In the last year, I feel like I have made a lot of progress in this program. As I mentioned in my Program Assessment, I am both a full-time student and employee. I was very concerned going into this program about whether or not I could effectively balance my time with work and school. While there are times where I feel like I am choosing one over the other, generally I am able to schedule my time effectively based on the clear expectations and deadlines established in the syllabi. In addition, feedback from faculty instructors has been positive with respect to my research interests, course assignments, and participation in class, research, and service activities.
My advisor, Dr. Janette Hill, has been extremely supportive over the last year. She has helped answer my questions, provide context around some of the handbook requirements, and navigate the program of study to best fit my needs. In particular, she has helped me maintain some level of sanity as I took on three assignment-heavy courses in the spring semester in addition to a new job. As a result of her guidance and the feedback received from faculty and fellow students, I feel as if my research has more direction and focus than it did when I started the program. I feel motivated and excited to seek out relevant research and start getting my ideas on paper.
While I do feel like I have been successful in balancing the course load and academic expectations of the first year, I lack a certain level of engagement outside of class. Because my time is limited, I feel it is necessary to set some boundaries around my availability. This can be challenging to communicate at times, and it can feel isolating for me. While many of my classmates are engaged in student organizations or attending conferences and guest lectures, I am simply not able to participate in or attend these functions. In addition, I feel limited in my ability and/or reluctant to seek out and participate in research, mentorship, or publication opportunities because I do not want to overcommit and let others down. Because of this, I feel a bit behind classmates when it comes to some of the expected first and second year deliverables and outcomes. That said, I do feel my work experiences are no less challenging or important; however, I find it difficult to communicate how these work experiences relate to my work in the Learning, Design, and Technology program now that my job duties have changed.
Looking forward at my program of study, I am determined to maintain balance. I have developed a plan with my advisor to take two courses per semester in fall and spring with the idea that I can increase this to three courses if comfortable. I also plan to take at least one course each summer. In terms of elective and cognate courses, I am investigating several options. At the moment, I have selected two masters-level elective courses with the LDT program. In addition, I am focusing on masters-level cognate courses associated with the Textiles, Merchandising, and Interiors department’s sustainable design program including courses offered by the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, College of Engineering, and College of Environment and Design. I feel these courses will help me to address some of the architectural gaps associated with classroom design, but unfortunately The University of Georgia does not offer doctoral-level courses in architecture or a related field. As an alternative, I plan to seek out possible course options focusing on community and interactions from the Psychology and Theatre & Film Studies departments in Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. As I get further along in the program, I anticipate my electives and cognates will adjust and adapt some. I may also have to seek alternative options via the University System of Georgia depending on the department limitations or course offerings available at The University of Georgia.
Work, school, life balance continues to be a challenge, but I feel positive about the progress I made in my second year in the LDT program while working full-time. I look forward to decreasing my course load and increasing focus on my research. I am still undecided about what my research study will be, but I am comfortable working through that process with my advisor and committee.