Tag Archives: grad school

Grad School Stuff: The Light at the End of the Tunnel!

Michigan_State_Spartans2For those of you that know me, you’re probably aware that I’m currently sludging my way through grad school. What you may not know, at least if we’re not in constant daily contact, is that if all goes according to plan, I’ll be finishing up my Masters degree at the end of May. Wild right? I can hardly believe it.

I mean where the heck did these two years go? However, before I don my second cap and gown and blow out of East Lansing for parts unknown, there are still a couple of important obstacles I must overcome. Specifically I need to submit a five to seven piece portfolio for review by my graduate committee as well as reflective essay tying the pieces together, and answer two specific committee ok’d questions at 10 pages a pop.

Doesn’t sound too bad right? That’s cause it’s not. At least I don’t think it is. I think I can do this! The beautiful thing about the portfolio review is that it’s already finished. I mean not totally finished, but the component parts are done. I’m thinking about including:

And I’m even looking forward to my reflective essay. It’s going to be fun tying all of these pieces together because very rarely do we get to articulate what our work means to us to an audience that’s willing to listen. Here I can trace a narrative through my time here at MSU and hopefully show my growth as a student, scholar, and writer.

I also turned in six questions to my grad committee, of which they’ll choose three, and I’ll choose two of those to write on. They went a little like this:

  1. Use the work of three rhet/comp scholars, specifically those who do work in digital rhetorics, to articulate one or two potential futures for digital comics.
  2. Choose a particular web comic and using it as an example, explore what digital rhetoric is in light of this web comic. How do the different modes of meaning-making in this web comic (e.g., visuals, audio, interactive experiences) change our understanding of digital rhetoric?
  3. How do technical communicators use comics? What industries utilize comics? What is valuable about comics that is able to translate across industries and disciplines?
  4. Due to the financial disparity between print and webcomics, most webcomic creators can’t afford professional editors to edit their work; thus they rely on family, friends, and fans. How do these non-professionals change what it means to be a comics editor? What sort of tasks do they engage in, what literacies to they bring to the table, and how does the immediacy of the internet and fan culture change the editorial experience?
  5. Editors are tasked with a multitude of duties and employ a variety of skill sets to accomplish their work. How has your own editorial understanding and philosophy grown, changed, or been influenced by experiences in the Writing Center and DRPW coursework?
  6. Look at your AL 805 final project, your Personal History of Rhetoric. AL 805 was the first class you took as a graduate student. In light of that, what have you learned about rhetoric and writing in the following three semesters? Specifically, address the five main points outlined in the Personal History: Questions, self-consciousness, appeal to classmates, an attempt at understanding historical contexts, a connection with comics.

And then I’ve just got to write ten pages on those bad boys and we call it a day! I’m not particularly fond of the third question, but I really like my fifth and sixth questions, and one and two are pretty awesome as well. Best part? I’m nearly ready to answer all of these, right meow!

Basically I just wanted to get all this stuff out into the ether so I can take a look at it. I’ve got some crazy busy weeks ahead of me, a conference to prepare for, big assignments due and everything, but like I said, I got this. Wish me luck folks.


Abstracting Comics Across the Digital Divide

I’m going to be posting a lot of my grad school writing assignments up here, especially when I manage to time them into comics.  In my Digital Rhetoric course we were asked to read this paper by Philip Agre, “How to Be a Thought Leader in Your Field” and work through one of his exercises.  Our instructions were such:

  • Pick an issue using the technique described by the letter in step one that you’ve been assigned from the Agre Thought Leader article.
  • Explain how you used the technique to move from a broad, general description of an issue to a more narrow definition of an issue that field insiders will recognize and that you can contribute to.
  • Your post will consist of a clever title and three detailed paragraphs of text.

And here’s my response:

Abstracting Comics Across the Digital Divide

Picking an issue for Agre’s “How to be a Leader in your Field” exercise is the easy part.  Seeing as I’m a comic book journalist and comic creator hopeful, the big issue concerning my profession seems to be more a question – What’s the best way to take advantage of comics in the digital space?  Like I said, the issue picking is easy, it’s the alphabet work that gets tricky and Letter E has two parts: 1) Redescribe one of your profession’s existing functions in an abstract way, and 2) identify other activities to which the same abstraction could be applied.

Comics are a form of entertainment and in the most basic sense they’re a type of visual narrative that aims to give it’s audience an intellectual escape. Entertainment to escape, not exactly an abstract leap is it?  For the longest time I couldn’t get my head past the idea of comics as escape.  However while watching a talk given by Scott McCloud, the legendary comics scholar, he posits the idea that comics, while they absolutely provide an escape from the rigors of daily life, create a window through which we look back at our own world.  Suddenly I had my abstraction!  From there one might say, as McCloud does, that every media, not just comics, gives us this special window.  Whether we recognize it or not, it’s a part of their intrinsic appeal.  Youtube clips, movies, music, magazines, novels; the abstraction applies to every one.

