your extended family members are lying in wait, cooking up juicy conversation starters like, “Let’s hope the economy gets out of the gutter by the time you graduate, huh?,” “How’s that job search going?,” and “So, are you dating anyone yet?”

But this year’s going to be different. This year, you’ll turn the small talk to your advantage with some crafty conversation starters of your own. You’ll find that with the proper prodding, each relative has something genuinely valuable to share with you.

Uncle-Jesse-Duke-the-dukes-of-hazzard-30209168-324-362YOUR UNCLE JESSE

The challenge: Uncle Jesse never has the same conversation just once, so you know he’s going to ask you (again) what your major is, and you will have to explain (again) that majoring in Religious Studies does not mean you are studying to be a priest.

Your tactical approach: “How’s business at the dealership?”

Say this because a) nothing is more likely to distract Uncle Jesse from your future employability than a question about American-made vehicles, and b) you can learn a heck of a lot about the local economy by studying consumers’ buying habits. The people who are buying (or not buying) Uncle Jesse’s cars are the same people who are hiring (or not hiring) employees. One of his customers might even be your dream employer. Find out if he knows anyone who is working in your field of interest and see if he can put you in touch with that person.


The challenge: Oh, how you secretly loathe him. This guy has been making you look bad since he skipped kindergarten and first grade on the same day. How is it possible to earn above a 5.0 GPA in high school? Was it really necessary to triple major at Yale? And why does he keep talking about Georgetown Law? It’s been a whole year since he graduated.

Your tactical approach: “So, what’s it like being a lawyer?”the-lincoln-lawyer

His response to this innocent-sounding question will immediately replace your anxiety about being unemployed after college with blissful relief that at least you probably won’t be working 70 hours a week and falling asleep on the couch every night with your laptop still on your lap. Listening to other people talk about their jobs can help you pinpoint what is most important to you in your future career. Compare your cousin’s experiences to the kind of life you’d like to lead. And don’t forget the lawyers know lots of people (a.k.a. potential employers), too.


The challenge: This sweet, fluffy-haired lady once threw a dinner plate at Richard Nixon’s face on her 1960s television set, so you rightly fear her. In her opinion, your life should progress as follows: Get a spouse, get a job, get a mortgage, and work for the same company until you retire or die, whichever comes first.86509377

Your tactical approach: “If you could’ve tried a different path in life, what would it have been?”

Nana isn’t much for networking, but she has more stories than everyone else in the room put together. Her regrets about roads not taken—and her reasons for not taking them—can powerfully illuminate the choices in front of you now. You might also realize that some of the hard decisions she made were based on practicalities that still exist, and will affect your own dreams.

Suit up, soldier. Winter is coming, and so are your relatives. Prepare to make the best use of your time together—and avoid awkward questions—by starting the conversations you really want to have.

Kacie Glenn
The Career Center

Plagiarism: The Gray Area

As students, we are all expected to know what plagiarism is. The Towson University 2014-2015 Student Academic Integrity Policy plainly spells out what plagiarism is: “Presenting work, products, ideas, words, or data of another as one’s own.” This definition covers the basic premise of what it means to steal someone’s work; however, there is a lot of gray area when it comes to what constitutes as plagiarism.

During syllabus week, it is not uncommon for professors to tell horror stories of students they caught plagiarizing work. If a student is caught stealing or copying someone else’s work, or even ideas, they can be subject to failing the course, or even suspension from the university. There are many circumstances where students are penalized, or even failed, for plagiarism without even realizing that they stole anything at all.

“Steal” and “copy” are two words that seem to go hand-in-hand with “plagiarism,” but it doesn’t just stop there. It is easy to fall through the cracks of plagiarism without directly copying and pasting someone’s work. In fact, there are different degrees of severity when it comes to plagiarism.



Plagiarism can be as minimal as missing page numbers on citations or as severe as blatant theft of content.

The concept of plagiarism can be confusing for a lot of students, so it’s important to know what exactly constitutes as plagiarism and how to avoid it.

Allison Peer, one of the Assistant Directors for the Office of Student Conduct & Civility Education, coordinates the Academic Integrity Process and handles instances when plagiarism has been reported. Allison meets with students who have committed serious forms of plagiarism or second time offenders; however, she also works with students who fall into the “gray area” of plagiarism.

