I realized today that it has been exactly two months since I moved from Phoenix, Arizona to San Diego, California to start my journey as a first-year doctoral student in the SOLES Leadership Studies program at USD. Needless to say, everything is new, from where I live to where I work, but I have found that there is something thrilling about jumping into the unknown.
It is now week 3 of working in the Office of Admissions and Outreach as a graduate assistant and my responsibilities are fairly vast, spanning from meeting with prospective students to discuss specific SOLES programs to managing social media content. I also have the opportunity to lead our Ambassadors Program to connect current students to prospective students which, in my opinion, is fabulous. What better insight could an incoming student receive than to converse with someone who has gone before him/her?
I am excited for what is to come in the next few months. The campus, much like a hibernating bear waking up after a long winter, is slowly coming to life. The growing number of students hustling and bustling from one office to the next to take care of a long list of to-dos is a strong indicator that the academic year is right around the corner. There is great anticipation of meeting new people and building relationships, discovering what classes will challenge my current way of thinking and exploring opportunities to teach and travel. I hope that as the year unfolds, you will eagerly await new posts from our SOLES contributors (student ambassadors, faculty, staff and alumni) who will share their experiences, thoughts and ideas with you.
During our pre-session meeting Dr. Rose Martinez asked us what drew us to this class, I remarked quite unashamed that for me it was her. After having traveled to Chile with Rose and getting to know her in and around SOLES for various reasons, I find that her penchant for artistic expression is akin to my own. We speak the same language. So off I went halfway across the world to soak up what I could of Bali from the person I thought could facilitate it best. My expectations were only to soak in a new way of being, thinking, and seeing the world. I couldn’t conceptualize what it would be, and that was probably the biggest gift of them all, to go in completely open.
What I was met with was art everywhere. In the streets, on the sidewalks, in doors and on door frames, even the meals were plated in banana leaves and garnished with flowers. Everything was art. Well, everything is art, but there was much more of an appreciate and a noticing of it within the Balinese culture. It was as if the part of our senses that recognize expression were amplified. There was no white space, not in the paintings, not in the scenery, not in the culture. It was filled in completely and sometimes even colored outside of the lines. In America there is a high value on structure, order, rules, and predictability. The first time you drive or ride on a Balinese road you have to throw that out the window, if only for your sanity. Here, it was different. Here the only rule was expression. Expression of pace. Expression of faith. Expression of culture. Expression of mythology. Expression of gratitude. Everything bursts with colors, smells are more pungent, sounds are more cacophonous, flavors are more complex. Bali is living out loud.
Every person is a teacher. Every place is a school. Every moment is a lesson.
There were a lot of touching moments and people that we met in Bali but none affected me quite like meeting Ibusari. She was a 30 year old divorcee–which is a huge deal in Bali, it ostracizes you in a way because belonging to a family, specifically a man, is really your footing in the community–who was not only running a school for special needs children but she was also empowering women through a women’s center. She was building community, for me I saw her as a female banjar leader, a banjar is a system of about 120 families that operates like a township of sorts, making decisions for the community through a town hall process where a leader (who is always male) governs the process however it is social not political in nature. While I’m sure some American “feminists” would scoff at the idea of teaching women sewing or cooking or any other domestic skill, I found it to be beautiful. There is no perimeter or limit to how to empower a woman, and within this culture knowing how to contribute to their families was of the utmost importance. I, for one, think its the same in our own culture it just tends to look a little different. But why should there be any shame in developing domestic skill? What she was offering women was an endless horizon. Learning from her and one another the strength of community, the support you can find within one another, and how far you can move a society when all members are empowered. It honestly was the first time I ever felt anything remotely close to feminism. It was liberating to know the power of sharing your story, and helping others to be the best them, whatever that might be having no expectation of the outcome. It reminded me of Julia Stiles’ character in Mona Lisa Smile. All that education to be a housewife? No. All that education to have the choice.
I wasn’t wrong when I assumed that Rose would facilitate learning in a unique way on this trip. What is it going to take for you to become? She would ask us. Take things in, get emotional, ask deep questions of ourselves, reflect, inquire, swim, dance, talk, taste, and give yourself permission for the full range of human experience. In so many words, she told us all of this on the trip. There were too many trips, too many faces, too many jokes laughs and moments to recall and recount with words that can never describe. There were tears left in the Indian ocean, blood left on the beach, conversations thrown into the wind by myself if not each of us. I think it is safe to say we all left a little bit different than when we came. And I think that’s the point of it all. What I found I walked away from Bali learning was a little bit about an island in Indonesia, and a LOT about a woman named me.
As you know, one of requirements for all SOLES graduate programs is that we all have an international academic experience. My name is Corinne, I am from France, and I work at the SOLES Global Center, located next to Bert’s cafe. First I would love for you to come and say hi next time you are in the building!
Now, I am here to convince you that the trips the Global Center offers are one of a kind experiences. This year, students have had the opportunity to travel to Sri Lanka, Bali, Spain, Kenya, England, Japan and many other destinations. Now you might think: “ Wait a minute, I cannot afford to travel, what am I going to do?” Do not worry: the units for Global Center trips are discounted to $700 per unit. Also, think of it as a once in a life-time experience and great investment. You get to travel with peers and teachers and learn in a new environment. The experiences are richer than I can even describe. Trust me! I went to Africa for my requirement and it was life changing in so many ways.
If you are not able to travel, however, there are other options available to help you meet your international requirement, though any alternative must be discussed and approved by your faculty advisor. Come see us! My advice: You are in graduate school enjoy the ride and ride the wave even if it takes you out of your comfort zone! That is the point and there are valuable lessons to be learned in stepping out of our personal boundaries.
To read about other students’ Global Study experiences, look at posts tagged “Global Study“.
Coming from the Midwest, I was a little shocked with apartment prices here in San Diego. However, I would describe myself as “creatively frugal”, so I was determined to find an apartment within my tight budget. Although most people told me to expect paying $800/ month, I knew that was not an option, so I had to get creative. In addition to finding an apartment way under $800/month, I also had to find roommates. Not knowing a soul in San Diego, I turned to the Recently Admitted SOLES Facebook group to find potential roommates. I lucked out because I found my roommates and also one of them was willing to share a room to save on costs. I know sharing a room does not sound fun to most; however, you have to think of your priorities in apartment hunting. Is it location, price, safety, etc? Price and safety were major factors for me and sharing a room kept me within my budget and we were able to find an apartment close to campus. It is important to not only prioritize your wish list for an apartment but give yourself time to research places. Lovely, Trulia and Craigslist are a few websites I used and will use for next year’s apartment hunting. I highly recommend following the Facebook group for helpful tips and finding roommates. Good luck everyone!
Here are a few tips from other students who have been successful in finding housing in San Diego:
- VISIT! It is hard to really know what a place looks like (and the neighborhood surrounding it) without visiting first. This may be difficult for some but if you can swing it, come out for a long weekend to apartment hunt.
- Be ready to act fast! One student said: “One day I missed a place by, literally, 30 seconds. The next morning I found the studio that I ended up getting and wanted. It was posted (Craigslist) and I immediately called and left a voicemail with a self-description and what I was looking for. The gentleman called me back a few minutes later and did a short phone interview before agreeing to show me the place. I liked it and applied immediately and was accepted.” Another admits: “I found a place (had a showing with TWELVE other people at the same time!!!) put an application in the next day and was paying my deposit the day after that. Things go quickly!!”
- Don’t look more than 30 days before you want to move, and look around the first of the month. “A realtor suggested that I look as close to the first of the month as possible because that’s when people put in notice and owners/landlords put up listings.”
- Know what is a necessity and what you can live without. Sure you’d love a rooftop deck, but is it a necessity? Do you need to live on the beach or would living 5 miles out be okay? Do you need to be near public transportation? Make a list of the non-negotiables and stick to it!
