Top 5 Tips for Graduate School Success

Top 5 Tips for Graduate School Success

Top 5 Tips for Graduate school

So, you are thinking about completing your Master’s degree.  You may be just graduating with your bachelor’s, established in your career, seeking career advancement, or an overall career change.  You should commend yourself wherever you currently are in your professional journey.  Graduate school is essential for career progression and as daunting as the challenge may be it is feasible and worthwhile.  However, there are certain things that I wish I had known previously to enrolling in my first graduate courses that would have saved me a ton of grief on this grad school journey.

Learn the APA Manual

Do you briefly remember being introduced to this in your undergraduate English and Research classes?  You know, the blue book that you couldn’t wait to toss as soon as you completed those courses!  Well, don’t get too excited and toss that manual out just yet.  The APA manual will be your bible at the graduate level.  It is best to not only familiarize yourself with it but read it cover to cover.  In all seriousness, there will be no mercy for APA formatting issues at the graduate level, and failure to comply will hinder your ability to graduate.  Let’s be honest; graduate school is very expensive so do not lose points over APA errors and get your bang for your bucks when it’s time to cash in on that top G.P.A.


Grad school will push your writing capabilities to the maximum.  When I first started, I went in under the false pretenses that I was a decent writer.  After all, my highest scores were always in English and Language Arts.  However, never underestimate the power of proofreading your document, or having someone else review it.  It is important to remember that you are not supposed to be writing as if you are talking in scholarly writing.  Read every single thing you submit out loud at least two times before turning it in.  You will be surprised at some errors you will find in your documents once you hear it out loud. I swear by Owlet Purdue, Grammarly, and PERRLA to assist with the completion of my papers.

Don’t Break

One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my Grad school journey was “taking a break”.  Apparently, life happens to everybody, but if you can help it, you should stay on the course to graduate on time.  While taking a leave of absence is certainly an option, there are some universities have a time limit on the amount of time you can spend on the completion of your master’s degree.  Taking a leave of absence sounds a nice break until you return and you are under even more pressure to complete your degree.  Stay on track and graduate on time.  Put yourself out of grad school misery.  Try not to prolong it.

Find Balance

My zodiac sign of a Libra makes finding balance very high on my priority list.  Regardless of your sign, it is essential to find a way to balance everything you have going on in life.  Many of us are career focused, have spouses or partners, children, and community obligations.  There are going to be some times that you will simply have to say no to others as well as avoid taking on too many additional duties.  You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.  Do not feel guilty about taking a step back or going on a much need hiatus to keep everything together.  Remember that this is temporary, and there will always be opportunities to restock your plate once you have graduated.

Cost vs. Reputation

This has been an ongoing debate for such a long time.  I will give you my honest opinion and say that it is best to go for value in regards to selecting a school to attend.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with investing yourself, but please do not break the bank along the way.  Try your very best to avoid debt, save up, and develop a reasonable budget that you can use to finance your educational goals.  If you are shelling out a ton of money, ensure that the institution has a reputation that fits your tuition bill.  Student loan debt is a serious problem.  Remember that you will need to pay that money back, and if this degree does not make a high paying job seem promising to you it may be necessary to scale back.  Remember, grad school isn’t cheap!

Wrapping it All Up

I hope that you avoid the pitfalls that I incurred during my grad school journey and that these tips will help ease you in your transition and prepare you for entry into grad school.  A graduate degree is totally obtainable; it’s just a different academic dynamic.  I’ll see you on the other side!

graduation photo




3 Tips for Hosting a Successful Vision Board Party

3 Tips for Hosting a Successful Vision Board Party

Get Your Supplies Together
Vision boards are an excellent way to visualize your best life, goals, and dreams. Vision boards are a creative way to generate a visual of the things that you want to see manifested in your life, and a way to provide yourself a daily reminder of why you work so hard, and what your outcome will be. Creating a vision board does not have to be a tedious process. This can be a fun opportunity for a girls night, wine, and some creativity
Here is what you need to host your vision board party:
-Poster boards/Paper or Cork Board
-Most Importantly Some Good Wine/Vino
Have a Method to Your Board
There is no right or wrong way to do this. I tend to divide my poster board into sections by category. Divide you vision board into 9 different sections.  The top three sections of the board (from left to right) should be prosperity, reputation, partnerships/love.  The second row should be family, health, and unity.  The third row should be self-improvement, career, and travel.  You can see a visual example of several options on Pinterest.
It is important to remember that you can change or update your vision board as much as you deem it necessary. I typically opt for the cork board version of the vision board because it is easier to modify. If you are hosting the vision board party and would like to utilize the cork board, it may be more cost-effective to collect those funds from your guests in advance, or request that they bring their own if they would like to use that.
Get Digital
Don’t have the time or resources to buy supplies for everyone? Get digital with your vision boards. There are several different ways that you can complete a vision board digitally by downloading simple apps from App Store from Apple or the Android Market. I particularly like the Success Vision Board Application by Jack Canfield, the creator for chicken soup for the soul. You can also create one online at
Remember the law of attraction! Hang your vision board somewhere you will see it daily. Use it to inspire you and generate positive energy at the beginning of your day. Live and work towards your dreams every day.

