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Almost There

We are almost there, with just four meetings left, and just 3 weeks to go. In other words we are on the homestretch, and all of you should be in “final revision details” mode. At this stage, I am here just to help clarify any last questions you may have, and to see you through any final submission questions.

Here is a run down of our final dates in terms of thesis class:

  • Apr 18 F2F Bailey; conference check-in
  • Apr 25 F2F Teethee; conference check-in; Self-publishing tips from Jessie 
  • May 2  F2F Conferencing
  • May 4 F2F Office Hours 
  • May 9 F2F MA Thesis SUBMISSION

Thank you to Diana for a wonderful read through of both her “preface” or “forward” (depending on your definition), as well as the glimpse of some of her more recently developed chapters. Her project has really come so far. Her work has diligently and intentionally opened up a new genre to understand – that of “speculative memoir”. The hallmark of Diana’s storytelling is a rich combination of meaningful reflection, lucid description, and the personal. “Everything Must Go” is a tribute to both her writing talent but also her courage to anticipate painful transitions that are inevitable in life. As she uses her gift of writing to face head on such pain, we come to recognize, in a new way, the power of writing to help process and grapple with our real lives. Congratulations on such a beautiful project Diana!

I look forward to wrapping up our presentation series with Bailey this week, and Teethee next week. We will also hear from Jessie next week after Teethee’s presentation. She will share with us some self-publishing knowledge she has gained. And the final class time in early May will be devoted to office hours style check-ins.

See you soon!

Dr. Zamora

The time remaining….

Thank you to Sun for illuminating us with your truly unique and distinguished MA thesis work. Your tour of Forensic Linguistics as a critical discipline has helped us see how significant language and rhetoric is in shaping a collective notion of societal truth. Language itself can be the critical component in determining “just outcomes”. Said another way, so much is revealed in the way we use words. This is the crux of Sun’s work – helping us see that any word-trace (looked at more deeply through forensic linguistic analysis) can be just as compelling as DNA evidence or a murder weapon in determining truth and/or justice. And it can also play a critical role in the mediation of just outcomes, as in the case of the nuanced rhetorical strategies employed in hostage negotiations. I especially enjoyed the way in which you have weaved so much accrued knowledge (built succinctly from your Lit Review reading & research process) into the fictive world of Rem Shepard. Written with sharp insight and compelling character development, Rem’s world is indeed intriguing from the start. But I especially like the way in which Rem’s fictive world captures the specific forms of knowledge you have considered deeply through your case study work and the forensic linguistic theory you have incorporated.

Up next, Kate will share her insights on the challenges that a first year teacher faces. She will share an update on her ongoing project and also crowdsource some glossary terms with all of us. I look forward to this!

We are now looking at about a month and half remaining until the close of the semester, so each of you really needs to envision how this last push will unfold in your schedule. I am confident that each of you is holding this reality at the forefront of your mind, but there is still a lot between now and then to address in completing your MA project to the best of your ability. I think that it might be beneficial to make a specific schedule at this point in time, to understand how that time will be best used to make the deadline. Please map out the next 6 weeks specifically, understanding what goal is central to each week left on our semester timeline.

See you soon!

After the break!

We have had a stretch of time with on-again-off-again rhythms, due to the Presidents Day holiday and our Spring Break, but we have also been sustained along the way by two thesis presentations that have revealed the reward of slow-but-steady hard work and persistence. I am glad we kicked off our thesis presentations with both Susan and Jesse. As writers pursuing a creative take on their MA thesis work (through creative non-fiction and fictive world-building respectively) they have effectively highlighted the ways in which the MA Writing Studies degree can apply to both academic research as well as storytelling, simultaneously. Susan’s beautiful and poignant writing is inspired by the memory of her grandfather, but is also a deep dive into America’s often unseen immigration stories. Her work connects generations of sacrifice and silence – revealing certain meaning in her own family, as well as the complexity of our larger “American project”. This theme is also present in Jessie’s compelling love story. Her page-turning novel of two young people breaking through the boundaries of both cultural expectation and faith tradition highlights how much we must loose sometimes, in order to discover the internal core of one’s own sense of self. Her story is about the evolution of the self, despite the profound pressure-cooker of family love and family tradition. I am so proud that this kind of personal – yet universal – storytelling (about the human condition) is being produced successfully in our program. Bravo to both Susan & Jesse!!!

Calendar Reality Check

At this stage, it is mid-March, which means we have about 7 more writing weeks before the semester is completed. In the spirit of support for all of you (as writers facing an upcoming/looming deadline), I wanted to share with you this video that puts “stress” into perspective:

Next up? Sun’s presentation! I am sure the research component of her time with us during seminar will be inspiring to all of us. Sun’s work is both a tribute to her adept intellect and her commitment to equity. Her work is also a source of pride for our community/program as well, as it highlights a nimble use of research methodologies in order to answer important questions about how we use language (and interpret each other) in a society still aspiring to justice.

