Showing posts with label phd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label phd. Show all posts

The PhD Chronicles: Click...

Something definitely clicked this summer while working on a set of papers for my course in globalization in higher education.  The course was a very powerful and thought-provoking course that had my mind running in a million different directions. As the discussions continued to make me think critically about what higher education is and it's roles throughout the world, it led me to reconsider my work on open educational resources.  
Word Cloud of Blog Post on HigherEd

In the course, we were tasked with two papers:  a reflection paper and a term paper.  Though that is what I set out to do, it's not exactly what I ended up doing.  When it was all said and done, I had a paper discussing the potential global value of using open education as a means of reinventing higher education's mission to be a public good and a paper discussing that the open education movement is or at least can be understood in some ways as a part of a coercive practice of neoliberal capitalism.  It was a fun time to say the least.

Ok, some of you probably doubt that last statement, but it is true in part.  The professor, in his infinite kindness and patience, gave me the (unpressured) time to really sit with the ideas and flesh them out well after the course was over.  In having time to sit with, further research, and reflect about what we learned in the course and my various thoughts on open education, things began to click into place and I found myself in both papers making more complex arguments that I had previously not considered or was just able to better articulate.  All of which is to say that things really clicked.  I've enjoyed different work that I've done throughout the program but I feel like this is one of the first pieces of work that was authentically "mine" or an alignment of evidence in a unique and compelling way.  I'm glad to have experienced this and hope that I will continue to have these moments as I continue my journey.  

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  20.  Semester's Endgame
  21. Year 1, Officially Done
  22. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  23. Year 2, Week 1 Done!
  24. 1/3 Complete!?!?!


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

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The PhD Chronicles: 1/3 Complete!?!?!

I'm not entirely complete with the summer session--after all, I've got 3 papers to still write in the next month but I am done with the courses themselves and am poised to finish these papers, thus, completing the first 1/3 of credits for the program.  24 credits in just over a year.  It's been intense to say the least but I'm glad I've stuck with it.

This semester has been a bit more emotionally rougher than I would like.  I had the malaise of the first week, which was hard to get through and then the massacre in Orlando happened at the start of the second week.  Though I was able to recenter myself by the end of the first week, the start of the second week with the shooting, shook me up some more and the inevitable hate and bigotry that spewed forth from many pitting bigotries of all sorts against one another and alienating so many people also cut deeply.  The rawness of that coupled with the reminder of the potential harm that "education" as a systematic force can create from the globalization course to the poorly taught afternoon course made for a lot of challenges.    

I feel like I need to dedicate this semester to my cohort.  I felt so disconnected from things because of what I was struggling with in terms of wondering about my place in the program and world of higher education at large and many other issues that came up in our morning class on globalization.  The afternoon class did not get any better than the first week.  However, my cohort commiserated with me and we tried to help one another to keep us trekking forward, knowing that the end was in sight.  


Word cloud for this blog post
The cohort cannot be undervalued in this program.  I know not all cohorts are the same and the dynamics can vary but invest in your cohort.  They can be a place of solace and strength.  This semester, I found that our ways of discussion and strategizing how we dealt with the challenges and limitations of the program to be quite powerful and important.  We've spent the last year getting to know one another and gelling as we figured out our strengths and challenges.  This summer, we saw the power of that work and how it helped all of us to take the necessary steps and that's been really great to see.

When I consider the big different between this summer session and the first summer session, it would be this:  The first summer session is about getting caught up to speed about higher education and our roles in it while also trying to acclimate ourselves to the different faculty and expectations.  Fast forward three semesters and I feel like this summer I was ready to do what work I could, not worry about the rest, and just allow myself the intellectual luxury to enjoy the development and insights that were occurring to me.  This could have happened more smoothly and powerfully if the second class was not so much about cramming content and not engaging ideas, but this seems to be the essential disposition to take in this program.  There's no conceivable way to cover it all.  There just isn't for full-time professionals, but one can meaningfully sift and organize what you come across to be prepared to reach for or at least have a glancing understanding of those things you don't get to.  

Beyond being close to completing 24 credits of the program, I was also excited to meet with the program directors to pursue two projects.  One project will be to take over their social media and the other will be to overhaul their website to make it more student friendly.  I'm particularly excited about these projects as I feel like they will get me more engaged with the faculty and the program as a whole as well as an opportunity to help and impact students.  

At this point, I know more existential challenges await, but I know it will get done and I will someday be called "Dr. Eaton"--something I still snicker at the thought of.  But I'm going to do this and that's all I need to keep thinking about. 


Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  20.  Semester's Endgame
  21. Year 1, Officially Done
  22. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  23. Year 2, Week 1 Done!


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: Year 2, Week 1 Done!

As can be told by my earlier post, this week has been rough.  I ran into challenges a lot about what I was doing and why.  I'm still not sure I'm entirely out of the miasma but I'm in a slightly better space.

Monday rolled into Tuesday, wherein I had two presentations to work on.  One of which, I won't lie--I got a bit more persnickety than I probably should have but I couldn't resist.  I'm not a big fan of unnecessary and meaningless work and the presentation wherein we were supposed to summarize 70-100 pages of findings from a book that had 20-year-old research in it (in some areas, that's ok, but when we're talking about who our students are--it's irrelevant), seems like a tremendous waste of time given all the other things we could do.  The other presentation I was a bit more fond of, but because of poor planning, we didn't get to it.  (Note to educators, use your time in the class wisely and if you scheduled for many people to present, do not spend too much time waxing away to the point at which several people don't get to go--it's inevitably frustrating to the students).  

All of this has felt supremely rushed and underwhelmingly compelling, which is to say that my motivation is lacking and has been hard to rally.  I'm hoping this weekend will allow for that and I'll get caught up on so much of what I've missed this first week, but I make no promises since we already have a paper due.  

However, being deep in this malaise of disconnect, I two things certainly helped me to rally back into a better space.  

The first shout-out goes to my cohort.  They all recognized me struggling and at some point during the second half of the week reached out to me.  It meant a lot,; it helped a lot.  Even though there was nothing they could really do about it, they still helped me talk about what I was running into and why I was in such a funk.  For those that are thinking about a cohort-based program, this is definitely one of the benefits.  The team had my back.

But something else happened at the end of the week that was supremely helpful.  As happens (to none of my readers or friends surprise), I get into discussions online about a variety of things--many of which lie at the intersection of social justice, politics, and identity.  While careening into one such discussion, wherein it was clear that people in the thread were unwilling to view others as humans, I came close to reacting aggressively (or at least as aggressively as I do) but managed to contain myself.  I continued with the dialogue for a while longer and eventually, a long-time friend of mine messaged me with the following (with some editing out of irrelevant material):

"Omg, Lance! I just saw the back and forth between you and some close-minded individual "contributing" to XXX's original post. I want to say that you are much more eloquent than I ever will be. I was raging just reading that. I agree it's sad to see so many,  even in our generation that are so fearful that they turn hateful to others. I think I need to take some pointers from you on how to respond as I have a tendency to get so fired up, that it just makes things worse. Again my sincere thank you for modeling the way"

I responded in kind that the person had made my day (given my week was a bit rough and the conversation I found hurtful in many ways) and the friend followed up with:

"Thank you!  I am glad you take the time to do this and I am working on my approach actively.  I am not always the popular one at the lunch or dinner table but I too feel like I need to use my voice on behalf of others that may not be able to. As I interact with a number of privileged white folks,  I am now trying to change the way I speak and try to appeal to them. Because if I treat them like outsiders or monsters that is what they will always be. All of this is easier said than done! So again thank you for not being fearful. We need more people like you"

The interaction carried on for a few more back and forths but you get the drift.  My friend's reaching out though made a significant mood shift for me.  I haven't overcome the entire malaise of what it is that I'm working through but the fact that someone observing me in action was moved by what I was saying.  I needed that because I was beginning to feel the futility of it.  In this program, we dive into understanding the systems of higher education (and the world for that matter) and see the many different faults that lie in its foundation.  In many ways, the work we do in the classroom, in our research, and in higher education can feel like a Sisyphean feat and without a doubt that weighs on me.  Not because I don't enjoy the work that I'm doing per se but because if I am not finding ways of fixing or addressing the issues (or worse, actively contributing to the problems unintentionally), but because I care deeply enough to want to make sure I'm doing something to help.

So even though what I was engaged with the Facebook thread wasn't technically about higher education, in many ways (the broad ways we think about education and its purpose within culture), it was.  Therefore, for someone else to reach out to me and appreciate what I was voicing, reminded me that silence is just as often an action too and that if I can rally to regularly be a voice, I still have the chance to help.  

It's not a huge victory but it is one that has brought me back into step with what I am trying to achieve and do while in the program, so I thank my friend for that.  In the meantime, I should probably get ready for week two!

