Week 3

Tuesday, 30 August 2011
I'm in my third week of school, second full week. Yesterday I arrived on campus around 9:30am and drove the commuter lot for 20 minutes looking for a parking spot. Nada. Waste of time so I went home, made about three cups of instant Folgers coffee and studied and studied statistics.

Our basic stats review tutoring sessions are going well. Surprise! I actually understand the concepts and answered a few questions correctly. (I was more shocked than anyone else.) Only problem I see at this point is: I need more time. I honestly need at least two more hours in the day. Last night I was up until midnight reading chapters for classes and started to fall asleep sitting up on the couch.

I was up at 7:50am this morning but I should have been up earlier. There are a half dozen chapters to read before each class from different books and journals on subjects that are not easy to grasp (statistical theory, research methodology and the reasoning behind it).

I still need to register for professional organizations, find out when conferences are, sign up and begin developing papers. Wow. In over my head? I'm strong enough to tread for a while but the more I can organize my time, the better this venture is going to go. Throw me a life raft soon if needed, please.

Tonight I teach and I'm excited about seeing my students again and discussing media writing. Here's hoping they bring their A-game. I miss being in the newsroom.

Help is on the way STAT

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Our 660 Statistics class has been blessed. I honestly do not know how we became so lucky but our esteemed professor, Dr. Kotowski has employed mercy and will be offering introductory statistic meetings Monday through Thursday next week for those of us who aren't grasping advanced concepts. Come to find out, I'm not the only one... (I have never taken a stats class and a lot of other communication folks are in the same boat.)

I sent an email after our first class requesting advice on a tutor. Since I didn't hear back from Dr. K, I immediately filled out a tutoring request through UT's Black Cultural Center. There wasn't even an option for graduate students on the form...promising. So, I fished around the Comm PhD program and found a second year student who is minoring in Statistics (yes, I supposed people like him really do exist...). He has agreed to tutor me and we'll start meeting after Dr. K's intro tutoring next week.

Seriously, after hearing about the additional help, I was able to sleep soundly last night for the first time in a week. Meantime, I'm learning about Science and the theories, concepts, methods, variables, hypothesis and measurements that go into observation and presentation regarding professional research.

Here's hoping the end of your week gave you a boost of positivity as well. 


Wednesday, 24 August 2011
I survived my first day as a Graduate Teaching Associate. Seriously, the intense nerves and crazed worrying was unneccessary. My class is small and the students seem cool. What a relief and get this... they did what I said!

We worked on two different writing assignments, conducted interviews and identified the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and one H (how) in several news stories. The class meets once a week from 5pm to 7:45pm so there's quite a bit of time to fill. We also went over the basics of news writing.  

So far, teaching is enjoyable. Let's keep it that way, kids.

My challenge now, on top of statistics being a dark, aggressive, fiery hell on earth, is making time to get through massive amounts of reading for 610 and 660 and now... we're supposed to be writing daily and conducting research. Wowser.

YWCA's Tribute to Women

Monday, 22 August 2011
A few of us were invited to a special event last week by my good friend Melissa. She is the executive director of Friends of Literacy. I serve on the board and head the public relations committee. She was nominated by our friend Sharon for the prestigious award and the ceremony was held on Thursday evening. 

Guess what? Melissa won the award in the Transformation category for her tireless work helping adults in Knoxville learn to read and earn their GED! I'm very proud of her and feel inspired by her dedication to assist others in grasping the dream of literacy.

Here's a group shot of some of the women nominated for the tribute... Go ladies!

The Janitor's Closet

Friday, 19 August 2011
I knew something was wrong when I pulled out my schedule, noticed my stats class was in room 420 and I ended up standing in front of the "Custodian" closet (room 420a) in the Communications building. Wow. I almost gave up then and there.

Wednesday wasn't the best day ever. I sat outside, alone on a bench and stared at the grass for a half hour. My thoughts were negative. They went something like this: "I'm not smart enough to do this. I'm definitely the dumbest person in my cohort. Why did I quit my fabulous job at Channel 6? Can I get my fabulous job at Channel 6 back? Do my professors already hate me because they know I'm just faking being smart..?" I called my mom and expressed my fears. She laughed and said to take a few deep breaths before going to drop my candidacy all together.

I hung up and looked around. Other students seemed much younger and much more confident. I did the deep breathing thing and shortly after that, the University of Tennessee marching band started practicing in the distance. That's when high energy seemed to return. I'm a student at a large university which is working to be a top 25 research school. These people are smart. They wouldn't have let me into the Ph.D program if they didn't believe I had a decent shot at it.

