Grad School 3rd Grade Science Fair

48 hours ago, I was presented with a very interesting dilemma.

My wonderful, wonderful Neighborhood Change professor, Prof. Sutton, alerted our class that we had some flexibility for how we presented our final neighborhood reports.

Flexibility meaning a PowerPoint wasn’t the only option.

At this moment, the wheels started turning.

Fast-forward to two days ago and I have completely forgotten the fact that I have to do this presentation. I’m eating lunch and someone brings up elementary school science fairs, paper mache volcanoes, and other childhood memories.

This, my friends, is when I realized what was at stake. I immediately recognized that I had two options.

1) Spend 10 hours completing a Power Point, since anytime on my laptop requires multitasking between GChat, Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Tumblr, Craigslist, Idealist, HuffPo, AJC, WSJ, and SEARLES.

2) Turn back the clock and make a low-tech trifold posterboard final presentation.

Option 2 seemed too risky at first, because of the fact that I’m 24 and getting a Master’s. Because of this, I shelved the idea… for 90 seconds.

After a minute and a half, it became painstakingly clear that every now and then, you’ve got to spice up academia. No one expects you to roll through your final presentation with a posterboard presentation seemingly made by a 8 year old without the supervision of his Mother. No one.

Because of this, coupled with the fact that I heard some people weren’t bringing any visuals, further coupled with the fact that I thought my professor would love it and the fact that I love a good potentially awkward/crash-and-burn situation, the posterboard was IN.

Is my posterboard pretty? No.

Is my posterboard imformative? Yes.

Should I be slightly embarrassed? No.

Should my mom be slightly embarrassed/Did she waste money on 20+ years of private school tuition? Hahaha, duh.


This thing is not cute. The important thing, however, is that I completely understand how bootleg this is. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After 15 straight weeks of producing extremely high-quality academic papers and presentations, I needed a day off.

Today was that day.

And when it was my turn to speak, I proudly stood up and defended what will probably go down as my greatest work:

photo credit: Laura Jay, in the middle of class.

Tomorrow morning, when I wake up, I’ll begin working on the report that accompanies this poster. At that time, I’ll have to go back into serious grad student mode, by way of agreeing my subjects with my verbs and closing parentheses when I open them. That’s life.

I urge all of you grad students out there to take a day off from the “proper” way of behaving and just surprise someone/some people. My grade isn’t suffering, respect has not been lost, and I happened to put a quick smile on my professor’s face before I talked appropriately for 8-10 minutes.

Life’s too short not to make 3rd grade science fair projects a month after your 24th birthday.


p.s. some high-resolution, color images from my Neighborhood Analysis of Astoria, Queens, in case you’re curious:

Astoria, Queens (NYtimes)

Race Population Totals, 1990-2010 (Census '90, '00, '10)

Race Population Chart, 1990-2010 (Census '90, '00, '10)

Population Change (Census '90, '00, '10)

Graph (Census '90, '00, '10)

About Rembert Browne

NYC via ATL ////
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