Cultivating Life in 2013

I was happy to get an email last night with my first #Cultivate14 prompt! I was out bowling at the time, and got home late, so I didn’t get a chance to write, meaning that I have a bit of catching up to do, but here is the prompt:

What did you set out to accomplish last year? What did you do to cultivate your goals and your life? Did your intentions manifest last year?

Boy oh boy. 2013 was the year of accomplishments.

First of all, I successfully defended my dissertation in April and officially became Dr. Briones. In May, I was hooded by my wonderful advisor and got to celebrate this amazing achievement with my family and friends. The celebrations continued with a graduation party my parents threw for me in June, which gave me some of the greatest memories of my father, who passed away this past October. By December, I successfully completed my first full semester as a brand spankin’ new Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, with no major complaints (from me or my students!) in the very slightest. So all in all, everything I set out to do last year was accomplished in a way that I’m super happy and satisfied with, so hooray for that. 🙂

What did I do to cultivate my goals and my life? Well, in order to graduate, I pretty much immersed myself in my dissertation. It got to the point where I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about it so hard, and when I did eventually fall asleep, I would have dreams about it. And once I got that hard-earned diploma and was able to hang it up in my snazzy office at VCU (you better believe it was the first thing I hung up in there, by the way!) I set out to survive my first semester by #1 – surrounding myself with great mentors. Not only did I have the honor and privilege of having an amazing School mentor (she’s the best!) but I also was blessed with being paired with a fantastic mentor at the University level through the Center for Teaching Excellence’s Junior Faculty Mentoring Program. I honestly don’t know how the semester would have shaken out if it weren’t for these wonderful mentors who were so willing to meet with me and talk about everything I needed in terms of the big three (teaching, research, service). So yeah, I consider myself extremely lucky in that regard.

In terms of more life cultivation, I mostly did this through my amazing support network, that is my friends. This past year I tried to make more of an effort to reach out to folks, which was great, because I got to play catch up with so many people I haven’t spoken to in a while, and the ones I do get to see on a fairly regular basis I got to see even more, which is a total win-win situation in my opinion. I’ve grown even closer to my sister over the past year, who I consider to be one of my best friends, and I couldn’t be happier. We particularly bonded over going to church, which is another life cultivating activity that I started in 2013 that will definitely make more appearances in future blog posts. Let’s just say that I’ve committed to the journey of becoming a more loving, Christlike person, and I’m excited about where that will lead me in 2014.

So overall, I’ll say that in terms of my career I’ve taken the right strides to make things happen, and I’ve strengthened many relationships in my life. I’m looking forward to how this will all progress in the upcoming year, which my pastor tells me is Rowena’s Year. So stay tuned!

A lot to be proud of in 2013!

A lot to be proud of in 2013!




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Happy New Year: From #Reverb13 to #Cultivate14

Well, just as it happened to happen last year, the end of the semester crunch totally got the best of me yet again and I never got around to participating in #Reverb13. Sadness.

Last year I ended up just answering the December #Reverb13 posts in the month of January. This year, I found another solution: I’ve decided to sign up for Meredith Shadwill’s #Cultivate14 January blogging challenge. Same concept, different prompts – I think it will still be a good way for me to reflect on 2013 and work on moving forward in 2014.

In the meantime, however, I really liked this last #Reverb13 prompt and thought I would answer it here, to get things warmed up and to serve as a preview for the posts to come:

2014 is going to be MY YEAR because…I’ve learned and grown so much in 2013, and am ready to take what I’ve learned into 2014. I’ve realized that I can no longer take my loved ones for granted, and that I should show them how much I appreciate them every single day. I’ve reflected on what my needs are, and what kind of partner should enter my life to fulfill those needs. I’ve rediscovered having God and faith back in my life, and how this completely changes how I’m going to live each and every day. I’ve reminded myself how truly blessed I was in 2013, and will continue to be grateful for the blessings to come in 2014. Overall, I just feel so much happier, joyous, positive, and at peace, which can only mean many more good things are to come in the New Year.

In 2014, I am going to do…whatever God intends for me to do. To help things out a bit, I’m going to try to be the best person that I can be in 2014. I hope to be a kinder, more patient, and more loving daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and colleague and treat everyone with the respect that they deserve. I am going to try to give more – whether that is tithes to my church, or time spent with those I care about. I am going to try to reach my goals with mini habits – by way of keeping things simple and attainable, in an effort to not be overwhelmed by large, broad, grand goals that are too lofty and unrealistic.  I am going into 2014 guns a’ blazing, so get ready.

