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  • Day in the Life: Liselle Milazzo

    Hello everyone!

    My name is Liselle and I am a second year PhD student in the Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism. My research interest is on film-tourism, specifically looking at sites of imagination (think Harry Potter World and Hogwarts!), in order to investigate culture, commodification, and meaning. This summer, I'm preparing for prelims and wrestling with big ideas related to theory and methodology for my work. It feels like everday I read something inspiring and thought-provoking! 

    In my department, the Prelim exam takes place before you can begin work on your dissertation proposal. I’m planning to take my prelim exam this fall, so I’m dedicating my summer to preparing for the exam. Here’s a look at a pretty typical day of prelim prep for this social sciences PhD student!

    6:30 a.m.: Rise and shine! First is to make coffee! When I started my MA, I started drinking coffee. My grad career might as well be hashtagged #poweredbycaffeine. Before the heat of the day sets in and while the coffee is brewing, I also water my plants. I’m determined to have a flower and herb garden on my balcony. This summer there is rosemary, thyme, strawberries, and peppers. I enjoy my first cup of coffee outside rain or shine.


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    7:00 a.m.: Begin reading. I’m a morning person. My best work happens before 3 p.m. Unlike with the physical sciences, which demand attendance at a microscope in a lab, I can begin to untangle the mysteries of the tourism industry from my apartment. At the beginning of the summer, I set myself a schedule to prepare properly. On Mondays I review or read an article about Methodology, on Tuesday’s it’s all about theory, Wednesday’s are dedicated to Media; on Thursday I’m regaled with articles on Tourism; Friday’s are for Fandom Studies. Notice the alliteration? One hundred percent intentional.

    8:30 a.m.: Break for breakfast! Most often it’s scrambled eggs and toast and more coffee. I have a general rule that I don’t do work while eating my meals.

    9:00 a.m.: By this time of the morning I’m itching to stretch my legs so I head over to a local coffee shop. They have great wide tables, plenty of outlets and brilliant windows so I never have to strain my eyes. I take notes by hand because it helps me retain the concepts better.

    1:00 p.m.: Break for lunch. I take a longer than typical lunch. The reason for this is two-fold. I eat at home, so I have to cook or assemble my meal, and my brain usually hurts from whatever I’ve been reading and thinking about. You need time to process sentences like: “But all such progress of individuation has been at the expense of the individuality in whose name it took place, leaving behind nothing except individuals’ determination to pursue their own purposes alone” (Horkheimer and Adorno, 2002, p. 125) in a way that it sinks in so you can begin to see the connections between it and your work.

    2:00 p.m.: In the afternoons I settle into answering emails and grade. Some days one is longer than the other. Students tend to email most at the beginning and end of the term while grading is heaviest in the middle. Today I am grading reflections and discussion posts for Nature and American Culture.


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    3:00 p.m.: I go to pick up all of the books I have requested from the library. I sit under a tree and flip through the books to look for keywords. Today I’m looking for references to Marx, exchange-value, use-value, consumerism, commodity so I have a fresh reading list in mind for tomorrow morning.

    5:00 p.m.: My roommate and I chat about our day while we cook. Dinner is usually something simple and tonight is chicken, broccoli, and rice.

    6:00 p.m.: I abhor the gym… So I joined the circus. Yup, you heard me. The circus. Defy Gravity is an amazing aerial studio in town where students can learn the trapeze, lyra (shown in the picture) or aerial silks. It is a wonderful non-competitive, creative work out with good people who encourage you along your journey no matter where you are. It’s an excellent counterbalance to the stress of grad life.

    8:30 p.m.:Get ready for bed and put on Anne with an E on Netflix!

    Photos courtesy of Liselle Milazzo. 

    Illinois grad students - interested in writing a "Day in the Life" post of your own? Have an idea for a blog post? Send us an e-mail at


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    Liselle Milazzo is a 2nd year PhD student in Recreation, Sport and Tourism. Originally from Connecticut, Liselle enjoys traveling the world as often as she can. Her research focuses on sites of imagination in film tourism. 

  • Using Job Ads for Career Exploration

    Reviewing advertisements of all sorts can help you identify appealing job types and sectors that you may never even have heard of, advises Derek Attig in this post originally published on Inside Higher Ed.

    When it comes to careers, we tend to pay attention to what’s right in front of us. And for most graduate students, that means academe. In graduate school, you are surrounded by other graduate students and faculty using similar kinds of skills to engage in similar kinds of tasks with similar kinds of goals. Immersed in all that similarity, it can be difficult to imagine or examine alternatives.

    So how do you actually do that? How do you explore jobs that no one you know works in, jobs that you maybe haven’t even heard of yet?

    My colleagues and I in the Graduate College of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign developed a method for doing just that, to provide graduate students with an easy way to identify and explore new career possibilities. We have used this method with groups of humanities Ph.D. students and with individual graduate students in fields as varied as human development and family studies, environmental engineering, psychology and mathematics.

    We often have students begin with this sample job ad for a nonprofit consulting position, and I recommend you do the same. Throughout this essay, I will refer to parts of this ad in order to further illustrate the process and help you use it. I also suggest that you take the following steps.

    Read Derek's suggestions now on Inside Higher Ed.


    Looking for more career advice from Derek? Read his posts on the GradLIFE blog or check out his Inside Higher Ed essays on the following topics:

    Want hands on help with your job search? Attend one of our Career and Professional Development workshops!


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    Derek Attig is the Director of Career Development for the Graduate College. After earning a PhD in History here at Illinois, Derek worked in nonprofit communications and instructional development before joining the Career Development team. A devotee of libraries and all things peculiar, Derek is currently writing a book about bookmobiles. 

