Grad Student Community

Each week, we ask a member of the College of Education grad student community to share three picks related to one of their passions. View some of our recent features below:

Ayah Issa

Photo of Ayah Issah. Ayah stands in front of a hilly landscape, with a body of water on one side and green foliage on the other. She wears a dark green sweatshirt and a beige head covering.

Ayah Issa, a Curriculum, Instruction & Teacher Education student, share 3 favorite recent reads:

Since starting the CITE program, I’ve found myself enjoying graphic novels and poetry much more than a traditional novel. Here are a few of my favorite reads: 

  1. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui is an autobiographical graphic novel that follows the intergenerational story of a Vietnamese immigrant family. The visuals provided with each experience of trauma and joy have me revisiting this story time and time again.
  2. Poems by Mahmoud Darwish: From The Butterfly’s Burden to scattered poems found online, Darwish’s poems, originally published in Arabic, have always been close to my heart. Seen as the Palestinian national poet, his words flow through exile, diaspora, and the sentiments of nature and family.
  3. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein is one of many written pieces by Stein that attempts to remove the symbolism from words and instead turn reading into a visual action. Here, in her unique style of writing, Stein’s words hold the same function and interest as pictures.

Aliya Bizhanova

Photo of Aliya Bizhanova. Aliya sits on a sled with two small children. All are wearing winter gear.

Aliya Bizhanova, Education Policy Ph.D. student, shares 3 favorite spots for students new to East Lansing:

My three “picks” are for graduate students who are new to East Lansing, Michigan, and/or the U.S. that I and my family found helpful and enjoyable when we first moved here:

  1. ASTC Travel Passport Program: Join ASTC Museum Travel Passport Program through the Lansing Impression 5 Science Center to get access to hundreds of museums across the U.S. for free. Our family’s favorites are the Field Museum in Chicago, Buffalo Museum of Science in NY and Maryland Science Center in Baltimore.
  2. Harris Nature Center: Join Harris Nature Center in Okemos, MI, for a nice trail walk. They have a great playground for kids and offer live Michigan animal displays. It is a beautiful place! 
  3. Mickey Mouse Hill: As a winter activity, our family enjoys snow tubing at the hill behind the McDonald Middle School in East Lansing (1601 Burcham Dr.). This hill is behind the middle school by the baseball fields, known to locals (though no one’s sure why!) as “Mickey Mouse Hill.”

Ben Zaleski

Photo of Ben Zaleski. Ben sits on a wooden bench and is wearing a white button down shirt and a green tie.

Ben Zaleski, Master of Arts in Educational Technology (MAET) student:

Today it can be so easy to be glued to your phone and not be productive. However, our phones can be extremely useful at times and can help promote productivity as well! Here are some of my favorite apps that I have been using lately to help me be productive and promote creativity!

  1. Calm: Calm is a sleep and meditation app that has been extremely helpful for me in my life as a student. If you are having trouble sleeping because you’re overthinking your work or upcoming projects, you can use Calm to listen to some sleep stories or sounds to help you relax. Also, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you can try one of their meditation practices to help feel reenergized. 
  2. Spotify: What’s better than listening to music while you are studying and doing work? If you have trouble focusing with music, you can always find a playlist playing “Lo-Fi Beats.” Need some inspiration? Try listening to a short podcast and see how that impacts your creativity. One of my favorite podcasts recently is the “TBOY podcast.” 
  3. BeReal: Let’s face it: we all have fallen into endless scrolling on social media when we should be doing work. BeReal is a new social media app that can help stop endless scrolling. Typically, you only have a few friends on BeReal. Then once a day, you post a picture of what you are doing, and that is only shown until the next day when you post your next BeReal. Scrolling on here can help fill that social media craving that we all get some time, but it only lasts a few minutes since you only see content from your friends that day.

Yetunde Alabede

Yetunde Alabede photo. Yetunde wears a blue turtleneck and a long silver necklace.

