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Posts tagged ‘Lisa Hammershaimb’

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.

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on coming back from outer space (or what happens during dissertation radio silence)

January 7, 2018

lisa hammershaimb

And just like that…over 4 months have passed since the last entry (ironically the entry that was going to get me “back to blogging” in a rhythm that would allow me to record how the dissertation was unfolding as it was unfolding.) When I was going through coursework I was intentionally cobbling together a personal learning network on social media of others who were a bit ahead of me in the process so that I could look to and learn from them as they navigated the very uncharted waters of what one actually does when one enters the intensive research/writing phase of a dissertation. It seemed like what happened almost universally was radio silence—the once continuous stream of communication and information on social media disappeared.

And then after a time they’d come back telling the world they’d survived and all the champagne emojis would flow as we’d celebrate their accomplishment and the new consonants that could now be in front of their name. Though it was fun to see and celebrate, I always kind of wondered just what happened during their silence. Was this more secret initiation that you couldn’t talk about to the non-doctoral? Was there some kind of vow involved that conscripted you to forsake social media updates?

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Three Week (and three day) Check In

May 16, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

This past Friday marked three weeks since April 21, the day that has become 100% memorable to me as the day when I passed my candidacy. The days leading up to this auspicious event I was on a daily blogging, check in kick, and I had secret thoughts that the twenty plus day practice might mean I’d keep up a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting on what I’d been learning, reading, etc.

Turns out…not so much.

Daily writing taught me that as much as I applaud daily writing, daily reflection, etc. it’s hard stuff to both live and process in tandem. After the intensity that was April, self care looked more like watching a lot of HGTV and drinking craft beer and generally recovering from a years worth of feels that happened over the course of about 40 days.

But now…its three weeks (and three days) past April 21.

The ethics application is conditionally approved (which means apparently I’m not yet ethically fit for research with humans but with luck and a couple semantic revisions I shouldn’t mess people up too much with the interactions I have with them). So in anticipation of bigger stuff on the horizon, clearly time to get back to keeping up a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting on what I’ve been learning, reading, etc. Though I’m mostly thinking this back to reflection thing isn’t a good idea…I think this era will prove to be quite an important one and worthy of something (somewhat) concrete recorded about its process.

First topic for getting back into things which is all based on reflection and zero based on reading: life post candidacy (*disclaimer: an overview for the uninitiated from the very narrow reflections of one person’s, highly personal experience.)

I don’t know if this is true for every institution or not but for me, candidacy felt like a rarified space, clothed in mystery. No one who had been through the process seemed to use anything beyond very non-committal adjectives to describe the process. This vagueness generally reinforced the idea that the whole thing is complete secret society level initiation. As I’ve now been through the process and been initiated into said secret society, I am no longer free to give specifics about what happens in the sacred space but…I can give away a couple hints about who you might be when you come to the other side which I will share below as my first tentative forays back into the saddle that is blogging.

Basically, you wake up the next morning post candidacy and have no more worries, problems, issues, etc. Even though legit all sorts of chaos might have prevailed in previous days, you feel fit and healthy and exude balance that others can’t help but notice and feel calmed by as they bask in your presence. You sleep deep and long. You exude a glowing radiance. You think, ”Wow…this must be what life feels like as a Doctor.” And related, “I will be very very very very good at life as a Doctor.”

This grounded zen lasts for about two days and then the realization hits you like a freight train that during your candidacy you spent about two hours convincing three strangers that:

  1. This super fringe area of research hasn’t been explored yet and this might be the reason all our lives are difficult.
  2. You are the best person to explore this super fringe area of research because you’re passionate, capable and have an airtight, foolproof plan for success.
  3. All of our lives are incomplete until you get approved to explore the super fringe area of research.
  4. It would really be a crime not to give you the green light because you’re basically going to bring world peace (albeit in a super fringe slice of the world) through your research.

After such a convincing argument….who could refuse?? Not the committee because you won them over with your charm, charisma, etc. Unfortunately, this now means….you actually MUST do said research.

You. Must. Do. It.

Pretty sure “must” is the ultimate zen-kill because “must” means all that you presented in somewhat airy, abstract terms has to land itself and work into the nooks and crannies of real life research. Describing a well intentioned, creative plan will get you past the candidacy but a full dissertation with actual data and such needs flesh and bones and blood (disclaimer should my ethics review committee happen to read this: all metaphorically speaking, of course) to actually work.

