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Posts from the ‘summer writing’ Category

to convocation and beyond (or beginning the autoethnography that is post doc life)

July 16, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

And now, it’s been just over one month since convocation. (Which conveniently can be viewed here! I appear around the 32 minute mark.) Last month I was in Canada, donning robes that would not be out of place at Hogwart’s, remembering to smile, remembering to breathe, doing all I could to be emotionally and physically present to every. single. second.

This was the fourth convocation I’ve been part of (three where I was a student and one where I was acting program dean.) The venues ranged from a chapel-like auditorium with distinctly puritanical decor to a massive arena which was built in the early 1940s as a livestock showcase, to a turn of the century art deco theater–heavy on the gold, to most recently a large multipurpose room in a sports complex, adjacent to a curling rink because….Canada. Though location, institution, and overall tone differed in pretty profound ways, I am convinced there is nothing quite like the magic of convocation. I know it is more a formality than anything–the hard work and deep transformation happens in all the mundane daily months and years leading up to it but still…there is romance in hearing your name called and walking across a stage to mark physically the identity shift that has been happening behind the scenes.

Before the big day I was 100% prepared to be an emotional mess and cry through most of the proceedings because this was legit such a big deal. Turns out, the only time I got even a little misty was during an acapella trilingual rendition of Oh Canada. It was equal parts joyful and haunting and, to my American ears, felt like a beautiful sign of inclusivity. Oh Canada indeed. Regarding my own role in the big day, I was number two of about three hundred graduates. As my name was called it was an out of body experience, floating from receiving my hood to a handshake to a photo to more handshakes to an exit stage right. I remember lots of lights, and lots of smiles from people in elaborate robes, and mumbling lots of thank you’s to said smiles and fancy robes. It was perfect.

The remainder of the event (because about three hundred graduates equals about three hours) was spent sitting on stage (in the second row) trying to chat discretely with my fellow doctors, regretting how much water I drank before the event, and repeating in my head “you did it Lisa!” Then the bagpipes began, the Mountie reappeared and I progressed off the stage and into the happy congratulatory chaos from my family (both biological and cohort). I 100% felt like a doctor. Also, it must have worked because I immediately stopped having panicked dreams that about the Faculty of Grad Studies telling me I need to redo all. the. things. Ruby appeared fully robed a short time later for a photoshoot and once again…it was perfect.

Since convocation I’ve been mostly on the move in the annual tradition of #nomadsummer. Last summer #nomadsummer meant I conducted dissertation research interviews throughout five different states and two countries and never stopped being thankful (and kind of amazed) by the power of the internet. It was logistically wild and crazy but I think in many ways the motion was catalytic in taking me out of my own mundane routine and helping me enter the worlds of my participants.

This summer, traveling is decidedly more low key. The only research question I am pursuing is a very personal “what is the experience of a newly hooded doctor transitioning from student to post doctorate identity?” (Yep…nearly five years of academic study mean I default to research questions for all. the. things. At this point I’m just accepting the quirky.) The frequent moves and general rootlessness in this season serve as a good embodiment of my internal identity shift as, metaphorically, home is no longer “student” or “candidate” or “hoping to be done in the next year.” Like this summer’s long term road trip that hasn’t been pre-planned, this shift is mostly exciting in its potential and occasionally deeply inconvenient in its messy uncertainty.

Just over two weeks ago we spent three days in the Pacific Northwest, at the edge of the continent. Though our house fronted onto an inlet, if you looked out over a certain side of the deck, you could see land’s end and open ocean. From here, the next piece of solid ground is Japan. I love big water and though it was ridiculously cold for being the end of June, I did my best to spend as much time as possible in close proximity to the Pacific. One evening as the Pacific and I drank wine together, I remembered another trip not so long ago where I was once again on the edge of the continent, realizing some unfortunate things.

