Dissertation Journal #5: Year 1

It's been way too long since I've written a journal entry and this one has been stewing in my mind for five or so months.  I've finally had some time to put together my thoughts on it.
Wordcloud of this post in the shape of a flag.

So as I go down the rabbit hole of dissertation, I wanted to take this post to highlight some of the projects I've taken up in some of my courses.  I do this because, in hindsight, I believe it shows some of the different places I've been and how I got to my topic.  In that regard, I think it might give some insight or hope for those just starting out about how they get to their topic (if they don't have one already OR if they have one but aren't sure how to get their angle on it).  As always, everyone's doctoral experience is different but there are certain universalities in that each student takes a collection of courses and within those, works on a variety of projects that may or may not capture their intellectual passion.  So, here's where my projects have taken me.

One note about the list: I've left out the Quantitative Methods course because we didn't really do a research project.

HIED601: Educational Leadership Skills (June 2015)

For this course, one of our two first, the final project consisted of a lengthy critical reflection about who we are as educational leaders after exploring the ways in which identity permeate our experience in higher education and can be simultaneously shackles and comfort in the face of hostile and pervasive spaces within higher education.  While the final project did not have me consider significantly the topic that I wanted to explore, it did make me think about the type of scholar-practitioner that I aim to be and what it would mean as a white, middle-class male to aspire to leadership within higher education.  That experience has been important as it made me think about what it means to knowingly work in an environment that privileges you and how does that impact how you act and how you advocate for others.    
We tackled a small literature review for this course and I chose the focus of mine to be academic capitalism, access, and public good. In revisiting it, these themes appear regularly within my coursework throughout the program and certainly are key to my dissertation.  In particular, I grapple with the financing of higher education and the debate of whether it is a public or private good.  Embedded with that is a look at academic capitalism (the ongoing development of higher education as a market or business) through its embrace of patents and copyrights to generate revenue.  

HIED630: History of Higher Education (Fall 2015)

A sign on a fence that says "Pathway Under..."
“pathway” by waferboard 
is licensed under CC BY 2.0
This project was surprising to me in many ways.  I really enjoyed it, even though it had nothing to do with exploring open access or open educational resources.  Instead, we had to look at a primary source and do some research and analysis on it.  Because we had been introduced to the Wellesley College online archives, I decided to examine the student newspapers at Wellesley prior to and after white women's suffrage in the late 1910s and early 1920s.  This was one of my favorite projects in that in reading the newspaper after newspaper about what was going, I just found it utterly fascinating that this representation of life in college in the 1910s & 1920s.  There were just bits and snippets of curiosities to be discovered and I have such vivid memories of scanning paper after paper, reading these reports, stories, commentary, etc of students who were long-since dead but were quite alive in these pages.  

HIED611: Access and Equity  (Fall 2015)

In this class, we did an annotated bibliography on a topic related to access and equity.  For me, I wanted to look at and consider the digital divide and its impact on higher education.  While not nearly as many articles are written on this as I thought there might be, there were definitely some to explore.  Additionally, I encountered some new ideas or at least new terminology that was useful for me to think about at this point and moving forward.  The term in particular, "techno-capital" (from Lu & Strauhbaar, 2014) was powerful and useful.  Borrowing on Bourdieu's idea of cultural capital (watch a quick video here or a good summary here or from Bourdieu himself), the authors explain techno-capital as a the intersection of access to technology and the know-how to leverage it effectively to advance one's opportunity.  I'm a good example of this in that given access to a computer at an early age when not as many people had them, I slowly accrued techno-capital in my ability to do things with the computer to advance my opportunities from website design to networking to social media consulting.  Anyways, having a language for the different that extended beyond just access has been quite useful in both my research and my professional work.  

On an unrelated note, I later turned these abstracts into a blog series along with other abstracts that I did over the years.  

HIED632: Organizational Leadership in Higher Education (Spring 2016)

Like HIED610, we were given the opportunity to do a literature review around a particular theme (limited choices) with specific texts to consider.  I appreciated these assignments since often trying to do two research paper (one per course) that were due at the same time, often meant that one got the short shrift.  Having one course where I could dive deep in whatever direction the research led me and another course, where the writing and research was more funneled by the instructor was immensely helpful.  This paper was enjoyable to write and to think about the challenge of employee retention and what that looks at in different levels of the institute.  However, my proudest element of this paper was the fact that I managed to craft the headings from The Clash song titles.  I have enjoyed The Clash but I'm not a huge fan; rather once I had the paper title ("Should I Stay Or Should I Go"), I became determined to follow through with the sections.  

HIED634: Public Policy Issues in Higher Education (Spring 2016)

A compass painted on a sidewalk.
“Compass rose” by Eric E Castro 
is licensed under CC BY 2.0
For this course, we had to discuss public policy that impacts higher education and I chose to focus on public policies aimed at open.  We wrote a policy brief and a policy research paper.  I tackled open access research with the brief, and focused on FASTR  (Fair Access to Science and Technology Research), a policy which would require research funded from agencies with budgets of $100 million or more must be published in a way that makes it free to the public.  I had only been slightly aware of the issues of open access research through my work on open educational resources.  It came up occasionally so this policy brief was the first time I spent some significant time thinking about it.  This set me up for my final project for the course which focused on exploring policies around access to knowledge be it open educational resources or open access research.  Without a doubt, this is where my dissertation journey was conceived.  A lot of the ideas and just the philosophical view that drives my research was born in this particular paper.   

So these were the projects I completed the first year and shaped my thinking and my work going forward.  Check out the next Dissertation Journal entry to see what projects I pursued in the second year!

Want to keep up with my PhD adventures?  Check out any of the links below:

  1. Acceptance...and 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. My Educational Autobiography
  14. So Starts the Third Semester
  15. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  16. PhD'ese
  17. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  18. Semester's Endgame
  19. Year 1, Officially Done
  20. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  21. Year 2, Week 1 Done! 
  22. 1/3 Complete!?!?
  23. Click...
  24. Day 1; Semester 5
  25. Share and Share Alike
  26. Mindful and Mind-Filled
  27. 5th Semester Down
  28. Day 1, Semester 9
  29. The Two Demons of My Doctorate
  30. When Senioritis Kicks In
  31. The Final Friday
Sub-series specifically about the dissertation:
  1. Dissertation Journal #1
  2. Dissertation Journal #2
  3. Dissertation Journal #3
  4. Dissertation Journal #4
  5. Dissertation Journal #5
  6. Dissertation Journal #6
  7. Dissertation Journal: QP Revised Edition

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