Sunday, June 19, 2016

The PhD Chronicles #5: First 2 Courses Completed

Three weeks and we have completed the first two courses of the program.  Granted, we've completed the physical presence aspect, we still have much more to do in the ensuing month.  Many pages still need to be written, but we have made it through the first half of the process: attending and engaging in deep intellectual discussions based upon hundreds of pages of academic work.  Go us!  

At the end of these three weeks, I can only say that I am even more happy about entering this program than I could have imagined.  The faculty were strongly supportive, insightful, and critical throughout our time.  They pushed as often as they held back and let the cohort figure things out.  I am again impressed with the ways in which they help to great a sense of cohesion and progress with everything they do with us.  From the orientation to the check-ins over the few weeks to the regular congratulations to students about making it through.  

The three weeks culminated in a celebration at the end of the three weeks in the Chancellor's Board Room, where we were treated to appetizers, dessert, and wine as a celebration.  The event had two purposes: to recognize the newest cohort (us) and to acknowledge the accomplishments of those who have graduated from the program.  The Chancellor had opening remarks and the Director followed.  It was a powerful way for us to recognize that we were at the start but that there is a finish line that we could cross.  


Cohort Cohesion

Like many others, I don't want to jinx myself, but I feel like I've been drafted to a dream team.  It is fascinating to see how twelve very different professionals from very different walks of life can form such a cohesive group that just a few days out and I find myself missing them already.  I'm surrounded by competent, intelligent, and skillful leaders who show me all sorts of things about leading, learning, and looking.  Coupled with this, they are a friendly and caring group of people that have been supportive throughout the trek.  I greatly appreciate just how much I will learn from them as much as I will from the program.


Nickels & Dimes

During the first week, a member of our cohort came up with a nickname for us: The Nickels & Dime.  Since we are Cohort 2015 and a dime and a nickel make up fifteen, it worked pretty well and has stuck.  With that, the same member also provided these with these great keychains, reminding us that we take a bit of the cohort with us wherever we go. 


A nickel and dime on a key ring.


About that Learning

So it's been 3 weeks.  What have I learned?  I was talking to a colleague about this and it feels like the first three weeks have brought me from the 30,000 feet view and brought me down to the specific details and nuance.  This was done in two capacities:  higher education and me as a agent and practitioner in higher education. 

I've found this invaluable and so powerful.  I've been in higher education as a student, faculty, and professional staff for 17 of the last 18 years.  It's clearly in my blood and yet, I had no full understanding of how it all worked.  If asked, I would have come up with paltry answers but now I understand the dynamic relationships that exist from the student to the federal government and all that is inbetween.  

Equally important, I better understand not only myself as a leader in higher education (regardless of what position I hold), but I also better appreciation the leadership all around me from colleagues to students to administration.  I can better articulate aspects of my identity that inform my approach to leadership and also feel more comfortable with aspects of myself that I feel can be problematic as a leader (and continue to evaluate and re-engage with those elements).  

I don't want to make aggrandizing statements but I do feel that just these two first weeks have been quite powerful in my learning.  I can only imagine what the next few years will bring.


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


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