Tag Archives: Thoughts about the Research Process

Blog 4: Meta…morphosis?

I’ve spent the majority of today laboring on one of the elements of my thesis and I think I finally have the form of something. Initially, I thought it was going to be one of my reflective essays, but it actually turned into the preface for my project. This works perfectly because it will be what I present on Wednesday. 

Getting this piece out has me both encouraged and concerned. It took me a long time to write what ended up being a very short piece. When I say I labored, I LABORED to get the words down on the page and to make my thoughts organized and make sense. This makes me feel freaked out that every single one of my essays, fictional pieces, and theory-ish pieces are going to be massive undertakings and that I’m never going to get anything finished. 

But – I am encouraged as well. We talked last week about addressing those things in our lives that are getting in the way of our productivity and I have tried to do just that. I have found that one of the biggest distractions for me really is my phone; and when I am stressed, Instagram is my best friend. I like to think that my curation of memes and funny posts in my stories isn’t just for me but is a service I provide to those who see them, but… I can’t even bullshit myself that hard. In order to curb the compulsive need to check my phone every 5 minutes, I have been turning it off and leaving it in a drawer all day. It is amazing how the simple act of putting your phone away in a place where you can’t see it makes your brain attend better to the task at hand. Yes, my mind will wander to my phone and I’ll wonder if anything has happened in the last few hours since I looked at it; but I acknowledge the thought and let it pass so I can keep on writing. 

I am addressing what is contributing to my concern, but the writing itself and the articulation of my thoughts is still one of the hardest things about this project. I can feel the essence of my project, like a tip of the tongue kind of feeling, but it takes me a lot of focused concentrating to get the ball rolling in describing it and when I have the distraction of my phone or my stomach telling me I am hungry (we just ate, I promise) or my cat yelling at me to let her go for a walk… my train of thought gets derailed so much that I have a constant sense of being scattered and unclear of what it is exactly that I am trying to say. 

But, despite all that, here is what I have come up with: 

I am writing what I’m going to call a “theorizing memoir of care”. I don’t know if that makes sense, so you can tell me what you all think on Wednesday. A line from my writing today that kind of captures what I am trying to get at by calling it that is: 

“It is one thing to understand the why of a theory, but another to understand the why of the theorist.” 

Now, I could just be full of shit, which… I mean, I am most of the time. I love to play with contradictory things to the point of confusion and I very well might have done that with this piece. But I do also believe that I am on to something and that I finally might have put my finger on the pulse of my project. I think I am going to end up doing a lot more fusing of the personal and theoretical than I originally planned, and I don’t really plan on having any kind of definitive answer or argument by the end of it. I mean, I do, but I don’t. A huge theme in my life is what I call “living in the tension” and that is what I want this project to be. Living in the tension of the fact that answers aren’t ever certain and that they evolve with time. 

A huge breakthrough for me this week was realizing how to do the fictionalized case study. I am doing it in a totally different way than what I did over the summer and the format fits my vision so much better. It will only focus on one fictionalized person and I will thread their story through out each of my sections. In addition to the case study, I am planning on having reflective pieces that takes on the majority of each section, but with it will somehow be the theoretical/policy/academic pieces… this part I am still trying to figure out how to move forward on. Maybe you all can give me some advice on how I could do it better.

I am excited to share with you all the format I have come up with for my project. I hope that it won’t seem too meta or confusing but if it does, I hope you’ll let me know.

Where do we go from here?

As the title of my blog suggests, this thesis process is stressful. Maybe it would be weird if it wasn’t. It seems that most things in life that are ‘rights of passage’ are supposed to cause us sleepless nights and trepidation. That said, I have spent a lot of the summer in a state of tension over what my exact project is and what I want to get out of this final piece of my graduate work.

During the writing retreat over the summer, the direction that unfolded was that I would create fictional case studies to pair with an academic proposal that financial aid (FA) policy and practice in higher education needs to incorporate an equity centered trauma informed approach to better serve students. Up to that point, I was researching whether there was already something like that in place while also trying to record all the things I remembered from my time as a supported education specialist that were problematic in FA. 

Out of the research I did this summer, I collected a very broad and generalized collection of resources. What I am lacking is a deeper dive into all that has been done research-wise at the intersections of equity, trauma, and financial aid in higher education. Though there is so much missing from what I need to know about this topic, what all my theory is, and who my authorities are, I do have a foundation of articles, theories, and resources that have been informing my understanding:

  1. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021
    • Many of the issues that FA professionals have been advocating around were addressed in the most recent appropriations act. Some of these issues include simplifying the FAFSA form, removing the requirement that men have to sign up for selective service to access federal aid, removing the requirement to report drug convictions in order to access federal aid, and opening pell grants up to incarcerated students. This one functions as a primary resource for my research. 
  2. Creating Cultures of Trauma-Informed Care (CCTIC): A Self-Assessment and Planning Protocol” – Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D.
    • This document from behavioral health organization Community Connections offers a break down of trauma informed care and a model of implementing trauma informed care on an institutional level. It serves as a model of what it can look like to implement trauma informed care on an institutional level and the importance of having buy in from all parts of an organization. 
  3. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction – Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
    • An accessible break down of CRT by some of the original creators of the theory, this primer describes what the basic tenets of CRT, its application in law, and how it has changed over time. This resource serves as another foundational piece of theory and has shaped my thinking around structures and the way that policy can be racist in its creation and implementation. An understanding of the way that policy and structures can impact people in ways that are inequitable is vital to creating change in FA policy.
  4. Equity-Centered Trauma Informed Education – Alex Shevrin Venet
    • Shevrin Venet’s work on trauma has been significant to helping me form an understanding of how equity and trauma informed care need to be combined. Most of my theory is drawn from the model she lays out in this book about applying equity-center trauma informed practice in secondary schooling. My intention is to take what she discusses and extend it to post-secondary schooling and to FA specifically.
  5. Evocative Autoethnography: Writing Lives and Telling Stories – Arthur Bochner and Carolyn Ellis
    • A text from some of the lead scholars in autoethnography, this both describes and demonstrates how to use autoethnography and narrative to present research. Because this comes close to capturing the process of fictional case studies, and I am contemplating using some of my own experience to describe issues in FA policy, this resource serves as a great resource and model for my methodology. 
  6. “Family Violence and Financial Aid: A trauma-informed policy analysis of financial aid’s responsiveness to students experiencing violence in the home” – Kyra Laughlin 
    • A thesis from a student who attended the University of Washington, this study addressed the issue of certain FA policies that require showing proof of hardship to access federal aid. Laughlin’s study follows the line of thought that I am pursuing in my work around directly applying trauma informed principles to FA. She uses SAMHSA’s original tenets of trauma informed care. 
  7. “Implicit Bias Toolkit” – NASFAA
    • Another tool from the NASFAA organization, this offers a model for financial aid administrators to develop more equitable practices in their implementation and judgements of financial aid. This model was one of the closest things I’ve found so far to an equity centered trauma informed approach to FA.
  8. NASFAA Website
    • As stated in their description, this organization is the “…only national, nonprofit association with a primary focus on information dissemination, professional development, and legislative and regulatory analysis related to federal student aid programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965…” NASFAA has been invaluable as a resource to help me understand the issues that are important in FA policy, how to interpret the changes in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, and to get a feel for the direction policy is going in.
  9. Student Debt Crisis Center
    • This organization is a hub for those with student debt to share their stories and to advocate for policies that meet student needs. It offers a ton of first account stories of student loan debt and is useful to draw inspiration from for my fictionalized case studies.
  10. “SUPPORTING STUDENTS FROM ENROLLMENT TO ALUMNI: TRAUMA INFORMED PRACTICES IN HIGHER EDUCATION” – KATHY LYNN OLESEN-TRACEY
    • A dissertation from a student who attended Western Illinois University, her paper discusses the need for trauma informed care in higher education in general and the many factors that impact a student’s success. Her discussion of trauma informed care needing to be incorporated on an institutional level, history of the development of trauma informed principles, and her methodology for analyzing policy make this an important resource to refer to and draw inspiration from. 

These are just a smattering of some of the most important resources I have from my research over the summer. I have all of these sources and more stored in a Google Sheets file that is completely chaotic and a disaster as far as organization goes. I’ve done some sifting, but I still need to go through and organize (or simply make another sheet that will be more organized). 

As far as the outline of my work, it isn’t so much that I don’t have a vision of how to outline this work, the problem is I don’t know how to present it. What form am I putting my ideas in (fiction, personal narrative, academic analysis) and what am I trying to say? I know that the fictional case study is the form proposed, but I am trying to figure out what to add to this. Do I use my own story of how I came to a vision of trauma informed education? Do I write a policy I believe fits my vision? Do I make it all an autoethnographic narrative that mixes fact and fiction and don’t worry about a traditional ‘academic paper’ to go along with it all?

Not sure. So that it what I need to solidify ASAP so I can get to work. But for now a bare bones outline of my *thoughts* with some suggestions of form is as follows: