Ph.Done.

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For several weeks now, since completing and defending my dissertation, I have wanted to write about the process and share some words of wisdom for my  friends and colleagues who are still in process. The mere quest to do so has been exhausting. I can barely put pen to paper, let alone fingers to keyboard.

Several tasks have kept my brain occupied for the last month, an on-campus conference, the departure of a colleague, a professional conference, and some much deserved spring break R&R with my family. I completed text revisions for my committee. I condensed my dissertation to an article for a research competition. I forgot, then remembered, to order my commencement regalia. I reacquainted myself with the elliptical. I watched this thing called television.

And yet I still feel in a state of flux. As if the pattern buffer shifting my subatomic particles for transport back to the real world is having trouble locking on my position.

While I check in with fleet engineering, enjoy these posts that were helpful during my writing process.

From the Lab to the Laptop: Writing your Thesis

How Blogging Helped Me Write My Dissertation

10 tips for being a happy thesis writer

Why writing from day one is nuts

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Just Say No to Saying No

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When I read yet another article minimizing the value of a college education I am challenged by thoughts of privilege.  Yes, Steve Jobs, an individual I greatly admire, was a college dropout, but at least he had the opportunity to give it a try. Mark Zuckerberg’s intelligence and initiative is without question, but how many students can realistically include Harvard on their college wish list? And then walk away from the opportunity?

I do not discount hard work, enterprise, and determination. But for those of us who are simply above-average, or first-generation, or of a marginalized population, college is the pathway to get a step ahead, a leg up, a move toward potential success. Yes, student loan debt and college costs demand answers, but denying the value of learning, but for an elite few, is not the answer. Just say Go. Go to college.

100 Days

Three and a half years ago, I made the decision to earn a PhD. After spending 90% of my professional career (post-Bachelor’s degree) working in higher education, it seemed a logical step.

It has been hard work. One class at a time. Work. Family. Soccer. More work.

There is a reason that only 3% of the U.S. population attain a PhD.

Because it is hard work.

My dissertation defense is in 100 days.

Tornado Watch: Assessments for Student Retention

As a resident of tornado alley, there is a summer tradition of dusting off the Twister DVD while scanning the afternoon skies for possible wall clouds. The film takes place in Oklahoma, but was filmed near my current home in central Iowa. The story follows a team of meteorological students and scientists as they attempt to place weather sensors in the path of a tornado to measure readings inside of the storm. After many failed attempts, injuries, and even fatalities, our protagonists successfully launch the sensors and save humanity. Err, save their research. As the flick can also be caught at least three times a week on cable during the summer, I catch up on all of my favorite lines.

Jo: [cow flies by in the storm) Cow.
[cow flies by in the storm]
Jo: ‘Nother cow.
Bill: Actually, I think it was the same one.
Watching the segment as the sensors rise into the F-5 tornado and begin generating data, I am reminded of our students, particularly those in the first-year. If we could read their minds and extrapolate the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions, surely we could develop better methods for student success and retention. Fortunately, there are a variety of assessments to assist in this process.

The College Student Inventory™ (CSI) from Noel-Levitz allows students to answer questions regarding their strengths and challenges before they even arrive on campus. I ask my incoming students to complete this assessment after summer orientation and use the information to frame our beginning of the year 1:1 appointments. The student and advisor reports are handy for discussion and the group summary reports provide great information for planning our first-year seminar course and programming topics.

MAP-Works® offers a similar tool to discover student transition issues early in the semester. Students develop a personal profile based on their initial campus experience that is measured for potential barriers to success. A web-based report is generated immediately for students and faculty or staff advisors that compares with all first-year students on our campus. Campus resource services are suggested where needed.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) helps demonstrate theory that there are distinct patterns to individual psychological types even though persons exhibit these patterns in different ways. Helping students to understand their type preferences and how they affect personal learning styles provides a common ground for understanding differences and the transition to college. I provide an MBTI learning styles assessment for each student in our first-year seminar each fall. Students do not always grasp the type concept, but do find meaning from discussion of the transition to university style learning.

It is common knowledge among student affairs practitioners that students enter the college or university with varying degrees of emotional intelligence. Additionally, those familiar with retention issues will cite non-academic challenges as the frequent impetus for student attrition. Assessing emotional intelligence using the EQ-i® allows students to see potential areas for growth that may enhance adaptation and coping skills leading to academic achievement. I find the EQ-i particularly helpful for students seeking direction in their academic or life plan.

While no assessment tool can foresee every difficulty faced by our students on the path to graduation, I have found these tools to be helpful for communication, planning, and advising. Not a certified MBTI or EQ-i user? Check with your human resources office for recommendations.

Have you tried these assessments? Other tools you suggest?

Enjoyed Twister and need a good summer read? Check out The Stormchasers.