Photo by keepitsurreal

Goal Setting: Top Five Ways to Make Sure You Are Accomplishing Your Goals

Goal Setting: Top Five Ways to Make Sure You Are Accomplishing Your Goals

The beginning of a new year is a common time to reflect on the previous year, and deciding what goals you would like to accomplish in the next 365 days. This is not a time to be shy about the things that you want in your life.  Be bold, intentional, and brave when setting goals for yourself.  The sky is not the limit; it is simply the view.  Although we tend to start out highly motivated and dedicated to the goals that we have set, we have got be honest with ourselves and realize that often that ambition can fade, and nothing gets accomplished! I want to share with you five methods I utilize to keep myself grounded, motivated, and a realizer of my goals.

Find Yourself a GOAL MATE

What is a GOAL MATE?  A goal mate is someone that you have a great connection with that supports, motivates, encourages, and enables you to manifest all of your wildest dreams. It does not matter how far-fetched they may seem, your GOAL MATE will not only hold you accountable but encourage you to jump in and get dirty neck first.  Whether you succeed or fail at accomplishing a goal they are there to pick you up if you break your neck for real (just kidding), brush you off, and send you on your awesomely merry way to attempt your next goal.  Keep in mind, that in order to be a good GOAL MATE, you need to reciprocate the same energy and tenacity that your partner(s) give to you.  It’s important to keep each other focused, interested, and motivated.

Make Clear, Objective, and Achievable Goals

Be clear and intentional about the goals you are setting.  It is also important to be specific.  Think about where you want to be with your finances, health, career, and love life. Self-love included. Be realistic with your timeline and remember that there are only 12 months in a year, but that is a valuable time that can be leveraged to generate a better you.

Make a Vision Board or Host a Vision Board Party

This is an annual tradition of mine. Each year I invite my GOAL MATES, friends, neighbors, co-workers over to craft vision boards. This is inexpensive and so much fun. All you need is magazines, scissors, glue, posters, your imaginations, and perhaps some wine!

Set Mall Quarterly Milestones

Hold yourself accountable. Think about where you want your progress to be after 3,6, and 9 months.  I like to review my goals monthly.  This keeps it relevant in my mind.  You should review your goals quarterly at a minimum.  Think about what is working for you, and what you can switch up.

Look at It

If you do not see your goals periodically, or place your vision board somewhere that you can see it every day. I have my goals on my vision board, iPhone, iPad, and posted in my locker at work.  Don’t forget the plans you have made for yourself.  Utilize these tools, go forth, and prosper!

Jazmin Nicole is a military officer, obstetrics nurse, advisory board member of Black Nurses Rock Inc., and the founder/CEO of Jazmin Nicole & Co.

For more posts/blogs like this follow me on twitter (@jazminweb), Instagram (@therealjazminnicole_, and Facebook (Jazmin Nicole and Co.)

A foundation for future growth

In an effort to combat the major health issues plaguing American Indians, the University of Kansas Medical Center and the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance announced plans to create a Center for American Indian Community Health, with help from a $7.5 million grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institutes of Health. This new Center is sure to bring some much-needed care to the American Indian community, through improving education, outreach, research, and community resources.

Compared to the U.S. population as a whole, American Indians are astronomically disproportionately affected by a number of diseases: they are 420% more likely to die from diabetes, they are 100% more likely to die from tobacco-related illnesses, they have the lowest screening rates for breast and colorectal cancer, and they have the lowest five-year cancer survival rate.

Researchers plan to use the grant money in their efforts to recruit American Indian high school and college students into the health sciences programs at University of Kansas. No American Indians had been enrolled in the programs until recently. Now, three students have graduated, five are enrolled, and several more should be matriculating. Outreach has also been performed at the Haskell Indian Nations University to find students who might be interested in the public health program. 