Back in February we were in Florida, living about five hundred steps to the open Atlantic. Though the context was ideal it seemed as though everything was going wrong. The deadline for applying to graduate was approaching and my committee was dead silent (and had been for nearly six weeks) on final dissertation feedback. The process was in an indefinite holding pattern. I was trying to be more patient and philosophical than bitter about it all but…the waiting was taking its toll. On that trip the ocean taught me about mutual dependence and letting go. I sometimes am a terrible student but I did try my best to learn.

Reflecting back on those times in a place that was both different and similar provided a wonderful synchronicity. I told this to the Pacific. The waves applauded me in celebration and delight, glad I was on this end of things. I also told the Pacific about my summer research question, noting I was a little hesitant about the future…and, though I knew I couldn’t go back, slightly nostalgic for the identity I had acquired the past many years. I confessed that making the transition was harder than I anticipated. No doubt I felt like a doctor in many ways but also in many ways….not so much. This instability was vaguely concerning to me. The Pacific too is a good listener.

I was hoping the Pacific would have some magical answers about how to actualize all the way to a doctor, preferably in three easy steps. Turns out, instead the Pacific told me actualization is overrated. It manages to balance constant motion and flow in the immediate with clockwork regularity in the long term–one extreme holding the other in a dance of beautiful tension. The waves change minute by minute but the tides can be mapped months in advance. This both/and tension admittedly baffles me. And yet, this both/and fluidity is enough to nurture so much diverse life. For the sake of the world, this both/and fluidity is indeed very very good.

Which brings me back to my own highly myopic research question. It seems the experience of a newly hooded doctor now transitioning to a post doctorate identity is messy and changeable. I recently learned I was accepted to present my research at two different conferences this fall. This made me feel exceedingly doctoral. I also recently was in yet another work meeting trying to devise yet more strategy to help our students better persist and succeed. The problem is beyond complex. Needless to say, I felt far from doctoral.

Against this mercurial landscape, I like the ocean view of things. In the long term, I know I am now a doctor…this process has marked and transformed me in profound ways and there’s no going back. In the minute by minute pace of life, constant motion and flow reign supreme. More often anything goes and the long term is often obscured. There is solid ground regarding identity but perhaps it is something meant to live out of rather than grasp compulsively. This is exciting in its potential and deeply inconvenient for someone who likes to orient toward actualization. And so here is what I am learning in this season…if motion/flow along with grounded regularity can coexist in ocean, perhaps they can coexist in me too….perhaps this can indeed be very good.


an open letter to the awesome Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute team

August 26, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Hi Jesse and Sean,

Sorry that I am a bit delayed in writing my thanks + recap note. Just after DigPedLab I took a weeklong holiday in New York City. My original plan was to spend the week paying homage to the Beat Generation by writing brilliant, reflective, philosophical stuff—preferably while sitting in an outdoor cafe. In reality, it was sweltering outdoors so I spent the majority of my time eating cannoli, wandering museums, and being dazzled by an endless stream of people watching. The week was not productive in a word count sense but…I’m fairly certain my soul is better for the rest and inspiration. In addition, I seem to remember a wise person mentioning that often one doesn’t really know what was learned until some (or often lots) of time has passed so perhaps a delay in reflection is exactly what I needed!

But…back to DigPedLab.

First off, thank you so much for putting the event together and allowing me to attend as a Fellow. From the initial Sunday evening meet-up onwards, you both radiated hospitality and I am convinced that your generous spirit set the tone for the week. Your tangible willingness to have open hands, trust the process, and honor a spontaneous spirit in all that may or may not happen encouraged us as participants to do the same. It seemed during the week what mattered most were our own stories as opposed to our institutional affiliations and this focus bonded me in particular with my Networks tribe very quick and deep. The lack of ego and insider/outsider dynamics was so refreshing and because of this unity, I think we constructed something pretty phenomenal.

