PhD Balance & Support: Life as a Doctoral Researcher and Higher Ed Professional

As part of my “Thanks-For-Supporting-My-PhD-Completion” and ways to motivate other doctoral researchers, Melissa and I decided to write an article for NACADA’s Academic Advising Today. This piece shared insights from our #hackPhD Panel at #nacada13 and our own hindsight of what it takes to successfully finish the degree.

PhD Survivor

We are not alone in thinking that being both a full-time professional in higher education AND full-time PhD student is a CHALLENGE:

The tensions among academic and personal roles can have a great impact on an advisor’s doctoral education. The theory of doctoral student persistence (Tinto, 1997) in particular can provide a look at how conflicting roles might impede a doctoral student’s academic progress. Tinto’s theory (1997) assumes that the primary communities for students relative to their graduate education are their peers and the faculty in their programs. Social integration within graduate education is almost synonymous with academic integration in the department. These social communities assist students with both intellectual and skill-building capacities needed to succeed in their doctoral programs, as well as networking within the greater professional community. Membership in other communities, e.g. those encompassing personal roles, can have a negative impact on graduate persistence by providing conflicting demands for time. If students are not able to manage their competing roles, they may find that they must give up on some of them.  (Read the full article here.)

I am thankful to the #AcAdv Chat community and fellow PhD friends (#sadoc & #phdchat) for the support. A number of my colleagues from these groups ALSO hold a faculty or staff position on campus, while grinding through their doctoral coursework and/or dissertation. I salute all of you who have made it, and a number of you who are still working towards the end. {You can do it! #GoScholarGo!}

At times this challenge is not easy – AT ALL. What it often comes down to is, support at the local level. At my campus, I was fortunate to have dedicated faculty advisors, solid graduate program support, an understanding/empathetic boss, a supportive and collaborative office team, and brilliant Dean to scaffold my PhD progress. Although my support network online is brilliant,  I think that it is imperative for the Staff/Faculty Supervisor of the PhD employee to consider how they can impact degree completion. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

  1. Ask How To Support: Sounds easy enough, but often it does not come up in 1:1 meetings. Consider asking how their degree will fit into their overall career goals, and what sort of strategies and resources would be most appropriate to reaching this objective.
  2. Identify Funding Resources: Inform students about tuition breaks, employee scholarships, and travel funding that might be optional during their doctoral study. Sure – your grad student might be savvy enough on this topic; however it does not hurt to inform them about budget allowances or potential funding sources.
  3. Encourage Professional Development: Continue to nourish and cultivate professionals who want to hack their doctoral degree, AND contribute to their own personal growth. Professional and informal affiliations often helps their progress towards degree completion.
  4. Consider Scheduling & Being Flexible (with Time): Allow for a varied staff schedule, time in office, or even opportunities to telecommute on projects. This might even include moving a lunch or break around to meet with dissertation committee members, writing groups, or graduate student seminars. Often your graduate student is very good at both self- and time management, so trust them to be effective in and out of the office.
  5. Express Value for Scholarship: Help your employee identify service, teaching and research scholarship on your campus and with your professional affiliations. Think about their research as an extension of your unit’s or institution’s vision and mission, and capitalize on their talent and skills in this area. Scholar-practitioner contributions can impact strategic goals, and compliment what you do day-to-day.

If you currently supervise a doctoral researcher who is a full-time staff member, how do you support your employee? OR vice-versa. What do you need as full-time employee AND PhD student to get you to your dissertation defense? Please share in the comments below.

References:

Johnson, M. A., & Pasquini, L. A. (2014, September). Negotiating the multiple roles of being and advisor and doctoral student. Academic Advising Today, 37(3).

Tinto, V. (1997). Toward a theory of doctoral persistence. In P. G. Altbach (Series Ed.) & M. Nerad, R. June, & D. S. Miller (Vol. Eds.), Contemporary higher education: Graduate education in the United States (pp. 322-338). New York, NY: Garland Publishing, Inc.

Introducing the @ACPA Digital Task Force: Project Planning

This year I am fortunate to be collaborating with an invested group of scholar-practitioners on the ACPA Digital Task Force to  examine how technology impacts and influences post-secondary education student development. The various teams involved will focus on how the digital realm influences our campus communities, with regards to  crisis management, communication channels, programming initiatives, learner competencies, practitioner implications, curriculum development, and research contributions.

493567123 [Converted].eps

This year our specific team, comprise of Paul, Jason, Erik & myself, will be working on “Informed and Responsible Engagement with Social Technology.” Here is a snapshot of what our key focus area is about from the blog:

Our work is focused on educating students about their use of social and digital technologies.  To that end, our group will focus on how to effectively educate students on:

  1.     The new rules of social technology engagement.
  2.     Acting authentically, ethically and with civility in one’s online and offline life.
  3.     The opportunities and impact of social technology participation.

