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There is something to be said of taking stock of a thing. An accounting of self. Of accomplishment. And also of problem areas and failed attempts. In completing my second competency assessment (found just below this introduction) I was able to see areas of growth, areas where I realized that I didn't know as much as I thought I did, as well as areas that invariably moved in neither direction. Not stagnant, but sturdy.
I was also able to locate patterns within my work. Patterns that may have gone unnoticed had they not been put together, grouped for examination and allocation to support a particular competency. More often than not I am addressing an issue. A population of people in need of recognition, support, advocacy and change. And I realize this; I am on the right track. I cannot tell you yet specifically what kind of institution is my dream institution, whether I will remain at Harvard University or find a local Community College that needs me more. But what I do know is this:
I unwaveringly want to contribute. I always have. I want to support the misunderstood, the underrepresented, the forgotten or the unimagined. I love to write. I love to read. I want to work with grants. I want to become an expert who knows grants inside and out and upside down. (And I want to have a great finance team, because I do not want to own that part of it!) I want to work with grants, because grants can change institutions, curriculum's, communities, and lives. I want to be a part of that change.
The MEd program has served this direction well, I have gained tremendous knowledge, experience and connections during my time here. And as you will see, while I am a work in progress (and as a lifelong learner I always will be) I have developed an arsenal of powerful knowledge and tools to assist me on my way.
Evidence and Explanations
As you will see below, for each competency that is rated 7 or higher, I have provided an explanation of my rating, along with a broad array of evidence demonstrating my proficiency.
Demonstrates strategic awareness
An artisan watchmaker crafts what is outwardly a simple device. A watch. It tells time. But to open that watch, there are myriad cogs, movements and a startling precision. Strategy is what the watch maker excels at. Strategy is knowing how each movement impacts every other movement, and how all the parts when placed at just the right time and in just the right place result in an object of beauty.
The world of higher education is like a watch. The outside is beautiful, polished a thing to be admired. But to throw open the doors reveals a depth and complexity that few on the outside could ever guess at. I learned much about strategy through my bachelors degree program in Business Administration, as Professor Lichtenstein can attest to. However, it was my current program of study that has served to enrich my understanding of how higher education functions and through a series of interviews, conducted for The Landscape of Higher Education course, I learned how events on the outside change what happens on the inside and how events within higher education impact the world outside of those walls. Everything is connected and it requires an intimate understanding of these connections to successfully navigate a professional career in higher education.
Looks for patterns and makes connections
It is natural to look for patterns. We see fish in clouds, eyes in the celestial sky and faces in grilled cheese sandwiches. Seeing connections though, that requires something further. First you need an understanding of self. To understand who you are, deeply and honestly, allows you to better understand others. This in turn changes the way you perceive the world and how it operates. In How People Learn, we had the opportunity to reflect on the entire course and suss out those big ideas. The ones that stuck with you. The ones you would carry with you throughout your educational, professional and life journey.
This ability to make connections further reveals itself in the signature assignment for Grant and Report Writing. I drew from all of my previous course, such as, Culture, Equity, Power and Influence, The Demographics of Higher Education, as well as previous courses like Business Strategy, Writing for the Profession's, and Organizational Leadership. I utilized a signature assignment from the Culture course, The Roots of Bullying Workshop, as a foundation for the Final Grant Proposal. Everything we learn builds upon everything we do. It is all relevant. It is all connected.
Sees How Parts Relate to the Whole, Including Implications of Systems and Organizational Change
It is interesting how focusing closely on one thing, can reveal so many other things. In the Demographics of Higher Education, we learned about student development theories, which individually provided weak evidence for development as a whole and I couldn't quite buy into it. That changed during a group teleconference. And I discovered that it wasn't about individual theories, it was about a group of theories, that when used together provided substantial evidence that everyone could find something meaningful, something of themselves reflected within those blended concepts. Moreover, in understanding how these theories when combined affected us we also understood how such information could be used to create real and lasting change within higher education, learning, research, and policy.
Proficient as a writer and a presenter
I almost feel guilty for this one.
I have always written. The pen being a natural extension of my fingers. Words form in my head like a supernatural apparition, often without conscious thought or any warning. They spill onto the paper (or in more modern vernacular onto the screen of any given electronic word processing device) with a speed hindered only by my obsessive need to check my spelling and grammar. My entire ePortfolio is flooded with my ability as a writer. Click on any page, or any link and this you will see.
