Letter to Friends Back Home…

…posted here because I think it gives a pretty good overall assessment of my life these days and now my family can be in the loop too.

Wow. It's October. (Well, almost, anyway.) That means I have officially survived the first six weeks of grad school. And in one way or another, I have all of you to thank for that. It has been a heck of a transition and in some ways I'm only now beginning to feel stable. In other ways I'm still shaky and overwhelmed. But in all ways I feel happy and content and convinced this was the right decision.

The program has created the most stress and dissonance in my life by far. Looking around at my cohort I feel very blessed to have been selected for admission. It's humbling. They are a tremendously smart and talented group and I feel like a ten year old in high school on most days. The hardest part on a day to day basis has been trying to stay on top of all the readings. Oh. My. Goodness. Can I just tell you I have about 800 pages of journal articles (two pages per sheet) plus six textbooks.Just finishing the reading is a challenge but the expectation is, of course, to not just absorb it but be able to critique it critically and contribute in class. Eek! Just to give you an idea, I am regularly reading until 10-11pm two nights per week and spending about 21 hours in the library from Friday-Sunday. It's hard but worthwhile because we all know what a big mouth I have in class (or meetings) and I need to overcompensate at this point so that I feel confident enough to be able to contribute. This coming week is my first "hell week" with an assignment due in each class. Which leads me to…

Classes… I am taking three: two from a quantitative/empirical perspective one from a qualitative/critical-cultural perspective. That highlights what was the first big learning curve- everything is from a research perspective. Seeing as how I don't have much of a research background that was quite a mental hurdle. I didn't even know what the difference was between qualitative and quantitative when I got here and I still don't know which direction I will eventually choose to focus. But I'm learning new words such as hegemonic and polysemy, explication and operational definition. Woohoo! Yippee! If you're really nice I just might tell you what they mean then you can shout yippee too. The two quantitative classes are research methods and proseminar. Research methods is the big scary one that everyone was talking about before classes even started. I think it's going ok, but we have a mid-term coming up in two weeks which I think will highlight just how shaky I am in the terminology and concepts. Our class is already planning study sessions – power in numbers! In the proseminar we started historically way back with the Greek philosophers are are just now getting up into the mid-1900's. My favorite class is the qualitative one though – TV Studies. Yes, we are studying tv, but it's not easy. In some ways this has been the toughest class and I actually went home and cried after the second session because I couldn't even understand the QUESTIONS in class, let alone be able to provide answers. Sigh… This class has been the catalyst for the long hours in the library and obsessive study habits. It showed me just how steep my learning curve is and how hard I will have to work to get on an even playing field. So, I'm in there swinging. Studying and swinging.

Graduate Assistanship… First I have to say how much I'm enjoyng being a worker bee again. My boss is awesome and very smart. He has 23 years of experience and more ideas than there are bees in a hive. His excitement and enthusiasm rivals my own so we get each other worked up. lol… It's pretty funny and a good fit. The surprising thing is I'm working in the distance learning arm of Penn State (called the World Campus) and really enjoying it. Honestly, I never thought I'd say that. I had lots of doubts about distance learning and its effectiveness as a learning environment. But I am slowly being convinced that it CAN be very challenging and produce as much learning as a traditional face to face classroom. Of course there are bad teachers online just as there are bad teachers in the classroom, but I am beginning to be exposed to tools and techniques that make for a very rich environment. How about that? Who knew? Maybe one of these days I'll end up teaching online. It could happen. My boss and I are an office of two. Ha! We are the brand spanking new Faculty Development arm which was created in April and my boss came on board as Director in June. We are trying to get some programs off the ground as quickly as possible which has created yet another steep learning curve for me. I'm not only having to learn about distance learning, but faculty development models as well. So far, so good, I think.

Finally, life… Life is good. I've started running again for the first time in five years. I filled up my car the other day for the first time in six weeks. I feel good. I love State College and Penn State which is pretty much JMU on steroids. It has the same brand of nice people, school spirit, party-hard/work-hard environment. The students are smart, the football stadium is mind-boggling big, the ice cream is delicious, and the weather is lovely (so far, anyway). I still read the JMU website and follow the news on the CAA Zone message boards. My JMU moles still fill me in on the news and updates (Steve Grande – boo!) I lost my voice cheering the Dukes on against App State last weekend and still wear my purple windbreakers pretty much every day in the office.

 I want to thank you all with every part of my being for your support, teachings, and encouragement from the time I started my career at JMU as a student all the way through this moumental change in my life. I think about you all often and miss you a lot. I hope you are all doing well, happy and healthy. Please get in touch if you are ever in the area. I'm hoping to get down to JMU to visit sometime before Christmas.

Miss you and take care!
πŸ™‚ Stevie

P.S. Sorry this is so long and feel free to forward it to anyone else you think might be interested.
P.P.S. I still haven't sold my house so let me know if you know someone who is looking!

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4 thoughts on “Letter to Friends Back Home…

  1. I have to say it…you're a busy bee! I'm glad you're starting to feel better about everything. Yay! And you know what? I've known what explication was since high school. Haha. ;)I hope your house sells soon! Keep having fun!

  2. What a great update! It really sounds like you're settling into your new life wonderfully! How are Duncan and Isabel doing with the new house? And… I am so bummed you still haven't sold your house. I know that must be stressful.

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