Countdown: 8 weeks, 3 days

We are 8 weeks and 3 days away from preliminary exams.  And there are moments when I feel like I have no idea what is happening next.  With 2-3 weeks left of courses, we are getting close to the end of the semester at both my work institution and my doctoral institution and there are major papers, lots of events, and situations to get through before the end of the year is officially over.

I had been planning to use some data for my preliminary exams from a study on which a colleague from Institutional Research and I have been working.  However, after last weekend’s meetings with my advisor, program chair, and faculty member for the semester, I’m changing course and two days ago sent out a request to 45 friends across the country to help me gather new data for my prelims.

My advisor suggested that we spend some time connecting with members of the cohort above us to ask what they turned in for comps, what their presentation looked like, and other tips they might have.  I chatted with one member yesterday and am going to be chatting with a couple more next week.
It sounds as though with comps, one of the major components is going to be methodology, so I’m going to be focusing on researching that more and really trying to get my end of semester project for my Data Collections methods and analysis course in a good place to use a groundwork for my comprehensive exams and then hopefully my dissertation.

This is going to allow me to test a new app, which I’ll write more about in the future.  I can’t wait to gain further insights from my colleagues about what works well with the app and what does not.  I know I won’t be able to complete my study as I would have liked to complete it, but nevertheless, this will better mirror my practices thus far.

All this being said, I’m planning to read an article each day for the next 8 weeks.  Not every day is a great day in doctoral student world, but I have some new energy and enthusiasm around my program and my study, and I can’t wait to see how this keeps moving me forward towards the next major hurdle of the degree.

The world keeps spinning

To my momentary surprise, the world keeps spinning and the days keep flying by.  Over the last three months, it has seemed as though life has been in a constant state of pause as things at work and in school have been in flux.  But, I’m beginning to reclaim them as my own.

Recently, my institution has found it necessary to lay off folks throughout campus, including a staff member in my department.  We found out two weeks ago, but learned it was going to happen nearly two months ago.  All of this happening at the same time I have been in an organizational change class.  This class has often left me in a state of near-paralysis with assignments.  I’m not always one to get my assignments and case studies finished an entire month before they are due, but it is also unusual for me to wait until the last minute to get them done.  With each case study I have needed to do individually for this class, I have found myself waiting until the night before or the day of to finish it.  It feels completely uncharacteristic, but I think it is where I can function right now.

Yet, over the course of the last week, I have been able to connect with my colleagues while attending both the national ACPA conference in Indianapolis and the NACA Northern Plains conference.  In finding and connecting with my colleagues at other institutions during this time, I have found ideas for my work, new ways to approach the same issues that have existed in the past, and explored the question of next steps.  I reached my breaking point a couple of times, once when learning that my half-written paper was on my computer at home and not saved in dropbox as I had believed.  Another time, I snapped when I was reminded of the reasons why we do our work, hearing jokes come out of a student attending the conference which left me struggling.  After several consecutive nights of functioning on minimal sleep, I struggled.

That being said, I heard the amazing Brene Brown speak, and if you have not seen her TED talk, you have missed out.  Brene spoke about being vulnerable and the ways in which this is necessary for authentic relationships.  And, to be honest, I am not very good at that.  There’s a bit of Midwestern stoic in me which makes vulnerability laden with so much fear that risks abound.  And we know I’m not very good at taking risks.  But, here we go.

So, as I continue to muddle through the 400+ emails in my inbox I was not able to get to while at the conferences, and as I try to figure out how to rework the functions of the institution in my area, I see signs of spring all around.  I planted apple trees and raspberry plants after work last night.  And I continue to try to see the signs of spring coming out of the long winter we’ve had, I am hopeful that forced exploration of the functions of our office will lead to positive reimagination.