The first semester of my doctoral work was a complete blur that flew by faster than I could have imagined. Over the last month, I have had a lot of time to unwind and reflect on what I learned and what I wanted to focus on this term.  As I begin the second semester of my doctoral work tonight at Johnson and Wales University, I wanted to briefly share some thoughts that will help frame this next semester and help keep me accountable to the work I have ahead.

1.  Progress, not perfection
During my most stressful times, I heard this a lot from colleagues and friends. Being the perfectionist that I am, this was the most difficult lesson for me to learn, but one that I now accept and embrace. I often tell people that being open to criticism and  feedback is an important quality to have at work, but it is even more critical to have in a doctoral program. Its in the progress where I learned the most.

2. Critiquing research and scholarship is critical
In my Research Methods class, my professor weaved in article critiques and challenged us to explain why we thought the research we were reading was quality or not (I never realized how much bad research has been published!) While I learned a lot of interesting things from all the content I was reading, I appreciated the opportunity to hone my critiquing skills to delineate what research I will cite in my eventual dissertation.  I hope that someday, when people read my published articles, they will critique and challenge it with as much vigor as we were asked to.

3. APA Rules!
While tedious, time consuming, and totally illogical 🙂 learning how to do in-text citations and my references pages for all my papers last fall was an important process. I am grateful to my friend Chris Conzen who gifted me a copy of APA Handbook (6th Edition) SPIRAL BOUND VERSION, which was a lifesaver! I’ve also continued using the APA formatting process through some of my more recent blog posts (when appropriate) to help try and keep the skill fresh in my mind.

4. Reawakening the “academic” side of my brain
It had been 13 years since I sat in a graduate school classroom, so I was concerned that it would take me a long time to “become a student again.” It took me about a month to back into the swing, which included relearning how to academically write, read, and critique. It may be more or less for others, but it wasn’t until the end of September that I felt in the groove. I’ve done some reading over the break to keep my mind sharp, as well as some future blog posts to help keep up with my growing research proposal.

5. Accountability matters
Whether it be my fantastic cohort members, the online #SAdoc community, my Bridgewater State University work colleagues, or my family, each have kept me accountable in so many different ways. It is in these interactions that I find the motivation to keep moving forward and why I have no doubt I will finish. It is a lot like any focused endeavors you choose to embark on (fitness, health, saving money, organizing, etc.); the more accountable to you are to more than just yourself, the more likely you can succeed.

6. The negotiation game
There are only 168 hours in a week, thus, negotiating how each hour would be spent is a fluid and changing process. I never believed in the concept of “time management,” since you can’t control the clock.  In truth, its how disciplined you are to use the time you have to its fullest. Certainly, I have cut way back on social media engagement, TV shows, and other things that used to occupy my time. Simply put, every night, I do something for my doctoral work, whether it be assignment or research based.  If I didn’t, I know I wouldn’t be able to keep up at the level I expect for myself.

I earned 12 credit hours last fall in “The Nature of Higher Education” and “Research Methods for Higher Education Leaders.”  Both courses yielded many papers including, “The Innovation Conversation in Higher Education”; “Connected Education: A New Higher Education Model”; and “A 21st Century Model of Success”; a literature review on “Faculty Use of Twitter In the Classroom”; a group presentation on “Title IX: Sexual Harassment in the Academy | What Administrators Need To Know”; and a sample dissertation research proposal entitled, “Retaining First Generation Students Through Twitter.” The fall also yielded great class conversations on research methods, data analyses, the future of higher education, and our place as future leaders that will influence higher education policy and change.  Needless to say, it was a full semester, one that has certainly grown confidence in my abilities and prepared me for what is next.

This spring I am enrolled in “Teaching and Learning in Higher Education” and “Organizational Theory and Behavior in Higher Education” which should be great follow ups to our fall coursework.  As the semester goes on, I will continue to share pieces of what I am learning, to help myself process and to share with all of you. Bring on the spring semester!

What have you learned over the last term that will help you be better at work, home, and/or school this semester? How can we help each other with accountability?

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