Monday, April 25, 2011

Interview Completed, Finals Approaching

I am nearing the end of the semester - and gasp - the end of my junior year at Clark! Time sure has gone by quickly.

As far as classes go things have been picking up. I am finishing up projects and papers and will soon begin studying for final exams. I successfully completed my interview for Qualitative Methods in Psych last week! I arose early on Friday and piled into a car with my interview partner and PLA (Peer Learning Assistant). After a 20-minute drive or so in which my partner and I adequately pestered our PLA with questions relating to the interviews to come, we arrived at an assisted living facility. My partner was hesitant and so I volunteered to conduct my interview first; I ended up interviewing a woman who was nearly 100-years-old at the time (her birthday recently passed - April 19th). I heard about her childhood, bits from her marriage, and some thoughts on her current life in the retirement home (lots of bingo! She said).

Overall it was an interesting experience, though I was very nervous to be in the role of interviewer, and in charge of steering this kind older woman's thoughts in order to elicit stories about her life. To me, the point of this exercise was less about the stories we heard and more about the process of qualitative interview and the different manners in which we are able to view  and take on specific roles: as interviewer, as participant, as an equal, as someone in charge. I have participated in many, many undergrad and grad-student run studies at Clark, and to be honest, being on the other side (as researcher rather than participant) is a bit nerve-wracking, especially when considering all the prep work that has to go into it. However, I am looking forward to engaging in more research prep-work (or even transcribing) as I approach upper-level psychology courses at Clark (even though I was nervous it was still a lot of fun!).

Last night I took part in my last Astronomy Lab for the semester - my professor was there in addition to our astronomy TAs and observation assistants. Together they managed to get our telescope functioning so we could finally take a look at the sky using something other than our eyes or binoculars. Additionally, we watched a movie on the Chaco Canyon, an area in which people aligned their buildings and roads to match up with solar and lunar processes; the setting and rising of the sun and of the moon. Overall it was very interesting, especially considering that these calculations were made a long, long time before any of the equipment we have now was ever created.

I am currently working with my group on a project/presentation on Gender Identity Disorder for Psych of Human Sexuality, and soon I will begin prep on my papers and studying for Hebrew Bible II (we have two take-home mini-papers and a final exam). Because I am a Jewish Studies concentrator, recently I was invited to a dinner in honor of a contributor to the Jewish Studies program at Clark. I am very excited; I will be mingling with President Angel and faculty from the JS department. I will even be dressed moderately fancy, it's all very exciting!

The weather in Worcester has been so lovely lately - this is picture of me lounging on the green with some snoozing friends during Spree Day (the building pictured behind us is Atwood Hall .

A happy Passover and Easter to those celebrating!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Springing into Spring (at Clark)

It finally feels like spring!

Clarkies have been celebrating with the help of Clark-funded events this week. On Sunday I attended Woo-Stock, sponsored by Students Activities Board and Student Leadership & Planning. It was situated on the green between the University Center and some of the academic buildings. I sat on a blanket with some friends and we watched bands while enjoying free bread (provided by Panera) and coffee (provided by Acoustic Java). There were some inflatables, music, and just generally happy students lying around on the grass in the sun.

students playing Hacky Sack!

students lying on the green next to Red Square (the building pictured is the University Center)

one of the inflatables set up at Woo-Stock

"Survay Says" performing in front of Jefferson Academic Center

This past Tuesday was another fun Clark tradition - Spree Day! Fear of rain led to inflatables being set up in the Kneller Athletic Center. Classes were cancelled, registration opened at 8am, and students lined up to try to receive one of the 300 free t-shirts being distributed at the Info desk in the University Center. Free food was provided, and happy students milled about for most of the day participating in the activities; playing on the inflatables, using the photo booth set up in the Kneller, gathering free food from the cafeteria. At one point there were four booths out in front of the Kneller: one handed out huge (and I mean super big) bags of kettle corn, another gave out ice-cream, another gave out pretzels, and the fourth handed out cotton candy.

(Click here for a Clarkie-filmed video of Spree Day from the Clark youtube page!)

Although I've been enjoying these lovely Spring breaks from class, work has definitely not ceased (soon! only a few weeks of class left). Tomorrow I will hopefully (& finally) conduct my interview for Qualitative Methods. There was a bit of a mix-up timing-wise, it was difficult to try to coordinate separate interviews for everyone in the class, but it seems as though tomorrow will be sufficient.

I'm going home for Passover this upcoming Sunday, so I will back in Portland on Monday/Tuesday. My professors have been understanding (one of them even cancelled class because he will be observing the holiday as well) but I will have to do some preemptive make-up work before I leave.

Additionally, I'm still in the process of figuring out how to fulfill my graduation requirements appropriately so as to limit my chances of having to stay a semester late; it's an issue of getting into the courses I need rather than an issue of time, so over-extending my stay seems silly. However, I have been corresponding with different department heads and offices at Clark and it seems as though things will settle into something manageable eventually.

