Work Hard & Be Nice to People

All of the GPP18 folks were reunited at the Switzerland Embassy in Washington, D.C., along with guests and GPP alumni. This event took place about two weeks after the majority of our group had returned back to the states. Some GPP18-ers even traveled directly from Europe after continuing personal travel once our group meeting had subsided. I couldn’t fathom that!

My plus one and I, another PhD student in Food Science, chose to ride with a group in the university van. On the way to D.C., we stopped for lunch at a very cozy coffee shop at James Madison University, where a GPP alum is currently employed as faculty. This individual actually used to be my teaching assistant, although it was a few years ago. It was great to get to chat with him about his experiences as faculty at JMU, and to visit the campus, which I find to be quaint. The coffee shop egg and cheese biscuits weren’t so bad either!

At the Embassy, we presented in our groups that each represented a topic associated with evolving higher education. I was a member of the open access/open movement group. Originally the group name was “open access,” but we soon realized the open movement encompassed so much more than just open access journal publications. It seems like forever ago when we brainstormed presentation topics on the white board walls located in the Steger Center in Rita San Vitale, Switzerland and even more distant when we first chose when group topic we would like to further study.

From our conversations at the Steger Center, I learned that Virginia Tech has an open access fund that helps to cover fees associated with open access publishing. Virginia Tech also participates in International Open Access Week, which I did not realize was an internationally recognized initiative. I’m impressed by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s aim to publish in all open access journals/have open access articles by 2020 as well as Germany’s boycott of Elsevier’s journals.

During our group presentation, audience members did pose difficult questions that I’ve continued to dwell on.

*With all of the resources available (such as MOOCs, robots, etc.), why would a student need to attend college in person anyway?

*How do we get the word out to faculty about archiving and other resources available in relation to open access/science?

Post group presentations, we all enjoyed a wonderful cocktail hour and dinner together, where we were able to catch up with one another, as well as meet other individuals attending the event. Despite how quick of a meeting this was,   it was nice to have a reunion with everyone (although we missed a few folks) – definitely a feeling of nostalgia. 

BBFLs – GPP Return

Nobody ever told me that making friends as an adult wasn’t as easy as when we were younger. But if you think about it, it makes sense.

“Hey mom, can I go spend the night at Serena’s house?”

We no longer have slumber parties with our friends (well I guess you could if you really wanted to), accompanied with snacks, late night chats, and allowing someone to see you in your most vulnerable of states (i.e. brushing your teeth, your early morning grumpies, etc.).

In my opinion, traveling with folks is the best way to achieve an accelerated friendship. You spend ample amounts of time together. Traveling can stir up different emotions and the people you are with are typically, at the time, the only individuals you have to talk to about them. There is also a lot of what I would call down time – as in car rides, train rides, plane rides, and walking. Usually conversation fills up the empty space. If anything, traveling with a group is like one large slumber party in a way, with everyone getting to see you at both your best and worst.

[This is Cortney as my roommate when we didn’t really know one another. She stole all of the covers. ALL of the covers.]

When Missie and Erika picked me up at my house to drive to the Dulles airport, I didn’t even introduce them to my boyfriend as he said his goodbyes since to be honest, I didn’t feel like I knew them. Upon returning, as cliché as it sounds, I really do feel like I have a new group of people that I have a special bond with.

PhD life can be isolating. The majority of people our age are not at the library. It can be difficult to relate to others outside of the academic bubble. When I applied to the GPP Program, I wrote about wanting to participate in the trip because although I had recently completed the Future Professoriate Graduate Certificate, I wanted to continue to find opportunities to stay connected with students, outside of my own discipline, that had interest in higher education as an institution and theory + practice of teaching. I think it is important that universities continue to facilitate cross-disciplinary interactions among PhD students. We don’t get out much! A since of community, especially with people that understand what we are going through at PhD students, can sometimes mean everything.

Upon returning, I’m definitely missing the views, espresso breaks, and most of all the GPP folks.