Logically then, if all media (hence all entertainment media) reveal this window, only the genre of transmission matters, and if only the genre matters, comics need only look to other genres of digital entertainment to leave their paper shells behind.  But how best to apply this idea?  Marvel Entertaiment has recently released a series of digital motion comics that synthesize digital video production and comic storytelling.  They’ve also transferred thousands of print comics to the digital space through Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, a viewer that simulates the physical process of reading comics.  It seems that every comics company is trying to find a way to bridge the digital divide, but no one’s found a consistently effective or profitable way to do it yet.  The industry needs to research, experiment with, and embrace the benefits of preexisting visual digital genres before it can carve out a place for comics all their own.

“Continued on” Narration Box in DC’s Superman Comic

Supes by Leinil Francis Yu

This is the paper that I submitted in my grad school application as an example of a single-authored academic paper.

I wrote it outside of college (GASP!) and I got all of my research from the MSU Special Collections library.  It deals with DC’s editorial practices during their first 30 years gleaned from looking at over 500 Superman comics.  This is something I was incredibly interested in and I’m hoping that if anyone digs on incredibly geeky comic book minutae they’ll give it a read and let me know what they think.  Also underneath the paper I’ve added some photos of actual comic pages for reference that might make this whole thing a little easier to understand.

The Use of the “Continued on” Narration Box in DC’s Superman Comic Continue reading “Continued on” Narration Box in DC’s Superman Comic

Post-Grad School Acceptance Stuff

In case you haven’t heard, I’ve been accepted into MSU’s Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing Masters program.  I just wanted to write a post or two showing everything that I supplied for acceptance which turned out to be:

  1. A Completed Application for Graduate Study
  2. One Copy of Each Transcript From Every College/University I Attended
  3. A Curriculum Vitae or Resume
  4. A Personal Statement
  5. At Least Two Writing Samples (one should be a single-authored research paper)
  6. Three Letters of Recommendation

1. A Completed Application for Graduate Study
This is the easiest portion of the acceptance process because you’re just filling out standard clerical information: name, age, schools attended, blah blah blah.  There is also an essay portion in which you tell the graduate committee about yourself, your motivations, and the rest of that jazz.  I was able to skip that part because my college asked for a personal statement (#4) instead of using the application essay method.  Get this done early and get it out of your mind!

2. One Copy of Each Transcript From Every College/University I Attended
Alright, maybe this was the easiest part of the process because I literally had to do nothing.  I applied to my undergrad university for grad school and the college supplied my transcript.  Done and done.  However, if you aren’t applying to your undergrad college make sure you get on your advisors to get your transcripts out!

3. A Curriculum Vitae or Resume
If you’re applying to grad school do yourself a favor and make a curriculum vitae.  If you’re applying for something as academic as a masters program a CV is absolutely a better way to go than a resume.  Graduate committees don’t care about your job history, you most likely provided some of that in the official application, they want to see the academic stuff you’ve done!

Things like teaching assistantships, research assistantships, academic papers you’ve written and any of your work that has been published, put them on there!  I’ve included my CV below to give you an idea of what one looks like – Ben_Chabala_Curriculum_Vitae.  The format can be played with, there’s really no right or wrong way to do these things, but your Research Experience (if any) and Professional Experience should all reflect or at least indicate an interest in what you’re applying for in the program.

In my CV I put a heavy emphasis on all of my comic book job experience and professional writing experience.  I was an editor on The Art of War graphic novel, I’ve been a freelancer for Marvel.com for over a year now, and I was a Web Editorial Intern in the summer of 2009.  I was a waiter too but why would they care?  Include only pertinent info!



A while back I did a two-part post that basically broke down my reasons for wanting to attend grad school at Michigan State University and how I was going to go about achieving that goal.  You can check out those posts here for numero uno and here for number 2.  Well I have good news: I GOT IN! Not too shabby for a guy who’s been graduated for almost two years now.

I got the e-mail and subsequent letter about three weeks ago and since then I’ve been trying to figure out if I should go.  My dad has this nasty tendency of making me second guess myself at every major event in my life (something I’m almost grateful for) and he seems convinced that grad school might not be the best decision.  Why?  1) It’s expensive.  2) It takes two years.  3) It won’t guarantee me a job.

Yes, all three of those things are absolutely true but I have to throw my own counter-points out there.  1) I can get a TA-ship and have tuition paid for and get a little extra on the side and if that fails obviously I can get loans and apply for scholarships.  2) For two years I’ll be able to fully engross myself in comics, publishing, editing, and the realm of digital rhetoric, preparing me more fully for the industry I’m going to be working in come graduation.  2 years is a blessing as far as I’m concerned.  3)  I have no answer to this one.  There are no guarantees in life and no one owes me anything, but I will get a job.  I know that.

I suppose really, grad school is what I want.  It’s what I moved back home to Michigan to do.  I was accepted to a highly competitive Masters program in Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing, less than 18% of people who applied got in, and I was one of those lucky few.  I’m proud of the work I put in and proud that the Graduate Committee saw some merit and potential in my application.  This is what I want.  BRING IT ON!