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Posts tagged ‘804’

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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capstone project in progress

April 17, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

version 1
version 2
version 3

version 4…ready to begin seeing the larger world.


on leadership and letting go…

January 30, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Today I am so glad it’s almost Friday, almost the weekend, almost the time when I can be safely ensconced in two non-working days and not have a pavlovian reaction to my email alert tone. It’s been one of “those” weeks where you almost become conditioned to the fact that the sky will fall and you will completely shatter at least once per day (and indeed just once per day becomes grace.) I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic and in the long view of things this week will resolve but legit in this moment I’m pretty confident I’ve had more energy shortly after completing a marathon than I currently have now.

In an effort to model good reflective practice (and also with the hope that if I can write a significant portion of this out it means I will actually free up my racing mind and I will get to sleep a full night…finally) I’ll embrace objective academic and just list and annotate what I’ve observed in this week’s ethnography of lisa.

1. saying goodbye to people when they leave roles in your life that have been pillars in who you are is hard. always. even if you know it’s the right thing and you know they’re not leaving you and you know all the nice sounding stuff is true. it’s still a gut wrenching feeling of loss because there’s now this part of you that’s raw and missing. i’m old enough to know that it fills in and it resolves but yeah…this kind of somewhat internal ache is so hard and I’ve spent the week with what feels like a bruise on my soul that won’t heal anytime soon.

2. being humbled because you’ve been called on your own tendency to live in shades of gray rather than be black and white rule abiding is hard. always. My key strengths are my ability to take risks, try out things with confidence, and have a free thinking non-linear explorative spirit…except when I have to explain myself to a system based on rigid check and balance process and then the above become my key weaknesses. while I’m no longer actively in trouble, I’m glad that I know the boundaries of the play ground and have adjusted my scope of experimentation accordingly. “I’m sorry” has become the script of my week.

3. being completely vulnerable and transparent with those you lead is hard….but always the best way. When the above situation happened I was very open about my struggles and what was going on with my closest team members. It literally felt like i was about 12, I was going to vomit, and they were finally going to see me for the sham that the darker voices in my head talk about on a daily basis. Yet after I’d gotten it out, totally cliche but, it was freedom because they saw new parts of me and even more were allowed to speak into me rather than the usual me-to-them transaction.

4. the hardest thing about being a leader is opening your own grabby little fists and trusting your team. (indeed, the hardest part of being a person might be opening up your grabby little fists and trusting others, time, and process.) when I accepted this job almost a year ago, I was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give presentations because I was such a poor public speaker…I was petrified that I wouldn’t know how to balance my time and I’d burn out…I was convinced that no one would follow my lead and all my ideas were too crazy or bizarre to ever inspire others. Turns out, presentations (or at least distance-mediated ones) are cake. Balancing time is tricky but luckily I do have a pretty good “stop or I will stop for you” balance on my body itself. Ideas? Position and passion pretty much ensure that people will jump on the bandwagon…keeping them is anyone’s guess but getting them isn’t so hard.

But yeah…letting go is something so completely different. For whatever reason (and I’m taking the Leadership Theory course right now so you’d think if anyone knew the answer it would be me) it feels natural for me to say that I’d be willing to sacrifice myself for my team as I am their leader but to give them stuff to do….eek! I’m not weak! I’m not needy!! I’m all powerful and in charge!!! Or at least I like to tell myself these things.

In truth, I am strong and courageous but so is every person on my team. By virtue of timing and choosing and who knows what…I ended up as the “leader” but with that title I didn’t suddenly also get superpowers.

Then things like this week happen and you end up messy and human and anything but a superhero in front of your team and turns out…just where you end is the perfect place for all of them to begin. It turns out that you’ve been feeling noble as you shelter them but really they’re more than willing for the relationship to be reciprocal…more than capable of holding you when you need it, if you will only let them.

I didn’t have many proud moments this week but I did have a proud moment realizing that the culture I’ve been hoping for for oh the last year is actually a reality. We can be open. We can be real people with each other.  We can open our grabby hands because it is safe. I can (and have) opened my hands to them because it is safe and in a act of grace and beauty…they’ve opened theirs in return.

So, what’s next? Hopefully lots of sleep and some quiet. Though I’m finding resolution more and more, this week scarred me pretty deep and I want to grow and not gloss over these new places in me that have opened up.

Ahh life….What a fun and frustrating challenge you often turn into.

you are not your computer…

January 25, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

This past week my supervisor posted (and clearing expressed his disdain of) a link on twitter to an article that said something along the lines of… “if computers replaced teachers in online learning, the world would be a better place.” (Admittedly, this is a bit of simplification on the article but the overall gist was: teachers cost money, need benefits, have all sorts of emotions/personalities/quirks and generally are a major drain on institutional finances but magical computers work endlessly, need no benefits and only have the feelings one programs into them thus are an institutional win.) I responded off the cuff about how my Mac was probably going to replace him in the near future since as the article said, who needs humans if computers can teach everything? He responded back in a sage, supervisory way by saying that the focus is never teaching but rather learning and that computers can’t actually “teach” rather they aggregate. Then he continued on by saying that as I already spend way more time working on my thesis with my Mac than working on my thesis with him…maybe we are already at the point where my Mac had replaced him….As I spend about 18 hours a day with my Mac…yeah, I’d say he makes a valid point!