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  20.  Semester's Endgame
  21. Year 1, Officially Done
  22. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: Year 2, Week 1, Day 1

Here I am, back again at the start of the fourth semester (or first semester of my second year as a PhD student and well, I'm nonplussed.

It's been about three weeks since I finished last semester. and though I made sure to take that three-week   break as a three-week break and do little to engage with my program and allow myself to reboot, I'm not sure I'm as recharged as I would like.  I guess I would call it a bit of a malaise that I find myself in that is in part generated from me and in part from the program.  The part that is from me comes from a mixture of things.  

Word cloud of this blog post.
So while I have certainly taken a break during this time, that doesn't necessarily mean I have stopped from engaging in intellectual work or contemplation--I don't know that I'm capable of that since, learning, thinking, and reflecting are things that I am largely attached to as a central piece of my identity.  However, sometimes, what I am learning and reflecting on can have a strong emotional impact on me and throw me into a bit of (get ready for it...we all know this is coming), existential crisis.  In this instance, I had the pleasure of reading Noam Chomsky's Who Rules the World followed by Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.  Both of which looks at the large systems of injustice (one of Western hegemony and the other of white American dominance) and ask how did we get here and what are the elements that contribute to it.  Both are complex and nuanced and largely reveal systematic thinking and structures that perpetually reproduce injustice and dehumanization.  So those have been fun to consider as a white middle-class male in a country whose external and internal history has been active participants in such perpetuations of injustices.  

But that only gets more problematically compacted when I start to read and thinking about higher education in a global context (the morning course I am taking this summer session) to see how globalization and in particular, globalization of higher education has the potential to contribute to that and make things even more problematic.  Is higher education as an extension of largely Western (or Northern) dominance in which we push ways of knowing, culture, and our own legitimate ways of training people onto other countries (by directly setting up campuses there, holding people from their countries in disregard given their non-Western (or non-Northern) credentials?  For instance, if one has a PhD in literature from the University of New Delhi and have published many articles in Hindi publications (which may have as much readership as those in English), but few in English, that professor's status is devalued because he or she has not published in English or--maybe has not relied enough on English-produced research in his/her works.  Therefore, for me, this idea of spreading Western (or Northern) higher education directly or indirectly seems problematic, which raises the question, how am I contributing to this as an agent of higher education?  Are there steps to counter it or to de-establish in what ways Western/Northern privilege contributes to it?  

That's the morning course--thinking about what higher education means in an increasingly globalized (a loaded term on its own) world.  But then there's the afternoon course which is about the impact of college on students.  Here, the problems unfold in two ways.  One is that the text we are using mostly for this first week is fifteen years old and focused on student development n the 1990s.  Basically, it's a mega meta-analyses of thousands of students on a population that has no relevant to my work today.  The mention of online courses or the use of technology is nonexistent and the course in this capacity feels like an utter waste of time and a disappointment.  While the text we are using is a famous text and there is relevant lessons to take about approach and such, it feels like we're assigned a section of the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1995 to study and consider how that information informs our present.  Sure some of it may be relevant, but large gaps are likely to exist and make whatever we do take from it highly fragile and doubtful.  

Thus there is a sense of waste but that is only steepened by actually reading the text.  After all, the text is supposed to be a key book in the field of student development and so much of the information is vague, insignificant (even when it is "significant"), and generalized to be of any use.  "Study X shows that students who's name ends in W may be significantly impacted by sunny days so long as they occur in the spring  and students sit in buildings that have an eastwardly-facing window.  However, this study was limited to one institution based on the West coast."  Yeah--that's what I'm talking about. 

So the knowledge itself is highly contextual, limited, inconclusive, and outdated, which I totally get, but here is where it all starts to come together problematically.  We're studying things that are increasingly irrelevant, coupled by recognizing that the work we are doing has the potential to be problematic in the ways it includes and excludes different peoples and groups, while also privileged because of where we are doing our work. Most, if not all of us, see ourselves as agents of change (after all, one usually finds himself/herself in higher education because they want to participate in the life-changing process we assume it all to be), not necessarily agents of systematic perpetually reinforcing inequalities and injustice.  Yet even if we are able to do some modicum of research are we likely to become another research study compiled into a book that shows how limited and eventually irrelevant our research is? 