On the other hand, the burden of my guilt is eased because I am not a natural public speaker. Recording audio is a breeze. I know how to speak. The rhythm. The cadence. My issue instead lay in visual presentations, when with dry mouth and knocking knees I need to present myself as a physical presence in a way in which people will actually be looking at me. I prefer to be behind the camera. But you will see in How People Learn, that for my case study, I nailed it. I knocked it out of the park. I recorded a visual presentation in which my face was in front of the camera, talking to you my reader. It actually looks like I know what I am doing. And (grin) after 20 takes, it should! Thank you How People Learn, for the challenge. I am better prepared for it.
Capacity to work within groups to listen well, speak well, and co-author
This may indeed be the most difficult task of any given course. Working with people you do not know, whose beliefs, ideas, and values may be significantly different than your own, and the logistics of schedule add to the complexity. This alone makes such challenges worthy learning endeavours, because it is a reflection of professional reality. And the skills gained in group projects, are invaluable, learning how to listen, learning how to compromise, learning how to let each person in the group have a voice and a contribution.
In How People Learn, students were broken up into predetermined groups. We had to create a blogging persona and suss out the "big ideas" from out course material. After a rough start trying to find our feet, we accomplished a blog where each of our voices and each of our contributions were clear. In Grant and Report Writing, groups were once again established, and despite the failure of one of our members the remaining participants rallied together and we created a final grant proposal where contributions were made according to the greatest strengths of each of us.
Able to collaborate and communicate in a range of modalities (face-to-face and online)
A recurring theme to life as well as education is connections, how everthing we learn accumulates and builds upon a growing structure of knowledge. The ability to collaborate and communicate in a range of modalities requires this kind of layered and complex learning. And sometimes, as was proved during my Business Degree here at Northeastern, you find yourself faced with an impossible teammate, someone entirely incapable of collaborative effort or resistant to a sense of community. During my Business Strategy (Intensive) course, the sheer force of that individual's stubbornness had to be overcome with a certain finesse, as the level and variety of communication to complete the project was intense. Twice weekly teleconference calls or Skype session, daily interactions through e-mail and discussion boards, and an interactive, online computer simulated global business platform. Yet despite the difficulty, we managed in the end to find cohesion and develop a successful business strategy for our fictitious corporation and online simulation platform.
This set the stage for my current program.
In Faculty, Curriculum, and Academic Community I worked with classmate Anthony Tang, through phone calls, chat sessions, emails, and discussion boards to collaborate and develop a faculty plan for communication at Wake Forest University. This ability to communicate across multiple platforms continued to develop throughout this program with group projects in How People Learn, and again in Grant and Report Writing. It turns out that the most successful outcomes came from using a variety of methods to communicate and obtain group cohesion, and even excitement for a given project.
and just for fun:
Facile with technology, keeps current with emerging technologies and social media
I have a love hate relationship with technology. I love it when it works. I hate it when it doesn't. When I began the MEd program I was utilizing an older Mac with an outdated version of Microsoft Office. It turns out that the platform was not conducive to audio presentations within Power Point. Today, pulling up that same signature assignment for Education as an Advanced Field of Study, the audio fails to play at all. But I am determined. And as my program progressed so to did my technical prowess.
In How People Learn, each student had to conduct a case study and create a separate ePortfolio to complete the assignment. I was determined (there's that word again!) to master this technology. I researched and learned how to work within the CSS coding to change the design of the portfolio, I utilized Adobe Photoshop to create the banner and the background images (for myself and several of my classmates who were struggling with their portfolios) and I mastered the visual presentation software. This case study would become an exemplary for future courses.
And lastly, in keeping current I have provided links for multiple social media and electronic communications platforms that I utilize in school, work and everyday life on the Contact page of my ePortfolio.
Thinks creatively to generate ideas and be open to alternatives
I like to be challenged. I am challenged with this competency. My creativity is evident throughout my ePortfolio. It is evident in my writing. I could point to my Civic Engagement and Volunteerism page within my portfolio which shares two paintings I completed for charitable purposes. But creativity is also a quiet thing. It is a subtle thing. It can be creativity of thought or of approach, it is also being open to alternatives, new and diverse ideas. It comes from careful observation, close listening and innate curiosity. It comes of empathy and understanding. This is something noticed in my discussion board posts weekly, in all of my classes with my classmates, but how do I provide evidence of this? Creativity is subjective and what I may think of as creative you may think of as crazy.
But proof I must provide, so I offer up this odd explanation, I offer up the body of creative work within this ePortfolio, I offer my Civic Engagement and Volunteerism, and I offer to you three professional recommendations that have exemplified who I am in my professional life which is largely seen as a person of unique creativity who appreciates a wide diversity of ideas.
