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The Statesman

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    Jorge Cham Comes to SBU

    Jorge Cham received a warm welcome Mar. 14 when about 250 people, mostly graduate students, descended on the Wang Center to hear his speech on procrastination. Cham, whose speech focused on the life of graduate students as portrayed in his popular comic series, “Piled Higher and Deeper,” kept the audience clutching their chests with laughter for the entire one-hour long lecture.

    “I liked the interplay of humor and [advice]. It made it fun,” said Tom Balcerski, a first-year graduate student at SBU. “I think Stony Brook did something good for once. It was a very fun event for grad students.”

    Cham jump-started the packed lecture at 3:06 p.m. with a wholehearted, drawn out, “Hey,” at which the audience immediately started laughing.

    As he started the lecture, his PowerPoint presentation already running, he described what, to him, grad student life was really like. “You feel like you’re frantically running all the time, like you’re not getting anywhere. Meanwhile, much more intelligent people are stamping you down.”

    His statement summarized what the rest of the lecture was going to comprise of: information, graduate students and jokes.

    Cham, obtained his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, is currently the writer and artist of “Piled Higher and Deeper”, a comic strip that, he said on his website, “[is] about life, or the lack thereof, in academia.”

    His comic, whose abbreviated name spells PhD, is read by hundreds of thousands graduate students in countries all across the globe, he showed in his presentation.

    In the lecture, flipping through comic after comic, Cham taught the audience about the, “strange creature that is called the grad student.” He explained how they all feel weary of explaining to people why they’re still in school during their mid to late 20s, how, as teaching assistants, they get paid salaries almost identical to that of people working in McDonalds, and how the graduate dorm is more or less like camping outside.

    Procrastination came in later during the lecture when Cham said, “Procrastination is not the same as laziness. Laziness is not wanting to do something.” He continued, “But procrastination is not wanting to do something?now.”

    Cham urged the grad students in the audience to relax, enjoy their time at grad school, and of course, procrastinate. And by “procrastinate,” he didn’t mean anything negative.

    He said, “Procrastination is what you do when you do what you want to do.”

    “What I got out of his message was that some level of procrastination is to be expected in the Ph.D.,” Nina Maung-Gaona, assistant dean for Diversity, the Graduate School Turner Fellowship and NSF-AGEP Programs, said. “It isn’t necessary to beat yourself up for taking time out to breathe because some of your best ideas may come to you when you least expect it.”

    Maung-Gaona said the Center for Inclusive Education, one of the sponsors of Cham’s lecture, chose to invite him to provide grad students at SBU with an experience that was both a “great stress reliever” and “special bonding experience.”

    She continued, “The Center for Inclusive Education was established to provide access and opportunities to [the] historically underrepresented minority and otherwise disadvantaged graduate students in an effort to diversify the graduate enterprise.”

    Ending his lecture, Cham said, “Grad school is a state of mind? preferably sleeping.”

    His lecture was attended by over 250 people, and according to Maung-Gaona, his books were sold out at the campus bookstore. If his talk were to be judged by how much the audience laughed, then it was, undoubtedly, a success.

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