Although students are our main priority, we also recognize that educators need to be informed and skilled to engage students on this topic.  Therefore, our group will also focus on educating educators on these topics and how they can translate this knowledge into learning opportunities for their students.

We are interested in getting feedback, soliciting author contributions, writing educational resources, and more as the year progresses. If you are currently working on resources for informed and responsible use of social technology for campus, specifically for your learners – let us know! Do you have experience in collaborative writing, curriculum development, instructional design, and/or creating train-the-training facilitation guides? We want to hear from you!

To learn more about The ACPA Digital Task Force:

http://digitaltaskforce.myacpa.org/

Top Ten List for Being a Better Faculty Member

Just when I thought I was done with orientation sessions at UNT… I attended my OWN “new faculty” orientation.

welcome new faculty

{UPDATE: For those who are not aware, I finished my PhD this summer, graduated, and accepted a 9-month faculty appointment with the UNT College of Information as a Lecturer for the Department of Learning Technologies. Yay!}

During the day, information about the campus, expectations and advice was shared by a number of administrative leaders from the campus.

ten

One talk, from Dr. Warren Burggren, the Top 10 List for Being a Better Faculty Member, provided some sound advice, so I thought I would share this with you. I think it applies to new faculty, returning faculty, and others starting a new job in higher education.

10. Get to know the lay of the land. Beyond your office or workspace, get to know other locations on campus. Walk around and explore your college/university. Find out where buildings and resources are located.

9. Meet and greet in your department. Get to know fellow faculty members. Introduce yourself. Starting a new position is a great time to network and meet others in your department, on your campus, and in your discipline.

8. Know the rules… or ask about them. There are a lot of rules at every institution. Be sure to be informed, or know where to go for help or who to ask questions. Don’t be overwhelmed – just be smart.

7. Talk frequently to your chair. They are an ally and confident. Your chair will be there to support and guide your development within the department and your discipline. Set regular meetings/check-ins with your chair as their schedule allows.

6. Most of your frame of reference is still as a graduate student. Make the full transition to full time faculty. Please don’t feel like you need to socialize with your students – rather get social with your peer group. Get involved in faculty networking and social groups. Inappropriate interactions with students is something administration has to deal with, and they would prefer not to manage this.

5. Get a life. Even though you are working hard during your first faculty appointment, don’t forget to play hard as well. Take care of yourself. Find time to do things for you. #TreatYoSelf

4. Stay OR get organized. Don’t over commit. Manage your time effectively. Learn the ability to say no, and feel free to borrow the following phrase when asked to do something: “I would love to do ____ however; I don’t think I am being the best faculty member I can be.”

3. Teach and teach well. Focus on excellence in the classroom. Include solid bookends in your semester, i.e. the first and last lecture. Find something to talk to your students about during both classes. Make it experiential. Engage the students in the first lecture and final lecture. Be dynamic and encourage learners to want more.

2. Take pride in your university and community. Be part of the activities around the campus and city. There are a number of ways to be involved in the community and engage in school spirit. #GoMeanGreen.

1. Keep a sense of humor. The university is a complex hierarchical organization. You will want to take all things in stride. Be sure to laugh, and let things role off you.

Others offer advice for entering into academia here, herehere, here, and HERE. What advice would you give a to a new faculty member? Please share.

It’s My Graduation Day!

Today is the day my PhD degree comes to an end – it’s UNT Commencement!

Grad Regalia

Catch up: I defended my dissertation on June 12, 2014 and I am VERY grateful for all the love and support. It has been a fun four years in the doctoral program at UNT; however I am happy to say goodbye with this ceremony today. I know this event is only the beginning of what lies ahead with my teaching, research, and service scholarship:

“There is a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement exercises.’  Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” ~ Orrin Hatch

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Image c/o PhD Comics

For commencement, the graduate school required a 30-word summary of my research to read out during the hooding segment of the ceremony. Could you summarize your thesis/dissertation? I dare you to try in the comments section of this post. It took me a couple tries; however my Twitter writing skills were used to condense this blurb:

Dr. Pasquini analyzed 250 higher education social media policies from 10 countries. She established a policy database, and identified 36 universal topics to best guide social media use and implementation.