Is resilient in less-than-optimal circumstances
This is not a skill born of sunshine, rainbows and lollipops. This is not a skill that comes checking off boxes on some official how-to-do resiliency list. Resiliency is born of difficulty. It is the fuzzy end of the lollipop that has been left laying in the dirt. Indeed, I am amused by the tautological occurrence in this competency, because resiliency is a necessity of less-than-optimal circumstances. The alternative is defeat, and resiliency is the antithesis of defeat.
For this bit of evidence I first give you the story of my why, the signature assignment for Education as an Advanced Field of Study. Why I am here, working on this MEd. It is a bit of a read, but this is where my resiliency was born. I didn't ask for it. It wasn't a life decision. It was a survival skill. And I am thankful for it.
Resiliency has allowed be to let go of the little things. Like the now defunct audio soundtrack that in some earlier space and time was embedded into my presentation for Higher Education as an Advanced Field of Study. It allows me to strive for an A, and understand when I have only earned a B. Resiliency allows me to juggle the insanity of a full-time job, this degree program, being a spouse, and a step-mother to an incredible and wonderful special needs daughter. Resiliency lets the things you cannot control roll off your shoulders so that you can focus on the things that you can do.
Professional Profile: Professional Recommendations: Mary McCarthy?
Aware of the Dynamics of Race, Class, Gender and Other Cultural Factors Within Community Dynamics and Intercultural Communication
This awareness of humanity, for it is indeed humanity, runs deep. Perhaps its because I grew up an underdog that I recognized every other underdog. Perhaps it's because I am a life long reader, and fell in love in equal parts with Steinbeck, Lee, Hosseini, Gaiman and hundreds of others--all of whom expanded my view of our world--all of whom who give voice to difference, oppression as well as beauty and love. Authors who paint our world, beautiful and ugly, with words.
But that recognition was clarified in this MEd Program. In Education as an Advanced Field of Study, I wrote a constitution for the students of continuing education. I gave voice to the marginalized voices of those who find a less expected path.
It is also reflected in the painting that I completed for a charitable organization. An auction for Autism. Look closely at that painting. There are more than 70 languages in the background. Each one says the same thing. "I Love Someone With Autism". You'll also notice that the figures have no color, no culture, no gender and the child has no voice. Autism has no boundaries. It is part of our collective humanity. Much like how we all are born and someday must die. What is different is how different people, different cultures approach, treat and even label autism. I wanted this painting to speak to that.
Interest in, and capacity to perceive, multiple perspectives
If this were a posed as a question, in a classroom, I would be the student whose hand was waving wildly in the air like a twitching sugar junkie who just spotted a Milkway candy bar and is itching for a fix. However, we are not in a classroom, and this isn't exactly a question. However it is in our online classroom, our discussion board, where this evidence is most apparent. I am the student who is always asking questions, digging deeper, looking for your thoughts, your experiences and your beliefs. Because they mean something to me. And ultimately, they change me. But our discussion posts, no matter how insightful, no matter how much learning they display (and I assure you they display learning) are not proper evidence to support this statement.
For this I need to provide you with papers, such as the debate paper I wrote for Education Law, Policy and Finance, in which I deliberately took the side that would be the least popular. I wanted to explore that position with a curiosity and a thoroughness and create a convincing argument for a side I wasn't particularly fond of. And it was a wonderful challenge, and I gained great insight on many reasonable arguments that I may not have considered before.
Self-aware of cultural perspective and privilege
This is is a competency firmly enmeshed in Culture, Equity, Power and Influence. Early on you unpack your backpack of privilege and see where you reside on this spectrum of unrequested good fortune. However, what I find is that my awareness of self, of cultural perspective and of privilege has breathed life into almost every assignment I have completed. I tackle difficult subjects: Transgender rights, Bullying, Autism and other cognitive "disorders". Time and time again, no matter the course I bring it back to the underdog. That person, or that group of people who are marginalized in our society because they are different, they are "other".
I've written a dozen papers concerning autism since beginning my education. I've written at least three for this program. I have written papers on slavery both historical and modern. I have written papers on the LGBTQ community. Pedophiles and death row. I like to think about these issues in a context much bigger than myself. In Education Law, Policy and Finance, I discussed transgender rights. In Enrollment, Retention, Graduation and Success I discussed nontraditional students. In Culture, Equity, Power and Influence I composed a workshop that framed bullying from the social perspective of "otherness" and how to combat it before otherness became a reason to be bullied. And finally, in Education as an Advanced Field of Study I shared my story, where I explore my own culture and beliefs, and how I came to be here in the MEd program at Northeastern today.
Capacity to serve as an agent for social justice
This is why I am here. In this program. This is why I left a career in business behind. Because higher education is all about change and social justice. Moving through this program I have amassed an incredible amount of knowledge, and I have changed career industries. As I have completed these courses I have come closer and closer to that ultimate goal. That sweet spot. The one where you recognize what it is that you want to do with your life. And this is exactly what I want to do. I want to create change. I want to be a part of that change. And Higher Education is the platform from which I plan to do just that.
