Last night when I came home from work, I found a stack of mail bound together with rubber bands from my mail hold over the time I was away with my family. At the top of the stack was a copy of the latest New Directions for Student Services periodical. Back when I was working on my master’s degree, Mike Ellis, a faculty member in the SAHE program suggested we subscribe to the journal. While I have not yet obtained my own subscription, I have frequently read the periodical. Topic-focused, this issue focuses on Creating Successful Multicultural Initiatives in Higher Education and Student Affairs. This edition was special. When I took it out of the plastic wrapping, I opened it to the second chapter and found my name in print.
One day last winter, a mentor of mine, Becki Elkins, then-Director of Institutional Research, called together Ken Morris, Jr, the then-Director of the Intercultural Center, and myself and asked if we would be interested in writing something for this issue. So, throughout the spring we met, wrote, and worked together to get our chapter together for the publication. Becki is an accomplished writer and Ken has been blogging for Diversity Focus, a community-driven organization focusing on the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor and making the area more inclusive for all people. It was an amazing experience and writing with them was so valuable in helping me to think about the ways in which I write. I hope we can write again in the future. Our chapter is called “Making Meaning through Multicultural Initiatives,” and focuses on assessment and small campuses.
In addition to our chapter, I can’t wait to keep reading the rest of the periodical. Two individuals who have been transformative to my experience and understanding of social justice and the ways in which I can be a more inclusive person, someone aware of my identities of privilege (which I hope to push myself to write about more this year), Kathy Obear and becky martinez, also wrote a chapter about race caucuses, one of the methods used in the Social Justice Training Institute, an experience which has rocked my sense of identity in a way which is so necessary and important for me to be a better ally to students, staff, and the world. I hope to read their chapter tonight or tomorrow.
Over winter break, I spent a lot of time talking with different members of my family, friends, and others. Almost every time, I was asked, “When will you finish your degree?” In the past, each time I have been asked that question, I have had a quick answer. I’ve responded, one year, two years, three semesters, or the like. Yet, this time around, I’m working on my dissertation. I have smaller moments of celebration. My standard answer generally falls along the lines of: “I’ll finish my coursework in about a year, and then I’ll be working on the paper.” The paper. As though it is a quick weekend-long five or ten page paper. It’s not. It’s a research project. But outside of work and school, I don’t generally run in academic circles. Conversation is more likely to be along the lines of the weather, the crops, or family members.
My doctoral program is wonderful. I love that I am a practitioner-developing-scholar. I am able to maintain a full-time job while being a full-time student and often find myself in awe of my classmates who balance this and a partner, family, or other commitments. I feel fortunate I am able to focus on class and work. The program, however, does not necessarily stress publishing or presenting at conferences in the way that other programs suggest their students write and present. I have been fortunate to be mentored by a faculty member with whom I am working on a paper – make that need to refocus on a paper – and with whom I’ve been able to present at a conference. I really want to make her proud in the work on this paper and am disappointed in myself for not being able to focus on it. But, my hope is that for the next two weeks, before my next courses begin, I can make some good headway as I continue to track down sources and make final edits on the paper.