Historically, American Indians have been very distrustful of outsiders, including medical care providers, after a tumultuous and tragedy-filled history since explorers first came to America. The hope is that these graduates will return to their communities to improve the quality of care and work toward eliminating health disparities.

Public Spirit

In the early decades of the 20th century, life was very hard for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) in western North Carolina. Every major index of quality of life, including housing, education and health care, was deplorable, even by the standards of the time. Lula Owl Gloyne, RN (1891-1985), the first EBCI public health nurse, spent her life and career improving the health of Cherokee people through direct service, political advocacy and community partnerships.

Gloyne’s pioneering work motivated other young Cherokee women, notably Ernestine Walkingstick, RN, to follow in her footsteps. Today, Lula Owl Gloyne’s story is all but unknown outside of North Carolina, but her dedication to her people as well as the broader community continues to inspire a new generation of public health nurses.

History and Trauma

For centuries, Cherokee people lived in the southern Appalachian Mountains before white explorers and homesteaders started moving onto their lands. Treaties between various white governments and Indian nations that identified boundaries between the two groups were violated and ignored by white settlers. Fighting and wars broke out as whites continued to encroach on Cherokee land. The Cherokee tribe was decimated by war and by disease, such as smallpox and measles, contracted from encounters with white people.

Greatly outnumbered by the mid 1830s, the Cherokee were rounded up by U.S. government troops and forced at gunpoint to leave their ancestral homelands and walk to federally designated “Indian Territory” in what is now Oklahoma. This forced relocation is known as the Trail of Tears because thousands of Cherokee people and other Native Americans died from exposure, starvation and disease along the way. However, a few hundred Cherokee either evaded the federal troops that rounded up tribal members or escaped along the Trail of Tears and returned to the mountains of southwestern North Carolina. Their descendents are the primary constituents of today’s Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.1

In the decades that followed, the appalling conditions imposed by slavery and the destruction resulting from the Civil War created a climate of extreme poverty in the American South. As the turn of the 20th century approached, most families in rural Appalachian North Carolina had no electricity, running water, sewage services or paved roads. If life was hard for the average white mountaineer at this time, it was generally even more difficult for the Cherokee people living on or near the Qualla Boundary (the present-day home of the EBCI) near the town of Cherokee, N.C.2

By around 1900, the tribe numbered less than 10,000 and its members were not welcomed by either the local white or African American communities. In a misguided effort to “help” the Indians, various Christian missionaries and later the federal government established Indian boarding schools. Believing Cherokee children would be best served by assimilating into white culture, the government forced them to leave their families and attend these schools, where they were severely punished for speaking their native language, practicing their religion and wearing tribal clothing.1 Lula Leta Owl was born into this environment in 1891.

Following her Calling

Lula Owl was the first of 10 children born to Daniel Lloyd Owl, a Cherokee blacksmith, and Nettie Harris Owl, a Catawba Indian who was a traditional basket maker and potter. Lloyd did not speak Catawba and Nettie did not speak Cherokee, but both parents shared a basic knowledge of English which became the primary language in the household. Mrs. Mary Wachacha, Lula Owl Gloyne’s granddaughter, surmises that the Owl children’s mastery of the English language explains why all seven siblings who survived to adulthood went on to professional careers. Lula Owl attended a mission school on the Qualla Boundary and then went to Hampton Institute in Hampton, Va., to complete her education.3

Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute (now known as Hampton University) was chartered in 1868 as one of the first colleges for African Americans in the south after the Civil War. Hampton’s mission was to train students to become teachers and return to their home communities to uplift their race through education. From 1878 until 1923, the institute conducted a unique experiment in biracial education by admitting and educating American Indian students alongside African American students. Well over 1,000 Indian students from over 20 tribes graduated from Hampton during this period.4

After her own graduation in 1914, Lula Owl spent a year in the classroom teaching Catawba children in Rock Hill, South Carolina. During that year, she decided to follow her calling to become a nurse. Mentors from her Hampton days arranged for Owl to enter the Chestnut Hill Hospital School of Nursing in Philadelphia.