“Students have this pressure to do well,” Peer stated, when asked about the issue of plagiarism. “When you get into a desperate situation, you may be willing to do something you wouldn’t normally do.” This is the same for situations where students may not even realize that what they have done is plagiarism.

Here are some instances of plagiarism that students may not normally consider:

Using previous work without citing yourself

Even though you may have written a paper, done a study, or completed a lab, it is still important to cite yourself if you are using the information elsewhere. If anyone else was to use your work, they would be expected to cite it. So, the same goes for if you are using your own work. Towson is an environmentally friendly campus, but this is the kind of recycling you should avoid.

Reusing work that you have already submitted

Even if the subject matter is similar, the citations are all in order, and you got an A on the assignment, you can absolutely get into trouble by resubmitting work. If you make small changes or move a few sentences around, it will still be considered plagiarism. If you did well the first time, work just as hard on the next assignment and don’t risk failing the assignment because of plagiarism!

Not properly paraphrasing

Paraphrasing can be tricky. It can be difficult to discuss a thought that someone else had without quoting it exactly. When it comes to paraphrasing, you’re best bet is to play it safe; otherwise, it may look like you’re copying someone’s idea, rather than using it to support your own. Try putting away your book or article when you write your notes so you are forced to put the ideas into your own words. Allison Peer often sees students get themselves into trouble for “trying to paraphrase, but not doing so well enough.

Not citing every source

You may have cited most of your sources, but if you leave any out, even one, you are plagiarizing. It can be tedious citing multiple sources and may seem easier to just cite the ones that you relied on the most; however, spending the extra time on citing every source you used will benefit you in the long run.

First Draft Plagiarism

Make sure you properly cite and avoid copying text in your first draft. Even though it is not the finished project, it is still considered plagiarism if you turn in a draft that violates any rules regarding plagiarism. Make sure you include a work cited page or a bibliography, even on your drafts.

False Citations

It is easy to assume that professors aren’t going to check every source you include; however, falsifying citations can get you into serious trouble. Make sure any links you include in your citation are real and lead to the page that you say they do.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

There is a broad spectrum of what can be considered plagiarism and it is important to know what could compromise your academic integrity. Towson University fosters students to uphold a standard of academic achievement and excellence, so it is important for us, as students, to make sure we avoid falling into pitfalls, such as plagiarism.

If you are ever confused or have questions about plagiarism, there are plenty of resources you can access to get quick answers.

  • Talk to your faculty about their expectations when it comes to plagiarism.
  • and are excellent online resources for checking your work to ensure that you haven’t plagiarized.
  • Check out Towson University’s 2014-2015 Student Academic Integrity Policy. It spells out exactly what the university considers to be plagiarism.
  • The Writing Center and The Office of Student Conduct and Civility Education are always willing to help and answer questions regarding plagiarism.
  • The Albert S. Cook Library also has tons of resources on how to avoid plagiarism, as well as citation help guides that can save you from making simple citation mistakes.

It can be tricky to stay out of the gray area of plagiarism, but when in doubt, just make sure you are using proper citations and giving credit where credit is due. Be sure to familiarize yourself with what plagiarism is and how to avoid getting caught up in it.

For more information, please visit:

Conor Reynolds
A-LIST Student, Cook Library

Your Permanent Record & How It Will Make You Money

“Get Involved.”

get-involvedThis phrase is among the most common ones you will hear throughout your career at Towson University. Student leaders like resident assistants, orientation leaders, and members of executive boards for different organizations constantly preach it. While it is easy to let this piece of advice go in one ear and out of the other, it’s highly important.

The short-term benefits of involvement are obvious; it fosters school pride, encourages engagement, and serves as a great way to make friends. You’ve probably heard it all before; however, what you may not have heard is how getting involved now will also benefit your future career search.

Once you start to become involved, it’s difficult to stop. Students often participate in multiple student organizations. Over the years, your involvement will start to add up and may prove difficult to track. The Student Activities department at Towson University has created a tool for countering that problem: The Student Engagement Record.

