August 30, 2014
I start up school again for real in the next week or so, thus it’s only fitting that I begin moving my mental state from being in overachiever in divergent thinking to one decidedly more of a tweed state of mind (Disclaimer: By divergent thinking I really mean doing a bunch of awesome totally non-academic things and then thinking—in the few minutes I lie awake before going to sleep—“Wow, I feel super guilty because I did ______ rather than reading journals, writing an APA paper or generally any activity more befitting a year-in doctoral candidate…Quick, how can I assuage my own shame? There’s totally a connection between Bachelor in Paradise and the Doctoral student experience, right???)
And, back in the academic saddle I go…where I forsake (or maybe just lessen) my hold on the saying yes to everything mantra and move a bit more back into the drawing set boundaries, mapping out plans, and generally being a bit more academically minded. Legit I don’t regret anywhere I’ve been in this summer or the ways I metaphorically traveled so far from the well trodden path because I think that in many ways things do end up connecting more than they are separated but the key rests in the observer and the overall level of investigation/thought they are wiling to put into the processing.
As my own tentative moving back into the dissertation sphere, here are three potential ways my mind has been traveling this summer regarding research and overall research questions. They’re legit raw and wet and all sorts of unsettled but they’re also reflective of a the two things that keep on coming to the forefront of my mind, namely: how identity gets created in this crazy geographically dispersed learning format and how communities, with profound strength and support, seem to form in spite again of no cohesive geography. So, here’s where I am beginning to begin this year…and the future, pretty much anyone’s guess. (And, this is copy/pasted from an email so please forgive the awkward verbiage and disjointed phrasing.)
This past year I was thinking about going down a phenomenological path and looking at the student experience of being in an fully online arts program. I think that because these programs are relatively rare there is very little understanding of what students are experiencing and a lot of the unique parts of what it means to be an art student may be getting lost in the instructional design/functionality of the program itself. I’m also curious about the identity shifts that occur in online learners and just when they begin to see themselves as “designers” and if the somewhat nebulous nature of the online learning classroom (as opposed to a brick and mortar studio) has any impact on that.
Then recently I’ve become interested in thinking of the students more as real people and less as just “online students” and wondering what role the actual geographic location of the student plays in the online learning process. I know as a graphic designer the space I work in has special meaning and when I was working on my undergrad degree the studio at my college was kind of “sacred space” for creativity and community building. So, what I’m curious about is how or if students in online programs naturally carve out these types of spaces themselves (in their home studios, coffee shops, libraries, etc) and what role those spaces play both in helping them through their creative projects and shaping their identities as artists.
Finally, I know there’s been lots of traction around the idea of teachers more as curators, assembling learning spaces through open networks where students learn through connections and the classroom itself becomes much more collaborative. I love the curator metaphor and think in an arts-focused program it makes even more sense. For example, one of the very high level goals of all our courses is to get students more aware of looking and seeing the world around them, much like a curator re-frames and re-imagines art and context. I am wondering how (or even if) instructors can curate community for their students or if that is something that rests more on the students who must be proactive in creating their own communal spaces and connections.
August 19, 2014
So, one year ago this happened. It was August, and I was wearing my lucky gold dress, and I had super short hair, and for the first time I met the cohort which marked my life in such profound ways this past year. When this photo was taken my heart was racing and I was repeating to myself over and over that this whole thing was a good idea and legit I was about three steps away from bursting into tears or turning right back around and driving back to Chicago because I was so scared of what was next and all the unknown about this journey. And then in a act of courage that still amazes me, I did none of that and instead walked like an extrovert into a room of strangers with quaint accents and…the rest is history. Read more
August 17, 2014
Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles.
Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances.
Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it.
Cowardice asks the question, is it safe?
Expediency ask the question, is it politic?
Vanity asks the question, is it popular?
But, conscience ask the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.
–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Courage breeds creativity…as a creative and someone who is (somewhat) obsessed with the development of creativity in others this quote and these ideas are golden to me. If courage breeds creativity, does creativity breed courage? Could being more creative make you more courageous in other areas of your life? Do those who are courageous in the face of so many challenges self identify as creative as well? And on a more personal level…every time I am courageous do I see that as an act of creativity? An act of making something out of nothing…seeing a new way?
I don’t know. But, what I do know in my tenure as an applied arts educator is that creative work takes courage because it involves so much confrontation. Without a thick skin and a large dose of tenacity, first your teachers and then your clients will squelch the creativity from you because you’re constantly pushed and prodded and told your ideas are “okay…but why not go this way instead??”
Students who succeed are those who have the courage either to say “Nope. This is my vision because _______ .” Or those who have the courageous humility to say “Let’s do it! This job/project/assignment is bigger than my own ego and I’m going to listen to what you have to say so we can co-create something better than either of us thought possible.”
Now…how to go about developing this creative courage.
August 15, 2014
After spending a full day at the Global Leadership Summit (and on the brink of embarking on Day 2 conference-ing) I have a confession to make…I love being a leader.
I love the power and influence that comes from seeing a team enact a vision that was birthed late at night and that maybe seemed too crazy or too far out or too whatever and yet turns out to be the absolute perfect thing at the right time. I love the scale and scope that being a leader affords me. I love being part of a team and intentionally (and continuously) working toward moving us from a disjointed group of people into a cohesive tribe. I love empowering my people to take risks and try new things and step into the giftings that I see, by virtue of my own vantage point, to be so clearly written into their lives.
August 13, 2014
I’ve recently arrived back from a month+ in the mountains filled with playing, running, drinking, and generally relishing the laid back life of a pseudo-cowgirl rather than a hard working urban academic/freelance graphic designer. This basically means (for all the people who don’t self identify as laid back pseudo-cowgirls) substituting divergent-thinking and cosmic question-asking for academic journal reading and anything that even remotely resembled formalized educational theory. And eating…lots of eating. Oh, and a sprinkling of rhinestones, boots, and fancy cocktails since the range is a thirsty place!
But now it’s August, which means September is right around the corner, which means formalized education is soon to replace my free-spirited adventures. So…time to, among other things, get back to writing and reading and seeing how (or even if) all the loose ends of the summer might actually weave into the bigger narrative of my dissertation and connect in hitherto unknown ways. It feels a bit like beginning to exercise again after you’ve taken a long time off…you know in your head it’s going to be good for you (and getting cute new exercise clothes is fun) but you also know it’s going to be really really hard and all your body really wants to do is sit on the couch and surf twitter, eat cheese puffs, and in your cute new exercise clothes. It feels like right now I’m the chubby awkward kid in gym class who just wants to hide when teams are being picked because I know the first time the ball comes to me I won’t be brave and catch it…I’ll scream and cover my head and wish that the ground could swallow me.
But…this isn’t my first rodeo and I know, no matter how terrible things are to begin with, at some point the endorphins will kick in, I’ll learn to ignore the school yard bullies who seem to live inside my head, and things will click.
So…welcome August…and now, back to work.