October 01, 2007

An Old Friend's Wedding & an Unexpected Reunion

I lived in Erie, PA from the age of 3 to 12. After 6th grade my family moved across the state, and I stayed in touch with very few of my old friends. One of these friends, Kevin, got married last Friday, and my mother and I were invited. Very happy for the couple (I was friends with the bride for that one year of middle school), I was excited to attend the wedding but was expecting to know about 4 people my age and a few sets of parents. Visions of "I remember you when you were ...(insert something diminutive)..." don't usually whet my appetite, but I was still looking forward to the festivities and reunions with those few, old friends.

My expectations of reminiscing held true for the most part. My explaining what getting a PhD in Organizational Behavior entails and what I specifically research was pretty standard, too.

Except this one, excellent time. The reason for my post.

The program at the church informed us that Tom Zagenczyk would be reading two pieces. "There's a name I recognize from 6th grade, when he and I had classes together." About 2 hours into the reception, Tom and I reintroduce ourselves. Small talk ensues...

..."So what are you up to these days?" he asks.
(cue the script) "I've been working on my PhD in organizational behavior..."
"Nice. I got my PhD in OB, too."

Brakes screech to a bit of a halt. Unexpected! Exciting!

Turns out Tom graduated from UPittsburgh last year and is now a professor at Clemson. I tell him about my work in public-private partnerships and corporate-nonprofit relationships. He tells me about his work in social networks. I ask if he knows Melvin Smith, a professor in my department who came from UPittsburgh and has done a lot of work in social capital. Turns out Tom and Melvin shared an office several years back.

Very fun stuff.

At some point Tom asks, "What are the odds that two kids in the same 6th grade class would both go for PhDs in OB?" And perhaps because we have both taken the doctoral route, you might be able to imagine how we stood there silently contemplating those odds for just a few seconds before we laughingly agreed that they are very small. :)

I have been reflecting on why it was such a highlight to get to re-meet Tom last Friday. There are the obvious points-- that coincidences can be thrilling, that I enjoy meeting funny, smart people, and that I tend to have especially entertaining conversations with people who share my organizational behavior leanings. But I guess what sings to me most here is that I so very much want to feel connected to others, but getting my phd has separated me from my family on a number of levels, and doctoral studies are already notorious for being inherently isolating.

So happening upon a spirit kindred in academic/career interests and in terms of where we come from socially/geographically... well, here is a connection for which I am deeply grateful.

February 28, 2007

Integrating Spheres

It has been awhile since I posted, mostly because I was posting only instrumentally as a TA for MGMT 250. What brings me back?

Spheres colliding. No, "colliding" is too strong. I'll call it spheres "melding." That feels better.

Another frame could be that I was unintentionally shamed into making a new post. Let me explain:

My older sister is finally starting to get into life online. As one of her first dalliances into the web, she googled her younger sister's name. I learned of this behavior because she told me...

"Yeah, sis, so I goggled you!"
- "Really! How did that work out for you?"
"Hmmmm... what was the main thing I learned... oh yeah... NO SPELLING ERRORS or you lose credit on your assignment!"
- (blushing) "I am so awesome. I will have to update my blog."
"Maybe not a bad idea."

So we got a hearty chuckle out of the situation. I was reminded of blog-master Jeremy's comments in our intro session that our case blogs can be used as our brands, and, despite my visceral opposition to this way of thinking, I have learned a practical lesson that google and the rest of the universe may be prompting me to in fact be aware of my case blog as creating a first impression of me in people's "background checks."

Where does that leave me? Instead of deleting this page all together, or allowing myself to be most remembered as a nitpicking TA (which would not be an unfair assessment of my role that semester), I will take the opportunity to share the work I have been doing. We'll see how it goes.


September 23, 2006

MGMT 250: A Note about Grades

This weekend I am completing grades for the first deadline of the blogging assignment. In this post, I remind you of the grading scheme for Part One of the four blogging deadlines, and I offer some suggestions about attaining "appropriate" status for your blog.

GRADING: The first part of the assignment is worth 1pt. total. I allocate points as follows: .5pts if the post is on time, .5pts if the post is appropriate. So that we are all clear, each post and comment in the future will be judged on these two criteria (i.e., timeliness and appropriateness). An example:
By each of the remaining three deadlines, your are to write 5 appropriate blog POSTS (worth 2 points) and 2 appropriate blog COMMENTS (worth 1 point). If you post two blog COMMENTS by October 13th, both on time, and one with grammatical errors, you will receive .75pts out of 1 possible point for your comments. The blog POSTS (the remaining, 2 possible points) will be calculated in the same way.

APPROPRIATE: Please see the Blogging Assignment Guidelines (on Blackboard) for the complete definition of "appropriate." One criterion for an appropriate blog in this course, as mentioned in the guidelines, is the absence of spelling and grammatical errors. Many students will notice that you have lost points for grammar and spelling errors. No matter how great your content, I cannot give you points for an appropriate blog if your work contains these types of errors. While the general term "blog" may imply "casual writing" to some students, I want to remind you that a "MGMT 250 blog" carries with it the standard of quality writing akin to what we would expect you to use in your memos and case studies.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Remember, an appropriate post need only contain 5 sentences. If you are struggling to express an idea in a concise manner, I suggest several possible approaches: (1) break the sentence into smaller sentences, (2) cut the sentence all together, (3) express this idea in another blog for which you are not expecting to receive credit.
I think my best recommendation is to limit each blog post to one key idea. Express your key idea, make sure it is appropriate, and post. IF YOU FIND YOURSELF WITH SEVERAL IDEAS, Great news for you! You now have fodder for multiple blogs!
Make each idea a separate blog; you will increase your volume and decrease your chance of losing points. For example, in making a grammatical error in 1 of 3 paragraphs, some students have lost points for their whole blog. Assuming each of those 3 paragraphs contained different ideas, if these students would have made 3 blog posts, they would have received credit for 2 posts and only not received credit for one post. Outcome: 2 appropriate posts vs. 0.

I hope that this post might help some of you who are confused about your first round of grades and are perhaps nervous about future submissions. My impression is that everyone is on track with content and tone; you just need to pay close attention to your grammar and spelling.
Best of luck!

September 07, 2006

What does an A student look like?

This post isn't directly related to in-course work, but I share it because it was sparked by 2 comments I heard or overheard MGMT 250 students make today during grading contract meetings:
1. "I am going to contract for a B. I am not that smart, and I think anything more than a B will overwhelm me."
2. "I have to work really hard. I am not as smart as everyone else, but I know where my strengths and weaknesses are, and I work hard."

First of all, I believe that both of these comments show an admirable degree of self-awareness, which is something we are trying to work on in MGMT 250. Secondly, however, I wonder if both of these students weren't selling themselves short. I would like to offer my own two-cents about what it takes to be a good student. I will do so with a story and then a little commentary afterwards.

I was the salutatorian of my high school class. The student who finished first was a really hard worker. She did all of her homework. She was organized. She studied a lot for the tests. I was the opposite. Since 4th grade I had stopped doing 90% of my homework at home. I did most of my homework during other classes on the day the work was due. I was the character walking to tests with my classnotes in my hands, trying to cram at the last minute. Most of my organization came from external sources: mom, my basketball schedule, friends who wanted to study in groups, etc.
On school tests, we both tended to get perfect scores. On the SATs, however, I did very much better. "PROOF!" I thought, that I was the better student. I felt somewhat disgruntled to finish second in class rank, but I felt some sort of pride in knowing that I had done much less schoolwork overall and that the SAT told me I was "smarter."

I don't know how my former classmate did in college, though I am willing to bet that those excellent grades kept rolling in. I, however, was confronted by a massive lack of external structure, poor habits I had spent years perfecting, and a sudden fear that maybe I wouldn't be able to catch up. Workwise, college was a major struggle for me, and I soon came to realize that my high school's valedictorian certainly had the superior approach for student success. Brains may be a big part of being successful in school, but hard work and organization are must-have's.

The above story is not subtle, so I will focus here on the questions that it raises for me:
- what does a successful student look like? to what extent can hard work and organization overcome "intellectual deficiencies"?
- when we think about success, what are we thinking in relation to? "how successful am I compared to my classmates?", "how successful am I compared to what I am capable of achieving?", "how successful am i compared to what others expect me to be?"
- how much should grades define the student experience? to what extent do extracurricular activities/interests and other relationships shape who we are and where we will go one day? I feel that I had a rich, well-rounded and relatively very happy high school experience, but I was also unknowingly developing skills that I have spent the next 10 years un-learning and re-tooling.

To bring this full circle, let me say that I am happy that MGMT 250 allows students to reflect on some of these ideas in terms of yourselves as college students in transition to adult lives. While I don't believe there is one right answer to any of the questions I posted above, I do believe that grappling with these questions is fundamental to how we shape our identities and self-esteem.

Lastly, to the 2 students I heard today, let me assure you that knowing yourselves and working hard put you in a better place for success than you might realize. You both strike me as exemplary students by any standards.

Welcome to MGMT 250 Blogging

I suppose my title is for all of us: you and me. This is my first post for the semester, and I am looking forward to hearing from everyone in all three sections of MGMT 250, since I will be facilitating the blog experience for every section of the class this fall.

For me personally, I consider relevance and respect the two most important components of a blog:
Relevance not only in that what you post is related to the course, but also-- and perhaps most imporantly-- in that what you post reflects information that resonates within you. Perhaps there was a comment you didn't get to make in class, perhaps you had an epiphany or discovered a new lens for analyzing issues, perhaps an aspect of the coursework has sparked an emotional reaction upon which you want to reflect, etc.
Respect for me is acknowledging that any MGMT250 blog will be read by instructors and peers affiliated with the class. Keep this audience in mind. Also, I expect and hope that, at times, classmates will make comments with which you disagree. I see these areas of difference as great opportunities for conversation and learning. I encourage you to honor and attempt to understand others' opinions and diversity when sharing your own ideas or comments.

Aside from tracking the blog progress, I will also be posting my own impressions of the course, the readings, the assignments, etc., and I welcome comments from you on any of my postings.

If you have any questions or suggestions, you can find me here or via any of the contact info presented to you on the syllabus or on Blackboard.

I look forward to reading your posts this semester!