A Little Unlearning. . .

By Sara Espinoza
M.Ed. student in Educational Leadership

Sara Espinoza

Sara Espinoza (bottom right) wtih Chilean educational leaders

For all of the learning opportunities that Texas State has offered me during my graduate courses, I am currently most grateful for the opportunity that I recently had to “unlearn” while participating in a curriculum design course in Santiago de Chile, the Project LEARN-Chile program housed in the College of Education.  As part of Texas State’s master’s program in educational leadership, this unique opportunity allowed me to study at Universidad Alberto Hurtado, with Dr. Encarna Rodriguez, editor of Pedagogies and Curriculums to Reimagine Public Education:  Transnational Tales of Hope and Resistance. The course content focused on how to design democratic curriculum and promote the voice and needs of the individual in public school systems. The course and the instructor were exceptional, but the welcoming, professional, and dedicated cohort of Chilean educators and aspiring school leaders that I got to work with added exponentially to the experience, and I walked away with new hope for the students and teachers that I serve.

As educators, we often view learning as simple accumulation. . .more truths + more concepts + more knowledge = greater wisdom.  But we neglect to recognize that, as often as we learn things that propel us forward, we also learn things that hinder our progress.  With experiences that stem largely from one system, one language, one culture, one worldview, we begin to make assumptions about the way things are and limit our possibilities, but, with a change of context, language, system, and perspective, we can be reminded that many more possibilities exist than we realized, not just in theory, but in practice as well.

I would highly recommend this opportunity to any graduate student who might consider it in the future.  My time in Chile, both at the university and in K-12 schools, allowed me to start unlearning the limitations that I have often felt in educational leadership, and I am grateful that my new world of possibilities was tied to an unforgettable experience that I won’t easily forget, even when my learning starts to get in the way.

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With a Cherry on Top

By Audrey Webb
M.F.A. Student in Theatre with a concentration in Dramatic Writing

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Playwright Audrey Webb (center) with cast members Dante M. Green and Meredith Holzman

In the fall of 2016, I began working toward my M.F.A. in Theatre with a concentration in Dramatic Writing in the Department of  Theatre and Dance. The program is designed to give students a broad overview of the field of dramatic writing and guide us as we create a portfolio of plays, screenplays, and original television scripts.

My personal goal is not only to amass an impressive portfolio, but also to build my writer’s résumé. Recently I won an extraordinary award that has helped me do both. The Judith Barlow Prize is presented annually to a university student who has written a one-act play inspired by any dramatic work written prior to 1965 by a female playwright. To prepare for this competition, I read six such plays and took notes on any images that came to mind as I did. The fall semester was incredibly busy, but in December 2017, I had a chance to sit down and write my play, The Only Hills We’ve Ever Had, inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun. I submitted the play by the December 30 deadline and hoped for the best.

Writing is its own reward; I’m passionate about the process and about learning skills and improving my technique with each new project. Having said that, actually winning the Judith Barlow Prize was an incredibly exciting moment in my writing career! When an email arrived in mid-March with the subject heading “Judith Barlow Winner 2018,” I never imagined it was referring to me! I shouted so loudly, my husband thought I’d won the lottery — and in a way, I had! The prize, offered by the non-profit organization History Matters/Back to the Future, consisted of a $2,500 check PLUS a public reading at the legendary Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City. I’m immensely grateful not only to History Matters/Back to the Future for giving me such an amazing honor, but also to The Graduate College for providing additional travel funding to allow me to receive my award in person. It’s a night I’ll never forget.

As a non-traditional student and a life-long learner, I am so happy to be a Bobcat! It’s never too late to make new memories or to follow your dreams. Thanks, Texas State!

Get involved!

