Sunday, October 3, 2010

PASS - w/ NO Revisions!!!!

Me, in my new suit shirt, celebrating with the hubby
On Monday, September 27th, from 1-2:30pm, I presented my dissertation proposal defense to my committee members and passed! I am officially a candidate for a doctorate in education! This was a major hurdle for me and a huge benchmark in my path toward obtaining a doctorate in education! I am so grateful for making it this far and I am committed to staying focused and completing in May!

The dissertation proposal defense is what allows you to move forward and conduct the research study you are proposing to do and it is also what advances you to "candidacy" for your doctorate. You need to have the first three chapters of your dissertation (introduction, literature review and methodology) completed and approved by the chair of your dissertation committee. You then schedule a date and time for your "defense" (basically an overview of your three chapters, defending why this research you are proposing to do is significant and needed in the field of education).

The road to my proposal defense was a hectic one. I had hoped to have completed it by June, but needed until September to get it right. The introduction was pretty solid all the way through this process because it's basically a intro to the problem you are addressing and a summary of your literature review and methodology. Your literature review, also called "lit review", documents all prior research related to the problem you are attempting to solve in your research. Your methodology outlines how you will conduct your research, which instruments you will use to collect the data and details on how you plan to analyze it once the data is collected.

I went through many iterations for chapters 2 & 3, as I worked with my chair to get down to the root of how and why my study will be conducted. Within that timeframe: my husband and I also celebrated our wedding with over 200 close friends and family, over a 3 day weekend extravaganza; I completed summer school (our doctoral program is designed for us to take classes while completing the dissertation simultaneously); I was invited by a foundation to write a full grant proposal for my organization, Message Media Ed - which was to be completed a week prior to my proposal defense; and I conducted our first youth leadership workshop for the school year, Diversity Leaders Boot Camp for Message Media Ed. Phew! All of this occurred in the August and September months!

I typically try to plan out my life - balancing my business, school, work (the job I take to pay the bills while building my own biz) and my new role as a wife - as best I can, but the grant proposal was a major surprise. Although it was wonderful to receive the news that I had the opportunity to apply for funding, I was also quite overwhelmed with the timing for completing it and my dissertation chapters... it was time to pray lol.

The two weeks before the defense, I spent much of my time in the library at school and the cafe where I love to write and at home in bed (my other writing space). I went from completing a 55-paged dissertation proposal one day, to writing an 8-paged grant proposal, to organizing (and coordinating with my co-facilitators) the 4-hour curriculum for Diversity Leaders Boot Camp, to creating the powerpoint for my proposal defense - all back to back to back!

But I did it!

I ended up pulling an all-nighter before the proposal defense, piecing together my powerpoint. By 10am, Monday morning, September 27th, I completed the powerpoint. Hopped in the shower and put on my new suit. It was 113 degrees that day. We have no AC at home and I have no AC in my car. It was hot! I was anxious, but excited... feeling somewhat confident but just needed to get to school, relax and focus on the presentation at that point.

At 10:50am, I called my favorite cafe, Vegan Village Cafe, to order vegan jambalaya and vegan red velvet cake, for my committee members. They prepare you as a student, to provide refreshments for your committee members during the defense. Since my defense was around lunch time, I decided (after consulting with a few people), to provide lunch for them. By 11:10, I was at the cafe purchasing the meal and hit the road to school. I also bought a smoothie, to keep me cool for the ride. It helped tremendously. I was still sweating though lol.

I arrived at school by 11:45am and drove around for 10mins looking for a parking space. Good ole' LMU... NEVER has parking when you are in a rush! I still wanted to review my powerpoint and make notes for the presentation... (I hadn't had the opportunity to do that yet). I finally found a parking space and made it to the doctoral center by 12pm. I met the department assistant there who printed out my final dissertation draft (it's always a draft until you graduate - and even then, I hear, it is still a draft in your eyes). She printed copies of the powerpoint for me to pass out as well. We then headed over to the conference room where I was presenting.

Now, I have have 3 committee members (who shall remain nameless for this blog). They are all Ph.D's: One is the Chair of the committee (who has been the primary person guiding me through this process), one is another professor at LMU and the other is a professor at a university in Boston. My external committee member was conferenced in via phone and could see my powerpoint via a file sharing program. We needed a bit of time to set up the technical side to this so all was well. While the assistant set this up, I heated up their food.