Now I will head out to prepare my interview for tomorrow and to finish up some Astronomy and Human Sexuality homework. I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mid-End Term

This past week or so has been spent studying and finalizing plans for Fall 2011 and Summer 2011 courses - I will be taking one or two courses at a university in Maine to rectify the credit I lost while ill. Clark also offers summer courses, but I already have plans to be back at my home (hopefully with a summer job!), otherwise I would consider utilizing the Clark COPACE summer program.

This past Wednesday I had two tests, and upon completion (and after diligently running around campus trying to determine where to turn in my summer course approval form) I celebrated by wandering around in the sunny weather with a friend. We ended up walking through Estabrook, where she stopped to play piano in one of the open practice rooms, and I took some pictures out the window. This is from the second floor of Estabrook; off to the right you can see just a bit of Wright Hall, one of the first-year dorms.

After some piano we wandered towards the Academic Commons in the Library, stopping to purchase something called Mocha Blasts (or explosions? or something else that sounds equally somewhat dramatic and destructive, yet delicious) from Jazzman's cafe. Finally, we ended our parade through campus at the Clark University Thrift Store where I purchased an old Spree Day t-shirt and an old evacuation plan map.

My friend Meghan is currently taking a photography course at Clark, so as we wandered a bit around Worcester Meghan took pictures, and I took pictures of Meghan taking pictures.

Because I've recently gone through "second mid-term" exams (or mid-end term, more appropriately named), I don't have too much to report from classes. Tonight I will be completing my third observation for Astronomy; they are broken up into two week periods so that the student has one week to watch the assigned film for that period, and the other week to do the actual observation outside. I watched the film last week, which was excellent, if only because it was narrated by Alec Baldwin. The assignment for this observation looks a bit daunting, but I am comforted knowing that I have a lab buddy and helpful TAs to utilize.

Plans are being made to conduct the qualitative psych. interview project soon - it has been somewhat difficult to coordinate an appropriate time for all group members, but it appears that they will be completed by next week. During the interview we will be broken up into pairs and one student will conduct the interview while the other sets up/tests the recording equipment, and then takes notes on everything; how it's going, what the participant is saying, what the interviewer is saying. Following this, a new participant will be brought in and the students' roles will switch.

I am feeling quite nervous about the interview, if only because I have no idea how compliant my participant will be and how I'll do with steering the conversation to an appropriate place (the purpose is to gather life stories, one of which will be focused on more in-depth later in the course). However, as the professor has said a few times in regards to the project: it's not about what you do right or wrong, it's about learning.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview Project Initiated

This past Thursday in Qualitative Methods in Psychology we made the first real step in our interview project! Our PLA (Peer Learning Assistant)-led groups were matched with other PLA-led groups of the same size, and then each student choose another to practice interviewing with. I interviewed a friend named Mira, and I asked her questions about her family traditions/holidays (as this was the previously chosen topic by my PLA group). The interview went relatively smoothly, though I felt somewhat unprepared in regards to which questions were appropriate to ask my interviewee in order to elicit stories and answers. I am grateful for this practice, because I realize now that it will be very difficult to only rely on follow-up questions to keep the conversation moving; prepared questions will be necessary to guide the interviewee, as well as help me maintain my role as interviewer by focusing the interview (this practice was supposed to serve as preparatory measures for the final aspect of our interview project, the interview with the elderly). It certainly gave me an idea of what to expect, as well as lending me more comfort with the overall process.

After the ten minutes or so in which I interviewed Mira, she then interviewed me. Despite my discomfort with speaking openly to others, I actually rather enjoyed this portion; she asked me questions related to my first job experience, in particular my experience with those I worked with (co-workers) and those I worked for (the residents of the retirement home in which I worked). Overall the interview went smoothly, it was easier than I would have anticipated to regale anecdotes after only few prompting questions. However, at a couple points she repeated incorrect information back to me, just as I was guilty of doing with her. Despite that our mistakes were likely just slips of the tongue, in the "real" interview (with the elderly) this could be interpreted as not listening properly. Thus, I will be careful to listen closely to my interviewee and rephrase his/her words delicately.

The next couple of days will be spent looking over summer courses (I am behind one credit due to my bout with mononucleosis & will reconcile this over the summer) and deciding on Fall 2011 courses. It seems likely that I will be finishing all of my requirements excluding capstones for both Jewish Studies and Psychology by the end of Fall 2011, completing my final year at Clark with my two capstones in Spring 2012. Although Clark assures its students that deciding on a major is not necessary until the end of Sophomore year, I gently urge future and current students to at least get a head-start on the perspective major/minor requirements sooner rather than later. I was unsure of my desire to pursue psychology for quite a while, and thus I held off on some of its requirements. Despite that I took my time meandering through the other departments, taking a smattering of different courses, I will finish all of my requirements on time. So it is very possible to take one's time and experience many difference aspects of Clark - I do encourage this. However, it is significant to remember that there is limited time to complete requirements, and even just having a basic idea of what's required will ease additional stress and allow for smoother transitions if minds are changed.