Though the majority of my time as a student and all of my time as a teacher has been enacted via online methods, I came to DigPedLab having never thought what impact the digital may/may not have on the pedagogical. The opening chat where Jesse poured glasses of water back and forth and then inverted the second cup and sent the water streaming onto the floor was the first of many “aha!” moments as I realized what a profound impact not just the content but the entire structure, posture, setting, etc. has on a learning experience. It’s daunting to realize everything from typeface to body posture to ambient lighting contributes to pedagogy and yet it’s also dazzling to realize the privilege of being invited into an experience where everyone and everything matters. If I had to distill a single takeaway from DPL it would be this: digital pedagogy is alive and enacted rather than a static construct and from that, digital pedagogy is best as an inclusive dialogue.

This realization has caused something inside me to shift fundamentally on Day 1 and the remaining four days helped nurture the change. Now, whenever Sarah (who I am so so so happy to have shared the experience with) and I are together in a new situation we do a quiet analysis of the pedagogy of the moment, scoping out the room, format, etc. identifying what’s helping and hindering—whether the messages the speaker is saying actually matches the message the space is broadcasting.

This shift feels a bit like how perspectives expand for the better after travel to a new place or after making a new friend. This new way of looking at the world has also shifted the lens through which I am engaging in my doctoral research study. Previously I was very interested in the “how-to-do-it-best” of studio pedagogy mediated via an online space. Now, I find I’m much more interested in exploring the intersection of space and experience and the whys of studio pedagogy in online space. The shift in vision/scope is a bit inconvenient to my ego (as it has de-centered me from the place of the all-knowing researcher) but I think it’s ultimately more sustainable and I’m glad to engage the world with these new eyes.

As far as practical feedback on DPL, it feels generic and unhelpful but everything truly was pretty awesome from my perspective! I enjoyed the high interactivity format and the way each keynote presented a challenge for deeper engagement. I liked the active back channel and the ways all tracks quickly became interwoven. And I loved the experimental, open spirit that seemed to pervade everything from meals to focused track sessions to the keynotes and even the unconference. There’s lots of grim in the world of education but this week reminded me there is even more good and hopeful creativity in community. As we are all committed to working in open ways and engaging in active dialogue in public places, I have no doubt there will be much positive change.

My only criticism is that each day was a bit too long for me. Though I know we were encouraged to leave if we needed some empty space…I was afraid I’d miss something! I think long days for the first two are good (as they get everyone bonded) and then maybe slightly shorter days for the remaining so that there is more time for absorbing ideas. Oh, and I wish DigPedLab temporary tattoos would have been part of the swag as the logo is legit awesome and I’d gladly wear it! : )

Overall, thanks again for the opportunity. Looking back, DigPedLab has become a cairn in my academic journey. I am so thankful for all the ways it has already changed me and am excited to see the ways the experience and the community will continue to do so.


welcome to our (digital) living room!

August 11, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

August is a week old and Digital Pedagogy Labthe event that was once a lifetime away—officially began this morning. As befitting a fellow, I’ve completed all my pre-reading (even for tracks beyond my own!), sent out appropriate encouraging and excitement generating tweets with the proper hashtag, begun a list of potential blog post topics for future writing, and volunteered above and beyond to work as an on-site buddy with my sister for the Virtually Connecting initiative. Though all of the previous items are exciting in their own way, I will confess I am most excited about the last item…being an onsite-er able to do my part to extend in a small way what we all at DPL will experience over the next week.

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in praise of the simmer…

July 17, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

The past two days I’ve been involved in the #ed1to1 Twitter experience. The idea is that participants read a short article by Audrey Watters and then tweet questions, observations, connections, etc. using a common hashtag. #ed1tot is part coursework participation for students enrolled in an actual course with University of PEI, part “field trip to the land of sloooooooow” for those of us who are from the Twitter Journal Club (#tjc15) tribe, and part experimentation in the power of a hashtag to, for a short time, unify a diverse group of people.

I came to #ed1to1 via #tjc15. Each month I enjoy taking part in the breathless hour of live reading and live tweeting that is #tjc15. The experience is academic adrenaline and by the end of it I’m consistently both exhausted and exhilarated with new potential. In addition, I’ve established a solid community of connections, thus my participation has not only helped build my literature confidence…it’s also helped build confidence in my own voice.