In 2014, I am going to feel…excited for the many opportunities that are offered to me at VCU. I feel so blessed that I have a job that I truly, truly love, with students and colleagues that give me a reason to get out of bed every single day. I am going to feel strengthened by the people I have met/am going to meet at Atlee Community Church through the service and study I do in 2014. I am going to feel nervous about dating again, but will not be discouraged by it, if it means that I could feel the zsa zsa zsu with someone all over again and embark on a brand new journey. I am going to feel sad that another year has passed without my father here with us, but I know that he is always with me, and he continues to show that to me in so many interesting and unbelievable ways.

In 2014, I am not going to…compromise my values for fleeting moments of pleasure. I’m not going to take advantage of the amazing people who have entered (and reentered) my life by making them feel as if I don’t love or treasure them. I will try not going a day without being thankful and grateful for everything I have experienced in my life – everything, good and bad, is a lesson learned that will help me move forward. I hope to be less greedy, jealous, angry, judgmental, and impatient. I vow to not be a miserable twentysomething and will embrace all the good surrounding me in my life.

In December 2014, I am going to look back and say…“Damn, I sure as hell made the best out of this year. I am truly, truly blessed.”

Get ready folks, there’s more to come in January 2014… 🙂

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My Biggest Accomplishment of 2012

Day 5: Accomplishments

Did you finally land your dream job? Did you have your first child? Did you finally find “the one?” What is your biggest accomplishment for 2012?

The biggest accomplishment for me in 2012 was successfully navigating the academic job market and landing a tenure-track assistant professor position…

…at Virginia Commonwealth University!

Yes, that is right folks, once I finish up my dissertation and graduate in May, I will be moving to Richmond, VA to start a job as a tenure-track assistant professor in strategic public relations and health communication. I am beyond ecstatic.

For those of you unfamiliar with the academic job process, it is definitely a long and exhausting one. For me, it started at the AEJMC annual conference back in August 2012, when I traveled to Chicago and conducted 13 informal interviews with different universities over the span of 3 days.

Then, in addition to taking my comprehensive exams and preparing my dissertation proposal, I also put together application materials to send to a number of different schools. All of these schools called for different things, but the majority of them asked for a cover letter, your curriculum vitae, and three references.

Then it’s the waiting game. For some schools you have an initial phone or Skype interview. Others just invite you to an on-campus interview to interview in person.

Now the on-campus interview is a beast in and of itself. Essentially you have to be ON for one to two FULL days (can be 8-10 hours), where you meet with various faculty, staff and students. Some schools have you do a teaching presentation, where you demonstrate your teaching abilities to faculty and students. Other schools also have you do a research presentation, where you talk about your research stream to faculty and students and get asked questions afterward.

A funny story is when I did my first on-campus interview, I left my house at 7:30 a.m. At 2:30 p.m., my mother asked if I was ok and if the interview went well. I had to tell her that I was still at the interview! I didn’t get home until after 9 p.m. that night!

In any case, I went through a number of these on-campus interviews and was able to be given an offer from VCU. It was a great offer, actually better than I expected, but I made sure to run this by my advisor and mentors to make sure of that (especially since, you know, I’ve never done this before!). They were all pleased with the offer, and so I called VCU to verbally accept the offer on December 20. I just signed the official contract yesterday, January 31.

And so, I was able to snag a tenure-track position before Christmas. A huge accomplishment indeed, and one that I was able to celebrate with many of my friends, and continue to celebrate today!


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2012 Words

Day 31: Elevator Speech

Set a timer for 2 minutes and sum up 2012 in as many words as possible, good or bad.

  • Sickness
  • Anxiety
  • Uncertainty
  • Happiness
  • Engagement
  • Commitment
  • Opportunity
  • Friendship
  • Family
  • Career
  • Stress
  • Examinations
  • Defenses
  • Dissertation
  • Data
  • Crying
  • Insanity
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Singing
  • Writing
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Emotions
  • Love
  • Frustration
  • Hope

SIDE NOTE: I actually finished 6 secs early, but I thought ending the list with “hope” would be a good way to see 2013.

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Bucket List

Day 30: 30 Things

Maybe you had a list of things you wanted to accomplish but you didn’t. Maybe you have a list of goals for 2013 that you want to achieve. What are 30 things you’ve never done.