At this point you become amazingly adept at finding somewhat tangentially related diversions to make you feel productive yet also help you ignore the enormity of the task ahead. For me, finishing my ethics application and then endlessly pestering my supervisor to sign off on it was my task of choice. *Related: Whenever I’m stressed about anything my default is to begin pestering my supervisor. After almost four years, I think he’s become quite adept at indulging and ignoring me. Pretty sure this is the mark of a good supervisor. 

Skilling yourself in something software related also helps because learning a tool makes you feel competent and in control (even though honestly…tools are pointless without a good plan but still…feeling in control is a pleasant drug.) Over the past three weeks I’ve attended numerous NVivo webinars, practice importing data, made pretty word clouds, and generally “oooh-ed” and “ahhhh-ed” at shiny capability that I’m 98% sure I will never need but…still pretty epic.

What continues to remain tricky and I’ve yet to find a good solution to is life in the nagging now-but-not-yet identity that is a doctoral candidate. As I’ve basically brought a village with me along this journey coming one step closer has meant that there have been many village celebrations which have included the inevitable question of “how much longer until you’re Dr. Lisa?” My answer thus far has been “about a year” because I do hope sooner than later is when I can wrap all this up and move along to other things.

That said…I still Must. Do. Said. Research. And here is the hangup because in addition to carrying candidacy in who I now see myself as, I still have traces of all the steps that came along during the process…the times I didn’t make it and the ways I failed along the way.

Lisa the Doctoral Candidacy. At such points as close as this March, these words felt like something that was just as likely to happen as for me to visit the moon. Yet, here I am and here I have been for almost a month. I didn’t realize how comfortable being a doctoral student had become until I crossed the line into the next zone of candidacy. I am once again in the early stages of another new liminal space. Now looking back, student life all feels like warm fuzzy nostalgia and it’s hard to remember how hard it actually was to navigate. I have no doubt this era too will have the same warm patina when I’m Dr. Lisa trying to figure out what’s next. Learning, like being a human, is a weird thing because its never a binary experience rather it’s living in the fluid tension of succeeding and failing co-mingled.

Which is where things get sticky and voices start up again in my head and I remind myself yet again that I made it this far and will eventually make it all the way. First step: back to a daily (or almost daily) habit of writing and reflecting so this era, which I think will prove to be quite an important one, doesn’t pass by in a blur.

day 3 (of 20)

April 4, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

studiosarecomplex

Products:

  • Created a super basic chart about studios and the part of the trifecta that I think my work is tackling. Basically studio learning seems like it traditionally has established methods, an established space, and an established human and all the learners are swept up in this kind of three part experience. My research questions exactly what is meant by “space” in the whole scheme and I’m coming from a somewhat (okay…completely) biased place that thinks we should create a broader definition and see what is possible if we push on and push out the walls (haha) a bit.
  • Decided that if content is in fact Queen…trying to develop the visuals for a presentation first probably isn’t the best idea. So in light of that…today I began writing “Words to Talk” otherwise known as the script that will guide this whole soiree. Long live the Queen. You can read it here: Proposal_Outline_030417 (*Disclaimer: first time compiling in Scrivener so it feels a little weird in layout…or maybe it’s just because American Typewriter came as default and though I never use it in real life because I’m probably just too snobby about analog reproduction stuff, I’m totally digging it here.)


Process:

  • Today was about consciously making myself sit with these ideas and wrestle a bit so the words would situate themselves into the right spaces. Though I was almost as squirmy as the words and ideas, I’m glad I made myself stick with it because it is slowly building and holding together.


Perspective:

  • I’m less scared today. And I’m one million percent certain that this check in with myself was a good thing to start because it gives me a focus that’s way more productive than craft beer, HGTV, or re-reading Harry Potter books.


Tomorrow: 

  • Continue (hopefully finish) script 1.0

day 2 (of 20)

April 3, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

Products:

  • Created a prelim slide flow with educated guesses as to what will go where and why.

Process:

  • Took a very long walk and tried to think of good visual metaphors for transient spaces that might guide the overall design of the presentation. So far inspirations include: air plants (no roots!), rock climbing (ever changing topography calls for ever nimble response!), and points on a map (movement and networks!) but I’m still too in love with the look + feel of my initial presentation to make a logical design decision.

Perspective:

  • I’m thinking this writing every day idea was a stupid idea because so much of process is mulling ideas while doing other stuff. Or perhaps…the weekend won (as it always should). Anyways…tomorrow is a new day.

day 1 (of 20)

April 1, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

Today marks twenty days until I formally defend my dissertation proposal (April 21!!!)

Today also marks the first day of a new month and the somewhat recent beginning of a new season here in the northern hemisphere. The freshness of new and the round number of days until the “big day” clearly means I’d forever regret not starting a twenty day writing challenge (or at least…on the first day this seems like a good idea.)