In doing so and knowing that this is our ultimate fate, compromise our character?  If I know that I'm not likely to be able to change the system because of how massively structured it is around ideologies the perpetuate inequity, privilege, and injustice and I know the work that I do as a scholar or as a practitioner largely perpetuates this or is minimalized or marginalized, what does my desire or willingness to continue to move forward say?  In some ways, it could be construed as my privilege to know its likely meaninglessness and still go forward because it will still advance my personal life (already a position of privilege).  In other ways, moving forward could be seen as a site of resistance to and that no matter that I may not have an impact, fighting the fight is still important.  (Of course, interrogating that response would also raise the question of privilege to do that; after all, tilting at windmills is something one can choose to do as a pursuit).  

And if you're wondering about the emphasis on the futility of it all, that derives much from Chomsky and Alexander; particularly Alexander who shows how systematically and subtle we have culturally shifted our focus away from racial inequality and created a blindspot to how we responded to the equality in the post-Civil Rights era.  Of the two books, that one is the must-must read.  


So yes, there is a where my current existential malaise finds me.  Trying to sort out the big things to understand how they work on the small things.  I certainly don't have answers and am not sure what going forward looks like, but that's where I find myself on the first day of year two.  

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  20.  Semester's Endgame
  21. Year 1, Officially Done


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: Year 1, Officially Done

That's it.  Year one is in the books.  My papers have been submitted and now, it's time to wait for grades and enjoy the three-week break before the summer intensive.  But hey, by July 1st, I'll have 24 credits and that will be 1/3 of the credits to completion of the degree.  So what has this first year been like?


I got what I asked for!

Word cloud of this blog post in the shape of a check mark.
I regularly get asked how is the program going.  It's not the most asked question; that goes to "Are you done yet?"  (The answer to that questions is :  "Stop asking me that question; it's a PhD program, community education program on astronomy.") followed by "How much do you have left?" (Another PhD student question no-no.  It's like asking a marathon runner how much he or she has left to run; we hate being reminded on the finish line because it's so damn far away).  However, when asked about the how, my response is usually, "I got what I wanted and now, I'm dealing with it."  I wanted a rigorous program; one that pushed me and yes, even made me doubt my abilities.  Having three master's degrees with only one that actually pushed me and made me earn it, I realized that at the graduate level, this was supremely important to me.  I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone, hurt my brain thinking, discussing, and writing, and feel like there was risk involved in completing it.  

Well, I got what I wanted.  It's been all of those things and more.  


I learned a lot.

It speaks to the above point, but I did learn a lot this year.  I learned much about higher education, where it comes from, how it works (and doesn't), its possibilities and limitations, and probably, most important, a much clearer contextualized understanding of my roles within it.  I realized more of the complexity and dynamics of higher education, which has helped me to understand why previously conceived solutions, though nice, are not likely to work and to begin to conceive of pathways to make things work that I am interesting in.

I also learned a lot from my cohort and better understand the power of the cohort.  Besides being in a room with other skillful and intelligent people who can look at the same content and come up with different ideas, I also was impressed with the secondary learning we are doing about each others' projects.  Thus, as some of us start to focus on specific issues or elements of higher education semester after semester and share that with others through group projects, presentations, and dialogue, we learn more about things that may not necessarily interest us personally enough to research but by proxy become more aware and invested in these issues.  

I've also learned to let go and accept my limitations at certain times.  Often, I am not going to get to all of the reading (and yes, even classes, I didn't get to any of the readings).  But that's ok for me.  I do what I can, recognizing that I have limitations and obligations that mean not everything will get done.  So long as I am able to continue forward, continue learning, and continue trying, I have come to learn to let the rest go and just know that it's there when needed.  

I still feel concerned about completing and a dissertation.

And I don't think that will go away until after I have the prefix Dr. added to my name, though even then, I will probably be lost to how I did it.  It still feels so far away and overwhelming.  I know I will get there, but it still feels like the great mountain on the horizon.  I may have closed some of the distance towards it, but it still feels far away and still unconquerable from this distance.  

I still grapple with impostor syndrome.

Maybe I always will, but this is perhaps why the dissertation feels so insurmountable.  Maybe it's because I an letting things go (admitting that I can't do it all) or feeling the doubt that I've mentioned in previous posts, but I still grapple with feeling like I am legit.  I am sure that many friends would (and have) rushed to my side to say, "You bet your ass you are; if anyone is legit, it's you!" Yet I still feel like I'm not always as smart as people think I am and being in a program with other intelligent and skillful people, critical professors (and i mean that in a good way), and encountering works that open up need ways of understanding, challenges me because well, I'm an adult in his late 30s with numerous degrees and ample experience in higher education and still woefully ignorant.  

