Springing ahead

After what felt like a steady stream of non-stop polar-vortexes unleashing a record-breaking winter upon my state, I am almost giddy with the melting snow and warmer weather, even if we still receive a day here or there with some snow. At least whatever snow or wind-chill we get now is quickly gone. In springing-ahead for daylight savings, I am springing ahead with my research and work.

Thanks to the wonderful participants who have been part of my study, I am finally finished collecting interviews and am working night and day to analyze and write. I’ve had so many a-ha moments listening to the adoptive parents in my study. I may be earnest in hoping that their experiences will help change how adoptions are currently done. There have certainly been several paradigm-shifting insights gleaned from these parent’s experiences. I am already thinking ahead to a couple of follow-up studies I will likely pursue based on this study.

Onward I go –


PhD Elitism

In addition to posts of cute kitty videos and pictures of food (and I’m guilty of both) I find facebook to be a site of a lot of thought-provoking conversations recently. In particular, I have been following a thread about the people who have PhD’s and their elitism.

There is a lot of this sentiment going around lately; I hear political candidates whose parties encouraged higher education a few decades ago now bashing the push for college educations, much less advanced degrees.  I expect sweater-vest-wearing politicians to say such things, but when it comes from within your own community? Where is this critique coming from, to make such generalizations. What does this mean for those of us from under-served or marginalized communities with, or currently pursuing, doctoral degrees?

Continue reading “PhD Elitism”

The long and winding road to a PhD

Is this in line with my previous post, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?”

The grim reality of being in a graduate program!

I had to laugh at the statement “for many, the appeal of the “life of the mind” – being buried in books and surrounded by the intellectual elite – is the ultimate fantasy” because it is so true. In a way I was really fortunate that I had several friends in the middle of or recently finished with doctoral degrees when I began mine, so I had a heavy dose of reality to counter my fantasy. Even so, I often find myself realizing that like a stubborn teenager who thinks “it won’t happen to me,” many of the very things my friends warned me about are indeed part and parcel of graduate school.

The Long and Winding Road to a PhD
Via: Online PhD Programs


It’s been a busy few months but I am finally coming up for air! I am in the exam phase of my doctoral program and just submitted my specialized exam paper, as well as completed all my final assignments for the last of my courses. Hard to believe that I am now finished with my coursework! It feels great, but I have to admit that I am one of those students who LOVES to take classes. I always enjoy learning new things. I’m eying another certificate program but have to hold myself back….maybe one day I’ll be able to take more classes.

Additionally, in the midst of finals I was traveling for fun and for business, presenting at a conference and taking a training and preparing for a webinar which I just presented today. The summer is going to busy too, but not nearly to the same extent. I’m presenting for the local chapter of the NASW’s conference in June, keynoting at an adoption family camp in July, and in between working on my dissertation proposal. Exciting times ahead!

Saturation (I can’t get no)

I’ve been working on a literature review for my specialized exam, and I have come to a familiar spot – the point where I realize that I have to stop gathering more information and get down to business with what I’ve got.

I’m the type of person who can’t quite trust that I’ve chosen the best representation of the literature. There’s always more to be found, other studies I’m sure I haven’t read, elusive material out there that I haven’t found that I’m just positive is that golden nugget I’m looking for that will tie everything all together in a nice, neat bow.

Yes, that is a large part of the reason I haven’t updated the blog! I’ve been spending most of my evenings reading and hunting down more articles and books. I think I’m finally at the point where I’ve reached saturation in the literature and nothing else I find is giving me new information. So to misquote the Rolling Stones once more, although I can’t always get what I want, sometimes I get what I need.

On to writing!!

Exams…and now the waiting ensues

This morning, I printed out my final drafts of my preliminary exam answers. The past few weeks have been a blur. I discovered that children and partners are like cats; they do not like closed doors. Even so, it has been wonderful to have so much support as I have bundled myself into my office with stacks of books and chocolates.

Of course now the waiting begins. Six weeks at least, they tell me, until I find out if I passed my exams.

In the meantime, I’ll be ruminating on the philosophy of Bart Simpson and 30 Rock.