Looking forward to connecting and extending our ongoing conversations. I will be available for one-on-one conferencing after Sun’s presentation.

A two-week stretch….

I am happy to have started our Valentines Day thesis discussion with a short meditation that focused on taking a pause, breathing, and centering our self-compassion. As we rush through time and space, I hope these small moments are restorative so that you are better able to assess how you feel. I hope that we can all consider what strategies we need to apply in the midst of a busy day, in order to make another dynamic day-in-life feel a bit better. This past week we covered a discussion of potential formats for the submission of your thesis work, and we also discussed the importance of Creative Commons licensing for anyone considering publishing thesis artifacts on the open web. I also reminded you of the best strategies for preparing for your thesis presentations since they will begin on 2/28.

Our slides:

What is critical to remember during this stretch of time is simply to keep going. Please devote some worthwhile time to work on your thesis during this two-week stretch. Please do not to let too much time pass without working on some aspect of the project.

Make the most of a longer stretch of time between our meetings!

Set some small goals, create a work schedule for this relatively short period of time, and stick to it!

Remember – we have President’s Day off this week so no class meeting on 2/21! So for 2/28 please write your fourth blog (progress report) of the semester – accounting for your accomplishments during the 2 week stretch and any questions that come up. 

Susan will present first when we return. What a great way to start our thesis presentations series!

Reboot on our Research Strategies

I am glad we took the time to make a visit to Craig in the “Learning Commons” (aka Library) this past week, just to circle back to strategies for developing your Lit Review further and gaining access to the materials needed to write up your MA thesis project. I want to remind you that you can always book a one-on-one appointment with any of the reference librarians at our Learning Commons. I highly recommend Crain Anderson, Chrisler Pitts, or Linda Cifelli – they have all been excellent colleagues over the years, and I am sure they could help guide you individually.

There is also a chat box function on our Learning Commons website, just in case you have a specific question that you need assistance with. In addition, I want to remind you that you can always book a quiet study space for your thesis writing in the Library (study rooms, pods, etc) by clicking on the “Book A Space” button on the Learning Commons home page. Finally, remember there are many workshops you can select from in order to receive support in this MA thesis journey. And we can always suggest a workshop for class if we all identify a specific need. Keep the in mind, so we can make the most of the resources on hand.

Our agenda from 2/7:

Reminder

This weekend (Sunday 2/13) is the deadline for participating in Research Days.

OER Conference

Also, I want to announce the next OER conference to be held this Spring (March 17 & 18). Last year we had a phenomenal MA in Writing Studies panel participate. Many mentioned to me that when thinking about the entire conference, our MA in Writing Studies panel (based on the “Cards for Humanity” game produced in the ENG 5020 course from Fall 2020) was the “standout” panel in which they learned so much.

Next week we will meet in CAS 205, and I hope to review the expectations for upcoming presentations (that will follow on our schedule later this month), and touch base on some other general concerns for all of you as you continue to develop your work. There will also be writing time set aside.

See you on Valentines Day!

F2F again!

Glad to have reconnected in person this past week. I am also pleased at the new CAS 205 seminar room arrangement. Now that we have gathered there and checked it out, I think it is a good home base for us in terms of our space concerns. The room is open and allows us to social distance a bit, it has natural light and windows, and the round table is perfect for our collaborative moments. Remember that much of thesis time will also be open writing time devoted to your own developmental process. So please come prepared each week with independent work to tackle, so that you can make great use of your weekly thesis time. We will have collective engagements and forums to consider along the way, but this work will also be balanced with independent time to focus on your writing in class.

Our agenda from last week

I am glad we started with some direct one-on-one conference time to jump start the writing and research work ahead for each of you. Here is the document with some of notes from our one-on-one meetings. I think each of you has a clear course ahead of you now, and I want you each to do your best to clear ample time and space for your thesis (from now until we complete the semester in early May). In other words, now begins a crucial stretch of writing/creating time for you, so please organize your calendar and make this happen!

Learning Commons workshop: MA Research strategies with Craig Anderson

This in-person workshop will focus on how you can use WorldCat Discovery to access books, ebooks, articles, and videos available through Kean University’s Learning Commons.  In addition, workshop attendees will consider best practices for selecting other multidisciplinary and subject-specific databases relevant for particular research interests and will explore keyword searching strategies, tips for accessing peer-reviewed articles, and citation tool options. This workshop will give you the opportunity to ask questions related to your own research project. This workshop will take place in the Learning Commons, room L-208.