My doubts are also flared by discussions with other who have achieved doctorates and ask questions that can seem like they are measuring up my degree.  The two that raise the biggest flags and make me feel most uncomfortable or where I feel a the biggest sense of judgment (implied or inferred) are around these two questions:  How many credits is the program?  Does the program have comps (comprehensive exams)?  They both feel like measuring questions.  The first, often seems embedded in the idea of a PhD in Higher Education being "legitimate", while the other being an indication of the program's rigor.  Maybe that is my own doubt speaking, but academia is indeed filled with petty arguments of intellectual one-up-manship and I've certainly heard enough bashing of doctoral degrees by doctors of different disciplines to know that a hierarchy exists.  


The relaxing begins now!

Ok, enough reflecting.  The semester is over and I've got 3 weeks before the next one starts.  I need to enjoy some time with friends, the reading of many graphic novels, the playing of video games, and just time not figuring out what is due in a given week.  


Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  20.  Semester's Endgame


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: Semester's Endgame

And with that, I finish attending my fifth and sixth class.  I've got papers to write, but they feel under control and will be done soon.  Then, it's three weeks until the next summer session (#2 of #3; yes!).  

It's been about a month since my last post in this series.  I'm feeling better, though the waves of doubt and defeat still resonate with me at times.  I'm glad to be at the end of the semester with some down time.  Some of the other issues have been alleviated (though still waiting on the job front) and so I can feel a bit better as I go into the weekend of paper-writing and finalizing of projects for the end of the semester.  
Word cloud of blog post in the shape of a shooting star.

I definitely withdrew this semester more than last in terms of connecting with the content and with my cohort.  The combined stress of things made it much harder for me to concentrate in class and to apply what I was learning more substantially.  I still feel like I learned a lot.  The course balance was also off this semester in that once course felt particularly taxing in its work and the amount of learning we were doing while the other felt not as substantive.  I learned some things but I feel like I didn't foster many new skills or hone existing ones.  I know some of that is on me for sure, but I just don't think there was much emphasize on the big picture.  

Like students everywhere, I went like water this semester, taking the path of least resistance.  I wonder about this.  Am I being smart by tackling things that I know things about or align with my own interests or am I reducing my learning experience?  By finding synergy and pulling together the different pieces of my life together do I lose something in the course of learning of challenging myself and branching out?  It's a fair but complicated question and one I'm still grappling with.  

I often feel like there is no real time to push further because of so many other things going on.  Getting the PhD is the pushing further.  Trying to complicated it even more seems like I would only be jeopardizing the other items that I am juggling.  Of course, the answer that I'm likely to hear from the program seems to be then I might need to reprioritize my goals.  Yet what is there to reprioritize?  The job needs to stay because I need to be employed.  The self-care of watching a show a day and some kind of physical exercise are essentials.  My work is highly demanding of the mind; I need time each day to turn off or just let my brain wander as it will.  The general maintenance of the day (preparing, cleaning, etc) are of course what makes the days functional.  

Of course, the discussion above also resonated with the students that I work with and makes me wonder for how many of them, the degree is pushing further and how I should respond to or work with that.  Do I encourage them to push further or recognize that the degree is pushing further?  How do I as student and instructor find (or even determine if there is) a happy medium?  Do I structure the work so that it is requires pushing further (something I have done in different capacities; preventing synergy, rather than enabling it)?  

The above discussion is part of why I am enjoying this blog series as it is encouraging me to take the step back and process what I am learning in the big and small.  I am sure others have found ways of doing this but writing (and blogging in particular) has been a solid means of finding my way to making sense of what I am learning.  

All right, enough procrastinating, I've got some papers to write!

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese
  19. And Sometimes, You Feel It


Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email.

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The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #4

So while I had hoped to work that this journal regularly, that clearly hasn't been the case.  Oh well, there are so many hours in a day/week, right and when you're juggling full-time work, part-time work, a PhD program self-care, and social time, somehow, such things just don't happen as they should.  But that doesn't mean I'm not still trying to think about it and jot down ideas here and there.  

This June, we start the process of developing what is likely to become our dissertation and have had our first few meetings with the professor that will be ushering us into the process during the semester.  Based on those meetings, I feel like I'm in a good place.  He gave us a set of questions to write about and reflect based upon what we think we currently want to do and so that will be the crux of this journal entry.  