An Ode to Charlie Cat – Eve of GPP Departure

We were asked to write a blog post on the eve of our departure for the Global Perspectives Program (GPP). Although I want to say that I have all the warm fuzzy feelings before embarking on a big journey, I don’t (I love blogging because I feel that I can “keep it real”). This past week my hot water heater broke, my childhood cat died, and my research proposal is due tonight. I foresee an all-nighter in the near future.

With all that being said, I almost feel a sense of relief; that once I get on that plane tomorrow, I will not be looking back. One of my personal learning objectives was to simply “let go.” I do often struggle with letting things go (i.e. all the research and studying that I should be tending to) in order to “be” in the moment. Maybe these events have occurred so that I’m in a much better place to just be like BYE.

After having recently finished up my first semester of collegiate teaching (100 students at that), I’m looking forward to reframing my thoughts, feelings, and stances on higher education. I’m seeking new perspectives and maybe some inspiration too, if I’m being completely honest. I think we tend to emotionally wear our teachers out -in all levels of education. And by “we,” I’m not necessarily sure whom I’m referring to. Students? The general public? The university institution itself? I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to give instructors the tools and support they need. The individuals accompanying me on this trip also have a high regard for education, for both themselves and for others. I think that’s why it is important to band together. Not all PhD students have acquired the knowledge, training, and/or experiences that our group members have had and it can sometimes feel isolating for other students not to posses this understanding of education/contemporary pedagogy. Sticking together and sharing ideas is key.

I feel encouraged by the fact that my previous teachers through the years, along with my teacher-friends that are similar in age to me, recently rallied for more education funding in my home state of North Carolina. Although just a small step, a movement is beginning!

And now, an ode to Charlie Cat because we can’t forget about him!

Charlie Cat,

You were kind of fat

But I know that

If we were to have a chat

Right off the bat

You would understand that

I chose Switzerland over saying farewell to you

GPP: First Thoughts

For those that have taken the Preparing the Professoriate and Cotemporary Pedagogy courses, I’m sure you can agree that no longer getting together on a regularly basis with classmates is a bit sad. Although we may adore the folks in our own distinctive departments, getting out of our own “box” can be refreshing. Those of us that have aspired to fulfill the Future Professoriate Graduate Certificate have ended up seeing familiar faces throughout taking these courses. I remember exchanging contact information with a few students on the last day of last semester’s Contemporary Pedagogy course as we came to the realization that we probably would no longer have any classes together. However, also on the last day of class, we were charged with the mission of continuing to participate in learning communities supporting various aspects of pedagogy and/or higher education.

Since finding out I was accepted into the 2018 cohort of the Global Perspectives Program, I have been most excited for the opportunity to continue to get to know others from various disciplines. Although our 8am Global Perspectives meetings come at the expense of not sleeping in (may have forgotten my quarters to park in the Squires lot this past week), I very much enjoy the notion of getting together with these students again. And who are “these students?” They are individuals that, despite our many differences, share a similar passion for teaching, learning, and higher education. While there are a few familiar faces in the group, there are many others I am just meeting for the first time. I can already tell this experience will be unique in the fact that it is an accelerated means of getting to know people. We are already utilizing one another for travel plans/help and company and some of these individuals are practically still strangers!

Dean DePauw let us know that she’s confident that our learning objectives and research project topics will change over time, but here is my first shot at them.

Learning objectives:

  1. Explore different perceptions and viewpoints about the United States and its higher education system, especially in the current political climate
  2. Compare the value to which Europeans place on education versus how Americans value education (right vs. privilege).
  3. Determine what value is placed upon teachers/instructors within higher education and education in general.
  4. Exemplify a “go with the flow” mentality.

Research topic:

My research topic stems from the fact that I have a good friend who studied abroad in Copenhagen and pretty much never came back (seriously – she has been there for 5 years now). She would tell me that instead of being required to go to class, there was the freedom of learning material on their own. She had made it seem as though class was a free-for-all, except for the exam taking place at the end of the semester.

How do European universities assess their students?

-Assign grades?

-Numerical vs. P/F