Comic creator speaks to grad students

“Grad school is a state of mind” are words spoken by fictional character Michael Slackenerny.

Taken from the popular comic “Piled Higher and Deeper” written by Jorge Cham, Slackenerny’s words are just a sample of the relatable advice offered for graduate students in Cham’s comic.

A former graduate student himself, Cham spoke at Laurier’s Bricker Academic Building last Wednesday as a part of the Graduate Students Association (GSA) orientation.

Currently a well-known speaker, Cham received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech and went on to Stanford to earn a PhD in mechanical engineering.

Appropriately, Cham began drawing PhD-related comics during his own graduate work at Stanford. Soon developing into a series, the strips deal with common life issues entangled with the pressure of graduate school, such as the difficulties with research, the perils of procrastination, the complexity of the student-supervisor relationships and the endless search for free food.

An undeniably appropriate speaker for the GSA’s Orientation Day, Cham’s boundless energy made his presentation a memorable one.

Cham began his speech by sharing random facts he learned about Laurier from Wikipedia, such as the fact that it is spelt Wilfrid, not Wilfred, as well as the alternative names that were considered for the university.

The rest of Cham’s lecture focused on the various factors involved with academia, especially the power of procrastination, even arguing that it can actually be good.

The relatable experiences that his humorous comic offers were greatly valued by the graduate students in attendance.

For many, Cham’s work helps them remember that they are not the only ones experiencing these challenges when they find themselves “piled higher and deeper.”

“It’s a lot about … making fun of our lives as graduate students,” said Melanie Banks, president of the GSA after the lecture.

“In a way it makes you feel better about the life we’re experiencing and the hard work that we do.”

A comedic presentation through and through, Cham ended his discussion appropriately with the top three things he learned in grad school: how to create an effective PowerPoint, how to write bullet-point lists and how to give a one-hour presentation on any topic (even procrastination).