It’s been an interesting summer…

Now that Fall is officially here (along with this chilly Ithaca weather…the leaves are beautiful though!), I figured that I’d do a brief update on what I’ve been up to since the summer! As with many graduate students, my plans for the summer changed drastically and I had to adapt quickly to the circumstances. While I was looking forward to traveling a bit and pursuing a research study in India, I’m grateful that I have the privilege to conduct my research from almost anywhere in the world and didn’t experience any major setbacks. I’m extremely proud of the work I completed this summer and am looking forward to pushing towards candidacy by mid-2021 (fingers crossed)!

Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com
  • I’ve become much more consistent in working out! With the help of a couple of fitness apps, I’ve settled into a routine consisting of a run/vigorous walk followed by a ~30 minute HIIT/cross-training workout. I feel so much better, especially after getting some fresh air outside, and am enjoying the bit of body tone I’ve gotten back. Hoping that I can keep this consistency throughout the long Ithaca winter! 
  • Did a slight rebrand for CollegeSista! The power of Canva is so understated, I feel like a professional designer at times. I really love the collegial look of my logo, which falls more in line with the theme of my blog.
  • I spent the majority of my summer working on a research study to learn more about perceptions of artificial intelligence (AI) in India. I also submitted this project to a major conference in one of my fields and am really excited to share this work! I’m so pleased to be at a place in my research where I’m content and truly passionate about what I’m doing.
  • I deeply enjoy speaking and honing my presenting skills and being in quarantine has definitely given me a lot of options to do so! I presented at a couple of workshops and conferences and enjoyed sharing my work with others from around the world. 
  • I completed two certificates in Women’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Deals! I have so many passions outside of academia and being able to pursue them (to a certain extent) has made me more balanced throughout my studies.

Honestly, it’s been hard making time to write for CollegeSista and I really miss it! Writing for this blog is a way for me to express my non-academic thoughts, and it’s therapeutic in a way. Throughout this quarantine period, I’ve been going through a wave of emotions which has resulted in varying peaks and valleys of productivity. I’ve been reading for pleasure less, procrastinating a bit more on my work, and have found myself going to bed at extremely strange times. I believe in the potential of CollegeSista and am going to be more intentional in building that potential. I’m eager to share my insights and hope that you’ll stick around for the journey!

Note: As graduate students, it can be hard managing our time with all the stuff we have to do ranging from conference deadlines to course readings and to research. The 2020 election is coming up soon, so please ensure that you’re registered to vote!

Thanks for reading! You can catch up on my previous posts here. Feel free to share this post and follow me on all social media platforms @CollegeSista! Have questions about applying to grad school, life as a graduate student, or Cornell in particular? You’re welcome to contact me on LinkedIn or through email

Book Review: It’s About Damn Time

I had the pleasure of receiving an early copy of It’s About Damn Time: How to Turn Being Underestimated Into Your Greatest Advantage, the debut book by Arlan Hamilton. If you don’t know who Arlan Hamilton is, she’s a world renowned venture capitalist and the founder of Backstage Capital, a venture firm that has already invested in over 100 companies dedicated to supporting underrepresented underestimated founders. I’ve been following Arlan’s work for a couple of years now and believe that she is the real deal. Reading and listening to her story of sleeping in SFO to now traveling around the world (before COVID-19 hit, of course) keynoting conferences, leading panels, and raising millions for her fund, has made her a huge inspiration to me and plenty of others!

One thing that stood out to me about It’s About Damn Time was how clearly Arlan’s voice shines through the pages. I’ve watched multiple videos of talks Arlan has given and have listened to nearly all of the podcasts she’s spoken on (check out her podcast, Your First Million). Reading this book felt like I was in those rooms listening to her conversations and at times felt like it was 1-on-1! This is the first time I have ever done a book review and I am eager to discuss the main insights I received from the book and how Arlan’s story resonates beyond the world of venture capital and directly to grad students. Let’s get it started!


Arlan had so many gems throughout her book, so it was a bit tough to choose the most memorable ones! Here are three quotes that stuck out to me the most and have made me reflect more deeply about my journey in academia:

Quote 1

Chase what inspires, invigorates, and refuels you. If you do that, success will find you. It will chase you in return.

In grad school, it can be easy to fall into the “trap” of being stuck in a research project or field you’re not passionate about. During my first year, I found myself in a situation where I was content with my research but I wasn’t fully passionate about it. I came to realize that this wasn’t what I wanted to do and took time to find what really inspires me. Since this shift in my research goals, I’ve found myself to be invigorated by all of the possibilities that my research holds for me and definitely feel “refueled”. I’m involved in a variety of research projects that I know will be successful and am eager to expand my domain expertise even further.

Quote 2

I will not shrink myself to make someone else more comfortable. I deserve to be in the room.

This quote reminded me of impostor syndrome, something that many grad students struggle with. Feelings of impostor syndrome are exacerbated even further by other factors such as being from an underrepresented group, experiencing microaggressions, and self-doubt. As the only Black woman or even the only Black person in many spaces I occupy, I do find myself “shrinking” at times. I’ve learned that not only does this make me even more uncomfortable, it heightens my sense of feeling like an “impostor”. It’s a tough journey to navigate, but I find that being in affirming spaces is one way I’ve been able to combat this.

Quote 3

When you expand people’s perception of what is possible, you enable them to think bolder, dream bigger, and achieve more.

I believe that part of my responsibility as a grad student and as a Black, Nigerian-American woman pursuing a PhD is to inspire the next generation of underrepresented students in computing and related fields. I know that my presence and the space I take up enables younger students to do exactly what Arlan said: “think bolder, dream bigger, and achieve more”. I spend a lot of my time mentoring students and have benefited from mentors and older graduate students who took the time to do the same for me. It’s only right that I pass it on!