  • Where Are They Now?: Adam Brandt

    Where can a graduate degree from the University of Illinois take you? In this series, we catch up with one recent Graduate College alum and ask the question: “Where are they now?”.

    Adam Brandt graduated from the University of Illinois in 2014 with his PhD in Animal Sciences. With his love for teaching and research (some of his studies have focused on African elephants and the Hispanolan solenodon), a university job fit his career goals perfectly. Now, as an Assistant Professor of Biology at St. Norbert College (De Pere, Wisconsin), he teaches a variety of undergraduate courses including general biology, animal behavior, disease ecology, and African wildlife conservation & health, and conducts research in the field of molecular ecology.

    Describe your career path following graduation. What made you want to pursue a career as a professor? What was the transition from graduate school to a career as a professor like for you? Were there any challenges you faced?

    After graduating, I was a post-doc at the Illinois Natural History Survey studying chronic wasting disease. This position lasted about a year and a half before I was offered a position with St. Norbert College in Fall 2016. A career as a professor just seemed a natural fit to my interests. I very much enjoy teaching and research, so academia was a perfect match. The transition was stressful, mostly because finding a tenure-track position is challenging. The job market is very competitive and you’re hoping that your very specific set of skills is the very specific thing an institution needs in a new hire. To make the search even more stressful, my wife also graduated from Illinois with a PhD in Animal Sciences with a very similar research focus—so finding two of these elusive tenure-track positions at the same institution or at least within a reasonable commute of one another. . . well that just seemed impossible. I got an offer with St. Norbert College, so I moved my family from Urbana to Wisconsin hoping we could find a second job sooner rather than later. My wife (Jess) will say it was pure luck but really, she is the better half of this partnership. She landed a visiting assistant professor position at another small liberal arts college (Marian University) and managed to turn that into a tenure-track position within a year.

    You were recently featured on the Netflix documentary 72 Dangerous Animals: Latin America (Episode 9), discussing the venomous Hispaniolan solenodon. How did you become involved with this project? What was the experience like?

    The Hispaniolan solenodon (Solenodon paradoxus). Image credit: Solenodon Joe / CC BY 3.0.


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    This research had been a side project my advisor (Alfred Roca) and I worked on for a few years without much progress. Eventually through some collaborations, we increased our sample size and managed to get the Hispanolan solenodon mitogenome published. We put out a press release and the paper got some attention. I guess when you talk about a venomous mammal with Freddy Krueger claws that lived with the dinosaurs, people get interested! It was about that time that Showrunner productions was working on their next series. They had success with the “72 Animal” series (which also includes dangerous animals in Australia and the cutest animals). The solenodon was on their list for Latin America so they contacted me about doing an interview on camera. I happened to be free when they were interested in filming. The experience was and still is surreal. The interview only took a few hours and it was my first experience with anything of the sort. I was also interviewed by the local media about being in the series, which was also pretty neat. A few friends and colleagues have younger kids that saw me on Netflix, they were very excited to talk about the solenodon. I think that was the best part of it, getting someone excited about science and nature. You can learn more about the solenodon and Adam’s interview in this YouTube video.

    How did your experiences teaching as a graduate student at Illinois shape the way you mentor and teach your students at St. Norbert College?

    Teaching as a grad student helped me to define my teaching style. I worked for Amy Fischer in Animal Sciences in the Companion Animal Biology and Humane Education program and taught a wide range of courses in different settings. I started with ANSC 207—Companion Animal Biology and Care, which is an online course with a virtual discussion session. Engaging students in an online classroom without face-to-face interactions is a challenge and forces you to really analyze your methods. I led discussion sessions for ANSC 250—Companion Animals and Society, which exposed students to controversial issues. Here, I refined techniques to get students to think critically about a topic. I lectured in larger classes with 150+ students, again a completely different experience to deliver material and get the students involved. I even designed a course on small mammal care. I learned a lot about what works, more about what doesn’t work, and how this varies depending on the learning environment. I learned a lot about using technology in courses (eg. Compass, Ellumiate, Wikis, YouTube videos, etc.). Probably most importantly I learned how to assess my teaching effectiveness beyond student evaluations. All of these teaching opportunities allowed me to develop a teaching pedagogy that prepares students for successful careers and to be engaged citizens.

    What do you think are the most interesting, rewarding, and/or surprising aspects of your job?

    The most rewarding and surprising aspect is what kind of impact I have on students. On a day-to-day basis, I’m just trying to present information that I hope they will process and retain. I want them to do well in life, but I don’t expect to have any profound impact while talking about photosynthesis. Now and then, I will get an email or get a comment from a student about something that really sparked their interest—a paper I shared, a weird animal behavior, or some medical application that relates to the concept we’re discussing in class. Sometimes it just gets them excited about the topic, other times it has a bigger effect in guiding their career pursuits.

    Is there a particular course, professor, or experience at the University of Illinois that has impacted your way of thinking?

    I have to give credit to Alfred Roca and Amy Fischer. I’ve known and worked with Al for a very long time and I credit him with all of my research success. He pushed me to be a better scientist, he made sure I was thorough, accurate, and didn’t hesitate to point out when I was just hand waving on a weakly supported point. I credit Amy with all of my teaching success. She gave me countless opportunities to develop my skills and gave honest and constructive feedback that truly improved my teaching. The lessons I learned from both Amy and Al carry on in my research and teaching today.

    What is one piece of advice you would give to graduate students at Illinois?

    Take time for yourself.


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    This interview was conducted by Emily Wuchner who is the Thesis Coordinator at the Graduate College. She holds a PhD in musicology from the University of Illinois, and her work focuses on music and social welfare in eighteenth-century Austria. In her free time, she enjoys playing the bassoon, watching sports, and hanging out with her calico cat, Gracie Sue.