Summer is coming to an end and as I wrap up both my own courses and the course I’ve assisted in this summer semester, I thought I would pause to reflect and identify places for moving forward on this journey.
I blogged a bit this summer about my own growth as a researcher, which was facilitated by two of the three courses I took this summer. In one course, I developed a research proposal that will function as my practicum proposal. In my program, the practicum is part of the “Research Apprenticeship” which follows roughly the same process as the dissertation: proposal, oral presentation of proposal to get approval, carrying out research, writing up research, defending research. In another course, we focused on developing a literature review: another essential skill for the dissertation process (and for being an academic in general).
At the end of this process, I feel like I’ve grown a lot as a writer, first and foremost. Academic writing is a tricky thing, and the feedback and guidance of both my instructors and advisor were invaluable. Writing is thinking, and I know that my research brain has developed along with my prose. I am not ashamed to say that I am in love with my research proposal, and I am thrilled that I’ve been able to design a study that gets at research questions that I find interesting and sustaining. I spent a lot of this year seemingly unfocused (much to the worry of my mentors in the program: focus, Andrea, focus! was the most common thing I heard), but I find myself back at the same questions that I articulated in my application to school, but they are more focused as well as being functional (as in: a person could actually design a study to answer them). After considering other questions and ideas, in the end I feel like the topics I am looking at now are ones I could stick with over the course of not only my practicum, but could develop into additional studies that could be the focus of my dissertation. To be frank, I don’t have time to change my mind, so I wanted to be sure that I really liked what I am doing. And I do. (Additionally, once I get IRB approval for what I am proposing, I plan to post everything here on the site).
If year one was about experiencing school, year two will be all about strategy. Every decision must consider two things: first, is this decision going to help me finish faster? and secondly, does this decision help me get a job when I am finished? Spring 2012 brings defending my practicum, completing comprehensive exams, and developing my dissertation proposal. I want all my ducks in a row to get moving as quickly as possible into dissertation mode.
So here are the goals:
- move from exploration to professionalization
- solidify my career goals: make appointment at Career Services, develop a non-academic resume and cover letter (just in case!), keep an eye out for job postings to understand what is out there for people with my eventual degree.
- related to this, add a line to my CV every month (I know this sounds a little crazy, but I figure there is no harm in keeping this a focus every month, and wouldn’t it be awesome if I pulled it off? I heard this was something that folks on the tenure-track do, so it seemed like a good goal.)
- identify something every month that gets me to graduation faster: read dissertations from graduates of the program, etc,
- I also have a long list of brilliant people at my university that I have yet to meet. I am making it a priority to meet them this year.