Saturday, May 13, 2006

From a Distance

Even though I am 7 months into the pursuit of this degree, I need to catch you up on a few things. Enrolling in a distance learning program is one thing. Succeeding in a distance learning program is quite another. As someone who is used to face-to-face teaching and learning, I was a bit apprehensive about whether or not I could feel connected to my peers and professors in this kind of program.

Fielding is well aware of the challenges of such a program. Once you're accepted into the program of your choice - I chose ELC (Educational Leadership & Change) - you are then required to attend the OPS (Orientation and Planning Session) where you get to meet others in your cohort and the professors within your program. It is both a grueling and gratifying experience.

I attended my OPS in September 2005 in Santa Barbara, California. Not only was this an incredibly beautiful setting, but I got the chance to visit Fielding's headquarters and meet many people who were genuinely excited about meeting me. For one week we met after breakfast each morning in a big room with about 30 laptops whirring in response to relevant presentations by Fielding faculty. Everything from financial aid to coming up with a dissertation topic to how to stay motivated was addressed. We also had the chance to break up into smaller groups for some "bonding" time which turned out to be a very powerful thing. Hearing everyone's stories of what led them to this place at this time blew me away. We are all so different, yet the same.

It wasn't all work, work, work. We did play too. We went out to dinner together almost every evening and got to experience the local Santa Barbara nightlife and cuisine. By the end of the week many of us were getting a little punchy - too little sleep and 10-12 hour days of "doctoral talk" began to take its toll. We took some photos of those times and hopefully you can see that we aren't dusty old doctoral students that you often imagine.

OPS is a great shot in the arm! It motivates you. It is definitely overwhelming to think about how much work is ahead and many of us vowed that we would complete this degree within 3 years. The adrenaline rush promised to propel us through the next months and years. But I have to admit, adrenaline rushes usually are followed by a crash.

Some of us have had some trouble getting our lives in order so that we can devote the time necessary to stay on track. Others have had to slow down after a furious start. I had loose ends to tie up that occupied much of my time during the first 4 months. I got nothing of consequence done at that time. I did read a lot of research and books, but I didn't do any writing. I was disappointed because I'd anticipated that I would have completed my first KA (Knowledge Area) by that point. But now I feel like I'm back on track. I'm working towards completing a certain portion of my program before July 24 - which is the next time Fielding students and faculty converge - in Tucson, Arizona at National Session.

Have you ever started something new with all the enthusiasm and energy you could muster only to come up short? Don't get discouraged. Each day is a chance to begin again.

What keeps you going? And if you've slowed down or been delayed, what caused that? If you've been able to sustain that adrenaline rush, we'd sure like to know how. Please share that with us!

Read the next step on this journey.
If you want to read the beginning of this journey, click here.

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