Reading radical social work history

Well, it’s that time of year. Finished with my course work for the year and now looming ahead is the mammoth project that is studying for my preliminary exams next fall. So for anyone else out there who has completed this phase of graduate school and is willing to share some tips, I’m all ears!

The first thing I’m doing is looking at my long reading bibliography and trying to figure out which readings will be the most important to tackle. I’m kind of on a history binge right now, perhaps because I finished an interesting social welfare history course last semester, and these two books were not covered in our class. I wish they had been, because these two books cover the voices of a different group of people, people mentioned briefly but not in depth in the other social work and social welfare history texts.

I finished “The Road Not Taken: A History of Radical Social Work in the United States” by Reisch and Andrews and just started “Poor People’s Movements: Why the Succeed, How they Fail” by Piven and Cloward.


22 reasons I won’t be blogging much this semester

  • Hines, Keaton & Small (2009). Black Europe and the African Diaspora.
  • Oyeronke Oyewumi (1997). The Invention of Women
  • Dorothy Roberts (1998). Killing the Black Body
  • Karla Slocum (2006). Free Trade and Freedom: Neoliberalism, Place and Nation in the Caribbean
  • Jacqui Alexander (20060. Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred
  • Anne McClintock (1995). Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest
  • Oyeronke Oyewumi (2005). African Gender Studies: A Reader
  • Patricia Collins (1991) Black Feminist Thought
  • Gunning, Hunter & Mitchell (2004). Dialogues of Dispersal: Gender, Sexuality, and African Diasporas
  • Harriford & Thompson (2008). When the Center Is on Fire: Passionate Social Theory for Our Times
  • Mimi Abramovitz (1996). Regulating the Lives of Women: Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present
  • Elizabeth Danto (2008). Historical Research
  • Linda Gordon (1994). Pitied But Not Entitled: Single Mothers and the History of Welfare
  • Grob (1994). The Mad Among Us: A History of the Care of America’s Mentally Ill.
  • Michael Katz (1996). In the Shadow of teh Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America
  • Regina Kunzel (1993). Fallen Women Problem Girls: Unmarried mothers and the Professionalization of Social Work 1890-1945
  • Molly Ladd-Taylor (1994). Mother-work: Women, child welfare, and the state, 1890-1930
  • Lasch-Quinn (1993). Black neighbors: Race and the Limits of Reform in the American Settlement House Movement
  • Theda Skocpol (1992). Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States
  • Trattner (1999)From Poor Law to Welfare State: A History of Social Welfare in America
  • Wencour & Reisch (2001). From Charity to Enterprise: The Development of American Social Work in a Market Economy
  • Ginwright, Noguera & Cammarota (2006). Beyond Resistance: Youth Activism and Community Change – New Democratic Possibilities for Practice and Policy for America’s Youth

Courses I’m taking this semester

Public Affairs – The Search for Youth Policy

“Does the US have a comprehensive youth policy or set of policies? Do we have a common understanding of the rights and responsibilities of youth in our society and is this reflected in the policies that most impact young people? This course will explore these questions as we grapple with the impact of youth policy (or lack thereof) on questions of economic development, formal and non-formal learning, health and human services, housing, immigration, juvenile justice, national security, and youth engagement.”

The text is “Beyond Resistance! Youth Activism and community Change” by Ginwright, Noguera and Cammarota (2006)

African American Studies – Gender, Race, Nation and Policy: Perspectives from Within the African Diaspora

“The focus is on the agency by peoples of African and African diasporas to shape and restructure the public response to communities of African descent. Within the U.S. for example, we will analyze gender, race, reproductive rights. Within Africa, Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, we will examine the political economic underpinnings, racialized and gendered aspects of structural inequality and the human response to it.”

Social Work – History of Social Work and HIstorical Research Methods

“This class surveys the evolution of social welfare policy and social work practice in the United States and an introduction to historical research methods.”

