As you are all keenly aware, you are standing at the precipice, you are taking those final steps in the MA journey, and you are so close to the finish line. In a couple of weeks, you will have your MA in hand, and you will breathe a sigh of relief. And perhaps in the very same breath, you will also wonder, …what next for me? No matter what your plans are, no matter what you have lined up, there will be highs and lows in your future.
As I think about each of you, how talented each of you is, , I want to share the sentiments here in this TED talk as a bit of “food for thought”. Please listen and consider these thoughtful sentiments, as you continue to build an authentic and meaningful life:
I will see you all next Tuesday, and we can talk about those final touches and last minute concerns that come with closing out your thesis work. And we can also spend a little time reflecting on the meaning of this journey in the design of your “one wild and precious life”.
Ps. Please note that the final submission deadline for your thesis is now Friday, May 7th.
What a pleasure to close our thesis presentation series with Ryan’s work and his reading. Ryan (like all of you in different ways) has had many twists and turns along the road to completion of this big and demanding project. I am struck by the significance of his work, the courage of his auto-ethnographic narrative accounts, the diligence involved in the research, and the edifying results of his iterative revision processes all along. It was a fine way to close our showcase and “share-out process”, and I congratulate him on the moment.
At this stage, it is very gratifying to step back and marvel at how far all of your work has come, and to recognize how much it has evolved, and see it through this final stage now. It is indeed true that guiding you to completion has been a bit like looking at all of you in the hedge maze from a sky view, ….knowing you will all somehow find your way through with hard work. Knowing that with determination and steady work, you will each make it to the exit, solving the meandering puzzle of this exstensive writing journey.
Next week we will take the time to answer any last minute editorial/revision questions, discuss your last stage steps in the process, and we can also “scale out” to reflect on the overall process of writing an MA thesis (i.e. a synthetic lens on your work).
We will also try to make use of some “peer feedback time”, so please come prepared with an approximate 10 minute “reading” to share with a peer in breakout rooms. Your peer pairings will offer the opportunity to receive further feedback on some lingering questions or concerns you might have about certain aspects of your work. I will provide a feedback protocol so that this time can be useful and effective for all of you.
Last week we were treated to two very different and truly remarkable projects.
Dylan opened up our time together with a glimpse of his thesis inquiry – a project that dares to ask what grounds our sense of meaning and our sense of self between the acts of reading and writing. I think Dylan’s inclusion of Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, and his tribute to the simple yet stark “emergence” of poetry (the poetic) in the intimate spaces of our homes, is a key achievement. These musings have helped him tie his thesis work together so creatively. His narrative of his own apartment (and the fly in his confined space) speaks volumes about his own existential question(s) regarding our solitary existence. Dylan’s story cultivates a kind of “resistance” to finality – a “poetics of non-arrival” per se, or a poetics of suspension, perhaps. Who knew that a autoethnographic narrative could yield such philosophical results? That is the distinct gift that Dylan has labored to produce, as he continues to think about reading and writing and the self. Wow.
Lexie also gave a courageous and inspired reading that began with the important assertion that representation matters. What you see and what you hear when you are young leaves a profound trace, …an invisible imprint on what you think is possible. And so, Lexie’s work is an important intervention. One that cuts to the chase and speaks important truths for so many girls who have not had the luxury of seeing many versions of themself in our culture’s “hallway of heroes”. Who better than Lexie to tell them the truth regarding the hardest parts of growing up? Her narrator’s finely crafted wisdom is a distinct voice that imparts strength and honesty. Her experience is clearly rooted in the world of her intended audience, and that is a key element in why she can be trusted. But another part of the trust this narrator achieves is about not shying away from what is difficult, and researching her way through things that are complex. I love this project, and I think Lexie has been brave and generous in deciding to write it.
You should now be in the revision phase of your overall work. Revision literally means to “see again,” to look at something from a fresh, critical perspective. It is an ongoing process of rethinking what you have written: reconsidering your arguments, reviewing your evidence, refining your purpose, reorganizing your presentation, reviving stale prose. For me, this phase of writing brings the greatest joy and clarity. It is really where the thinking work is dialed up. Studies have shown again and again that the best way to learn to write is to rewrite. In the revision process, you improve your reading skills and your analytical skills. You learn to challenge your own ideas, thus deepening and strengthening your argument. You learn to find the weaknesses in your writing.
A congratulations to Kevin for an inspiring presentation and a special reading of the opening part of his work entitled “Distance”. With this reading, we were able to catch a glimpse of his “everyman” story – a pandemic fiction that is shaping up, as it sheds some ‘truth” light on these troubled times we have all struggled in together. One “regular guy” (Kirk) is caught up in forces beyond his own control, and we can see a bigger (and perhaps a more existential) picture in his plight, as he strives to keep and find connection in a world that has foreclosed on trust and emotional intimacy.
As always, I am looking forward to presentations from Lexie and Dylan, who will work share their work this week. You are all on the homestretch. We have a few more presentations in order, and a bit of time to do some peer-reading in the last couple of weeks together. Keep your eye on the date of May 4th!
We are now closing out the last day of March, and you have just a few weeks left to complete your MA thesis. The final submission deadline is May 4th, 2021. There is now some building light at the end of this tunnel, and I want to both congratulate you all on the hard work you have put in thus far, and also encourage to keep the energy up for this final push of just a few more weeks.