In preparation for our Action Research Symposium this Friday, May 9, 2014 from 9:00am-7:00pm, I asked some of our SOLES Ambassadors who either have or will conduct action research to write a little bit about what it is. Many of our graduate programs require action research as an exit requirement for the programs, so I thought what better way to hear what it is than straight from the scholars’ mouth?
What the Heck is Action Research?
Good question. I am just a few days away from presenting my own action research project as my exit requirement for the Higher Education Leadership program. Even though I have been working on this project since January 2013, I really did not understand the true meaning of action research until just a few months ago.
When I first applied to the program, I was told action research is different than a thesis because your topic should focus around the community you are a part of and how you can make a change within that community. In short, it is practitioner-based research. ‘Change’ is a scary word sometimes and the mistake I made was thinking the change I had to make had to be mind blowing.
Action research entails a series of cycles (as many as you want) where you are taking action on something and then reflecting on it. There are several different versions of cycles to use as a guiding framework for your own research, or you can create your own model, like I did.
A quick overview of my research: I am a co-advisor to an undergraduate organization called the Out-of-State Student Council. Part of my research entailed learning more about the struggles of undergraduate students at USD but the majority focused on the student council itself. When I started in my position, the council was pretty much run by a professional staff member and then when I arrived as a graduate assistant, I began co-advising. I found myself creating meeting agendas, sending reminders, having a large hand in organizing the events and leading the meetings. I quickly realized this organization needed more student leadership and ownership and the tasks I was completing could, and should have been done by students on the council. Therefore, I met with my supervisor and we brainstormed with students and created a student executive board. My cycles entailed interventions with students and after the first year of the new council, I collected feedback from them to determine what else we could improve. Like I said, not mind blowing but it definitely made a difference.
When you complete an action research project through SOLES, you quickly find so many of the theories learned throughout the program are linked to your research and everything really starts to come together. You will put a lot of work into this project so you want to make sure it is something you are passionate about, but don’t let it stress you out. Make the most of it and don’t let it freak you out (I know, easier said than done).
In one of my group meetings with my research chair, Dr. Getz, she said, “Your research is successful when your community can carry on without you.” That is when it all clicked for me and I knew I had made a difference for my students.
Engaging with action research is a psychologically demanding yet rewarding practice. The purpose behind action research is to identify a problem in one’s immediate environment, plan a course of inquiry, and track cyclical change within oneself and other collaborators in order to create positive social or organizational change. Within this process, one should expect for the research to be ambiguous and in flux at various points. It is not a linear path simply tracking correlation between variables like a typical quantitative research process would do. Action research is about rejecting the view that the researcher is an outside and objective observer separate from the data. Instead, action research calls for the researcher to admit biases and aspirations and put them in the middle of the research process. Action research is also different from traditional forms of research because it calls for one to be a catalyst for passionate change and discover new theories that are useful for practitioners immediately in an organization. Action research is not about simply forming new theories that push knowledge into an esoteric realm. It is about connecting human lived experience with new knowledge and positive social change in the present.
I am currently beginning my action research journey by recognizing my own identity development as a man in higher education while simultaneously planning to work with undergraduate men serving on student conduct hearing boards. My hope is to learn things from these men so that together we can work as collaborators and develop new ways for the student conduct process at USD to challenge destructive conceptions of masculinity that I believe send a disproportionate number of college men through the conduct process (at USD and across the country). I will expect to repeat cycles of planning, implementation, and evaluation to focus on solutions as much as the process itself and encourage human development both within my collaborators and myself. Honestly, this is the first time that I am designing research that does not seem arbitrary or forced. It is an issue that I am passionate about addressing and am confident that my work over the next year will be extremely relevant and inform future colleagues and students in their attempts to engage college men in healthy and constructive ways at the University.
For viewing literature related to my views and work with action research I recommend the following:
Action Research (2014), by Ernest Stringer
College Men and Masculinities: Theory, Research, and Implications for Practice (2010), Edited by Shaun Harper and Frank Harris III
Masculinities (1995), by R.W. Connell