For my family, friends and peers who care to tune in, I will be officially hooded and dubbed a doctor between 3-4 pm CST time TODAY (August 8, 2014). You can stream the ceremony online, if you so wish, here:  http://www.unt.edu/commencement/watch.htm

{REQUEST: For my technically savvy colleagues, let me know if you can do a screen capture  of the event – I would LOVE a quick video segment of my hooding as a keepsake. :)}

For my local friends and colleagues in Denton, TX, I hear that the libations will be served at the Mulberry Street Cantina to celebrate at 5 pm onwards today. Drop in!

I’m Back… and #HowISpentMySummer [30-Day Photo Challenge]

You may remember me from blogging back in June. Well based on a certain (EPIC!) summer road trip I was rarely at my computer or connected over the last few weeks… and it was DELIGHTFUL. I enjoyed being able to take a proper holiday & just enjoying the great outdoors.

I would blog about it, but too much fun and adventure has happened in the last 5 weeks to contain in just one blog post. Based on a photo challenge idea prompted byJennifer Joslin (a.k.a. @jenniferejoslin), I’ll be sharing what I was up to over the summer with my #highered & #edtech community using the hashtag, #HowISpentMySummer:

#HowISpentMySummer Photo Challenge 2014

Join us in sharing ONE (1) photo a day to let us know how YOU spent your summer  (feel free to play catch up from Day 1-4):

When?: July 29-August 25th

What?: One photo each day to share #HowISpentMySummer on your favourite social media platform (Instagram or Twitter preferred, to Storify each topic each day) – see challenges for each date below!
Day 1 (July 29): Take a road trip
Day 4(July 30): Watch a play, a concert, or a movie outdoors
Day 3 (July 31): Take a hike, go bird-watching, or climb a mountain
Day 5 (August 1): Swim in the ocean or walk barefoot on a beach
Day 6 (August 2): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Day 7 (August 3): Eat something from a roadside stand
Day 8 (August 4): Make a bonfire or campfire (singing optional)
Day 9 (August 5): Play frisbee, softball, or soccer in a park
Day 10 (August 6): Jump in a lake, do a cannonball Into a pool, or swim in the ocean
Day 11 (August 7): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Day 12 (August 8): Visit with family or attend a family reunion
Day 13 (August 9): Tackle a DIY project at your apartment or house
Day 14 (August 10): Dance under the stars with someone/something you love
Day 15 (August 11): Eat homemade ice cream, gelato, or frozen yoghurt
Day 16 (August 12): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Day 17 (August 13): Attend a fair, festival, or farmer’s market
Day 18 (August 14): Get married or attend a wedding; or take a class or graduate!
Day 19 (August 15): Read a book just for fun
Day 20 (August 16): Post a picture of a curiosity, statue, or sign from a trip
Day 21 (August 17): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Day 22 (August 18): Spend an evening at an outdoor cafe
Day 23 (August 19): Sit on a porch or stoop and visit with your neighbors
Day 24 (August 20): Ride a ride at a fair or amusement park
Day 25 (August 21): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Day 26 (August 22): Go on a picnic or fall asleep in a hammock
Day 27 (August 23): Wash a car with a garden hose or pick a wildflower bouquet
Day 29 (August 24): Pitch a tent, post a nature picture, or paddle on a river
Day 30 (August 25): Your choice — Post a picture or video about your summer!
Why?: To share with the #HigherEd & #EdTech community about your summer. These photos can be from this past summer, a #TBT summer memory, OR you can just make it something you wished to do this summer.

More about the challenge here: http://howispentmysummer.tumblr.com/ Thanks for the fun ideas and prompts, JJ! Looking forward to seeing how YOU spent your summer! 

What’s Your Research Impact? #ImpactFactor

For those of you who track on me in social spaces, you know that I just completed my tenure as an academic advisor and counselor as of TODAY! This does not mean I will drop off from the advising world entirely, as I serving my term on the NACADA Council, I am a fan of the #AcAdv Chat community, and I involuntarily advise a number of students, colleagues, friends, and family, about academic and career matters on a regular basis. :)

syllabus Job Update: I’m Off the Market

I accepted a full-time faculty position with the UNT College of Information, as a Lecturer for the Department of Learning Technologies. YAY! My teaching responsibilities start in mid-August, so I will be sure to share more about this down the road. I will say that my work in both student affairs and academic advising helped contribute to my hire. {Remind me to post about the job search, interview, etc. process later.} All that I have learned about student development and support will DEFINITELY be applied to the online classes I’m instructing this Fall. Thanks #AcAdv & #SAchat!

 

So what am I doing  this summer?