We will remember to ask Craig about more complex search strategies; advanced search tips; filtering interdisciplinary journals for certain content; and how to cite more unusual citation sources (i.e. interviews, professional conversations; non-traditional attributions ). We will all head over to Craig’s forum at the library in L 208 after meeting in CAS 205 first at 4:30pm.

To do-list:

  1. Write your second blog of the semester – a progress report on building new momentum.
  1. What kind of questions or concerns do you have regarding your research process?  How can Craig (or the librarians in the Learning Commons) help you with your own process this semester?

Have great weekend!

Our Virtual Beginning

It was wonderful to reconnect over Zoom last week! I am thinking about the mixed feelings expressed by all of you in regards to the culmination of your thesis, and I realize there is A LOT going on for each of you as individuals as we head into the start of a new semester. I am also thinking about how lovely it is to have Teethee join us in this Spring semester as she embarks on “Part 1” of her thesis experience.

I am glad to have secured Room 205 in CAS (second floor) for us each week of our thesis seminar. Please be sure to head to CAS 205 rather than the previous room assignment. We will consider this space together, but I think it will be more appealing for our purposes than a regular classroom in CAS. Since we are an intimate group this semester, we can also plan on switching locations if it suits our needs.

I am glad we had a chance to check in with each other, and also engage in the “TROIKA” liberating structure, which helps you think about certain concerns at this point in the development of your thesis. It was enlightening to hear of your individual challenges/concerns, which helps me understand where you are at, before we meet on campus next Monday. I will keep in mind some of what was shared, as I look forward to conferencing with each of you individually about your progress.

Just a reminder to sign up for the research workshop in the Nancy Thompson Learning Commons (aka the Library) with Craig Anderson. This will occur the week after next on Feb. 7th. Here is the registration link.

Remember – we have a research workshop next week with Craig Anderson!

For next week:

Write your first blog of the semester.  “Circle the wagons”, and take stock of where you have been, and where you think you need to go.  Map out a semester plan for progress.  Be specific.  

Plan to conference with me based on your submission from last semester.  I will speak with each of you individually as we refine your plans for this semester.  Also, keep in mind what research may still be outstanding for you, so we can let Craig know what kind of help we are seeking the following week. We can also discuss any Research Days planning.

Welcome (or Welcome back)

For some of you, here we are at the second half of your thesis journey.  Last semester was filled with doubts, discovery, research exploration, some false starts, reading and vetting, and writing.  This semester you will gain the momentum necessary to complete a meaningful thesis project by May 5th.  That is the formal date set for your final thesis submission.

For a couple of you, this is the start of your thesis journey.  Your work this semester will include a period of discovery/invention for exploration, a thesis proposal, the development of your lit review, and the formulation of a clear plan or outline for the project.  

A reminder to all of you: Please remember that writing a thesis is inherently not “easy”. As I have already mentioned in other contexts – there are many twists and turns in the road, roadblocks do come up, and there are unforeseen landscapes that cannot be imagined until you cover ground and truly travel. That said, the more time you have on the road, the more of a chance you will have to discover.

I look forward to continuing this work with all of you.  As you know, thesis class is really an accountability mechanism, keeping you going in the midst of a large writing process, and providing that sense of a writerly community that is key to assuaging the writer’s isolation in reflection. And as always, I am here to provide suggestions, feedback, resources, and insight; to prompt you to refine your thinking and take your work to another level. As you have experienced already, sometimes you surge forth in the process and cover good distance “on the road” due to insightful feedback. And sometimes you surge forth due to the “deeper” drill down of your own engaged/independent reading & research. And oftentimes, inspiration hits at the most unlikely times ;).

We will use our weekly gathering on Monday evenings to “conference” and revise.  We will start off virtually on Monday Jan 24th to reconnect and plan (-please see your email or Blackboard for our Zoom link). The week after, we are slated to resume our face-to-face/on-campus rhythm. I look forward to seeing you all on Jan. 24th! 

Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora

Wrapping Up

Thanks to Bailey for a lively discussion regarding the challenges inherent in the notion of “work-life balance”. This is a great topic for her final thesis work, and I was impressed with everybody’s thoughtful contributions to this conversation and several issues came up for Bailey to consider as she moves forward with refining her inquiry. Recent phenomena like the “great resignation” and the Gen Z push back commonly referred to as the “great reshuffle” are tipping point moments in this phenomenon. I appreciate how some of you emphasized the way work–life balance is understood differently from different cultural perspectives. And also, it was important to recognize the radical shift in these debates since the widespread scale up of virtual work since the pandemic. A new kind of critical labor literacy is in the making as we speak. I think Bailey now has a lot of food-for-further-thought, and I would love to see her center her own (individual/personal) perspective on this broad issue in some way within the thesis as we move forward in Spring.

