Monday, April 21, 2008

Reflections of my First Year as Doctoral Student


What a year! When I came in I was the 'cock of the walk'. I thought I knew everything about IT and being a graduate student. My arrogant New England thinking led me to think that I going to be smarter than everybody else. Woh! I was mistaken (to say the least) on this front as well as in other areas. Consequently, by making these mistakes I have grown as an individual both personally and professionally.

Another critical mistake was my demeanor. That is to say, I have had to make a significant cultural shift. Adjusting from being a pushy, pretentious, New Englander [which I have had some moments where my yankee mannerisms have reared their ugly head (not to be confused with the evil empire from New York)] to becoming a relaxed southern gentleman. Though, I have not achieved this cultural shift, I am closer to achieving this than I was back in August 2007.

Also, I am more comfortable in skin as a graduate student. I was expecting a cut-throat environment where you have to be the absolute best at what you do or else be eaten alive (at least that is what I was told prior to arriving at UA). In actuality, I have discovered that it is not a cut-throat environment but rather a more gentle and kinder environment. This is a place where asking for help isn't viewed as a weakness. What is more, this is a place where kindness and manners are in order at all times. At times this has been difficult to do deal with because I have been in an environment for most of my life which demands all its members to be blunt and at times passive-aggressive in their communications with others. Obviously, this is not the way of the south is at all. In fact, I am often reminded of what many had told me prior to moving to Alabama, "Alabama, thats like going to a foreign country." I will agree that there is some truth to that statement. Of course, the same could be said for someone who was born and raised in the south and moves up north to attend graduate school.

Questions. Questions are a good thing as they help the individual narrow and stay focus on their goal. The first question is who do I want to chair my dissertation? I do have a good idea of what type of person I want to chair it but who fits that description. I need someone who is responsive and prompt (again, that northerner in me) that can provide details and good direction. Another question I have is what medium do I want my web portfolio to be. I know I had talked about Wikispaces and have started to develop within Wikispaces environment but I wanted to develop something nice.

Overall, I think coming here was one of the better decision I have made (though, I certainly do miss the money I was making when I was with Fidelity). I am looking forward to doing my 12 credit hours (I must be mad) this summer and working with Continuing Studies performing the duties of an instructional developer (something that more familiar to me). I am presenting at my first national conference this summer even though the paper isn't anywhere near finished (which is driving me bonkers).

These are my thoughts and reflections for the 2007-08 academic year.

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