However, in taking after a good friend and mentor of mine, I'm going to start to make this an open process where people are invited to comment and give feedback as I develop my ideas.  While people can comment in the blog section here, I like the idea that people can tag their comments to specific questions, making the text more interactive and helping both the commenter and myself clarify what area we are discussing.  
Word cloud in the shape of a word balloon.

So here is link to a Google Doc wherein if you want, you can read and even comment.  I promise, when relevant to respond.  

In case you are wondering what I'll be answering but don't wanna click through, here are the questions:
  1. What is my dissertation project about?
  2. Why am I conducting this dissertation topic?
  3. Why should anyone care about my subject? What is my big point?
  4. What is the big picture, the context or the conditions that make it important for me to pursue this topic?
  5. When I am finished with the project, what is the one point that I want to leave with my readers? Which three subpoints do I want to convey to my audience?
  6. Which theories or methodologies will I use to research my topic? Why is that the appropriate theory or method?
  7. What data, sources, texts, or objects are most appropriate for me to work with? Do I have access to them? Do I need to collect them?
  8. What will be the contribution or implications of my dissertation?
  9. How does this topic align with my professional mission and career goals?




Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The PhD Chronicles: And Sometimes, You Feel It

Note:  Please remember that these posts are dated one year from when they are composed.  They represented my thoughts, reflections, and feelings in the time of writing.  These may not necessarily reflect my current thoughts or may just be a means of flushing out my thoughts to get a better view.  

Well, we'll call this post a processing post.  I spent all day in class yesterday, trying to focus but not succeeding.  It's a busy and chaotic week in which besides actively job searching (thinking and planning for interviews, interviewing, submitting applications, etc), teaching, working and the PhD program, I also had to unexpectedly care for someone.  To be clear--I'm more than happy to care for family and friends--without a second thought.  That said, it doesn't mean it doesn't put added stress into one's life when you welcome someone into your home for several weeks who has limited mobility (and I can only imagine how stressful and challenging it is for that person--I'm not disconnected from that).  It would be challenging without anything else.  However, I'm happy to do it even if it adds new obstacles to my schedule.  

So with all that in my head, I felt this week has been one big ball of stress and of course, that's led me to doing a fair share of stress eating and not nearly enough running.  Funny, how that works--I have ample opportunities to cram food in my face but not enough to get out and running.  I was definitely irritable, exhausted, and just wandering in my own mind.  Coming into class and maintaining any level of attention felt like a lost cause.  My mind couldn't hold onto ideas long enough to connect them or make sense of them.  My class participation was a bit of a joke and I'd be surprised if anything I contributed came across as coherent.  Blarggg!

And of course, being in such a rut with a good deal of it being spurred on by issues with higher education, it certainly did lead me to think about whether I'm in the right program or if I want to persist.  Now, I know some of this is part of my own regularly struggle with being in a PhD program that is in some ways, the exact part of the process.  I get that.  But of course, when I am in the midst of it, struggling with it, frustrated with college leadership in many different areas of higher education, it certainly does make me hesitate and wonder about the work that I do and its meaning.  I supposed it's inevitable but it's still a dark and challenging place to be.  


Image reads:  "BLANK SPACE INDICATES A TWO-WEEK GAP BETWEEN WHEN I STARTED THIS POST AND WHEN I FINISHED IT!"

Several things collided in one week.  Much of it revolved around work politics and the realization that as much as I love where I have worked for the past nearly five years, that it was indeed time to move on.  This transition may take weeks or months and though I've already been actively job-searching, this week crystallized on many levels that it is better to move on than to stay.  That if I am ever going to do more at this institute, I need some space for the time being.

The big reasons to leave have to do with growing and exploring new opportunities that will push me to learn more than what I am currently doing.  However, there are certainly smaller factors that have encouraged me as well and much of that has to do with finding disappointment with different leaders within the institute.  I know full-well that I will find such issues elsewhere, but I need to do so ahistorically--with the fresh eyes of a new employee learning the institute rather than the complex history that I have had with the current institute.  

Regardless, the process has been a bit disheartening and  hit me a bit hard since higher education is the focus of my program. I know that I will inevitably move pass this state of mind and be more excited and enthusiastic about what I'm doing, but I think right now, I'm just pulled down by a mixture of stress, disillusionment, and disappointment.  

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. Dissertation Journal #1
  14. Dissertation Journal #2
  15. So Starts The Third Semester
  16. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  17. Dissertation Journal #3
  18. PhD'ese



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.