In all seriousness, this feels like an important season in the long, liminal space of being a doctoral student. I feel I’m maybe on the brink of the next step (which I fully cannot imagine) and though I’m trying my best to be present in the moment…the emotions are running high and the days are far from being well curated mindful polaroids. I think if I don’t consciously leave some sort of trace—engage in some list making and reflection, I’ll lose some this season in a blur of just trying to stay afloat.

The Challenge:
500 words max each day outlining + updating the following:
1. Products
2. Process
3. Perspective

Oh, of course use Scrivener to compose all of the above because nothing like learning via blogging! And to Dr. Lisa of the future…I hope you are smiling as you reflect back on these salad days. : )


DAY 1
Products:

  • Further refined the presentation outline. With 14 sections and 20 minutes max things are looking good.
  • Began brainstorming a graphical model of traditional F2F studio pedagogy and studio learning in a more open/less transmissive space to show visually my study focus. Hopefully this will not “lull” (*committee member’s word) audience into thinking I’m going full online only to bait and switch that I’m actually more curious about the deviant motivations + behaviors of educators who have ever reason to go full traditional but choose to augment + expand their studio spaces vie the internet.
  • Added paragraph to the proposal on tacit knowledge a la Polanyi to Ch. 1 (fully aware no one will see this until post defense but still…good to put it in while its fresh in my head)

Process:

  • Bulked up on McLuhan reading…pretty sure he can get a passing reference and add “gravitas” (*committee member’s word) in the “Problem Statement” zone with his message + medium thinking re: interaction and spaces and pedagogy and medium
  • Summarized Polyani’s ideas to a cohort mate and now feel 30% more confident in his thinking re:tacit knowledge (bonus: told my parents too…now we’re all way more aware of the tacit knowledge sprinkled through our day…which might make it less tacit…hmmm….)
  • Began scouting out blended/hybrid lit to possibly incorporate into the lit review per committee feedback
  • Began trying to detangle “New Media” per committee feedback (spoiler alert: it feels super opaque and gimmicky but trying to keep an open mind) 

Perspective:

  • Realized this morning while running that I’ve already presented to two of my committee members on these ideas and I’ve lived through it (they might have even actually liked and been interested and encouraging in my ideas…shocking, eh?). Also, I’ve gotten over being scared of my supervisor so in all honesty, I probably don’t need to use mental effort to make up and play out scary stories of insecurity about what’s going to happen and if I will live. I could make up scary stories of insecurity about my external but as I’m still filled with warm fuzzies that he did in fact accept being my external, imagining him as anything but benevolent feels wrong. This all sounds quite silly when its written but it did feel like a giant exhale to realize…like maybe this whole thing will be okay after all.

Tomorrow: 

  • Read blended/hybrid lit to see if it’s necessary or just a rabbit hole
  • Read New Media lit with a consciously nonjudgmental attitude to see if it’s necessary/beneficial to my overall narrative
  • Slide Design 1.0

hello, external.

March 21, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

And just like that…I have an external committee member, feedback from the internal committee member previously known as the external committee member, and a list of potential dates for my formal proposal defense.

On Thursday morning (in before external time) I woke up with the conscious resolve to be through with the drama and shift my focus toward proactive researcher self-improvement. I was going to master NVivo, qualitative research analysis, and finally investigate Scribner. In addition, I was going to get back to blogging more regularly because writing helps me not only be a better writer but also process life.

Oh, and I was about to embark on an 16 hour road trip to Colorado so having a head filled with positive possibilities was way preferable to a head filled with “what-if” scenarios involving me never getting an external.

Somewhere between the Mississippi River and Des Moines, I got an email saying the five words I’d been fantasizing about for over two weeks, “An external candidate has agreed.” I kept on reading it over and over again just to make sure it actually was real…I had really understood and there actually was no rejection in the sentence. Reading the news was like a giant exhale.

I used to think that this kind of waiting was all an academic head game—it existed in my mind and just involved mental toughness, steely resolve, and perseverant thinking. I’ve since come to realize, like anything in life, waiting and all the complex emotions it brings is a whole body thing. I felt the tension of waiting in my chest and in my shoulders—the frustration and anger of waiting was in my stomach. It seemed even at times I felt the impact of waiting running in my veins. Waiting is achy, exhausting, uncomfortable business.