Newbie networking

I’m currently at the SSWR conference in San Francisco. I am fortunate enough to have friends in the Bay area, so I came a few days earlier and was able to spend some time with my friends. Then, another woman in my doctoral cohort arrived on Wednesday and we checked in to the conference and hotel. The two of us are the only two in our cohort, although there are several other students here (a few on the job market, they defended or are ABD) and some faculty.

Social networking via facebook and twitter and the like is easy for me. The more difficult part is the face-to-face networking. Although it doesn’t always appear this way, I am quite shy. I’ve really stretched myself over the past ten years so now I am at the point where, with a little effort, I can approach someone and say hi, even though internally I want to run away and hide. It’s actually a lot easier to network when the stakes are low. Here at this professional conference, my roommate/colleague and I had the same plan – to check out how this conference works, what kinds of papers and posters are accepted, and to get a general layout when the personal stakes were still low. Since both of us are a few years away from being on any job market and we likely won’t be submitting things for this conference until next year, it has been easier to just “be” here.

I have a lot more things I want to process about the conference, but need to wait until I have more time. I’m off to a Child Welfare interest group round table discussion in a little bit.

Reframing the “problem” of too-many choices

For a little while, I thought that maybe this year things wouldn’t be so crazed. I’m taking one less class this semester, although I traded that extra class for a 20-hour research assistant position, which I am absolutely loving. I think I got a little lazy, which was not so smart. A few weeks ago I realized that I need to get my rear end back in gear. A big part of my self-induced laziness happened because I wasn’t being very good about structuring my time and using my thoughtfully created “to-do” list. I had to blow the cobwebs off of the list and was mostly reacting rather than planning. I’m a planner, I do better with structure. I haven’t had enough external structure this summer and I do much, much better with concrete deadlines. How am I going to survive after next year when I’m off to do my own research and dissertation writing? Without imposed deadlines? That, my friends, is going to be a challenge and I need to start thinking now about how I’m going to keep motivated.

Another “problem” I have (knowing full well that any “problem” is really a luxury in disguise) is having too many ideas. I went into the program with a pretty clearly defined idea for my research. Except that during and after every class I take, I get another “brilliant” idea (or two or three). All these ideas are piling up on each other and as I start to get closer to thinking about actually doing one of these ideas, I’m finding that having too many options is starting to freak me out. Which idea am I going to do? What if it’s not the BEST idea? What if I regret it and wish I’d done something else?

It’s like what author Barry Schwartz writes about in The Paradox of Choice. The more choices one has, the more unsatisfied one becomes and the more difficult it is to make a decision. And then whatever decision one makes, one continues to think that there’s a better option “out there.”

A week ago, I was talking to one of the faculty members at my school, and he asked how I was doing this year. I explained that my biggest concern was trying to figure out which of the many ideas I have would be the “best” project for my dissertation. He gave me some great advice. First, he advised that I take each of these ideas and actually start to flesh them out a little bit. Right now they’re all pretty much just “ideas” – a research question or two and a vague idea of how it might be structured (and by vague, I do mean vague – like, “quantitative study” or “historical research”). The Professor suggested I start writing a mock description of the research, like a proposal draft, writing down how long I think it would take, who would be involved, would I want to write apply for funding and who would fund this project, etc. etc.

The other piece of advice the Professor gave to me was more of a “re-framing” of my “problem.”

“Instead of thinking of having too many ideas as a problem,” he said, “once you begin to flesh out these ideas, think instead of having a collection or portfolio of ideas that could be your legacy of your future academic career.” He suggested that having solid ideas on a wide variety of potential projects could make me a very “compelling candidate” (his words), as a search committee would be able to see that I’d be bringing with me a lot of projects and potential funding sources too.

The cover of the Schwartz book is an egg carton with 11 regular eggs and one golden one; I feel that is a pretty accurate description of the Professor’s advice. I have the carton already, the framework of study (adoption/foster care) and now I want to start to place the eggy ideas in the carton. At some point I’ll have to pick one, but as the Professor advised, I don’t have to throw any of these other ideas in the trashcan. Just because I pick one now doesn’t mean the others are bad ideas. At some point in my life, any one of them might be the “perfect choice”