Yes, it really has been four years!

I was going over some old sites and tidying things up a bit and realized it’s been ages since I last posted here. In fact, it has been slightly more than four years since my last entry! While I am now approaching the end of the Ph.D. program (more on that in a moment), so much else has happened that I don’t know where to begin.

In my last post, I mentioned I had to deal with a sudden family emergency. While I will not go into the details surrounding that, there is no question that that event was one of many extremely serious matters I’ve dealt with since I enrolled at UCR. The life challenges I’ve faced during that time have been extraordinary and under no circumstances would I ever want to go through those challenges again. Even now, many of those issues have yet to be resolved. Personally, I believe that degrees that are given for “life experience” are bogus. Just the same, I would be eligible for multiple such “degrees” if such thing were really given!

However, despite those challenges, I am now dissertating! My experience at UCR have been very positive – the level of scholarship is nothing less than phenomenal. It’s been an honor to study with so many brilliant individuals – the professors are highly respected and recognized experts within their fields. The quality of the doctoral students in my program is also what one would expect at a tier one research institution – “bad apples” simply aren’t admitted, and nearly all make it through the program.

Unlike degrees-for-dollars schools (and diploma mills) that crank out Ph.D.s faster than McDonald’s flips burgers, UCR only permits a very small number of students to enter the program each year (generally no more than two students). Yes, it’s a very select group and students are expected to perform at very high levels from the beginning. I’m loathe to use the term “rigorous” to describe the program (although that is an accurate descriptor) simply because I’ve seen the term bantered about by so many degrees-for-dollars school and their customers (note, I didn’t use the term “students”) who serve as “ambassadors” to suck more souls into their systems. At the University of California, there is an unquestionable emphasis on quality, not quantity.  That, of course has many advantages in that we work very closely with our professors and class sizes are very small – often containing no more than four to eight students.

Well, this is enough for now. Perhaps I’ll write more in the near future to discuss some of the things I’ve experienced as a Ph.D. student. Hopefully, that won’t take another four years!

Happy as a clam

Well, I’ve got to admit, I’m extremely impressed with all of my courses at UCR, as well as with all of the professors. It’s a wonderful environment to be in and certainly one that lives up to the fact that it is a 1st tier research institution. I’m pleased with the professionalism of all of my instructors and am also awed by their humility. At some institutions, the professors tell you how wonderful they are and expound upon their reputation as “scholars” – at UCR, not one of my professors has done that; rather, they speak very humbly while, at the same time, their expertise shines through via their lectures, presentations, class notes, and openness to questions. Granted, I’ve only been in school for a week but it doesn’t take long to realize that academic quality and the continual search for whatever that really means is at the core of what is expected of all.

On a more personal note, I’m experiencing “flashbacks” to my years of experience as a teacher and am excited to read about all of the research that has occurred over the past twenty years which, for the most part, substantiates quality pedagogical practices that good teachers had previously used based upon their intuition. Of course, a huge amount of research remains to be done but it is still quite exciting to observe how things have progressed over a relatively short period of time. Other matters within the field of education, of course, still need to be addressed but I’ll save those things for later.

I’m also very pleased with the essential role that preparation for the future (i.e., what to do after being piled higher and deeper) is being given at this early stage of the game. One seminar is being devoted specifically to this topic and we’re exploring various possibilities that may be available to us after graduation. Clearly, UCR is a school that is not only concerned with bringing students into their programs but is concerned with the future of their graduates. Very exciting. Very professional.