Back in January of 2009, I created a bucket list. I thought posting 30 items from that list would be great for this particular post, so here we go:

  1. Be a mother
  2. Go on a hot air balloon ride
  3. Hold a monkey and take a picture
  4. Go to Greece
  5. Go to Paris
  6. Swim with the dolphins
  7. Get published in the Journal of Public Relations Research
  8. Write/edit a book
  9. Be the keynote speaker at a conference
  10. Go on a cruise
  11. Visit all of the museums in DC
  12. Go to a country in all of the continents
  13. Go to a live game show (preferably The Price is Right – for Mike)
  14. Perform one (or all) of my dream roles
    • Be Mimi in “Rent”
    • Be Eva Peron in “Evita”
    • Be Kim in “Miss Saigon”
  15. Meet Barack Obama
  16. Go to London
  17. Cook Thanksgiving dinner all by myself
  18. Be financially independent
  19. Go jet skiing
  20. Get my APR
  21. Eat at an expensive restaurant, pay for it, and not feel guilty about it
  22. Build a focus group room in my house
  23. Have a sweet home office
  24. Be in a flashmob
  25. Go to the SuperBowl (preferably with the Eagles in it!)
  26. Go to the World Series (preferably with the Phillies in it!)
  27. Be the editor of an academic journal
  28. Develop a famous theory
  29. Be known as an “expert” in something
  30. Go to a Triple D restaurant in all 50 states

Obviously I won’t be accomplishing ALL of these in 2013, but I think it will be fun to see how things pan out in the next couple of years. 🙂

Bucket List


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Genie in a Bottle Baby

Day 29: Three Wishes

I’m sure that, at some point in your life, you’ve wished you had you’re own personal genie in a bottle. Someone you could call on at any time to grant you three wishes (or more). If you had your own genie, what three wishes would you want them to grant for you in 2013, and why?

Hmm, this is an interesting one…what would be my three wishes? Here we go:

  1. That my parents (especially my dad) can no longer be sick.
  2. That the academic job market would no longer be such a stressful process.
  3. That I would get the chance to perform on Broadway.

I don’t think any explanations are necessary, or needed – you can ask me about it personally if you’re so compelled to understand my reasonings. Otherwise I think I’ll just keep this post short, sweet, and to the point.

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Rowena’s Passions

Day 28: Life with Passion

Did you live with passion in 2012? Describe the things you were most passionate about this year. What were they? How did they affect your life, and will you continue to live passionately in 2013?

In 2012, I was passionate about many things, and continue to live passionately in 2013.

I am passionate about my research. If you are unsure whether or not you love research, I’m fairly certain that writing a dissertation might give you a clue. And boy, did it do it for me. I consider my dissertation proposal defense one of the most exhilarating experiences in my academic career thus far – being able to talk with faculty members about my research stream was simply amazing. (sorry for being so nerdy, I can’t help it!) I started my data analysis and I’m having so much fun. I can’t wait to see how the finished product turns out. I’m even more excited to become a tenure-track professor where I can continue my research stream and become more of an independent scholar.

I am passionate about teaching. I took a break last semester to work as a full time RA for my advisor, which I think was a good move on my part to allow for more flexibility in my schedule, but now that I’m back in the classroom I’m so happy. Especially when you are teaching content that you are interested in and fired up about – wow – it’s so much fun having these discussions with students! And I have always been a full believer in paying in forward – my professors and mentors at TCNJ and UMD have taught me so much, I just want to pass it along to my students. And I have – I love hearing their success stories, they make me so proud!

I am passionate about ballroom dancing. I know I know, last semester I wasn’t around as much, but I am so thankful that I picked up this hobby during my last years at UMD, you have no idea. Not only is it a phenomenal workout, but it’s super fun too. I’m so thankful to my friends and teachers who have allowed me to learn the basics of ballroom dancing. After watching so many seasons of Dancing with the Stars I’m happy that I finally got to do it. And let’s not forget that it’s always been a hit at random bars and restaurants when me and my BAM friends start randomly dancing. 🙂

I am passionate about singing. But let’s not forget my first love, which of course is singing. I have been singing basically since I could open my mouth. And though lately it’s been limited to karaoke bars, the shower, and my car, I feel so blessed that I’ve been given this gift that I can share with others. Whether it’s to get people dancing to Madonna’s Like A Prayer, or make people cry at their wedding, I’ve always been happy to sing. And I know that someday I’ll get to sing on the stage again, I just know it.