I hope this review was helpful to you and maybe even persuaded you to learn more about Arlan Hamilton and her amazing journey! You can buy It’s About Damn Time directly from Penguin Random House or through other retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Thanks for reading! You can catch up on my previous posts here. Feel free to share this post and follow me on all social media platforms @CollegeSista! Have questions about applying to grad school, life as a graduate student, or Cornell in particular? You’re welcome to contact me on LinkedIn or through email!

Note: Quarantine Check-in

Hey everyone! April is almost over and May (one of my favorite months of the year) is creeping up on us. With the school year winding down, course projects winding up, and still trying to be productive in the midst of a pandemic, things are somewhat hectic for me. I’ve been doing my best to manage my academic, personal, and extracurricular commitments in this new environment but a lot of it is just overwhelming. On the average day, I have around three Zoom/Hangout/Meet/Skype calls and sometimes have had up to five! Yesterday, I was on two Zoom meetings at the same time :O

Everyone is “hustling” or “taking advantage” of the time they gained from now staying at home, but this hasn’t been the same for everyone, especially us grad students. There’s so much diversity within the grad student population from age, to marital status, to being parents and it can be hard to imagine how the “average” grad student is coping. I’m fortunate that I can get my work done from anywhere in the world as long as I have a secure Internet connection. I definitely feel for those who have been cut off from their labwork and have now been forced to figure out a way to advance their research from home. One of my good friends is an Animal Science PhD student and her calf trials have been suspended for the time being, which I’m sure is extremely frustrating!

In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

Sun Tsu

I saw this quote floating around and found it to be extremely insightful. When thinking further about it, I realized that the emphasis was not on the opportunity for you to produce but on the opportunity to focus within and work on yourself.

Overall, I’m proud of Cornell’s response to the sudden shutdown and how they have allocated resources to students all across campus. I acknowledge that not many universities have the resources that Cornell does and I am forever grateful to be supported by an institution like this! Many grad students are worried about the new timeline shift of their academic milestones and I’m definitely in this boat as well. I was planning to do field research in India this summer, but now it’s unknown if I can even go. I’m fortunate to have supportive advisors and a department that is receptive to their student needs, so my worries about this have been somewhat quelled. I would love to know what new activities you’ve partook in since quarantine started and how your institution has supported you during this time. Feel free to comment below and share your experiences!

Many universities have posted resource websites for their graduate students. If you’re looking for more tips to stay motivated during this time, check out Cornell Graduate School’s website! Be sure to take care of yourself and remember that we’ll get through this with time (and with an effective government response)!


Thanks for reading! You can catch up on my previous posts here. Feel free to share this post and follow me on all social media platforms @CollegeSista! Have questions about applying to grad school, life as a graduate student, or Cornell in particular? You’re welcome to contact me on LinkedIn or through email!

Blog Update: Let’s catch up!

I’ve been AWOL for the past few months, so thank you to everyone who has continued to follow and share my content! With the COVID 19 crisis occurring and personal life taking over, I haven’t been as active on my blog as I’ve wanted to be. Being in grad school and navigating its complexities can be a slippery slope, so I’ve been doing my best to stay strong and take care of my emotional and physical health during this time.

I’m sure you all want an update, so here are some things I’ve been up to since the beginning of the year:

  • I traveled to Nigeria and Ghana for some personal travel and to give back through service learning trips! I’m planning on writing more about my trip soon.
  • Got more in-depth with my research plans and started some new collaborations!
  • I joined Cornell Healthcare Review as a writer!
  • Spoke at a roundtable session and presented a talk virtually!
  • Getting back to reading! I’ve read almost 15 books since the start of this year and haven’t been slowing down. I even finished 3 books in one week!
  • Got accepted to the blackcomputeHER Fellows program and received an Honorable Mention from two prestigious fellowships.
  • I updated my academic website!
Had a terrifying (but awesome) time on a ropes course in Accra with other Cornell students and my professor!

I have a lot of content prepared to post, but want to be sensitive to your needs at this time. What kind of content are you looking to see?

Some things I have in mind are staying consistent through personal and global crises, completing your work virtually, and managing your finances as a grad student. With tax season already here, I was planning on focusing on budgeting, saving, and tax topics but I definitely want to hear your thoughts!

Many schools have posted resource websites for their graduate students. If you’re looking for more tips to stay motivated during this time, check out Cornell Graduate School’s website! Be sure to take care of yourself!

Thanks for reading! You can catch up on my previous posts here. Feel free to share this post and follow me on all social media platforms @CollegeSista! Have questions about applying to grad school, life as a graduate student, or Cornell in particular? You’re welcome to contact me on LinkedIn or through email!

The Start of a New Journey

Welcome to my blog! For those that don’t know me, I’m Chinasa Okolo: a PhD student, avid traveler, and music aficionado. I’ve been informally blogging for almost 5 years and decided to revamp my blog to focus on my personal and academic life.


I’m dedicated to helping those of us not represented enough in academia, technology, and entrepreneurship succeed within these respective domains. The goal of my blog is to provide insight throughout my journey as a Black woman at the intersection of these fields and hopefully inspire more of us to pursue careers in them.

You’re deserving of all the things in the world. So go get it.

— Janet Mock

Throughout the life of this blog I plan to post about personal finance, higher education, travel, my personal interests, and more! I’m open to taking questions about my journey and can be contacted through my blogging email. I’ve also posted a FAQ page to answer questions I tend to receive more often.

Be sure to subscribe to my blog and newsletter for updates throughout each month and follow me on social media @CollegeSista on all channels.

Thank you for reading and stay tuned!