Academia, Reflection


Tuesday, May 7, 2019

I truly believe that everything has a reason to be.

It is hard to understand at the moment, but the outcome has learnings.

Today, I have a meeting with the Faculty of my department to check on my advances.

My work and not work of the last months gave us the opportunity to talk about what is good and how to overcome weak points.

It was not, however, not the work undone the focus on attention.

Somehow, I have narrow down my research prospectus in order than some of them can believe that it is feasible to overcome this battle. Many of them think that I am working in the right direction, but that is not the point here of my analysis. The results will speak themselves about my research.

I approached the meeting, from the beginning, completely open to acknowledge my weaknesses, completely open to criticism.

In difference with other times, where I had been much more defensive in the topic, I have taking the time to analyze deeply on my daily routine, on why I am doing this, on my goals.

As I anticipated, it was the first time that I presented the topic as my own.

I also presented what I do not know. I shared what I have struggled with.

My goal was not at all to receive pity of anyone. That is not a way of life. What I was doing is acknowledging my responsibilities and explaining where I am, and what I have not achieved.

I received excellent support on what to do. Even, I receive routines advices from the faculty.

Beyond that, I really feel that I am walking with the support not only from my committee, but from the department itself.

How to gain support. Don’t fear weaknesses. Don’t fear failure. Just show the person you are, and yes be prepared to seize the moment.

Academia, Personal Blog

My Think Tank Blog Plan from November 2018 until January 2019. Qualification Exams

Berkeley, Tuesday, October 30, 2018 6:30 PM

Dear followers and readers.

Thanks for have been checking this blog in a frequent basis, by either liking posts, or following or subscribed to it to get notifications when I post, or the most brave, who is mainly a sentimental connected person, Jian, by commenting, or by just checking by curiosity to learn who I am, and what I have written.

I learned an interested comment from Prof. Arpad Horvath, who is a prolific and efficient reviewer, in a class in Fall 2017: “I get to know you by what you write”.

You might have noticed that I have decreased my posting frequency and you might realized that I have been posting reading summaries, and not to much about my daily adventures, learnings, shortcomings, anymore.

The reasons are that partially, I already analyze them in an oral discussion with my girlfriend, Jian, and the ‘easy’ reason, is lack of time for blogging.

I am living a key point in my path towards the doctoral degree, which is the qualification exams. The qualification exams is the gate in the American Universities to allow you to continue moving forward to a stage, where the main focus is finishing your dissertation. Passing the qualification exams means that you have the knowledge, skills, creativity and tools for completing the dissertation at your department. The contrast outcome is to stop you to make adjustments in your preparation with an option of retaking it, and third outcome is to ask you to stop and leave the the program. Thus, those are the three possible outcomes: (i) pass, (ii) no pass but with retake option, or (iii) not pass with not option for retaking.

My qualification exams have four sections, three from my department, which is Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, and one section from an additional degree that I am taking, which is Designated Emphasis in Global Metropolitan Studies. The sections for my exam are the following:

  1. History and Theories Underlying the Field of Environmental Planning, with Particular Emphasis on Watershed and Energy Planning.
  2. Research Methods.
  3. Inside Field: Sediment Management and Sediment Connectivity for Hydropower Planning at the Watershed Scale, and Spatial Analysis for Energy Planning.
  4. Global Metropolitan Studies

My timeline is the following has the following deadlines:

  • Nov 2, 2018. Essays of literature review are due
  • Nov 9, 2018 I start the written exam
  • Nov 30, 2018 Written papers are due
  • Dec 14, 2018 Oral examination.

The oral examination has a format of 3:30 hours, where I meet with the committee to test my knowledge, but not necessarily my opinion.

After 30 minutes of the oral examination, I will be informed about the results.

If the exam goes well. The next step in the process to advance to candidacy is to to finish and file my research prospectus. I will focus on finish that work from December 15 and January 7.

An expected deadline to complete all the process for my advance in candidacy is January 11, 2019.

I want to inform you that I still will post in this blog about my life, thoughts, exam progress or readings to keep you updated, but the posting frequency will decrease until mid-January.

My motivation to writing, instead of saying I will be in silence, which actually was my first idea to say when I started this notification post, is that this writing produce clear thinking. Thus, it is a productive break and keep on track.

My journey to the advancement in candidacy has started!

Academia, Teaching

How was the talk today? Oh, where did the audience go?

Berkeley, Wednesday, October 3, 2018 3:30 PM

Know your audience, but how, when invited?

I run a colloquium of series of Lectures in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning.

I receive speakers every week.

Some of them has spoken to a filled classroom, which capacity is 25 students.

Some others, like today, Rafa, started with 20 attends, and the audience had to leave early remaining half of the audience by the end of his presentation.

What are the key components for engaging the audience?

There are four to ten researcher in the world working in the topic that Rafa works: sediment management and dam developing at the watershed scale. I also work in the same topic, that is why I brought Rafa to speak today.

He did a fantastic job, his talk was crystal clear to me. As a moderator I introduced him to the audience, and by the end of the lecture, I started the debate. I came up with two questions, for analysis beyond his work, about the how stakeholders are willing to listening his results. What have been the actual impacts in the Mekong Basin?

Rafa developed an unique model for approaching these problems at the watershed scale.

I understand that is not easy to digest all this material when first exposed, but he break up in clearly and nice pieces.

We just evidence a prominent world class researcher approaching a problem that is ready for public policies specialist to take over.

Is the person or is the topic who attracts the audience?

In many ways seems that is the person. Rafa has a bright future, he just finished his PhD two years ago.

I am grateful to Rafa for making his trip to Berkeley.

There are several learnings:

  1. Stay active writing. Rafa has published already more than 10 peer-review articles, including one in Nature Sustainability.

I have another, but I will share when the time comes. I am no one to teach Rafa.

I assume my failures, as I posted late the weekly assignment, and send the talk announcement about 42 hours in advance.

I have found effective, though, to send the announcement on the Monday, about 52 hours in advance from the talk, as it is a weekly announcement, and I do not want to send more than one email per week. Many are already receiving an email from me every week.

Next week, I will take the challenge to lead the group to process, analyze, reflect, critic, argue, from the seven talks and reading already given.

Important value in academia and public speaking is that you get immediate feedback just by reading eyes and faces.

No one needs to be liked, academia and public speaking is about speaking truths. However, I believe the key aspect is active minds, and make other think. All of us can think, if I can activate and stimulate the audience to throw those thoughts to me, then it is a success.

I should ask for feedback not only for the speakers but also for my role as moderator and organizer. I should be able to construct those links, when do not happen naturally.