Research Days (Spring 2022)

I would like to encourage all of you to consider presenting some of your work at RESEARCH DAYS 2022 (4/26-27/22). Registration for “Research Days 2022: Hybrid” is now live!  The deadline for students is set for February 13, 2022, so thinking about how to share some of your thesis work (something to mull over during the break) seems a good thing to tag at this stage.

Visit the website to view the registration guidelines, event format, important dates, and FAQ. If you have any questions, you can inquire via email – researchdays@kean.edu

https://www.keanresearchdays.com/

Final announcements

Remember that this week you should write a final thesis blog which points towards your plans for break, with an eye towards keeping your thesis “alive” during the long pause in our gatherings from Dec. 15 and the start of next semester. I hope you will all take a well deserved rest, and then I hope you can give your work some realistic/modest momentum before late January when I see you again.

Please remember we do not have class on Wed. Dec 8th (because Tuesday classes will meet on Wednesday that day). But I certainly look forward to meeting on Dec. 15th for our wrap-up celebration! There will be more information about the plan this week via email.

Keep going everyone. The light at the end-of-semester tunnel can be seen!

Nearing completion

Approaching the Fall semester “Finish Line”…

Hope everyone had a restful Thanksgiving Break. I found a bit of time to recharge over the weekend, although it went by a bit faster than I would have liked. Apologies for the delay in posting here. First, I want to thank Maura for an excellent presentation of her progress on her thesis work. Her phenomenological study of teaching challenges during the pandemic is really shaping up, as she collects her interview data and continues transcribing the accounts of certain teacher’s experiences. I think the focus on her own (specific) disciplinary orientation (second language acquisition) for her interviews should yield some unique insights, and I look forward to reading her observations regarding the patterns that might start to emerge from the interview series she is conducting. Her walkthrough of her own narrative Lit Review was a helpful way to see and engage with what she covered earlier (in ENG 5002), and also understand how she has further developed that work since this first half of thesis class. Maura is writing about an urgent and in-the-moment topic (that is still unfolding in real time), and I have no doubt that her MA thesis will be an important record/reference point for growing scholarship on education during the pandemic. Her thesis observations will also be significant for other education scholars as time passes.

Also, a round of applause for Susan, who gave us an informative glimpse of the historical research she has been working on regarding the Chinese immigration experience and the Chinese diaspora based in NY in the late 20th century. And further applause for the compelling reading which captured all of our interest and attention. The memoir will no doubt be a particular snapshot of life in 1970s New York for a Chinese immigrant family – a family with both deep roots and assimilation struggles. Her vignette sparkled with the soulful details and telling memories of a certain kind of American life, and I look forward to reading the other vignettes as she further develops the memoir-narrative elements of her thesis work. The connection between her historical research and her memoir lens will no doubt manifest as the work (and design of the work) is further developed, but it is clear she is creating something special.

And finally thanks to Sun for bringing us all to an important field of study – Forensic Linguistics – and for also shaping our specific understanding of why this line of work is so important as we move forward in such contentious times. I especially enjoyed the “fork in the road” vision she offered us in terms of her creative/fictitous approach to her understanding of the field, as well as her applied inquiry – the why and how of “evidence” – and how the field of forensic linguistics should indeed play a more central role in how we understand our world (and ultimately, wrongdoing in our world). Sun’s choice to pursue the academic thread of her interest is an important moment for her (and her own development as an emerging scholar of promise). But that said, I am also sure that she will also refine her growing scholarly lens with her own creative expression as she moves through this interest in the broader/bigger future (beyond the MA thesis work).

I am proud of each of you as all bravely “plod away” at the work inherent in competing a big writing project, even under strained conditions and during unsure times. Your work is coming together. Let’s keep the momentum, as you consider what you will all do over the winter break time. It will help to formulate modest goals to keep that sense of your work “in play”. In that spirit, I hope your blog for next week will outline what you can work on in order to sustain momentum over the month-long winter break.

Tonight we will hear from Bailey, and afterword I will check in briefly with each of you. Next week (Dec. 8) we do not have class because it is that strange day on our academic calendar when Tuesday classes meet on Wednesday. On December 15th, we will have our final “night-out dinner” together. We plan to go out to eat (Sun & Amber will help arrange this). The general plan is to simply enjoy some time together. And to celebrate the conclusion of our Fall thesis time by paying special tribute (a toast or two?) to Kelsey, Hugo, Amber, and Tom. Their finish line is clear to see – the official MA degree finish line! And it is well deserved.

A dinner time night out to celebrate together….

See you soon,

Dr. Zamora