You will see my fire for such change reflected in most of the papers that I write. I could turn a finance paper into a call for action for any given marginalized population. And I did do that. I convinced my Grant and Report Writing Group to find and complete a grant proposal that would address bullying. I turned my Education Law, Policy and Finance course into a transgender rights discussion, my Demographics of Higher Education into a call for students on the Autism spectrum, and my Culture, Equity, Power and Influence signature assignment acted as the foundation for that grant proposal.
Articulate the History, Present State, and Anticipated Future of Higher Education in a Global Society, Including:
Issues Affecting Higher Education
While the issues may change with time and over time, they will never stop. Higher Education despite its lofty goals (and frequently because of them) is not immune to the fallibility of man, the socially constructed paradigms that laud some and ostracise others, nor are they immune to the political persuasions that are particularly pervasive during election cycles. And today, more than any other time, issues are on a global scale.
The MEd Program, and particular the HEA concentration specifically has gifted me with the opportunity to explore the history, reflect upon today, and envision just what the future might hold for higher education institutions. And the picture can be as beautiful as it can be bleak. These thoughts are reflected in the short paper written for Faculty, Curriculum and Academic Community, as well as in another short paper written for Enrollment, Retention, Graduation and Success.
Policy and Legal Aspects and Their Impact on Higher Education
Issues in higher education are tightly woven with policy and legal aspects. Often it is the most hotly debated issues that spark change throughout an institution. In Education Law, Policy and Finance I had the chance to explore the body of law and related cases that impact higher education the most. This resulted in two papers, the first a policy debate about Affirmative Action, the second a signature assignment that explored the transgender identity, especially as it relates to science versus socially constructed gender beliefs. Yet policy is not found only in law courses, they abound throughout all of our courses. It's all related. In Culture, Equity, Power and Influence I explored Educational Standards against the backdrop of social constructs and how policy is often crafted or changed with these constructs enabling injustice against particular groups.
Prioritize Multiple High-Level Tasks and Switch Priorities as Needs Change
This competency is a necessity in today's fast paced environments. Yet there is no single assignment that can attest to its mastery. It is a skill that comes through trial and error, and often it starts during times of industry turmoil. When corporations and institutions lay off workers, staff and faculty and those left standing find themselves doing the work of three. And though you may not at first have a choice in the matter, you will overcome the obstacles, learn on the fly and complete more tasks than you ever thought yourself capable of. The professional recommendation of Mr. Allington speaks to this skill.
Maintain Discretion and Confidentiality to the Highest Level
Most people wouldn't consider this as a skill. But it is. And it is highly prized because it is hard to come by. I was employed by a defense contractor for nearly 10 years before changing industries. For the first four years I held a secret clearance. Thereafter I held a top secret clearance. The process to obtain that clearance was intense and I took my responsibilities very seriously. You do not ask what you do not need to know. You do not tell without proper authorization. Period.
This has served me well in my current role within higher education. I value discretion and confidentiality. My own and that of others. And though trust takes time to build in any environment, this competency is the foundation where trust begins.
Is Curious and Investigates Situations from Different Perspectives
Curiosity is a blessing no matter what title you may hold in your career. It keeps things interesting. My curiosity, and ability to see the world through a different lens led me to receiving multiple silver and gold eagle awards during my tenure in the Defense Industry. This same curiosity and ability to see all the angles provided the Contracts Manager of my corporation and the President of the National Contract Management Association's Boston Chapter the impetus to provide me with a lovely recommendation to propel me forward on my career path.
Utilize Diverse and Creative Solutions to Every Day Problems
There are some Professor's who instantly recognize something different. And during my bachelor's program here at Northeastern, where I would earn my degree in Business, I stood out in his class. I didn't speak the same. I didn't write the same. And I didn't think the same. I constantly and consistently responded differently to various issues within the business environment. And for this reason, Professor Lichtenstein provided me not only with a professional letter of recommendation, but also with a valued mentor and friend.
To review the entire body of work within a degree program and hold it up to inspection and self-reflection is a daunting task and ultimately a worthwhile one. This endeavor has served to provide me with an understanding of the knowledge I have gained and the ways in which that knowledge is connected; I am deeply aware of my greatest areas stregnth and likewise weakness that will require further work and new reflections.
I would like to revisit this Professional Competency Model, a personal inventory or assessment if you will, and use it to track areas of growth, stability and regression so that I may better direct my learning, goals and career; actively contributing to meaningful academic, personal and professional change.