Back from UConn… and the Verdict is…

Am I ready to be a Husky?

Well, my visit was interesting.

I wish I could write a big old post raving and swooning about UConn, but I think I got an honest view of what it is like.

Lol… That sounds so bad. It wasn't bad, it was just honest. Kinda like that girl/guy you crushed on from a distance in high school then when you met in person you discovered was just a normal person like everyone else.

UConn is just a normal person like everyone else.

So… yes, I'm still going. Unless I get into Penn State and then I will go visit Penn, see that they are just normal like everyone else, and flip a coin. Just kidding. I would never decide something as important as a PhD by flipping a coin. I'll draw straws instead.

Ok, so the positives:

  • collegial environment – the students seem to get along well and support each other and I genuinely liked most of the students I met. The only two I did not really like are both leaving so no worries.
  • AWESOME stipend – much better than most places and I can even get pre-approved for a mortgage.
  • a variety of faculty – seems like each one has a specialty area so I can get a breadth of experience and dabble in concentrations which will make me more marketable down the road.
  • location – it's nice and rural, just like I like it.
  • campus – feels like an old-school college campus, lots of greystone and brick.
  • teaching – I could get as much teaching experience as I want which matters down the road during job search time
  • cutting edge faculty – a couple faculty members, young relatively recent hires, seem to be doing innovative

    research which I am very interested in

  • one "named" faculty – one person that I could tell is a kind of big name in his field, even wrote his own theory
  • popularity – communications is one of the biggest majors at UConn and they are hiring tons of adjunct faculty to meet the demand
  • huge incoming cohort – apparently there are 15 students coming in the fall cohort. That is double, triple, quadruple the size of other recent classes. I'm sure my future bff's are in that group.
  • type of learning – I asked one student how learning is measured in each class and he insinuated that there were a lot of papers, presentations, and participation/preparedness scores but not too many classes that had exams. [This is good.] I am much more of a synthesis, analysis, higher order thinker than a memorize things and spit them back out on an exam thinker.

The negatives:

  • no funding – the biggest bad news was learning that I am currently not funded. That means I would have to pay my way or get loans. The good news is the faculty chair really seemed to like me and all but promised she would try to fund me by the beginning of classes at best or end of fall semester at worst. She also sent emails to a bunch of other administrative units across UConn to see if they would hire me as a GA. Funding is the same, I just would not get the teaching experience right off the bat.
  • coasting – it seems some of the faculty have been resting on their tenured laurels and haven't been doing much research or contributing much to the PhD program
  • financial weirdness – a couple faculty hinted that there was some drama last year which led to an incoming PhD class of… zero. Couldn't exactly pin down what the problem was.
  • youth – ha ha – I'm so old – it appears the vast majority
    Ten

    of students come straight into the Master's program from undergrad or straight from another Master's to the PhD, so they are in their mid-20's. Ummm… I only saw one other student in my age vicinity, and he kindly and pointedly told me the age difference was fine and he did not feel like their weird Uncle Ted from the 60's. Whew.

  • no placement success – There have not been any students from the PhD program placed in faculty positions. They have all successfully been placed in corporate/industry jobs but placing students as faculty is where the program name spreads and gains in reputation.
  • Graduation rate – There is one student graduating this year. He say he started with four or five others who all left for one reason or another. He is actually trying to get a faculty position and has interviewed a few places, but no success yet.
  • dissertation worthy …really? – I sat in on a research group where the student who is graduating was presenting the research plan that will become the backbone for his dissertation. He designed two one-page newsletters that will each hopefully garner a different emotional response from the target audience. Really? What? THAT'S the research basis for a DISSERTATION? Hmmm…

Things that make me go Hmmmmmm…

  • personalities – the faculty for the most part encouraged me to get involved, welcomed me to join their projects, and talked about mentoring. But one student went out of his way to tell me he did not get mentoring the way he wanted. Hmmm…. Right now I am erring on the faculty side because that particular student seemed kind of bitter and intense.
  • quantitative focus – two faculty went out of their way to scare the poop out of me about the quantitative focus and hard core series of statistics classes. They must have reviewed my file and taken note of my GRE quantitative score. They did not need to work hard at scaring me, I was already nervous.
  • transformational time – several people talked about things changing for the better in the program starting with the huge 15 person incoming cohort. That's good, but change can be difficult sometimes and I do not have a good handle on the politics or "teams" involved with the forward movement.

So, I feel good about the trip. I certainly scored BIG POINTS by showing up and taking things so seriously. Several faculty were flattered/impressed that I had read their journal articles and I feel relatively confident about getting funded through a TA in the department or a GA somewhere else on campus. The department chair was even helping me search for homes/condos for sale by the end of the second day!

I have no doubt it will be an interesting or even rocky ride at times. There was enough evidence that things are not all

roses and sunshine, but what is? I have lived enough lives and weathered enough storms to know what I can handle and how to handle different situations.

I also got the impression I could be very successful there if I wanted to. It seems like it is very possible for the students to coast their way through without much effort just to get credentialed. Both faculty and students confirmed that but both also said you get out of it what you put into it. My master's program was like that too. I set my own standards and worked hard to reach them. I definitely had classmates that did not work nearly as hard but still got the same diploma. I'm sure that will happen at UConn, but I am an intrinsically-motivated learner so I want to get out of it what matters to me and what will prepare me to be successful in the job search.

Similarly, but on the flip side, I got the impression that life can be balanced while in the program. (That is super important given my chronic fatigue like crap. I have become convinced the CF is mostly due to stress which I am hopefully going to completely shed by leaving this life behind and starting over next year.) I was worried I would be in the office or at home studying/working for 12-16 hours per day. I got the impression it will not be like that and that the faculty are balanced in their lives as well.