By Brittany Davis
Doctoral Student in Adult, Professional, and Community Education

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Paloma Gray and Brittany Davis at the International Research Conference for Graduate Student

Graduate school is hard — there’s no denying it. Fortunately, for grad students at Texas State University, The Graduate College (the cornerstone of graduate education on campus) offers tons of opportunities for graduate students to develop professionally and academically, get involved, and feel appreciated. I speak from personal experience as I am a first-year doctoral student in the Adult, Professional, and Community Education program here at Texas State. I finished my master’s in Adult Education from Texas State in May 2017 which means I have had the pleasure of being a graduate student on this campus for almost three years now!

During my time here, I have learned about best practices at Shop Talks, presented research findings at the International Research Conference for Graduate Students (see photo), participated in Graduate Student Appreciation Week, launched my running addition by joining the Running With the Graduate Deans program, and mingled with potential employers at career networking sessions. Each of these events have positively impacted my experience as a graduate student and have contributed to my aspirations as a future scholar.

Let’s start with Shop Talks. During my first semester as a graduate student, I was sure I wanted to write a thesis. With the support of my advisor, I attended “Strategies for a Successful Thesis or Dissertation”. This Shop Talk guided me through the expectations for writing a thesis. After consulting again with my advisor, I was then able to make an educated decision to choose the comprehensive exam option of the degree. I have since attended numerous Shop Talk which have all been instrumental in making the right decisions for my scholarly career.

The International Research Conference for Graduate Students is an amazing opportunity to present your research (free of charge!) and listen to the research of other graduate students on campus. I have attended the IRC three times and presented once, using a literature review I wrote for a class. Now, I have a conference presentation to put on my CV and experience presenting research! Oh, and I made a friend (she’s in the picture with me).

Graduate Student Appreciation Week is probably the most exciting time as a graduate student on campus. It is a week full of luncheons, socials, wellness classes, Shop Talks, and other fun events designed especially for graduate students — AND it’s all free! Last year, my favorite event was the etiquette luncheon. (Who knew you weren’t supposed to butter your whole roll at once?! The more you know…)

Before starting grad school, I was not a runner, not by any stretch of the imagination. I kept noticing promotions about the Running With the Graduate Deans wellness program and decided to give it a try. My first race was the Sights and Sounds of Christmas 5K and 1K Jingle Bell Run in December of 2016. Even though I walked most of it (those hills are no joke!), I felt amazing afterwards! I began running more and have completed two half marathons since then. Also, I met tons of other graduate students as well as two of the grad deans.

The Career Prep Networking events are relatively new for graduate students. I have been to two so far, and both times I learned something new about the job search. The first session taught me a lot about networking (dressing appropriately, bringing multiple copies of your resume, things like that). The most recent session I attended featured a panel of employers who answered questions about the job search. It was great listening to their answers which provided excellent tips for interviewing. Plus, food is provided, and — of course — it’s free for grad students!

As a first-generation college student and a student who completed their undergraduate degree mostly online, each of these resources has made my experience at Texas State so much better. Shop Talks opened up a whole new avenue of research and degree assistance, the IRC gave me practical experience in presenting research, Graduate Student Appreciation Week was an excellent opportunity to meet other graduate students, Running With the Grad Deans improved my physical and mental wellness, and the Career Prep Networking Sessions made me feel more prepared to enter the job market. I really encourage you to take advantage of these wonderful opportunities. So, what are you waiting for? Check out all the events that The Graduate College has to offer!

Hello from the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games!

By Eun Jeong Lee
Master’s Student in Mass Communication

Eun Jeong Lee

I am a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. Right now, I am at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea for an internship with NBC’s Today Show.

I am assisting the Today Show team with putting on a remote broadcast from South Korea, researching the city and Olympic venues, assisting with story development, and serving as a translator. I also work closely with Today Show producers and researchers for the show. Every day, I learn how television production works and connects everyone in the world through the NBC television network.

Being in PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, I feel privileged to be among the less than 1% of the world population that gets to work on one of the biggest global events, where people around the world celebrate together. Most of all, I am very excited to represent Texas State University at the Olympics.

I believe that my internship at NBC’s Today Show will be invaluable in helping me understand the most current and real-world work environment of a live TV broadcast. After I graduate from Texas State University, I am planning to teach at a university in the area of digital media, journalism, and research.

As a native South Korean, I am very happy that this is the second time the Olympics is held in South Korea. Exactly 30 years ago, Seoul was the host city for the Summer Olympics in 1988.

Boren Fellow Blogging about Life in Brazil

By Alfredo Ramirez
Master’s Student in International Studies

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I am a graduate student in the International Studies master’s program and a Boren Fellow. My Boren Fellowship has given me the amazing opportunity to study Portuguese in Brazil for the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 academic year. In preparation, I also attended a six-week intensive Portuguese program at the Summer Languages Institute at the University of Chicago. I am using a blog to document my experiences in Brazil as part of my work with the graduate program at the Center for International Studies at Texas State University.

I am currently staying in the city Florianópolis, the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, with a population of around 500,000 people and estimated total metropolitan area of over 1 million. My host institution here is the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), a top Brazilian institution and one of several universities in the city. It has over 35,000 students enrolled in 106 undergraduate degree programs, 82 master’s degree programs, and 55 doctoral degree programs. This makes for a vast and vibrant academic community which I very much appreciate. My studies are organized through a Texas State University study abroad affiliate, called the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC), who has a student exchange agreement with UFSC. This means that while I am here, I am a guest student of UFSC and can utilize the on-campus restaurant, library, computer labs, and other services.

Florianópolis is known throughout South America for its natural beauty. The city is situated on a sub-tropical island connected to the mainland by bridge. There are endless opportunities for beautiful hikes, world-class surfing, boating tours, fishing, trail runs, sandboarding, scuba, etc. My time will be divided between language study, cultural immersion, and language practice while interacting with all the various natural wonders.

While I am here, I am available to the Texas State community and will be more than happy to take questions on anything related to living, learning, culture, business, or day-to-day activities that I can research for you while in Brazil:

Até logo!

Mr. De Leon Goes to Brazil

By Raymond D. De Leon
Master’s Student in Criminal Justice

20170411_171015Growing up in a working class family, there were many places I saw in books and magazines that I dreamed of one day visiting. Brazil topped the list as one of those destinations, but I never thought I would actually ever get to go. So when the opportunity came to take part in a study abroad trip to Brazil, I couldn’t pass it up.

I, along with six other students from the School of Criminal Justice, spent ten days in Brazil. It was an amazing experience, not only for the educational and cultural value, but also because it was my first time out of the country.

The first portion of our trip was spent in the city of Belo Horizonte. We had the opportunity to attend seminars at the University Federal de Minas Gerais led by criminal justice researchers that are influencing public policy on a variety of issues, including jail overcrowding, the juvenile justice system, and data collection.  We also visited one of their police stations and their juvenile justice center and witnessed a jury selection for an attempted murder trial.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting several favelas. Favelas are lower socioeconomic neighborhoods in Brazil that often sit side by side more affluent neighborhoods. In Belo, the favela of St. Lucia, where there is a high rate of homicide,  the organization Fica Vivo (Stay Alive) targets young men ages 12-24 (the at-risk demographic) to get involved in sports and art activities instead of gangs. In Rio de Janeiro, the favela of Babilona is dealing with gentrification as the rising cost of living in Rio is causing many middle-class families to move into the favelas, displacing many longtime residents.

While the entire trip is one I will never forget, visiting the statue of Christ the Redeemer was number one on my list. To be able to see with my own eyes this amazing figure that oversees all of Rio de Janeiro is something I cannot fully describe in words. I highly encourage everyone reading this to take advantage of study abroad opportunities. This trip has given me the travel bug, and I look forward to taking many more trips in the near future.

The Importance of Graduate Student Travel Funds

By Zane Wubbena
Doctoral Candidate in School Improvement

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Front to back: Zane Wubbena, Angie Wang and Peter McLaren at the Vault Kitchen and Market in Savannah, GA

On February 25, 2017, I presented a paper titled “Visually Framing a Pedagogy for Space during the 2011 Chilean Student Movement” (forthcoming in Policy Futures in Education) at the 5th Annual Critical Media Literacy Conference held in Savannah, GA.  Without the financial assistance of the Graduate Student Travel Funds, my attendance at this conference would not have been possible.

Academic conferences provide invaluable opportunities for encounters that enrich academic experiences beyond the university.  For example, I was able to speak at great length with Peter McLaren, a world-renowned critical scholar and one of the founders of critical pedagogy (along with Paulo Freire and Henri Giroux).  Dr. McLaren is currently a Professor of Critical Studies at Chapman University and Co-Director of The Paulo Freire Democratic Project.  He is also Emeritus Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Miami University of Ohio.  The dinner, lasting for over three hours, was filled with scholarly debate and collaboration.

Experiences like this one not only provide opportunities for academic socialization, they also open possibilities for intellectual encounters that could not have been otherwise planned or expected.  I am deeply thankful for the financial assistance provided by the Graduate Student Travel Funds at Texas State University.

 

Study Abroad: “You won’t know until you go”

By Maria Scardetta
Master’s Student in Mass Communication

Maria Scardetta blog picMy London-Paris study abroad trip was the experience of a lifetime. Leading up to the trip, I was excited but I rarely showed it. Friends and family would call me out on my seeming lack of enthusiasm, but deep down, my expectations were tainted with apprehension. Europe had endured some terrible events prior to my departure; I was traveling with colleagues with whom I was only acquainted, at best; and, for the first time in quite a while, I had to leave my loved ones. Needless to say, I was nervous…but it really is true: “you won’t know until you go”! I am beyond happy I went.

I made new friends that probably had similar reservations but when we all got to know each other, they seemed to melt away. I learned how to be even more independent than I already thought I was. I can work a metro system so well now it isn’t even funny. Unfortunately, it is useless here in San Antonio, but I will be prepared for my next visit!  I also gained a lot more perspective and confidence going abroad. I found a new side of me that is adventurous and forward and isn’t afraid to ask questions. Before the trip, I felt more timid around other people, but I now feel like I can strike up a conversation with anyone since we were all forced out of our comfort zones.

The field visits that we attended as a group included global media and communication organizations such as CNN London, The Guardian newspaper office, Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm, UNESCO, Paris, and Sorbonne University’s communication department. Every field visit was not only intriguing but also educational, providing us with insights in international advertising, public relations, and journalism.

The field visits opened my eyes to the working world. I went from my undergraduate studies straight into my graduate degree: the “real world” is still a little bit of a mystery to me. While studying abroad, I met people who had been in the same shoes as me but who are now very successful working in their dream jobs. The field visits educated me on my future after graduation. The trip also provided an opportunity to learn hands on. I found that I prefer hands-on learning to the traditional test-taking I’ve had in prior undergrad or graduate courses.

The study abroad program in itself is a life-changing event. I used to think this was a little exaggerated when people would say that but now I completely understand what they mean. It does not mean you go home with a job or you pick up and move to Paris (and to those that do – kudos!). For our group, it simply means that each individual person experienced something that changed him or her for the better. The trip made me realize I have always been the confident, outgoing person I wanted to be — I just needed a little push to get me to realize it.

My study abroad experience was amazing and almost impossible to put into words. I am so thrilled have traveled and explored with a really fun group of people. I would advise anyone to go study abroad after this. Save up, work overtime, and apply for scholarships, because some experiences are just priceless.

Becoming a Grosvenor Scholar in Washington, D.C.

By Graciela Sandoval
Doctoral Student in Geography

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As a doctoral student in Geography, I am honored to have been selected as the 2016-17 Grosvenor Scholar, as part of the Texas State University’s Grosvenor Scholar Program located at the National Geographic Society (NGS) headquarters in Washington, D.C. This opportunity will allow me to grow professionally by working to support national policy, research and outreach programs in geography education and the Geographic Alliances. My passion for the discipline of geography is exemplified in the following volunteer activities and academic coursework of the past four years.

As a PhD student at Texas State in the Department of Geography, I have gained valuable experience in geography education and volunteering for special events and projects with the Texas Alliance and Grosvenor Center. In my coursework I took classes in geography education and learned about virtual courses on geography education and websites of current and changing geography departments nationwide. In 2012 and 2014, I volunteered with Maggie Hutchins-Wagner, the Texas Alliance program manager, as a judge for the K-12 map contest held in the fall. As part of the Grosvenor Distinguished Lecture series, I have volunteered to promote and write an article about the “Transformational Partnerships in Malawi” presentation by President Joyce Banda in September 2013. In April 2015, I also volunteered for the Grosvenor Distinguished lecture on “How Geography Enriched My Life” given by Texas State Hero Mr. Jesse Luxton.

Through my participation in the various geography student organizations, I have been an active officer, volunteered at departmental and university special events, and shared resources for research and curriculum development. In May 2014, I was the departmental chaperone for the New Urbanism Field Trip sponsored by the Department of Geography and coordinated by the Student Urban Planning Organization (SUPO). We visited an architecture firm in New Orleans who assisted in the Katrina relief and renovations.

For six semesters, I have been teaching GEO 1309 Cultural Geography or GEO 1310 World Regional Geography. This teaching experience has continued to strengthen my understanding of major issues in human geography. Through my research, I will continue to develop my passion for teaching, student success and fostering a sense of community collaboration in the field of Geography nationally and worldwide. My foci are in human geography, geography education and medical/health geography.

It is my intention to continue my teaching and research career in geography and this Grosvenor Scholar Program will help me grow as a professional in the field of geography. As a Grosvenor Scholar I will learn about and help develop new programs, policies and assessments in the discipline of Geography to change our discipline to fulfill our national and world needs, especially in climate change issues and educational attainment.

I will assume my role as Grosvenor Scholar in August 2016. For additional information about the Grosvenor Scholar Program at Texas State University-San Marcos, contact Dr. Richard Boehm, Director, Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education, at 512-245-3615 or rb03@txstate.edu.

Research in Chile: A Combination of Passion, Experience, Work, Learning and Legacy

By Skyller Walkes
Doctoral Student in Education – Adult, Professional, and Community

Walkes-1I was one of eighteen doctoral students selected to participate in international educational research in Chile, in cooperation with Universidad Alberto Hurtado and several Chilean community organizations. As a result, we had the opportunity to apply theory to practice in a place unfamiliar in both culture and geography, which was incredibly stimulating.  Additionally, there was the exciting prospect of making connections that could resonate with the human experience through this unique and collective learning process!

In my experience, there tend to be three modes in which to engage academic learning- the cognitive, the didactic, and the pragmatic. For me, none of these proves to be as long-lasting as the sentient and experiential, and conducting educational research in Chile was a welcome opportunity to further that possibility. Though valuable, sometimes what we learn in our course work fails to be implemented in real world settings before leaving the classroom.

Being a 100K Strong-Gabriela Mistral Scholar under the tutelage of Dr. Michael O’Malley was an honor that allowed us to activate our knowledge in a unique space and place of simultaneous learning.

Experiencing this among peers with whom I’d had the pleasure of cultivating our shared interest through research design in the months prior to departure made for formidable efforts in preparation. Nevertheless, it was, undoubtedly, a worthwhile culmination.

Naturally, engaging individuals in a setting as both an active and passive observer insisted that I attempt to confront each interaction with a degree of sensitivity and openness, and by doing so, I learned just as much about myself as I did about the kind people who allowed me to experience their Chile. The community members with whom we partnered to develop collaborative relationships that we seek to continue in the future were integral to the cultural immersion learning experience. Even more, this experience broadened the skills essential to my desire to be a conscientious change agent in this world. Thus, Project LEARN-Chile will always be a transformative part of my learning here at Texas State University!