I am passionate about my friends. Man oh man, what would I do without my friends? My friends at UMD have been super understanding while I’ve been trying to navigate my last year of graduate school – they’ve seen me cry probably too many times to count. My MD friends have kept me sane when I needed a break from grad school. But I mustn’t forget my NJ friends too – they’ve been there for me, sometimes longer than 10 years – they’ve seen me grow up to the woman I have become and still love me for it. I have been in their weddings and have shared in their special life moments. I feel super lucky to still have them after all these years. 😀

I am passionate about my family. My parents have been a living inspiration to me that if I want something, I have the ability to go for it. I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to go to school and pursue my dreams. Sure we fight, and we can be crazy, but isn’t every family dysfunctional in some way? And I am so thankful for my older sister. People don’t believe me when I say we’ve probably fought maybe 3 times in my 26 years of existence, but it’s true. I’m so happy that we get along, laugh, and support each other. It’s amazing to have a cheerleader who is always there for you.

I am passionate about my fiance. Michael has been the one constant in my life over the past 6.5 years that has helped me stay balanced and grounded. I already sang his praises in a previous post, but I definitely feel he is worth mentioning once again. No matter what life throws our way, we have always been able to overcome obstacles due to the strength of our relationship and commitment to each other. I have no doubts that he will be an amazing husband and father. And I know that I can be the best person I can be with his support and with him by my side.

How will I continue to live passionately in 2013? By being the best teacher, scholar, daughter, sister, friend, and fiance that I can possibly be. By pursuing my desires and dreams and never forgetting the endless possibilities. By being happy and living my life with no regrets.



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My Silver Diner Obsession

Day 27: Show and Tell

Were you creative in 2012? Did you finally tackle that home improvement project you’ve been putting off? Did you finally make that scrapbook that’s been sitting untouched for God-knows how long? Show us your projects! How did you finish them? Are you happy with the final result, or is there something more you wish you could have done with it?

If you count passing comps and writing a dissertation prospectus as projects, then I suppose I finished some major ones. But that’s kinda boring. Unfortunately however, these major academic projects took up the majority of my time in 2012, so I don’t really have anything creative to share. But I have thought of something that could possibly be considered a “project” – it definitely took a lot of time and effort, that’s for sure. 🙂

Lots of my MD friends know that I am basically obsessed with the Silver Diner over on Greenbelt Rd., not too far from my house. And when I say obsessed, I am not really joking. There have been times in 2012 that I went to the Silver Diner twice in one day. One time, I went to the Silver Diner three times in less than 48 hours – once for dinner, and then for brunch and dinner the next day. What can I say, the food is delicious and the service is pretty great. Also, lots of the servers know who I am because I’m such a frequent diner that they treat me pretty well at this point.

Well this “project” that I accomplished in 2012 has to do with the Silver Diner’s “Eat Well, Do Well” card. Essentially it’s a rewards card where you get a point for every visit, and then after 5 visits you get $5 off of your meal. It’s a pretty swanky deal.

Toward the end of 2012 I completed a great task – I had been to the Silver Diner 50 times. Yup, within one calendar year (or it could have just been over the course of one semester, for all I know) I dined at that fine establishment 50 times. Perhaps its something I shouldn’t really brag about (my friends actually make fun of me for it!) but hey, it’s a pretty big accomplishment!

So there ya go – my “project” of 2012. Feeding into my Silver Diner obsession by eating there probably way too many times to be considered healthy. Ah well, I love that place.

50 times in one year! 50!

50 times in one year! 50!

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Job Market Fails

Day 26: Well That Was Embarrassing

Did anything happen this year that made you truly embarrassed? Maybe you were singing to a song in public and went off key and everyone heard you? Or perhaps one of your kids did something in public that made you silently wish you weren’t their parents? What happened? Did you handle it with grace? Did you laugh it off?

