Analytical Personal and Professional Update
Since the second portfolio review with my committee in May, many of my professional and academic plans have been influenced by my family’s move to Guatemala City. While the move has been exciting and has given me an opportunity to reconnect with my family in country, it has also been an isolating experience from both an academic and professional standpoint. Thus far the experience seems to reflect what many of my colleagues who have completed or are completing their own doctoral work have described during their dissertation-writing period. While this transition has been challenging, I expect that this experience will serve me well as I approach the completion of the program at George Mason University. Here I will reflect on how these experiences are shaping my academic and professional aspirations.
During my second portfolio review the timeline for my coursework shifted to include space to take the second educational psychology sequence course intended to implement a pilot study and lay the groundwork for my dissertation. Initially the suggested change came at a time when I thought I was ready to advance my academic goals by enrolling in the proposal class and move into the dissertation phase of the program; I was disappointed, and felt the change would detract me from the plan I had set forth. In contrast to my initial reaction, the opportunity to take the second course has turned out to be a chance to identify ways to better connect concepts in educational psychology to scholarship in study abroad, which was and continues to be a goal of mine.
Additionally, participating in this course has allowed me to initiate a pilot study of the proposal I had developed in the Education Psychology Sequence I class. The impetus of the pilot study is to move beyond the cultural competence and language skills that students gain from an international experience to include other kinds of growth that students experience while they are abroad, primarily self-efficacy in resiliency, identity, problem solving, academic performance, purpose for study abroad, and cross-cultural communication. The study generated enough responses from students to conduct several preliminary quantitative tests and explore various components of the survey scales.
The pilot study has not only given me ways to improve the methodology of the proposed study, it has given me the opportunity to sharpen my research proposal in preparation for the proposal class. Specifically, conducting the pilot has given me more refined and tangible goals, solid grounding for my research questions, improved survey questions, and a target student population for my dissertation work. I would like to confirm participants from the University of Washington short-term summer programs that are focused on underrepresented students served by the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity. I would also like to work with two comparison groups that would include study abroad students who are not on programs specific to their identity and students who are not studying abroad during the summer. This would provide a more comparative analysis for the self-efficacy measures I anticipate using. The study broader study would attempt to be a longitudinal study that would survey students before and after their experiences either abroad or domestically.
Taking the course has proven to be advantageous in that I have been able to narrow the focus of my topics of interest and generate initial findings that will support the next phase of my research. It makes sense, then, that the next major academic goal is to successfully complete this pilot study and develop a set of lessons learned that will inform a larger scale study.
Professional Engagement and Goals
Professionally, I anticipate continuing to pursue the kind of projects and initiatives in which I am currently involved. As the Manager of a large institutional consortium of institutions of higher education, much of my portfolio focuses on increasing access to international opportunities for traditionally underrepresented student populations by providing training and resources to professionals working in education abroad. This has allowed me not only work on projects that are related to my academic interests, it also allowed me to be active in the field in which I hope to remain. As a result of my ongoing interaction with professionals and scholars in this field, I have made valuable professional connections and have been able to remain abreast of much of the work that is being done to diversify education abroad.
With this current work, I would like to continue to develop and implement training focused on providing professionals in international education and exchange the resources to reach out to and support students from diverse and underrepresented student populations. To tie my academic work to my professional efforts, I have been working to integrate scholarly tools and references into the content that our organization develops (e.g., training materials, handbooks, professional development tools) to ensure that the content and information is supported by empirical research but is still accessible to practitioners. I will need to balance my academic goals to conduct empirical research to expand the scholarly work related to study abroad outcomes while managing the need to provide practitioner resources that advance professionals understanding of issues of diversity, inclusion, and access. It may be the case that the practitioners I hope to work with do not have a grounded understanding of the theoretical models that undergird themes of access, inclusion, and diversity in international education and exchange, and balancing the need for theory and the need for practices could prove to be more challenging than it perhaps should be.
Since portfolio two, I have also expanded my involvement in additional academic circles. I have joined the American Education Research Association and the Comparative and International Education Society. I have submitted session and poster presentations to the NAFSA Annual Conference, the American Psychological Society, and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity. I will also be making more of an effort to engage in these organizations through the special interest groups and working to get the results from my pilot study into publishable material. Lastly, I worked with a colleague at Harvard University to co-publish a piece in the IIE Networker Magazine, a publication by the Institute for International Education. While this did not constitute an academic journal publication, it has given me some insight into the process for collaborating with colleagues from other institutions, which was a valuable experience.