What is the Student Engagement Record?

The Student Engagement Record is a co-curricular transcript that showcases the accomplishments, involvement, and experiences you have acquired during your time at Towson University.

How do I get started?

Technically, you’re already signed up! The Student Engagement Record has begun tracking your involvement; log in through to see what’s already on your record. Check out this video for further instructions.

Why should I care about this?

If you care about having a job at some point in your lifetime, this is an important resource to consider. “The Student Engagement Record prompts students to reflect on their involvement, which will help them be able to articulate why these experiences make them a valuable employee or professional school candidate,” said Beth Steiner, Assistant Director of Student Activities. She continues, “The Student Engagement Record is a great opportunity for students to track and highlight all of their different experiences here at Towson.”

Some of the different ways that this record may help with your future success include:

-  Building your resume
–  Increasing your marketability
–  Enhancing your personal brand during interviews (bring a copy to your interview as supporting
–  Customizing your record to compliment varying job requirements

Fast forward to a year from now; you are involved in a few clubs, maybe you serve on the executive board for one or two of them. You are a proven leader. This means that job offers will just start flooding in, right? You’ll probably have to change phone numbers, move to a new apartment, and start a new life with a new identity? Not exactly. All of this information still needs to be put into a resume to show everything you have to offer your future employer. Great news; the Student Engagement Record allows you to track your involvement and there’s a place on campus that can help you with that tricky document called the resume: The Career Center!

What are the next steps after completing my Student Engagement Record?

The Career Center offers many services and resources including sample resumes by major, a free resume creator on Hire@TU, and resume/cover letter review appointments. The Career Center has a multitude of trained professionals who are dedicated to making your resume the killer job searching tool it has the potential to be!

To schedule a resume/cover letter appointment with a career advisor, call 410-704-2233 or visit The Career Center (7800 York Road, Suite 206) during Express Hours Monday through Thursday from 1-4 p.m. for a 15 minute consultation. Express Hours are conducted on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Make sure you bring in a completed copy of your Student Engagement Record to your resume/cover letter review.
Get started today!

Aaron Stroud
Career Center Marketing Intern

How to Help a Friend

“He’s stopping coming to class…I’m worried about him.”

“I’m afraid that my roommate has an eating disorder.”

“Every time I see her, she’s drunk. She’s not doing well. ”

“I think he could hurt himself…what do I do?” hero-friends

These are just a few statements we’ve heard from students at the TU Counseling Center. These friends look similar to our ongoing clients. They’re worried, stressed, and concerned about a fellow student.

It won’t likely surprise you to hear that many TU students are struggling. The statistics are concerning. The 2013 National College Health Assessment study found that about one-third of U.S. college students struggled to function in the last year because of symptoms of depression. The Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State found that around 30% of clients at University Counseling Centers across the country have seriously considered suicide.

You’ve likely had a friend who you were concerned about but felt uncertain how you could be helpful. Perhaps you’ve worried that bringing up problems could make the friend feel uncomfortable, or worse, angry at you. Maybe you’ve tried to help already and felt some pushback. We’d urge you to not give up. As a friend, you’re positioned to possibly have an influence. The goal shouldn’t be to fix the problem (whatever it is that your friend is struggling with), but to show support and assist the friend in getting help from professionals.

When considering approaching someone who is struggling, it’s common to feel some discomfort. Keep in mind the goal of the intervention: to assist your friend with obtaining access to help. Here’s some steps for reaching out to your friend:

  1. The conversation should take place in a private setting, away from distractions. Avoid planning a large intervention as one on one will likely work best. Everyone involved should be clear headed so avoid talking after getting back from a party.
  1. Begin by expressing concern for your friend’s well-being, or safety if relevant. Share examples, things that your friend has done or said. Something like “I’ve noticed X, Y and Z. I’m worried about you.”
  2. Allow space for your friend to respond to your concerns. Listen carefully, demonstrating empathy and a non-judgmental attitude.
  1. Share information about campus resources, encouraging your friend to make appointments as soon as able. Be willing to help your friend make these appointments, maybe dialing the phone number or walking the friend to the building. If your friend doesn’t want to seek services on campus, help them find options off campus. The Counseling Center’s Community Providers Database might be helpful.
  2. Don’t let this be the last conversation about your concerns. Check in periodically to offer additional encouragement and support. If your friend isn’t open to making appointments when you first try, don’t give up. You might say “I still want you to think about getting some help. What do you think?”
  1. Supporting someone who is struggling can be draining particularly if you’re not careful with your own needs. Seek out your own support by talking with family, and friends. Consider seeking out your own counseling.Health0027