After everything was set up, I had a brief meeting with my Chair. It was now, 12:50pm. I noticed my demeanor at this time. Once everything was set up, a calm came over me. I still hadn't had an opportunity to look over the powerpoint, but I was feeling somewhat okay with that. My meeting with my Chair was good because she explained the protocol of the defense.

She was to run the entire thing, make introductions, set the parameters, give me the go ahead to begin and facilitate the question and answer session once I completed. She would take notes for me during the Q&A time so I wouldn't have to worry about that. She would then ask me to leave, and she offered her office to me to wait it. During that time, my committee would decide to give me:

1. No pass - meaning, there were still some major concerns with my research or my understanding of it all and it would be best for me to basically start the entire process over

2. Pass with revisions - meaning, the work is solid and good, but they may need me to re-think my methodology or I may be missing some major research in my lit review, that needed to be fixed before moving forward

3. Pass with no revisions - meaning, my work (the dissertation and presentation) are solid and I will be able to move forward to the next step without making any corrections.

My Chair then explained that I would most like receive a "Pass with revisions". It's what most students receive and she knew my work was good enough, but that they may decide as a committee, that I need to change some things here and there.  She then said they would invite me back into the room and announce their decision.

By that time,... it was time!

1pm came and I was still a bit nervous but ready to go! I made my presentation. The powerpoint was organized just as it needed to be for me. The beginning was a bit rocky, but I found my footing as I kept talking. I felt good. Their questions and feedback were both helpful and positive afterward. I felt like the master of this research. And they confirmed that for me. After 10 mins of waiting for them to make a decision, after my presentation, I was invited back only to hear that I received a "Pass with NO revisions!"

I was sooo happy, and surprised and thankful, all in one.  A tremendous amount of pressure was lifted off of me and I remember saying thank you over and over again lol. My chair hugged me, my other committee room kept giving me her royal smile of approval and I could hear my other committee member on the speaker phone giggling. It was such a special moment... I will never forget it :). We had class afterward, from 4:30-6pm and my husband and I immediately went out to celebrate and I was in bed by 9:30pm! Went right to sleep! lol

I have been floating ever since. But now it's time come back down to earth and commence the data collection phase... Onward. Forward. March! :) Thanks for reading and for sharing this special moment  with me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Letter of Support - Alice Nicholas (aka Alice the Poet)

Recently, I applied for a grant to fund one of my professional development programs through Message Media Ed. I sent out a blanket request on Facebook for my friends to write a letter of support so I could include them in the application. One letter came in that I had to share:

To Whom It May Concern:

I met Shani Byard-Ngunjiri almost a decade ago. We were initially brought together through our works in the creative arts and our mutual concern for social justice. I have worked with Shani’s organization, UrbanRising Entertainment as an independent artist and was featured on the television show, Tha Zone TV; which she co-executive produced and marketed. Those experiences showed me that in the midst of buying and selling images in the entertainment industry, there are those who welcome and advocate for positive, culturally conscious and empowering images of African American artists.

As the co-event producer of the Annual Los Angeles Malcolm X Arts, Culture & Education Festival, Shani conscientiously worked each year to ensure the careful presentation of what soon thereafter became known as the largest cultural tribute to Malcolm X in the nation. As the Literary Arts Village coordinator, I was able to work closely with Shani and was witness to her commitment, organization, and well crafted ideas and practices designed to promote healing and building from within the community.

In 2003, when I joined the efforts of Artists for Justice and Liberation (an organization which Shani co-founded) to save the only remaining African American cultural area in the city, I watched her work tirelessly to save Leimert Park by increasing awareness, rallying the community and seeking answers (and action) from elected officials, all while continuing to support the arts and independent artists. In fact, it was Shani who introduced me to the work I now continue with Theatre of Hearts/Youth First as an Artist-In-Residence/Youth Mentor.

Over the years, I have found Shani to be unshakable in her mission to heal and build the African American community. The Digital Elder project is both relevant and much needed. Shani is primed to make a major change in the African American community by working to ensure that those who are already marginalized will not be further left behind as society moves into a more technological existence. She is working to ensure that as we move forward, using her intergenerational, African-centered approach, we will create leaders and rebuild our communities. I wholeheartedly support her efforts.