All nursing students at Chestnut Hill Hospital were required to attend church services weekly. Owl was raised a Southern Baptist but she had no way of getting to the Baptist church located many miles away. The only church within walking distance of the hospital was St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Owl started attending this church, whose members not only welcomed but “adopted” her. They collected donations of love offerings (cash contributions) and used clothing for her. When Owl graduated from Chestnut Hill in 1916, she was awarded the gold medal in obstetrical nursing and became the first EBCI registered nurse.5 Her church arranged a job for her as the missionary school nurse at St. Elizabeth’s Episcopal School on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in Wakapala, South Dakota.3

During her two years at Standing Rock, she milked cows, learned to ride horseback and worked her way into the Sioux Indians’ hearts and homes. According to her granddaughter, her duties extended far beyond the school infirmary. Owl undertook immunization campaigns, delivered many babies and provided home care to the aging and infirm. Early in her time on the reservation, one of the chiefs experienced a headache so severe he thought he was dying. Owl brought him some kind of medication that brought relief. He became one of her biggest supporters on the reservation.

In 1917, the United States joined its allies in fighting World War I. The Red Cross and the Army Nurse Corps encouraged all RNs to serve their country during the war. Owl had planned on going to Europe to be a field nurse for the U.S. Army but failed the “seaworthy” exam due to extreme seasickness. Instead, she was assigned to Camp Lewis in Washington State as a second lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps.3 Owl was the only member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to serve as an officer in WWI.6.

While in South Dakota, she met Jack Gloyne, an Army enlistee passing through the west on his way to Camp Lewis. They rekindled their acquaintance at Camp Lewis, but since she was an officer and he an enlisted man, fraternization was prohibited. Despite the ban, they were secretly wed in 1918. After the war ended they spent a short time in Oklahoma while Lula Gloyne cared for a sick family member. Around 1921 the couple returned to Cherokee to set up housekeeping.3

Advocating for Change

At that time, the town of Cherokee did not have a hospital or a full-time doctor. Lula Owl Gloyne was the first professional health care provider available to help the people on the Qualla Boundary.6

In a 1983 interview with a local newspaper, Gloyne recalled her early years as a nurse in Cherokee. “There was no hospital in Cherokee then, just a clinic at the Quaker grade school and a doctor who worked there part time,” she explained. “When I came home [to the EBCI reservation] they asked me to help out, and at first I worked without pay. I did all the outside work. I got called to homes all around here. I didn’t have a horse or a wagon back then, so I had to make my calls on foot. I got caught in places [too far away from the doctor] where I’d just have to do what had to be done. Men got cut up and I’d have to sew them up. Women would call on me to deliver their babies. Today it would be illegal to do a lot of that, but back then there was no one else.”7

Gloyne’s desire for the Cherokee people to have a hospital on the Qualla Boundary impelled her to go to Washington, D.C., where she talked with two officials who oversaw all public health work for the Indian Health Service. In 1934, her efforts resulted in the enlargement of the clinic dispensary to include a nine-room inpatient ward and sunroom for women and a six- bed ward for men. For the first time, people who lived on the Qualla Boundary had access to hospital care. A doctor began to make regular hospital visits and Gloyne was appointed head nurse. In addition to overseeing the hospital, Gloyne continued to see patients in the community, providing home health, hospice and midwifery services. With her Indian Health Service salary, she bought herself a horse. Later, as paved roads became more common, the government bought her a car to make her travels in the community quicker and easier.7

Gloyne’s advocacy efforts in Washington also resulted in a general health survey of the EBCI people living on the Qualla Boundary, conducted from June 5-17, 1933. The U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Indian Affairs, the North Carolina Tuberculosis Sanatorium and the North Carolina State Board of Health collaborated on this project, to determine the tribe’s “public health needs with some accuracy and define federal and state responsibilities” in this area. More than 900 Cherokee people of all ages received a complete physical examination, dental examination and free immunizations for smallpox, diphtheria and typhoid fever as part of the survey.

Among the survey’s findings were that 9% of those surveyed had active tuberculosis and 4.6% had syphilis. Higher-than-state rates of trachoma, a disease of the eyes, were also found. Beyond simply gathering data, the survey project provided treatment for the people suffering from these ailments.8

Forty years later, a report published in the April 1972 issue of the North Carolina Health Bulletin (the official publication of the state’s Department of Health) stated that tuberculosis, syphilis and roundworms had become only minor problems on the Qualla Boundary, while the most pressing public health issues were diabetes, motor vehicle accidents, homicide, suicide and dental carries in children. Lula Owl Gloyne’s work as the primary “field nurse” on the Qualla Boundary for many of the intervening years was probably at least partially responsible for the decreases in infectious diseases in her community.

