Tag Archives: gedivts12

ePortfolios are eXasperating

For my GEDI class requirement (and honestly, for my own edification), I am currently putting together an ePortfolio.  And I have to say it is one of the more nervewracking things I have ever done–especially the home/welcome page.  What to include?  What to decidedly not include.  I’m using VT’s WordPress development tools to turn this blog into said portfolio (if you’re reading this from a “motherblog,” feel free to go take a look).

These decisions of what to include, what not to include, how to phrase things, what colors to use (thank G-d for WordPress templates when you’re colorblind!) all seem incredibly important while you’re in the middle of it.  And they are… to a point.  But I’ve been getting pretty obsessive about this since I started yesterday.

After the semester is over, I do plan to move the site to my own domain name.  With more and more opportunities to apply for jobs, fellowships, and teaching positions, I think it’s time to have something I can append to my email signature and put on my business cards.  Of course, holly jordan dot com is already taken.  In fact, it has been registered since 2000, so luckily I don’t feel too silly for not having done it sooner.  I have been researching options and have found overwhelming advice against holly hyphen jordan dot com, with experts of different fields saying it’s too hard to disseminate.  Other options include .net, .name, .me, .us… but of course, none of them have the branding power of a .com.  Which always has bugged me, by the way.  The .com suffix was supposed to be for commercial businesses.

So I have some decisions to make in the next couple weeks and months.  If nothing else, hopefully I can convince myself to “unplug” as it will and stop tweaking things.  I do have four other classes with homework to do this weekend…

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Discouragement and Decisions

During GEDI the other night, interdisciplinarity came up during our talk with Gardner Campbell (mostly because I brought it up…), and I really got to thinking about how I ended up in an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program.  I actually entered undergrad as a biochem/philosophy double major.  I planned to study biomedical ethics and to work in hospitals.  That changed the day I signed up for my required Western Civilization class.  The professor in that course inspired me so much (and still does), and I switched my major to political science (the department he was a professor in).  I had always been interested in religion, so my new plan was to double major.

As I had already been in contact with the chair of philosophy (who was also the chair of religion), I went to her to sign my “Declaration of Major” form.  Now, politically speaking, it is probably important to know that the chairs of the departments of Religion/Philosophy and of Politics/History were notorious for not getting along.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know that at the time.

The beginning of second semester of my first year of college, I went skipping down to Religion Department, form in hand, completely excited to declare both of my majors.  I was very interested in the Arab-Israeli conflict, so I thought a double major in religion and politics made a great deal of sense.  To this day , I still get angry by her response.

“I’m going to sign this form, but you should know these are two very demanding majors.  I fully expect you to drop one of them back to a minor at some point.”

A couple things to note.  First, while they were demanding majors, they were each 30-33 hour majors–totally doable in 4 years.  Second, I was actually a good student.

To be honest, her comment destroyed me.  At the time, I really thought it was just an issue of her thinking I wasn’t smart enough to double major.  I second guessed the hell out of myself for weeks (though I still did add the double major to my schedule to spite her).  While I was a good student, I’ve always been incredibly hard on myself academically.

Ultimately, this entire situation boiled down to the fact that this chair wanted me as the property of the religion department only.  A squabble between two tenured department chairs left me emotionally scarred for years.

In the end, I ended up not double majoring.  Funding for my fourth year of college became an issue, and I dropped my religion major back to a minor so I could graduate a year early.  But I know for a fact I could have handled it if I had had that extra year.

This experience made me fearful of doing interdisciplinary studies for a long time.  I took away from this fight between chairs that all departments fought battles through their students, and I wanted no part of that.

During my masters (interestingly, in religion), I got a little bored with coursework and declared a minor field in classics.  There I discovered how fulfilling working between departments can be.  My masters thesis reflects this indisciplinarity–hell, the entire project would have been impossible had it not been for a professor (and now dear friend) in the department of classics who helped me shore up my project.

I catalyzed my feelings of disappointment with my undergraduate religion chair into anger, which fueled my wish to succeed in spite of her naysaying.  But many students are not able to channel those emotions effectively (I won’t say healthily, as motivation-through-anger isn’t necessarily a good thing) and would make the decision to quit one of their majors, giving up their hopes and dreams.  All due to stupid departmental politics.

So I guess the question I have at the end of this stream-of-conscious rant is this:  how often do problems between faculty members play out in the lives (and sanity) of their students?  What kind of academic community does that set up, where faculty members can’t put aside their differences to treat each other, and their students, with respect?  Academic life is far harder than those outside of academia ever realize, without the added pressures of interdepartmental politics destroying our already fragile egos.

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Ninteen-Year-Old British Student Sends Oxford a Rejection Letter

I have to give this student credit for doing what I’ve always wanted to do.  My #1 college choice for undergrad was Providence College, a private college with (even at the time) very high tuition and fees.  I was a fairly decent high school student, with a high GPA and SAT scores, extracurriculars, volunteer work, and a letter of recommendation from a major alum (one of my high school teachers).  I was accepted, but offered a mere $1500/year scholarship.  As a biochem major, this would barely cover my books and lab costs, let alone tuition and room/board (I was out-of-state).  Even at the time, I felt as if it would have been better to have been rejected than to have been accepted and have no way of being able to go without going into astronomical amounts of debt (my parents were in no financial situation to help me, which one look at my FAFSA would have indicated had they chosen to look).

Anyways, this student brought up some excellent points about the problems of Oxford’s education system in her open letter.  They got me to thinking about what I have perceived in the past as unfair practices in my own path towards a degree.  Here are a list of her problems from the end of her letter (taken from this The Daily Mirror article):

1) Whilst you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish in the
environment they are accustomed to and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the true academic potential of both.

2) Whilst you may believe your traditions and rituals are impressive, they reflect badly on your university. As an institution that preaches academic excellence teaching your students to blindly and illogically do whatever they are told reveals significant flaws in your education system. Frankly. I feel humiliated for both you and your students.

3) During my time at Magdalen College the obvious gap between minorities and white middle-class students was embarrassing. Whilst I realise you are trying to address these problems within your university, the gap between elitism and discrimination is a narrow one and one that you still do not appear to have adequately addressed.

4) Perhaps offer a glass of water in your interviews next time it is rude to torture guests.

I still have my letter from Providence, including my tuition award letter.  Should I ever teach there, I plan to frame it and hang it on my office wall.

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