Originally, I was going to use this title for a pithy list of challenges and opportunities related to the dissertation process for the Spring semester (which is, indeed, no disco). Upon reading feedback from my students for the Fall semester, I decided to take this title in a different direction, and that is expectations of work and readings in college. College is serious business, and while there are so many opportunities to enjoy in college, there is still a deeper meaning for why you have dedicated four years and many economic resources to undertaking this education. The title is not meant to be dismissive, but rather a unifying lyric for the amount of work it takes to get through it all. What you will find below is some honest and helpful advice to manage expectations for students entering the world of higher education for the first time. Sometimes it seems daunting, and even overwhelming, when faced with the syllabus and reading list for the first time. There are also some protocol lessons that you just do not realize as a newbie. Here are my best “lessons learned” to share with you:
As we count down to 2013, I think this is sage advice for all of us who feel a little stuck or in a place of transition. As I try to get through the dissertation process and decide what the path forward looks like, I have had many a sleepless night wondering “What if?” and “What’s next?”. No one knows that answer. But the best we can do is to jump enthusiastically and purposefully forward with the hope that if we follow our internal compass, the net will be there to guide us safely to the ground.
This post is a little late, but I feel like it’s still important to share…
After the comps extravaganza, I became a candidate. I felt flustered and happy. I felt a little bit like this. However, knowing the dangerous chasm that lies between accomplishment and satisfaction (or, rather, resting on one’s laurels), my advisor and I had a meeting almost immediately to start planning next steps. Don’t get me wrong, there was a little happy dance of celebration. But, “student” to “candidacy” means that I have hit the stage where dissertation will be the sole focus. It is a milestone, not an endpoint to the journey.
In that meeting, we discussed many things: timeline, logistics, and the next steps in firming up a dissertation committee. We also discussed the need for self-motivation and the huge swing in self-efficacy that must take place in order to keep yourself on deadline when no one external is assigning due dates. To sum up the sometimes intangible nature of the dissertation, my advisor compared the process to Winnie the Pooh chasing the Heffalump: a process filled with mystery, some hysterics, misperceptions, and ambiguity. You have to have faith that the Heffalump exists, and moreover, be persistent in your pursuit.
For those interested in global education, online learning, and cross-cultural communication, there is a terrific webcast of a conference happening now from the SUNY COIL initiative. I have blogged previously on the many great projects and opportunities that COIL has made available, including a grant that I am a part of for an online initiative between Lehigh, Drexel, and the University of Ghana Business School. Today’s conference includes a wide variety of speakers and topics from faculty empowerment to online learning on a budget to using Japanese Manga as a medium for cross-cultural communication. After a brief lunch break, sessions will start back up at 2PM EST. The conference will be going on until 5:30 PM EST today, so tune in for some enlightening, interesting sessions!
An alternative title for this post could be, “How we make futile attempts to exercise control over the universe.” I’ll explain…
I have had a few conversations with colleagues and friends lately that have me thinking about the sometimes irrational, obsessive hobbying that crops up amongst graduate students. Even if you do not have your own, you certainly know a colleague or friend that has has taken their “outside interests” to the extreme. From the friend who was going to dress up for opening night of the Hunger Games (I’m looking at you @LizzyErwin) or the colleague racking up marathon mileage on their bicycle, I know more people who are not just taking up a hobby, but taking it to the next level. Hobbies and interests are constant through society, but there is something about graduate students who like to kick up the intensity.
This semester, I am teaching a course on Global Systems and Societies that is completely online. Previously, I taught it as a blended class with in-person and online portion. Having struggled in the first semester with communication and sorting out the line between in-person/online expectations, moving to the all-online format allowed for a clear delineation of assignments and mediums for communication. On the other hand, it also meant that these students would not be interfacing in a way that lead to natural learning community-feeling and ability to have discussions in a traditional format. I knew that I had to be careful and cognizant of the ways in which I would engage the class and foster that kind of participation.
Anyone who has taken an online class knows this and that lack of interaction contributes to some of the dissatisfaction with online learning. Some surveys suggest that online courses with clear online communication streams are preferred by students. Others conclude that discussions are not particularly preferred or favored, but consistent homework and assignments are cited as the greatest learning vehicles. Yet, from Dewey to Bandura to Hatton & Smith, educational theorists and researchers have proven that when students have the opportunity to reflect and construct their own perceptions of experiences and material, they learn more. Thus, maybe it is the type of reflection and discussion offered that matters and not the mere existence of it in the coursework.
Every year, I tell myself that the Spring semester is going to be so much quieter than the Fall. I tell myself I will set goals. I will take this time to reflect and prioritize. I will not get overwhelmed… And then, suddenly, it is April. Response papers need to be graded, graduation ceremonies to be planned, and my inbox is proliferated with conference announcements for interesting events going on nationwide. With those announcements come calls/requests for proposals to present, and eagerly, graduate students go into overdrive to assess their research and where it fits in to the conference theme. As I entered this phase of my semester, I was lucky enough to have some great possibilities to propose to conferences, many of which were products of a research partnership.
As I began preparing the proposals, it occurred to me that I had little idea on how to properly determine the author order. As I have gone through my professional career, I have seen different expectations for collaboration, ghost writing, and sharing of credit based on rank rather than the contribution to the research. Some projects have been an egalitarian experience with appropriate credit-share. Others have been more… let us say… inequitable. Up until now, I never gave it much thought past the idea that this is what is customary based on age, notability, rank, etc. What I failed to realize until I got further into the PhD process is that formalized guidelines do exist to help you figure out the complex puzzle of co-authorship.
“Nothing has really happened until it has been recorded” – Virginia Woolf
This semester, I have been part of a set of Faculty Development Workshops on Global Citizenship. They have been interesting extracurricular activities allowing me to think about how we can globalize our syllabi and teach that next generation of global leaders. At the same time, they have been interesting escapes during the day that have demanded reading of interesting articles and critical thinking/discussion of our world around us. That being said, today was a busy day, and one where I could not attend my much-enjoyed seminar. I am also a note-taker for those meetings, so the need to get an accurate read on the meeting was not only critical for my own enrichment, but for the ability to post a quality summary for the other participants. This got me thinking about my trusty Sony voice recorder and, regardless of brand or toy, the ease and benefit of using voice recordings for a variety of educational and research purposes. It may sound obvious, but with the number of tools and software available today to facilitate this task, I thought it would be of benefit to write up a post that gave an overview of the many options that are available today.
To compliment the “Distractions” posting by KRED, I thought it would important to mention not only distraction management, but the regaining of momentum following the holiday. As I am sure many people feel, you rush, rush, rush to get to the holidays, make sure that all gifts are bought and social events attended, you collapse in a heap after New Year’s and then it’s just… January. Some of us enjoy a month-long break. Others take the few days off for the holiday and get right back into it. I returned back to work on January 3rd, ready to tackle what I hope to be a productive Spring semester. Thus far, it has been exactly that. Unfortunately, it has meant that I have been not up to too much blogging and I’ve been a bit swamped. So, in honor of the crazy thus far, I wanted to get a little post up so I could help regain momentum. First, a video! And then I will explain my reasoning for including this: