In thinking about the information and experiences that I would like to take with me from this program, there are several objectives that I have set for myself that contribute to my overall academic goal. My overarching goal while at George Mason is to successfully complete the doctoral program with the skills and tools necessary to enter the field of international education. The more immediate objectives I have set will ultimately help me to achieve my overall goal. These objectives include:
I believe these goals and objectives will help me develop my writing skills, give me a practical understanding of my field of interest, and deepen my understanding of what it means to be a scholar in the field of education. These goals will also contribute to my exploration of new and interesting research topics by keeping me focused and organized along the way. Thus my academic goals will compliment my research and professional goals.
Over the course of the last four years, I have also had the privilege to work with groups of young minority students from the United States (U.S.), many of whom have encountered significant hurdles to their academic and personal success. Their passion for moving beyond the limits of their life circumstances and challenging the expectations that our society has placed on them based on race, socioeconomic status, and geographic region (i.e. rural, urban, suburban) has encouraged me to look more at this notion of motivation. Motivation is certainly an idea that may have multiple definitions. Until I have a better understanding of how the field of education defines the term, however, I would like to use the definition outlined by Huitt (2011) that defines motivation as “an internal state or condition that serves to activate or energize behavior and give it direction” (para. 1). Motivation, I hypothesize, may be an influencing factor in determining a young person’s decision to engage in certain opportunities and activities. I am specifically interested in exploring how motivation might impact the following areas:
I am interested in these issues primarily because over the last several years the discourse about the availability of language proficient, culturally competent students and professionals in the U.S. workforce has expanded beyond the international education community. Congressional members, heads of multinational corporations, and foreign policy experts have joined the dialogue giving a sense of urgency to a matter that has traditionally been viewed as an education issue, not a question of foreign policy. Where the conversation was once defined in terms of student learning and cultural competence, we now hear about language acquisition and cultural competency as an issue of national security and U.S. economic competitiveness. For me, it is important not only to identify ways that we might help young people be professionally prepared to enter an international workforce. It is equally important to understand students’ interest in engaging in such preparation in order to develop programming and curriculum that will attract young people and prepare them for such careers. In my mind, these concepts integrate my previous experiences related to policy and international affairs with my research interests related to motivation and educational training opportunities.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned thus far in the program came spring semester with Dr. Peters Burton who indicated that educational research is messy because we deal with people and all of their emotions, personalities, backgrounds, and experiences. These concepts like “motivation” and “understanding” are difficult to measure and hard to tease out even with some of the best-modeled questions. I am not sure I have determined how I will be able to address all of my concerns related to my research. However, I am looking forward to learning new techniques and strategies to resolve conflict, neutralize issues of power and mitigate challenges that arise.
Reviewing my goals statement from 2011, I do not believe my high level professional goals have changed much. I am still interested in working with institutions of higher learning, abroad and/or domestically, to explore ways in which institutions and educational policies could be enhanced by introducing international components into them. I would still like look at approaches to building collaborative inter-sectoral partnerships that would develop strategies to enhance education systems and support models of learning that teach global competencies and sustainable and healthy living practices.
Oddly enough, my current professional experience has taken me to a new organization where I believe I may actually get to test these goals. In September, I will begin working for an organization called Diversity Abroad to assist in managing their Diversity in Global Education Network, an initiative that looks to share good practices across institutions of higher education, offer training opportunities to professionals working at these institutions, and improve institutional student services to better serve students of diverse and traditionally disadvantaged backgrounds. After four years working specifically with ethnic/racial minority students and minority institutions, shifting to explore issues in U.S. student exchange using a much broader definition of “diversity” – i.e. socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, institutional type – will be interesting and exciting. I am looking forward to the opportunity of working in this arena and exploring other professional opportunities along the way.