I came to #ed1to1 wondering how the general ethos of #tjc15 would hold up in a long-term format. Would the experience be even better because there would be a whole parcel of students doing this in the context of a class? Would it be harder to engage “strangers” as opposed to the regulars? Would the experience be a bit flat without the condensed time frame to activate the fervor? Or, would the experience be better because it wasn’t forced into such a short time and could more organically ferment?

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back. to. writing.

July 9, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

It’s been over a month since my last written entry, July is moving along at a much faster rate than I ever remember it doing in previous years, and my own feelings of guilt about my lack of writing are mounting thus…time to get back to it.

In February I had a mild crises at the thought of all that was going to happen over the next 11 months with a looming candidacy proposal to be produced and coursework to finish. I’m fortunate that my supervisor is totally okay with being a combination guru / therapist / drill sergeant / cheerleader thus whenever I feel an academic meltdown on the horizon…he’s on the email equivalent of speed dial.

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being brave. being open. 67 days.

June 4, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Back in late winter, I heard about an event that was happening in far distant August called Digital Pedagogy Lab. From what I gathered it was going to be a summer camp of sorts where participants would spend days swimming in critical digital pedagogy, doing networked learning arts and crafts, and sitting around a campfire telling stories about digital identities. In addition, it would be held together loosely by counselors who—from my perspective as a still very young academic—are pretty much the coolest kids in the lunchroom.

Camp DPL sounded like an amazing opportunity and so on a brave moment, I applied for one of the fellowships feeling equal parts giddy at the potential of being accepted and realistic that my minuscule amount of academic experience would most likely lead to a “We regret to inform you…” tiny envelope.

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statement of intent…

April 24, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Recently a friend who is making a transition asked me if I had any examples of my own teaching philosophy, personal research plan, personal statement of intent, etc. Though I don’t know that I have quite what she was looking for, her request made me think of the documents I’d written for AU and so I dug them up, reviewed them, and passed them along. Reading them was a bit like coming home and though I have much more fancy academic language to describe these ideas, I think the majority of this still is true. Heading into what will be a strategic summer filled with big decisions, it’s good to remember where I came from…where this mission began. What follows after the break is my official statement of intent and my research goals.

Here’s to the new adventure….

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an open letter to cohort 7 on the completion of their first academic year

April 20, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Hello Cohort 7!

At the beginning-ish of the term I wrote you a short message that I hoped would generally cheer you on in an effort to promote cross-cohort pollination. From my position as part of what Dr. Anderson has called the “ghosts of 802 past” it seems you’re just about finished with 802 thus I want to bookend that first message with my own congrats and specifically a couple recommendations I would make about the summer.

So first….congratulations!! 802 is the antithesis of easy-breezey and if your experience was anything like mine, you are probably emerging from the other side of it with lots more learning and a little (or a lot) overwhelmed/humbled with how complex the research process actually can be. Ideas that mostly lived in your head as potential dreams were tested and exposed to peer and professorial feedback. Hopefully they (and you) fared well and 802 was a good place of refinement, exploring what is worth pursuing and stripping away what might not be the perfect fit you imagined. Be somewhat lavish in celebrating the completion of this next step in your doctoral process and your first year in the program. It’s a huge deal and should be rewarded with lots of champagne and lots of warm fuzzy feelings!

Your first summer is an interesting time in the program cycle and for me proved quite strategic…though in none of the ways I anticipated when I finished 802. The following are things that I wish someone would have told me when I’d finished 802 (actually…my supervisor may have told me some of these things but at times—terrible as it sounds—wisdom from your supervisor feels like pedantic wisdom from your parents when you’re thirteen, out of touch at best…even if it’s totally true!) Last year I was right where you are now so, as much as anyone can “get” another’s experience…I get where you are. Do with these what you will and know that they are couched fully in my own experience, which may or may not resonate with you.

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back in the saddle…

August 30, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

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.

one year ago…

August 19, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


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

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