So… I'm still going and I'm going in with my eyes open.

I'll give Penn State a call this week to see where I stand before I get too far along. Otherwise, I'll go up to UConn again for a few days towards the end of May to really hammer in the house hunt. Yay!

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Off to Visit UConn

Welp, my Vox friends… Tomorrow I'm heading up to UConn to visit the Communications Department. These could be my future Peeps! I'm so excited!

I'm being rather obsessive about this visit. I'm already in the program, for God's sake! It's not like this is an interview. But, you should see the binder I have put together.

Ok, let's stop to ponder the fact that I have put together a whole friggin binder for this visit. A big binder with dividers. Fifteen SECTIONS of information. Um hmmm… Can you spell outofmyfreakingmind?

Sigh… I know I'm overdoing it, but it's a big deal to give up my whole life, move 500 miles away, and start over from scratch. I just want to make sure I'm making a good decision.

Ok, so here are some interesting facts about UConn… Not at all related to my program, but fun.

This is the logo featuring a very cute version of the Husky mascot.. All UConn huskies are named Jonathan in honor of Jonathan Trumbull, and all but the first, a brown and white husky, have been white with one brown eye and one blue eye. The current "real" Jonathan is Jonathan XII; he is often seen greeting fans and eating dog biscuits at sporting events. Jonathan is one of the few university mascots in the nation to have been selected by students via a popular poll.

It was founded in 1881 and serves more than 27,000 students on its six campuses, including more than 9,000 graduate students in multiple programs.UConn offers 105 majors, eight undergraduate degrees,16 graduate degrees and five professional degree programs.

In 2004, the University of Connecticut became the first Division I school to win National Championships in both mens and womens basketball during the same year.

This building is the Chemistry Building… it is designed to resemble an old New England mill from the outside. However, students refer to it as "Auschwitz" for its dour exterior and chimneys. Yikes…

UConn Student Traditions:

  • Midnight Breakfast: An end-of-the-semester stress buster which occurs the night before final exams. Students share music and good times while their professors serve them breakfast snacks and other brain food.

  • One-Ton Sundae:  The UConn Dairy Bar satisfies your sweet tooth by combining their signature flavors to create a giant hot fudge sundae. During Winter Weekend students, staff and faculty line up and pay a few dollars to receive as much ice cream as their giant buckets can hold.

  • Ooozeball:  Students splash around in 600 gallons of water and 60 tons of dirt during our annual mud volleyball tournament

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And, at least in higher ed circles, UConn is also famous for several riots in the 90's… Good times… Not the university's proudest moment. There's a surprising lack of photos from it online. Very effective PR management by the UConn administration, I suppose. But found these two on a blog from a person from Rutgers. Enlarge the first photo to see the "I Love UConn" sign in the background and take note of the surprisingly happy rioter holding the sign in the second…

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So… This may be my future home… I'm excited! I'll be there Thursday & Friday. Yippee!

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I Got into UConn

Yaaaaayyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!

What a fabulously wonderful piece of news this evening. After I bounced around the kitchen for about 5 minutes I called my mom (of course) and now I'm telling you guys.

I am EXTREMELY happy about that. I really like the program and it's a rural campus which I am also looking for. JMU plays UConn in several sports so I can stay plugged into athletics at least a little.

I am so excited and happy right now I could just pop.

Still waiting to hear from 5 more. I don't know about the financial package yet either, so still have to wait a while longer.

Life is good.

EDIT

Ok, now that I've calmed down enough to communicate effectively, here's a bit more about the UConn program. Yes, it is one of my top choices. There is one other that I am really interested in, so I need to be patient till I hear from them. I've also applied to three other programs that I would be happy to go to, but either the location or the research streams are not exactly what I am looking for. So, this moment in time life looks really good for the next five years.

University of Connecticut
http://uconn.edu/
School of Communication
PhD in 
New Communication Technology

Program Description: strong emphases on communication theory & a wide range of research skills. The goal is to provide students with a rigorous course of study that will prepare them for careers in the academic, commercial, or non-profit spheres. UConn Communication Ph.D.s are found teaching and conducting research in Communication departments, schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, and schools of Public Health. UConn Communication Ph.D.s are also valued in industry and government, for their skills in research on mass communication and new technology effects, advertising, audience analysis, evaluation, and other areas of communication.

Primary Faculty:

RB: Evolution of human behavior, communication, and social structure. Social development of emotion expression: Overt, nonverbal, cognitive, and physiological aspects.  Nonverbal sending accuracy: Gender and personality differences, relationships with right vs. left hemisphere brain functions.

JF: Research on small group communication, with particular attention to intergroup communication and identity formation.

KF: Research in the area of effects of the mass media on individuals. Specific interests include the effects of the mass media on adolescent socialization. Current research focuses on the effects of televised portrayals of sexual intercourse on young people and the effects of different contextual features of violent video games on aggression related outcomes.

KN: how people use computer media, with particular attention to the influence of different types of avatars on the person perception process. Her work also evaluates the extent to which computer media influence people's satisfaction and effectiveness in reaching communication goals.

AW: Dr. Wang researches how consumers or audiences process information. His research focuses on information processing psychology, integrated marketing communications, and Internet advertising.

Research Labs

Alcohol/Media Lab

Emotional Communication Laboratory

Ethnic and Women Audiences Lab and Field

Human Computer Interaction Lab

Media Effects Lab

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