Thursday was better. I observed a class at 8am, taught by a second year Ph.D student. We have the same 200 level class to teach so I was able to get an idea of how the labs are supposed to go. Statistics wasn't as bad as I thought because the professor, while tough, is excellent at explaining the reasoning. Today I picked up my office key! I'm officially in.

Hope you have a great weekend!

It Begins

Wednesday, 17 August 2011
"We must use what we have to invent what we desire."

Classes begin today at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. I am a full-time PhD candidate in the College of Communication and Information Sciences and also will be working as a grad associate, teaching a 200 level Journalism/Electronic Media course. This is such an exciting time! 

I woke up at seven this morning and thought for a moment back to the morning when I woke up ready to board a plane to London for my Master's studies. Some of the same feelings are there:  fear, happiness, exhilaration, nervousness... When my parents dropped me off at the airport, I hugged them both, fought back tears and tried not to look back. 

Moving forward on a new adventure, all energy/experiences/acquaintances should propel us in an onward direction. The vibe should be light but determined and my mindset has to be one of success. Forgoing looking back, I believe I can do this thing! I'll certainly need your support and love along the way. Thank you, again, for being part of the journey. Here we go...

The Great Gatsby

Saturday, 13 August 2011
"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."

-Chapter 3, p. 39

I'm reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for the first time. I can only aspire to be half the descriptive writer he was.

School starts next week and I've already been busy doing statistics homework. Nervous? Yes. Overwhelmed? Definitely. Excited? More than you know.

Have a great weekend.

Tiger Tiger

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The most disturbing, yet fascinating new book of the summer is Tiger Tiger by Margaux Fragoso. I finished the memoir last month but it has stayed with me since then. That's the perfect reason to blog about it. 

Margaux meets Peter, an older man, as a young child at a swimming pool. Her parents constantly fight and she seeks solace in his friendly home. Even though her mother is always with her, the reader finds out she is mentally unstable and doesn't even notice when Peter becomes increasingly attentive to Margaux.

The mind manipulation begins early. Margaux writes about Peter putting her in charge of caring for the rabbits and helping with the chores. She feels needed and wanted and gets anything she asks for. Peter is fun, plays a loving father figure and listens to the stories her seven-year-old mind creates for hours. He provides the attention she doesn't get at home. They begin kissing on the cheek. He eventually convinces her to french-kiss him during one of their daily trips to the basement to play "dress-up." The abuse just gets more twisted from there.

The story line goes on for 15 years with Margaux "falling for" Peter and suffering from a version of Stockholm syndrome. At the age of 14 (I think), Margaux convinces Peter to sleep with her (this, after he has been abusing her for years in the most manipulative ways imaginable). She actually writes of her desire at that age to get pregnant, be Peter's wife and have a happy family of her own. The irony is: Peter is no longer sexually attracted to her because she has begun her menstruation cycle and has breasts and pubic hair.

Even though Peter remains in control of her life, Margaux begins to date in high school and college. She loses the chance to find true love more than once because her abuser threatens to take his own life. One day Peter stops by her home while she is out with a boyfriend. He leaves 100+ suicide letters that have been written over the years and jumps off one of the cliffs where he sexually abused Margaux numerous times.

Uplifting read, eh? Perhaps not but it is eye-opening and informative. Sexual predators clearly lurk in the open and sometimes operate under the eyes of a parent who may be overwhelmed with their personal issues already. The account also shows predators do not tire easily. Peter's death was Margaux's only rescue. She was hunted relentlessly for more than a decade and some of the best years of her life were taken from her.

Don't pick up this book unless you have some time. I couldn't put it down.

Fragoso completed her PhD in English at Binghampton University. She is married with a child.

PhD Orientation

Monday, 8 August 2011
Today is my first day on UT campus as a student. I didn't have milk for coffee and it is Monday. Beyond that, things are looking decent.

I am excited to challenge myself in a major way. Here's hoping the journey moves me closer to a tolerant, rich (not talking money here) life with humor, knowledge and the ability to further share compassion with others.  

Any goals for the fall? I'm still trying to hold onto summer...

Difficult News

Tuesday, 2 August 2011
Dear blog family, as you may know, things have not worked out between Kingsley and I. Living apart for three years and continued visa problems have led to this difficult decision.

This is unfortunate and very painful. Thank you for your patience and respect of privacy. I appreciate your compassion. He and his family remain very dear to me.