So as I’ve relayed before in previous posts, the academic job market is a long and exhausting process. During those couple of months, sometimes things happen that can be sorta embarrassing. Well it happened to me anyway. Here’s some examples:

Job Market Fail #1

I had just returned to NJ after a successful round of informal interviews at the AEJMC annual conference, which was held in Chicago that year. I was trying to be a good candidate and send out personalized emails to everyone that I had talked to. Well, writing tons of emails gets kind of tiring, so I was doing the ol’ copy and paste content into each email, changing a couple of things to make it more personalized. Well I was down to perhaps the last one or two, when I realized after I sent an email that I wrote the name of the wrong school in the email. I panicked, and went to Gmail to see if I could in any way unsend the email. I did have the unsend function, but the allotted time for that had already elapsed and I was stuck, embarrassed that I addressed these faculty members with the wrong school. So I took the high road and immediately sent another email, apologizing for the mistake. Luckily the faculty member was good natured about it and didn’t let me feel bad, but the damage was done and I was already mortified.

Job Market Fail #2

And perhaps this could count as #2 and #3 since it happened in two separate instances, at two different job interviews. I was at these interviews, being introduced to people, let it be staff members or students, and twice I was asked “Oh, are you looking to be a student here?” To which I would reply “Oh no, I’m interviewing to be a professor here!”

Now I know that I look fairly young for my age (what can I say, I’m Asian, we look the same until we are at least 40 or 50) but I was pretty embarrassed that I would be mistaken for a student when I’m trying my best to be all professional and worthy of hiring. Luckily that didn’t ruin my chances of being considered, but it does make me nervous when I do actually start as a tenure-track assistant professor. Will students take me seriously? Or will they not trust my teaching because I look their age? I have never had issues during my teaching at UMD, so hopefully the trend will continue.

So that’s it – my two/three job market fails, which were times when I was seriously embarrassed. I think I handled these occasions fairly well. Here’s hoping that nothing else too embarrassing happens to me in the near future!


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A Letter to Michael

Day 25: Thank You Note

Take this opportunity to write someone a thank you note. It can be anonymous, or you can actually address it to the person (or thing) you’re writing it to. Maybe you want to thank your parents for the extra support they gave you in 2012, or perhaps a thank you to a friend who helped you through a rough patch. Or maybe you want to thank your body for being amazing. Whatever and whomever you’re grateful to, write that letter you never wrote.

Dear Michael,

Sometimes I feel like I don’t act like I am grateful for you and all that you do, so I thought I would write you this thank you note.

First off, thank you for coming into my life about 7 years ago. As soon as you came into Rachel’s dorm room and started playing Rent’s “Sante Fe” on your bass, I got the major CFs and knew that I wanted to get to know you and date you. Little did I know that I would still watch you rock out on your bass this very day, which I love because you are such a talented musician and you look so happy doing it. I will always be your #1 fan.

Thank you for loving me in spite of my flaws. I’ve told many people about how you are my rock and balance. Whenever I am freaking out about something (and you and I know that I can tend to freak out often!), you try to calm me down and help me remember that it’s not the end of the world and things will work itself out. I’m especially thankful that you were there for me while I was in the comps process, a super stressful time in and of itself. Not only were you super supportive while I was studying and taking the damn things, but you were awesome enough to give me practice questions that actually ended up showing up on the exam! As Danielle put it – maybe you know more about what I do then you lead on to believe. 🙂

With that said, thank you for supporting me and allowing me to follow my dreams of going to grad school, getting a Ph.D., and becoming a tenure-track professor. I think it takes a very special person to date an academic, and you are certainly no exception. Even though you may not understand completely everything that I do, you have always been there for me if I needed to vent about a student, or share some good news about my studies. I even miss those days when you would help me grade my exams for COMM107 by marking all of the multiple choice – that was fun.

Thank you for being such a kind and thoughtful partner. In the over 6.5 years we have been together, you have never said a mean word that made me feel worthless, or dumb, or not valued. You treat me so well, and you have given me so much over the years (and not just the material things, though I do love that iPad you gave me, thanks honey :-P). I love spending time with you, even if it means just sitting on the couch watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. I can’t wait for our Triple D/rollercoasters honeymoon, BTW.

Finally, I’m thankful that you love me enough and want to be with me enough to propose to me before my whole academic job market stuff was settled. I’m thankful that when you gave me that ring, you told me you loved me and that we will work it out no matter what. I’m thankful that I am going to be your wife and spend the rest of my life with you. I can’t wait to have a home with you and fill it with adorable mixed babies. 🙂

I know that our time together has in no way been perfect, and we’ve definitely had our rough patches, but through it all I’ve always come back to the realization that I can’t imagine my life without you. Thank you for being an amazing partner, lover, and friend. I love you so much and I can’t wait to officially start my forever with you. Thank you.



Mike n Rowie

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