Taking a hiatus from 8-5 office life on campus, to work on a few projects. One of these projects is an EPIC road trip adventure and… RESEARCH! I am contributing to a grant with @drjeffallen to compile a comprehensive literature review, platform information, metric indexes, social spaces, and general research on scholarly impact in the digital age. So far, I have been collaborating with a few researchers to assess and review individual research impact, specifically with regards to open and online scholarship, citation indexing, and altmetrics.

impactstory

Personally, I have been interested in learning more about this topic as an early career researcher who is a fan of digital scholarship and identity. I was recently added to the Impactstory advisor posse, so now I have some swag to give to fellow research collaborators, who share a similar research impact philosophy. See – I’m still an advisor!

 

Are you interested in research impact? Do you want to talk about how digital scholarship can influence research, writing, and publication? Let me know. Let’s chat! Follow along this blog, as I am sure to share some ideas, findings, and insights, and I will be tweeting using  #ImpactFactor as my hashtag of choice.

Participation Observation Method

In constructing the curriculum chapter for the Fashioning Circuit book* being developed by Dr. Kim Knight (a.k.a. @purplekimchi), I utilizing a few exploratory research methods to review the current workshop materials, lessons, and learning on the subject matter. The first method: Participant Observation. As I work through evaluation and assessment of the curriculum, I might as well share and get feedback on the process.

EFC Camp

Participation observation allows for the collection of information and qualitative data, rooted in the ethnographic research tradition. For this method, participation observers report on the physical, social, and cultural context to reveal relationships, activities, and behaviors of subjects. This is an effective method to gather information to support project design, data collection development, and to interpret other research. Data collection for this method includes note-taking, mapping-relationships, and media (video, audio or images) that might be translated into textual artifacts. Challenges to this method include diligent documentation and objective account from observers in the field, and this process can be time-consuming.

Specific responsibilities for Participant Observers include:

  • observing individuals as they engage in activities (as if you were not present and watching)
  • engaging in the activities to gain a better understanding
  • interacting in a controlled research environment
  • identifying and developing relationships with key informants and stakeholders

For the purpose of this research, I developed a field guide for our research team of three. Basics for the observation guide include listing the observer name/background, research setting, materials used, and concentration areas to focus on for the workshop observation. Other tips and general guidelines were provided to outline expectations for observing.

The research team divided and conquered today by taking notes related to the following categories:

  1. Lesson/Curriculum (Electronic Fashioning Circuits Camp)
  2. Lead Instructor/Facilitator (a.k.a. Dr. Knight)
  3. Learners/Students (participants in the workshop)
  4. Facilitators/Helpers (those supporting the workshop)

The observation guides were segmented by the 4 categories and included questions to prompt observers and focus their field notes.  The observation goal was to focus on the physical space and set up, participant attributes and involvement, verbal behavior and interactions, physical gestures, personal space, lesson understanding, instructional support, and individuals or examples that stood out from the workshop.

At the beginning of the day our group met to review the research context, expectations, behavior as an observer, and potential problems that might occur during the workshop. Another item we discussed was distinguishing interpretation (I) from observation (O), and labeling our notes accordingly (Kawulich, 2005). To help with strategic note-taking, I encouraged leaving space to expand on notes, using shorthand to follow up with later, writing observations in  sections, and encouraged our team of researchers to consider body language, attitudes, conversations, ambiance, and general interactions that might be relevant for the curriculum.

Participant Observatin Continuums

Image c/o Chapter 3: Participation Observation (Guest, Namey, & Mitchell, 2012)

During the day the three of us took notes on tablets, laptops, mobile phones, and pads of paper with the following platforms: Google docs, Word, Evernote (audio & images), etc. We reconvened the end of the workshop to process and discuss what we observed. This debriefing provided ideas for supporting a research team, specifically with regards to:

  • general observations, ideas, and questions about the workshop
  • how to create anonymous identifiers for research subjects in notes
  • expectations for field note-taking and organization submission for the lead researcher
  • roles and responsibility for how to effectively observe a single group within in a workshop, i.e. instructor, learners, and helpers
  • future planning needs and ideas for upcoming participation observation

I am truly grateful for the UT Dallas EMAC students, Jodi & Lari, who volunteered their time to observe and be a part this exploratory study. Their insights and ideas are very helpful for future field observations and research method development. Once everyone’s participation observation notes and artifacts are collected, I will share how to analyze this data.

Lily pad

*Interested in learning more about Fashioning Circuits? There’s a few social spaces for that! Check out the Fashioning Circuit’s website, Facebook page, Twitter handle or hashtag #FashioningCircuits. Feel free to follow along, and join the conversation.

 

References:

Guest, G., Namey, E. E., & Mitchell, M. L. (2012). Collecting qualitative data: A field manual for applied research. Sage.

Kawulich, B. B. (2005). Participant observation as a data collection methodForum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research6(2), Art. 43, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502430.