Thank you to Emily for a compelling and harrowing glimpse of your gifted imagination with your reading of your fictive story “Siren”. We were all mesmerized with the the dark and disturbing psychological profile you have been so carefully building. This is part thriller, part psychodrama, and it is clear you have been working very hard to establish both a convincing and persuasive narrative that is also truly alarming. This kind of storytelling work is indeed a fine balancing act, and your writing effectively draws us in as readers. Bravo for the significant progress you have made with this project!
Next week we will hear from Kevin about his own creative (pandemic) fiction, and we will also have our usual progress “check-ins”. I will be about 20 minutes late to class because I am slated to be on a Kean University OER conference panel from 4;00pm until 4:45pm (right before we meet). Please expect me to open up our usual Zoom classroom around 4:50pm, and you are all welcome to join the OER session for free if interested!
Thanks again to Linda for a deeper dive into her thesis inquiry which features the power of her own autoethnographic narrative(s) along side her research into equity in education. This special project offers a unique lens because Linda harnesses her own memories as a young student and an immigrant, in addition to her experience now as an English teacher in 2021. The result is a more nuanced understanding of the inequity that remains when learning to write in American classroom’s today. Bravo to Linda, for her important thesis work which has both heart and soul, as well as critical acumen.
Next week (3/16) we will NOT be meeting on Zoom, and your thesis work will be conducted “asynchronously”. The next time we will meet in Zoom is Tuesday March 23th. Please use to this time to focus on your work, and to get a lot of writing done.
For March 23th, Dylan is scheduled to present first, and then after break time, Emily will present as well.
Keep going, and use the two weeks time to surge ahead (with self-discipline and determination) and set small (modest) goals to keep momentum along the way.
Thank you to Nives for launching our thesis-in-progress presentations, and in particular, thanks for her generous reading this past Tuesday. Nives’ project has evolved into a comprehensive and compelling account of the struggle with obsessive compulsive disorder. It is informed by a researcher’s close and meticulous attention, and a storyteller’s heart. The Seashell is also a personal window into the dimensions of Nives’ of life and earned wisdom. One of the things I love about her work is the clear impact her writing has on readers. She effortlessly invokes a sense of empathy in us, as she bravely takes us through the twists and turns of her own struggle. And she makes us understand the complexity of that experience, and the acute self-awareness that accompanies the wrenching confusion and pain. Bravo to Nives. I can see you are entering the homestretch.
Keep working on your individual goals this week everyone. Some of you have really hit a stride and just need to keep up with the writing you have been doing, and some of you will recalibrate and switch the process up a bit this week, in order to approach other aspects of the overall vision.
We will have the pleasure of hearing from Linda this coming week, and I look forward to it.
This week, we kick off our series of individual thesis-in-progress presentations. Nives will inaugurate this semester’s series with her courageous and inspiring memoir. I am looking forward to our remaining tour of talent for the next several weeks, and the collaborative spirit that will arise from the peer support and feedback that is a part of this tradition.
Here are the slides from last week, and I am glad we had the chance to pursue a collaborative lit review, and consider the common ties in your projects.
I am sharing here a short video to inspire you as you keep going with your writing. Each of you has your own goals. Stick with it, and don’t lose sight. Try to write at least a little bit most days per week, and embrace the research component of your process when you need to switch from the creative/generative mode and fuel and re-energize some of your curiosity. Remember, this is the time when you should be putting in the time, and building significant momentum:
Hopefully our TRIZ protocol last week drew to the surface the ways in which we sometimes get stuck. It is always good to face obstacles head on, and the TRIZ “liberating structure” is designed to do just that, and help you co-formulate strategies to overcome pitfalls along the way.
You should be building on some momentum now. Lean into this, and let the words and work flow. This is the time to be writing without constraint…generating significant content for the overall project.
At this stage, it makes sense to revisit to your Lit Review as it stands, and identify any important gaps…be prepared to address any gaps you think you might have in your Lit Review as you continue on. You will all gear up for your class presentations which will start soon and loom on the horizon.
As always, blog about your progress, and what you are learning.
I am glad we spent a bit of time on this basic reminder to be aware of your “personal battery”. Just remember how important it is to keep this kind of self awareness at the forefront of your consciousness when you are trying to carve out the right amount of time for meaningful thesis progress. I also want to remind you of the deadlines coming up for participation in Kean’s Open Education Conference, as well as the University’s Research Days campus-wide forum. These are worthwhile opportunities for all of you. There is access to further info about these events in our slides from class below:
At this stage, I want to remind you all of the power of love, and it’s connection to life’s processes. I find that happiness and fulfillment are not so much an outward looking search, or something you discover at the end of some long journey. Rather, happiness and fulfillment are the art of you-in-process. You in the here & now.
Yes, you are all on an arduous journey – the MA thesis. There are challenges along the way, and there will be difficulties that manifest on your path to completion. But remarkably, it is also the process, the work you do today (in the “now”) that is most important. So lean into it, explore your intellect, continue the research, carve out the time to write and create. Prioritize this journey that you have elected to be on. Because it is a special time, a blessing. In a sense, I want you all to remember to love the life you live and to love this thesis process, and life will in magical ways, love you back 😉
I look forward to our next round of our thesis reflections together. Don’t forget to blog about your process/progress.