I am honored to recommend Shani Byard-Ngunjiri and The Digital Elder Project. 


Alice Nicholas

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Emotional Reflection - 9/9/10

I am privileged... I am oppressed, but privileged to have the opportunity to pursue this education, to craft my voice in the Ivory tower... I am authoring a body of work that will, in print, enter a vast field of scholarship with limited color and provide a foundation for someone else (of color or not) to pick up the torch and add to... I am writing to serve... the struggle is not about me... Ashe.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Emotional Reflection - 9/6/10

After receiving feedback from my dissertation chair this weekend, I am so grateful to have some one with so much experience guiding me through this process of writing my dissertation!  There is such a defined structure and so many rules to the dissertation process, in addition to all the other stuff it takes to attain a doctorate. Crafting a well researched, 200 paged statement on how educators can mentally liberate the African American community is no easy task. It's also not a mainstream piece and needs a support system of culturally conscious, progressive Ph.D's, who get the importance and core message of my voice. I am so thankful that my chair sees the big picture and is able to help me lay the bricks, few by few, towards it. My dissertation committee members are awesome too and I look forward to receiving their feedback once I submit this draft to them. I am truly blessed to have these individuals in my corner. 

I am also thankful for a husband who has become my true partner in our lives' endeavors. The rent is paid and I can continue to focus on this stage of the dissertation process: drafting the proposal for my defense at the end of this month! Nervous, anxious, overwhelmed, but passionate about this challenge of crafting my voice in a way I've never experienced before.

Intellectual Reflection - 9/6/10

Lots of reading this weekend after the phone conversation with my dissertation chair. I will need to re-work chap. 3 of my dissertation, the methodology section. The research study for my dissertation combines African Centered & Critical Media Literacy pedagogies together. Based on her feedback and guidance, a Critical Methodology and Qualitative approach may be stronger, instead of an Evaluation Research, Mixed-Methods approach... Dissertation chair? Methodology? Pedagogy? Critical? Evaluation? Mixed-Methods? Qualitative?  What do I mean by all these terms?  I'll explain later :) 

... In the meantime, just know that when you pursue your doctorate, and even at the masters level, you discover a world of terminology for the stuff you've already been doing in life as an educator, an artist and/or social justice advocate. You might not have labeled them, you may have just followed your gut and just did it! :) lol, just sayin'. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Shameless Plug...

Parent? Mentor? Guardian? Come strengthen communication & grow WITH your teen in a supportive, creative space! For youth, ages 13-17, and their role models on Sat. 9/25/10 Where the Art of Media Education Meets Black Culture and Leadership Development :) 

Please share with your family and friends...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Intellectual Reflection - 8/31/10

Challenged by data analysis... Formulating the strategy... Working on my master plan :)

Emotional Reflection - 8/31/10

TRUTH can be incredibly overwhelming... Our plight weighs heavy on my heart...

Random Nuts and Bolts of a Doctoral Degree - 1


Unlike a bachelors or masters degree, the quality of research at the doctoral level is extremely rigorous. Not only do you need to identify other scholarly work to support your arguments or hypotheses, but you need challenge, critique and find deeper meaning behind existing research in the field you are studying. As you become a scholar, you need to contribute innovative thoughts and foundations for practice, all within a predetermined, theoretical framework. Your  writing and research need to speak to the core of an existing problem or social issue and you need to have a thorough understanding of the existing research, for and against your theory to solve that problem or social issue. 

Throughout this process, your discipline is tested and your values and priorities in life become redefined. Research at the doctoral level is transformative. At times I prefer to get a hotel or a motel room for the weekend (depending on my budget), so I can focus, research and write. I need to pull myself out of the distractions of home and create the mental space needed to think clearly and critically. 

If you have any questions or comments about research at the doctoral level feel free to comment below... :) If you have anything to add, please do so as well.  Also, please share and follow! 