Yetunde Alabede, second-year student in the Curriculum, Instruction & Teacher Education program and Teacher Education department rep in the Council of Graduate Students: 

I am not a fan of the music genre of popular culture, but with staying away from home and having no physical contact with who I call “true friends,” I have found solace in music, specifically Afropop. Fela Anikulapo’s classic songs have been some of my favorites, but recently, I have listened more to young Nigerian Afropop singers. I choose music based on lyrics, affect, and how danceable the songs are. Here are a few of the favorites that bring me joy and connect me to my root:

  1. Adekunle Gold – Ire: Ire captures the essence of what I call my “home” and that regardless of where I go, home is where we find solace and succor. Indeed, ire ń bẹ n’ílé! Listen via YouTube
  2. Duduke – Simi: Simi released this song as part of her maternity shoot/ baby announcement. She and her husband, Adekunle Gold, are very private but communicate a lot with their songs. Dùdùké reminds me of how my heart beats for my daughter (right from the womb) and my loved ones while away from them. Hence, I love the song because it is not only contemporary but also evergreen because of the language used. I learned how to say the sound of the heartbeat in Yorùbá (my native language) from the song. The song also has a French version. Listen via YouTube
  3. Adulthood Na Scam – Ladé: Ladé’s debut album talks about all the responsibilities we have to shoulder as adults in a language that feels fun and well understood. I love her choice of Nigerian pidgin in her song and, honestly, “adulthood na scam.” As children, we get everything for free, and we have no worries, and that is why I am in the same boat as Ladé, who is willing to trade anything to become a child again. I love this song because apart from the beats that my toddler and I dance to, the language of the music helps me introduce the Nigerian pidgin to my child while we practice some dance steps and sing along. Listen via YouTube

These songs and the artists’ craft appeal to me because of their choice of words in their different albums, especially as they translanguage. This helps me not only in my bilingual/multilingual research among African transnational families but also one of the ways of exposing my child to Nigerian culture. Indeed, my life is part of my research, which brings me joy always.

Jonathan Washington

Photo of Jonathan Washington. Jonathan stands in front of green foliage. He wears a dark blue suit, a red shirt and a red and blue striped tie.

Jonathan Washington is a second-year student in the M.A. in Student Affairs Administration:

I love surrounding myself with motivational and inspirational quotes, along with words of affirmation to remind myself of what I am capable of and what is possible. Here are three of my favorite quotes. If these do not resonate with you, I challenge you to look within yourself for motivation and understand what moves you. 

  1. “The bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.” — Anonymous 
  2. “Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.” — Swami Sivananda
  3. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seed you plant.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Jess Reed

Jess Reed photo. Jess wears a purple patterned shirt.

Jess Reed, CITE doctoral student: 

I love being from Detroit! I want to share three of my favorite spots in the city:

  1. Detroit Sip is a Black woman-owned coffee shop in Northwest Detroit. It is community-centered, aesthetically affirming, and spacious. Before the pandemic, I would host writing groups there. If you’re ever looking for a place to chill or work (away from East Lansing/Lansing), check them out. 
  2. The Griot Music Lounge is a soulful sonic lover’s dream. Known as an “intimate listening lounge and bar,” it is a mellow spot with a whole lot of vinyl records to peruse and enjoy. 
  3. The Milliken State Park and Harbor is just near the Detroit River. In the warmer months, you gotta steal some time by the water (you’ll notice Canada just across the river). This park is also close to the Dequindre Cut Greenway, which is a cool pathway between the River Walk and Eastern Market

Ashley McPeek

Ashley McPeek photo. Ashley sits on a grassy lawn with a dog. She is wearing a white Michigan State sweater.

Ashley McPeek, PhD Student in Kinesiology & Graduate Career Advisor

I’ve always enjoyed time spent outdoors with my husband and our dog, Otis. Since we came to Michigan from the east coast, we were used to spending a lot of outdoor time near the ocean. We quickly learned just how great Lake Michigan was and have found our favorite spots to visit:

  1. Muskegon State Park: Although it’s not too far for a day trip, the state park is great for a 1-2 night adventure. The campground isn’t massive (and its definitely not rustic) but the beaches are beautiful and the park/beach is super dog friendly! We even have a favorite restaurant that we stop at on our way out of town (Bear Lake Tavern).
  2. Saugatuck: I know this is isn’t a hidden gem, but just a 1.5 hour drive away from Lansing, Saugatuck has been our go-to day trip spot. Saugatuck is the most friendly and the biggest beach we’ve been too! Hiking the dunes and swimming in Lake Michigan must be followed by a stroll through town to admire the galleries and shops.  
  3. Beaver Island: Although this place is much more than a road trip away (you need to drive up to Charlevoix and then take a 2.5 hour ferry or a small airplane to get to the island), it is well worth the trip. We spent a memorial day weekend in Beaver Island. The east side beach was the best, while the quiet evenings and night star gazing could not be beat.