The PhD Chronicles: #4: Week 1

Here I am at the end of the first week of the doctoral program and I think the only word I have for this is WOW.  And that's a totally good "wow."  It has exceeded my expectations in many positive ways and it better than I had previously imagined.

I awoke this morning with only what I could described as the first-week grad school hangover.  We're going strong Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm.   I had decided previously that for me to function at my best, it would mean getting to the campus by 6am (to avoid traffic, do work, and hopefully workout) and leaving around 7pm (to avoid traffic, do work, and catch up on things).  I stuck to it as well which was great.  But this morning, I felt like I was in a bit of a fog and it took me quite a while to get past it (coffee, of course, always helped).

My observations for this week fit into three clear themes.


Intensity


These three weeks are clearly meant to be intensive and all of us have felt and expressed it during this first week.  The reading, the writing, the dialogue, and the reflection pieces send me in all sorts of directions of thought.  I'm being stimulated with what my cohort members and faculty have to offer and it's all very exciting but intense.  A cohort member described it as a sprint, which it is, but it's a sprint within a marathon and thus, it's a bit jarring.  But I think that's an asset to the program.  The peak (sidebar:  I had to look up the difference between peak and peek because my brain just wasn't read to deal with parsing the difference) moment of intensity this week were the peer interviews that we did as part of a project on one of the two courses.  These were powerful and emotional for both interviewer and interviewee.  I'm glad they were geared towards the end of the week since it gave us time to get settled in, establish comfort and trust, and figure out what we were doing.  But the process of connecting your deepest reasons for become a graduate student and what you believe will make you successful--when you're being honest with yourself and your interviewer--is an intense experience and one in which I felt both in sharing and having someone share with me that I was close to tears.  I think the intensity of the interview also made it cathartic as well; giving many of us to help externalize the big things in our life that bring us to a doctoral program.


Bird taking flight.

Exposure


This week has exposed me to a lot of things professionally and personally.  I am inspired by the cohort model and its power.  I've heard about its importance but have yet to fully experience it myself.  The different points of view coupled with the more nuanced discussion of what it means to be a practitioner in higher education is fantastic.  So much is discussed and processed in these classrooms that helps me to understand things I either never understood or never had the capacity to ask in my own place of work.  Furthermore, there's much that I may have understood implicitly (barely) that is now made explicit.  I found it fascinating how much of higher education I take for granted without having an inkling of all the moving parts (and it's not like I do now, but I have better understanding of how little I know).  There is also a good contrast between the two courses--one that focuses on leadership skills and being a doctoral student in a cohort model coupled with a course that explores the foundations of higher education.  Though they are different, they inform one another in interesting ways.  

Support

I've heard about doctoral programs as being places of academic aggression and it feels like this program is not that.  Clearly, I could be in the honeymoon phase but I am surprised at how conscious the program is aware and attentive, providing a good deal of support for the students.  The faculty recognized the challenge of the three-week June sessions and are responsive to students' challenges and concerns with that.  They hold us accountable but recognize the impossibility of the task they put before us.  Coupled with this is the cohort support and how beyond just learning from one another, we also commiserate together before, during and after class as well as in the digital realm.  The support from peers who all know the craziness that you are experience and have your back when you haven't completed or understood a particular writing is quite relieving.   

So that's what I've got from my first week.  I don't like to use grand language but it felt amazing and an honor to get to work with such great people and to be able to spend this time in my life exploring such topics.

Also, I performed my second presentation this week, an article review.  Here is the Prezi:



Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1

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