Archive for May, 2011

Fourth Time’s The Charm?

Posted May 24, 2011 By Steve

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — Albert Einstein

Northeastern University College of Professional Studies logo
I wasn’t going to do this for a really long time. When I chose a Bachelor’s degree program, it was clear which one was the right one. I signed up at Charter Oak State College, finished it, and was done. Similarly, I had no problem selecting the right Master’s degree program. The program at George Washington University was the right one at the right price, and once I enrolled I never doubted that I would finish it, even when things got tough.

Doctoral study has been different. I’ve made three different attempts to scale this particular mountain, and in each case I haven’t reached the summit. I enrolled in the Doctor of Health Education program through A.T. Still University but lost interest in it after a few terms when it became clear it wasn’t a good enough fit for my interests. I enrolled in the PhD in Economics program at Swiss Management Center, only to look at the first course and realize that four years of hard core economics was similarly not sustainably interesting to me. More recently, I applied to a set of universities here in the States for programs in Higher Education, and enrolled at the University of Memphis. Well, I ended up concluding that that one wasn’t my doctoral home either, and have withdrawn.

It’s not that Memphis was bad, because much of it was good. I liked my advisor, and one of my courses was excellent. It’s true that my statistics course was being taught by someone with zero aptitude for or interest in teaching, but I was still on track to get an A in it when I withdrew, so that wasn’t really it either. I just didn’t love it. Maybe this is absurdly idealistic of me, but I want to love it. Or at the very least, I want that same “this is it!” feeling that I got from previous schools where I’ve finished what I started.

So now what? Interestingly, shortly after I’d reached this conclusion I got an acceptance letter in the mail from Northeastern University in Boston. I’d applied to them at the same time as Memphis and Liberty, but their admissions cycle was so much longer than the others that I hadn’t heard back until about six months after I’d submitted everything. I realized that one of the issues I’d been having was with enrolling in programs that were “close enough”, but the program at Northeastern is specifically in International Higher Education, which is my exact primary area of interest. So I decided to take one more chance, and respond affirmatively to them.

I guess there’s no such saying as “fourth time’s the charm”. I hadn’t planned to blog about this until I was a few terms into things just so I’d be sure that I wasn’t going to withdraw from yet another program. But too many people know at this point for me to pretend it’s not increasingly common knowledge, so rather than say nothing I’ll go ahead and occasionally relay my experience with this. I’m going to do a residency during my very first term, which will be different from previous programs, and I like to think that it will help that the “connection” feeling that so far has eluded me in doctoral study.

So that’s what’s happening. And if this confirms your suspicions about my lack of sense, fair enough.

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King Of The Traffic Lights

Posted May 13, 2011 By Steve

“At least for now, I’m going to continue to do the commuting thing, … It’s just become part of my life. Sometimes coming home I think, ‘What am I doing? I’m completely insane.’” — Scott Harris


I’ve started at VIU, and so far so good. I’m getting enough to do to keep me on my toes here, but I can see value in what has to be done.

But this post isn’t about the destination, it’s about the journey. Specifically, it’s about commuting. As soon as I realized I was looking for work I wouldn’t be doing from home, we realized that we had one car too few. When I worked outside the house before, Adella either was at home or was working close enough that we could carpool. But now she has a far ranging Zumba schedule, and I work too far away for her to be able to drop me off and pick me back up.

I hasn’t really wanted to devote resources to a second car, but there was no choice, and as the saying goes, when life give you lemons, make a whiskey sour. So I decided as long as I was going to get something anyway, it might as well be something fun, like, say, the Mazda Miata I’ve always wanted. Our budget on this was nowhere near that for a new one, or even a middle aged one, but fortunately they’re well made and they’ve been in production since the ’80s, so find one old enough that even I could sort of afford it was possible. I only had to go back to model year 1996 to accomplish this. Yeah, the car is older than my fourteen year old.

But like I said, I’ve wanted one of these for a long time. When I myself was sixteen or so, I went to the local Mazda dealership and asked whether I could test drive one. They let me, and it was awesome. Some of you might be wondering what sort of crack smoking car dealer would let a sixteen year old kid test drive a new car, but I grew up in an affluent area where some parents bought their kids new cars for their birthdays or graduation, so the dealer wasn’t as crazy as he might seem.

Anyway, it really is a fun little car. My mechanic looked it over and said it looks sound, so hopefully it will let me recover from the impact of having had to buy it before it gives me any repair bills.

The other thing is that I’d forgotten how cripplingly insane Northern Virginia rush hour traffic is. I’m “lucky” in that I commute the other way from most drivers, outbound in the morning and inbound in the afternoon, but even at that it’s been bumper-to-bumper both days so far on the Beltway. I’ve decided to give up on it and take local roads all the way. It’s twelve miles from my house to VIU, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but traffic lights have always adored me, turning red on my approach to be able to spend as much time with me as possible. Both days it’s taken forty-five minutes to get to work.

But hey, everyone else does it, right?

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I Found My New Job!

Posted May 6, 2011 By Steve

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” — Seneca

VIU logo
This is a pretty exciting follow up to my most recent post. On May 12th I start at Virginia International University as Academic Operations Manager. I’ll be reporting to Dr. Goran Trajkovski, the Dean of the School of Computer Information Systems and the School of Online Education. I understand I’ll be doing a bit of everything, but it’s largely a student facing position, which will be refreshing after a number of years dealing mostly with faculty members and then clients. Even though it’s been rewarding to teach the students I’ve had in my online courses, that’s not the same as getting to know them in person.

I’m interested in VIU for a few reasons. One, as I mentioned, is that the position lets me work with students. But not only that, VIU’s population is 97% international students, and as someone with a long running interest in international higher education, that’s especially interesting to me. The school is also fairly new, having been founded in 1998, started operations in 2000, and becoming accredited in 2008. That newness means that there’s room for diligent, capable people to gain more responsibility than they would at an institution that has been around for decades, and indeed this is something that was suggested to me by a number of people throughout the interview process. I also appreciate that VIU’s goal is to differentiate itself from alternatives by offering a superior service experience to students. In particular, the chance to help build up their online programs should be a blast!

So that’s it in a nutshell. Conventional employment will be an adjustment after nearly two years of working from home, but I’m ready for it.

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