You can help your friend by initiating a caring conversation. Know that the Counseling Center is here to help. A consultation with us might provide more individualized suggestions and an opportunity to practice the intervention.

Jaime Fenton, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Director of Clinical Services
TU Counseling Center

Rate My Professor or Hate My Professor?

It’s time to pick your classes for next semester! After figuring out what you need, you might start filtering by days and times – maybe weeding out those Friday classes or 8 a.m.s. And chances are your next step might include a visit to Rate My to check out your options.

RateMyProfsSeems like the perfect way to choose which instructor to take, right? What could be better than hearing directly from students about their experiences, with no editing or censoring?

But wait . . . before you click, have you ever thought about how reliable the information you find there is? The site is so heavily used (according to a recent article, as high as 80 million views during registration times) that you would assume it’s full of valuable information that can help you make informed decisions about which classes to take (and which to avoid).

But although so many students turn to the site for answers, only a tiny fraction are actually posting to the site, making the feedback unreliable and potentially misleading. The best feature of the site – that it’s completely user-driven, so you get direct unfiltered student reviews – is also exactly what undermines its usefulness, since the response rate for such sites is typically very low.

Think about it – you may use the site all the time, but do you take the time to go on and post a review for each of your classes each semester? Usually, those who are motivated to post either absolutely adore their professor or, more often, are unhappy with their grade or otherwise disgruntled (which, by the way, in addition to the Hatemyprofessor

nickname, has spawned MTV’s always entertaining “Professors Strike Back” videos – kind of like a nerdier version of “celebrities read mean tweets”).rate 2

The problem with this user-driven format is that it tends to leave out the reviews from all those who are not at those two extremes. And there are no checks in place to make sure the reviewer attended class, did all the assigned work, or even was a student in the course – anyone can create an account and post. The power of influence contained in those 80 million views ends up in the hands of a very small minority of students (and who may not necessarily be the most informed about the full experience of the class).

Still feel like the site is too valuable to your decision process to let go? Consider these hard numbers, then, for Towson’s own page on the site:raccoon

Over 2800 TU professors are reviewed, but guess how many of those have 100 or more reviews? 42. That’s it. And only ONE of those has over 200 ratings. The other 2,772 instructors have numbers of reviews in the double or single digits only.

So to investigate how useful these small numbers of reviews might be, I decided to try using myself as an example. I’ve been teaching here since 1999, with as many as 12 classes per year and 35 students per course. Conservatively, that means I’ve taught 5000 students (likely more), and yet my reviews total . . . 30. That’s right – thirty, out of my thousands of students.

Digging a little deeper, let’s look at my most-often taught class as an example: I’ve taught History of Modern Design online 6 times (totaling over 200 students) since I redesigned it in 2013, and yet I have only 1 review posted for that class. Would you really want to make your decision to take the class based on one person’s opinion?

Much better to choose your courses based on other factors that are more concrete, and give the professor a chance. If you’re not sure about a course, email the instructor ahead of time and see if you can get a copy of the syllabus to see if the class looks like it would be a good fit for you. And we have a generous week-and-a-half long add/drop period, so nothing is set in stone – you’ll have several class meetings (at least) to make your own decision about an instructor.

Rate my seems to be here to stay, and students will inevitably be drawn to it. But with this more realistic view of what the site actually offers, try to take what you read there with a very large grain of salt.futurama gif

Or in the words of a great New York Times piece about the site, consider it “a lovable relic of Web 1.0. With more than 10 million quirky, untrustworthy reviews, it’s going strong. Read it like a novel, watch it like MTV, study it like sociology. Just don’t base any real decisions on it.”

Dr. Emily Halligan
Undergraduate Academic Advising Center


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