This experience has made me realize I know very little about patience and trust…I know very little about waiting with grace. Looking back from the comfort that is resolution, I can fully acknowledge that my experience of waiting was basically a first world problem…it was never “if” I would receive a positive resolution, rather it was just “when” that positive resolution would come. I have people in my life who are waiting on questions that have no guaranteed positive answers, just invitations to be present and learn from living within the tension. This experience has made me realize these people may be true superheroes…they certainly are people I want to learn from.

This experience has also made me realize the best thing about being in a season of waiting is the knowledge that you’re not alone. Given the complexity of my situation, my friends couldn’t fix it or make it go away. That said, they could and did listen as I worked through all the messiness of my feelings and rehashed the situation again trying to find a solution within my power to enact (even as we both knew deep down known that a “situation” of our own making was a myth at best.) These friends did not make the waiting hurt less but they did help me find perspective and humor in its midst. These too are the people I want to learn from…the friends who never cease to inspire me.

In the midst of all this, my supervisor and I discussed once more that doing a doctorate is roughly 20% growing a knowledge base and 80% growing as a person. These past two weeks have been crazy hard but I’m hopeful they’ve contributed a bit more to the 80%. Last week I could never imagine thinking this but…though it is excruciating at times, I’m glad for the process. Well, perhaps I should qualify that…I’m almost as glad about the process as I am that I now have an external. : )

one year ago…

March 15, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

If last year I was framing this journey as trying to listen to dark matter, fully appropriate a year later to find myself floating in deep space. It’s admittedly a pretty dark place but when I’m able to look past all the immediate discomfort of the present…so dazzling to realize I actually am here.

on learning the harder stuff.

March 14, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

This week in my intro to graphic design course we’re discussing critique. Critique is one of those subjects in the art and design world that has a mythic quality to it. With my students I emphasize that critique is always just about the work and never about you personally though perversely…it always feels like it’s about you personally and never just about the work.

As designers we are fortunate to be part of an industry where we get paid to make things and be creative. In this transaction, we should do our best but ultimately we live in the creative tension that knows that the majority of our output isn’t for our own pleasure rather it is for communicating a specific message from a client to an audience. It’s hard work untangling your identity from a design piece—learning to hold it loosely. That said; if you cannot find that separation space between what you make and who you are, guarantee you will not be able to survive in the industry.

In design world, how you do the work matters just as much as what work you do.

 

A couple weeks back I received some bad news about my dissertation committee. Because I had done a pre-presentation to my full committee (well documented in such posts as this one) the member who was supposed to be my calm, cool, unbiased external had apparently become tainted. I now had an incomplete committee with no external member. Though he had only good intentions, the very thing my supervisor hoped might speed up the process moved it into an indefinite holding pattern. Education is a complex process. Inherent in this complexity is that realization that for better or worse, his errors will bleed into me and vice versa. For the record: knowing this in my head and feeling this practically are two entirely different things.

As my year had been tracking to a March defense, the news broke me. I was angry that no one caught the error…frustrated that by no mistake of my own my plans were stalled out. I was disillusioned by an opaque system secret society bent on giving me no information or power but wanting all of my trust. While at the beginning updates that things were being “worked on” gave me some hope, as days passed I stopped believing. I felt my own anger turn into bitterness as I realized I wouldn’t defend in March and with every day that passes, even defending in April feels like it’s slipping away.

I’ve spent the last few weeks doing what any logical human would do, namely sending copious emails to the single contact I do have in the system asking for updates, asking for information, and generally asking for any scrap of reassurance that I have not been forgotten. I’d love to say these have been rational, respectful emails but more often than not they’ve been messy, filled with equal parts desperation, rage, and demands for answers that might make the situation hurt less.

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2017 resolution 1: talk more words.

January 8, 2017

lisa hammershaimb

The end of 2016 witnessed a flurry of academic activity as I finished the year with both a (fairly) baked version of my dissertation proposal, and an approved committee!

Because the supervisor is a bit of a renegade (and I’m up for experimenting) we’re interacting with the committee in a somewhat different way than others in my cohort have done at this step in the process. Basically, my first meeting with my committee will happen this week and I’ll be doing a quick intro presentation of my research. This presentation will hopefully lead them to being deeply intrigued by my topic and deeply impressed by my professionalism/logic so the remainder of my candidacy will progress in a quick and painless manner and when they receive the written version of my proposal, their comments will be minimal. (I’m fully aware that none of these things may happen and indeed the complete opposite may be true but…the year is young so its good to remain hopeful!)

Below are slides and accompanying written narration which will most likely approximate what I’ll say in the actual, actual presentation. As usual, comments, suggestions, alerts to glaringly misspelled words, etc. is always welcome. You can also download a PDF version here: hammershaimb_introproposal_presentation.

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