Continuing Her Legacy

The Gloynes had four children, but unfortunately Jack Gloyne died before the youngest was two years old. After her husband’s death, Lula Gloyne moved west to work as a nurse at the Wyandotte Indian School and Clinic in Miami, Oklahoma. In 1936, while on an ambulance run, the ambulance was in a serious accident and Gloyne nearly lost her life. The doctors initially thought she might never walk again. She returned to Cherokee to recuperate near her family and slowly resumed her nursing career.

Gloyne worked as she was able and as needs arose. Over the years, she served as a private duty nurse, in hospital staff and supervisory positions in nearby Sylva and Bryson City, N.C., and as the company nurse for the outdoor drama “Unto These Hills,” a summer theater production that tells the story of the Trail of Tears. In 1969, at age 77, she retired from her last paid position as the supervisory home visiting nurse for the Community Action program in Cherokee.3

From her retirement until her death in April 1985 at age 93, Gloyne remained an asset to her community. She was honored by District 23 of the North Carolina Nurses Association on May 1, 1978, when she was 87 years old. Part of the speech delivered that night reads: “Even though Lula is officially retired, she has never been out of nursing. She started at an early age, when as the big sister she was responsible for much of the care of the younger children, and of the parents when one was ill or in need. Between her league bowling, weaving classes, extension club activities, church activities, gardening etc., she still helps with blood banks, aids invalids in the home, helps when new babies arrive and often has ailing relatives in her home.”9

Lula Owl Gloyne’s work inspired several young Eastern Band of Cherokee women in North Carolina to follow her path and pursue careers in public health nursing. Ernestine Sharon Walkingstick (1937-1999) was one of these nurses. Born in Cherokee, Walkingstick graduated from Northwestern State School of Nursing in Louisiana in 1961. She then returned to North Carolina and became the director of community health nursing for the EBCI reservation.10 In that capacity she established the first clinic for the Indian population in Robbinsville, N.C., a remote village in the mountains where travel is difficult in the winter months.11 Walkingstick also initiated, coordinated and operated the Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat clinics at the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee.10

Walkingstick followed Gloyne’s example of tireless community service. In addition to her paid employment, Walkingstick was actively involved in numerous professional and community volunteer activities. She was instrumental in founding the first domestic violence shelter in her region, which is now named in her honor. She raised money for the Cherokee Children’s Home, was an officer in the Cherokee Lions Club, served as board chairman of the Cherokee Center for Family Services and was named “Woman of the Year” for community development by the area North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Walkingstick was also a member of the health advisory committee for the local Head Start program and served on the EBCI Tribal Health Board.

Nurses of all races and ethnicities, in all parts of the country, can be inspired by the life and work of Lula Owl Gloyne. She triumphed over many obstacles to bring health and hope to the Cherokee people in western North Carolina.


  1. Conley, R.J. (2005). The Cherokee Nation: A History. University of New Mexico Press.
  2. Pollitt, P.A. (1991). “Lydia Holman: Community Health Pioneer.” Nursing Outlook, Vol. 39, No. 5, pp. 230-232.
  3. Wachacha, M., personal interview, December 11, 2008.
  4. Lindsey, D. (1994). Indians at Hampton Institute, 1877-1923. University of Illinois Press.
  5. Carney, V.M. (2005). Eastern Band Cherokee Women. University of Tennessee Press.
  6. Finger, J.R. (1992). Cherokee Americans: The Eastern Band of the Cherokee in the Twentieth Century. University of Nebraska Press.
  7. Carden, S. (1983). “Former Boundary Field Nurse Got First Hospital Opened.” The Sylva Herald, November 17, pp. 4-5.
  8. North Carolina Department of Health (1933). “Health Work Among the Cherokee Indians.” North Carolina Health Bulletin, 6-8.
  9. North Carolina Nurses Association, District 23 (1978). “Recognition of Lula (Owl) Gloyne.” Paper presented at May 1 meeting.
  10. North Carolina Nurses Association (2003). North Carolina Nurses: A Century of Caring calendar.
  11. Martin, J. (1999). “Walkingstick, a Dedicated Public Servant, Passes Away.”  Cherokee One Feather, July 13, pp.1, 5.
  12. Bienick, S. (1999). “A Letter to Ernestine Walkingstick.” Cherokee Voice, XVIII, Summer/Fall.