It was a fun short twitter exchange to begin my day and yet it did make me think a lot about this very odd distance mediated world of teaching and learning that I’m living in and that has become my own default framework.

For example in my day to day job…
100% of the interactions I have with my own team of direct reports are mediated by a computer or a phone.
100% of the interactions I have with the students enrolled in my program are mediated by a computer or a phone.
100% of the assignments created, books read, lectures attended, etc. in the program I head are are mediated by a computer.

And then in my doctoral studies…
100% of the interactions I have with my cohort (who I consider to be almost family) are mediated by a computer
100% of the content of my  doctoral program is mediated by a computer

and regarding the supervisor mentioned above, thus far…
95% of all communication over the past 18 months has been mediated by not just a computer but primarily using the 140 character microblog format of Twitter

I am an educator working to teach students the skill of graphic design—something that has always been taught via close proximity studio methodology—and 100% of what I do is geographically distributed and technology mediated. I am a human, my students are humans, my staff are humans, my cohort and supervisor are humans and yet as we’ve never “seen” or even been in the same timezone…it all could actually be a gigantic sophisticated Turing test.

It feels so mundane when I live it day to day and yet to see all these facts written out…so so so crazy that the system is even allowed to exist, let alone thrive.

There is no part of me that ever thinks that my computer could replace my supervisor just as there is no part of me that ever thinks that my computer could replace any of the instructors on my team because I believe so strongly in the power of the humans behind all of this new fangled technology.

And yet, how does one get to this place of seeing the human even as it’s fully interpreted by blind code and then transported via cables and satellites and flat screen projectis? How do people become real in such a different, non-human atmosphere? For me it feels so natural because I’ve lived in this place for so long and been learning in this distanced mediated system for almost 10 years, beginning with my MFA.

I’m beginning to think I’m not the norm…I’m beginning to think I’m the anomaly in all of this and yet if I could understand myself better perhaps I could help untangle these ideas for others.

and so it begins once more….

January 13, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

…then the first day of the new term comes and all the bravado I had about getting pre-reading done for the first two weeks and thinking all this will come easily since I already am in a position of leadership fades quickly into a churning sea of deep uncertainty and…if I’m totally honest…deep insecurity. It turns out day dreaming about something that’s surrounded by the safe buffer of “future” is one thing but jumping headlong into it when it becomes “present” is something entirely different.

804 has officially begun. 804. Which means 801, 802, and 803 are all in the books, complete. Which means I’m so fully a second year, have committed so much of myself to this both mentally and financially and…there’s pretty much no going back. On the positive side, 804 means I’ve had enough classes in my experience that I am a bit more mentally prepared. I know that the feels of nausea and being an impostor and nearly reflex reaction of wanting to curl up into the fetal position until summer won’t kill me (and indeed it is possibly to type while in a posture that almost approximates the fetal position.) In addition I know that the truth is I do have what it takes and over the past 18 months there have been some pretty hefty deposits from much more sage academics into the bank of my own budding self-image as an academic.

So, off I go once more….into the unknown of 804 with my own little metaphorical knapsack of encouraging notes, ideas in tiny sprout form, and brimming flask of whiskey. And so to my my sister and brother in the cohort 6 community this term: May the road be scenic. May our fellow travelers be friendly. May the places along the way be hospitable. May the words be ever in our favor.

2015 and back to it…

January 6, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Woohoo! New Year! Time for renewed blogging resolutions, right? Every day writing! Every day reflecting! Every month great American novel composing because I wake up an hour early and write my little heart out with tender, sensitive, academic prose! Who’s in???


Not me.


And not because I’m not a great dreamer but rather because I know the tole my 15 day run of academic writing took on me way back in November. It was legit a great experience but that coupled with lots of 803 assignments and working like a maniac in my day job made me run dry on words. By dry I don’t mean just no longer clever or witty but dry like in the last few days before break it almost physically hurt to form sentences in emails because the words were just gone. I have a feeling this may be what thesis writing will feel like. If so…eeek. But, good news is a two week long holiday break later filled with lots of reading, lots of sleeping, lots of eating, and lots of drinking, the word bucket is once more filled up and ready to be parceled out on the little neglected blog.

804 begins next week (I think….since the 803 disaster I’ve become a little less cognizant of actual start dates and have taken a more “it will begin when it begins” approach) and as a way to start things off our instructor asked us to take a short survey reflecting on what we want out of the class (or our goals/what will be a “win” for us), our experiences in leadership (or what sort of baggage we’re bringing to the class), and anything we think that she should know about the cohort that will make all of our lives easier in the next term.

I think it’s a fabulous idea to do the whole reflection thing before anything gets started. Our prof this term is the head of the department so I suppose it only follows that she’s got more vested into the program thus might make a better showing than a certain previous prof who shall remain nameless. She also gave us the first two weeks readings so we could all be prepped up for the first day, whenever that might be. I’ve never done pre-reading for a class but given that I had time and was word starved, I did it and it’s been great so far. Even if the class nosedives from here, I’ve taken enough good stuff from the readings thus far to set me on a good path. So, overall verdict is thus far…all the good feels for 804.

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