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My Leadership Style as an Educator... CREATIVE & CULTURALLY COURAGEOUS

"My leadership style puts race and equity issues at the forefront while working toward community empowerment, preparing community members to ride the tide of life, seeing every challenge as an opportunity to connect with their inner gifts and to grow as human beings." - SBN

According to Browne (2008), the goal of culturally courageous leadership is to build equitable, cultural learning environments. Therefore, to model this leadership style is to: 
1) Engage in community organizing, 
2) Nurture African identities, 
3) Be an ardent advocate, 
4) Reflect, document and assess, 
5) Know and use work and communication styles to influence the dynamics of difference amongst constituents, 
6) Practice situational leadership and use your insight on identity constructs and, 
7) Practice the 5 C’s: a) Committed caregiver – model positivity towards Black youth, b) Culturally competent consumer – always access information about culture and heritage of African/African American culture, c) Consummate conciliator – adapt to the needs of Black learners and work through any conflicts that may occur, d) conscientious coach – assess personal as well as student and teacher needs and facilitate critical reflection/growth of others via the use of key questions, and e) courageous change maker – facilitate embracing of/adaptation to change, model and insist on accountability for improvement in African American student outcomes.

Arts and media education after school and in non-traditional (informal) educational environments, in the more underserved communities of Los Angeles, are the arenas in which I thrive and construct collaborative and emotionally safe spaces for the implementation of culturally courageous leadership work.  As an artist and educator, it is more effective to reach and engage staff, youth and community members around a vision for their empowerment and to aid them in discovering their innate abilities to "live in the questions" of life (as my old boss, Jonathan Zeichner, would say), when poetry, music, video, movement, acting, storytelling, creative writing, etc., exist as tools for instruction. 

Crafting creative environments for teachable moments, self-reflection, cultural affirmation and  professional development have become normalized under my leadership, cultivating hope and strength, from within. 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

MY STORY... Artist, Educator, Social Justice Advocate, Entrepreneur

I am an artist, educator, entreprenuer and social justice advocate and my proudest accomplishment to date was founding MessageMedia Ed in January of 2008.

I am the product of early arts and cultural intervention. My mother, a single elementary school teacher, exposed me to Suzuki Violin, Classical Ballet and African Dance at the early age of four years old. While attending Westlake

School for Girls (now Harvard Westlake school), I enjoyed influential guest lectures from Gloria Steinem, Shirley

Chisolm, Betty Shabazz and Maya Angelou during school, and played an active role in protest marches outside of

school for issues including the apartheid in South Africa and homelessness in Los Angeles. I entered Spelman,

historically Black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, toured with their dance company and immersed myself in their rich, cultural and sisterhood environment. Ultimately changing my academic focus, I transferred to Loyola Marymount University. I found my voice through television studies, interned at MTV, Geffen and Sony Records and obtained a BA in Communication Arts, Television Production in 1996.

I produced my first broadcast TV show in 1996, Urban Nights, which was nominated for a Billboard Music Video

Show Award in 1998 and received Nielson ratings reported at 10,000 viewers. I partnered with Geronimo Films in

1998 and continued producing Urban Nights for 2 years with hip hop producer, Dr. Dre and music video director Philip Atwell. Over the course of 4 years, I also worked as a Set Photographer for music videos featuring Snoop Dogg and Eminem. At the height of my career in music video/TV production, I became acutely sensitive to the media messages I took part in producing, understanding the influence on the minds of the youth who consumed their music and the impact on the Black community. In 2000, I left the entertainment business to work with youth; created UrbanRising Entertainment to develop, promote and showcase independent artists; became the co-event

producer of the Annual Los Angeles Malcolm X Arts, Culture & Education Festival and the Co-Founder of Artists for Justice and Liberation; and Co-Executive produced/marketed broadcast TV show,Tha Zone TV, to highlight local, culturally conscious artists throughout Los Angeles.

For the last 10 years, I have strategically utilized the tools of arts/media education to lead the design and

implementation of intervention, mentoring and empowerment programming for youth development entities including LA and Long Beach Unified School District, LA County Office of Education, LA Bridges Gang Intervention Program, Theatre of Hearts/Youth First, Conservation Corps of Long Beach, Inside Out Community Arts, and other nonprofit organizations. As Founder/Executive Director of Message Media Ed, I am able to combine my

personal/professional background and experience to provide culturally conscious, interdisciplinary, professional

development workshops for youth, adults and seniors of African descent, designed to close digital, intergenerational and economic divides, and produce Black leadership for the Digital Age.

I am a proud community leader, wife and native of Leimert Park (the last remaining majority Black community in LA). I am currently pursuing a Doctorate in Education at my alma mater, Loyola Marymount University, and in 2008 obtained a Masters in Organizational Management & Leadership from Springfield College.