DailyAfirmation (dailyafirmation) wrote,

Meeting with an ENG675 stakeholder, assessing Lynne Cooke, a proposal scrubbing, and tying one on...

It's My Turn to Follow Her Today

Girl #1: Hey, remember that time you got laser hair removal for your lip?

Girl #2: Stacy! Stop talking, there are people around!

Girl #1: Oh, right, as though you will ever see any of these people again.

Random Guy: Actually, I'm in her Computer Science class.

—A train

I was up at 9 this morning, handled some S-L mail, and created me a "local home page" for my initial browser page, because there was just a thread on a discussion forum I follow about how your browser loads faster if it's pointing to a local file instead of to something on the Internet like wral.com, which is the page I used to open to.

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I made a few more tweaks to the prototype of my ENG 675 Web site, including some JavaScript to add rotating pictures to a couple of screens. Coolness.

After that, I worked on customizing my design document, in order to run it by Dr. Dicks today at my 4:30 meeting with him.

My meeting with Stan went well, he was excited about the work of his that this portal is going to automate, and he closed with me on the format of my deliverable—the design document. Now to meet with David on it.

Tonight's social hour at Mitch's with Dr. Lynne Cooke was the last with the three candidates vying for a position opening in the English department.

Dr. Lynne Cooke: One Student’s Impressions
by John Martin, MS in Technical Communications Program

Research Presentation Comments

I found Dr. Cooke’s research interesting, but not overly compelling. I mean, she’s pretty much finding exactly what you’d expect. There was somewhat of a “So what?” aspect to it. With that said, however, I do think she has a passion for that work, and I like these two things about her: 1) she has several, what seem like viable, additional avenues in which she’s interested in pursuing for future research, and 2) she seems very open to new ideas, and seems to work harder at seeing how they might fit into her research rather than how they might not.

She seemed to me, of the three candidates, to be the least comfortable taking questions from the group, though I thought she handled them well overall. I’m curious as to whether she’s an introvert—in the Myers-Briggs sense—in that they process information in their heads before answering, while extroverts—again, in the Myers-Briggs definition—think aloud while they’re answering. All that is to say, that I accept the possibility that my “perceived awkwardness” at her answering the questions might all be stemming from that.

I had to get used to her communication style in general a little—her humor is often deadpan, which I really like, but it’s one of those things that you’re not quite sure how to take until you get to know her a little, with which the Yuengling and the Hop Stout helped on Monday night when I first met her. J

Social Hour Comments

At the social hour at Mitch’s, she started off the gathering, by asking us some questions. The “us” at this gathering consisted of 3 PhD students and three MS students.

(Aside: I didn’t state this in previous feedback, but I believe Brent’s gathering had more MS students, and Loel’s gathering I know, had way more PhD students than MS students.)

She asked us:
  • To each tell her if we were full- or part-time students; if working, where; where we were in the program; and any topical area that we might be concentrating in.
  • What do you like and dislike about the program?
  • What do you see missing from the program, if anything?
These questions brought about a lot of discussion, with a serendipitous discussion between the students in the process of everyone responding. Some comments included:
  • This program (referring to the PhD program) has been absolutely wonderful for me. It’s the most supportive environment one could be in. The faculty want this program to succeed and you can feel that. “Well, it’s not like they’re running around saying, ‘Is there anything I can do for you,’ but if you ask for something, they are more than willing, and often go out of their way, to help you with it.”
  • There is a feeling of camaraderie (again in the PhD program) between the students as well, and the Colloquium is a great way for all of us to be together once a week.
  • There really is a breadth of opportunity in terms of taking elective courses outside of ENG or COM, and that’s a good thing. Everyone agreed that this was the case in both the MS program as well as the PhD program.
  • We talked about one disadvantage of some courses outside of our colleges, and the undergrad course the MS program students are able to take, that being that many of them are offered only during the day. We all thought that sucked, but understood it, and were all grateful that the core courses are taught at night to accommodate those who are working while pursuing their degree programs.
A recurring response to the “What’s missing in the program,” question is in the area of tools education, and Lynne immediately articulated the dilemma about teaching tools—that there are so many of them, and a lot of them are very employer-dependent, they change so fast, and by the time faculty can learn enough of them to teach them, they’re close to being obsolete, or it’s just too time-consuming.

I was thinking while she was responding, and offered her this afterwards: “I’ve been thinking about this problem a lot, since it keeps coming up here, and it seems to me that something that might work would be to devise a course where the professor talks about the concepts of different tools, and the way in which the concepts are employed.

“It seems to me what the students are really wondering is, say, “If I go to IBM and they expect me to use FrameMaker, am I going to be able to be successful there?”

“And seeing something like a matrix, say with the tools down the side and the concepts they employ across the top, I can see, say, that just like HTML or XML, FrameMaker uses tags to “type” data.

“I mean, if I know that FrameMaker uses HTML-like tags, has a cut-and-paste function, has a find-replace function, has a TOC-generator, and “side-files,” then I can say, “Okay, I know what all of those things do, it’s just a matter of finding out what key-sequences you use or what menu choices to make to do them in that tool, and there’s that “side-file” thing that I don’t know about, so I may have a little learning curve there. But, overall, I feel comfortable that I can come up to speed pretty quickly on that tool and quickly be a productive contributor.”

Lynne said, “I think that’s a great idea, and an interesting way to approach teaching the subject of tools.”

Again, it was comments like these that made me feel like she was really interested in new ideas, and open to first seeing how they might be valuable instead of going right for what wouldn’t work about them.

I’m not one of the people who keep bringing up tools being missing from the program J, my recurring theme is about emerging genre. I’d like to see us do more work in the area of recognizing emerging genre. I believe this is only slightly touched on in ENG 519, at least that’s the only place I’ve encountered it in the program

My interest in this topic actually came from a course I took outside the ENG department where the professor wanted us to keep an “academic blog” during the course. “I want you to read the articles (some very lengthy) for class, and then summarize them in your blog. I want you to give the one or two main points of the reading, what you agree or disagree with in the article, and your reasoning for that agreement or disagree. And I want it to be no more than one paragraph.”

Okay, first of all, that’s going to be one long paragraph. But my issue was that the genre of a blog is to chunk the writing. Blog paragraphs (and some would argue online paragraphs that aren’t just electronic representations of printed paragraphs) generally contain no more than two sentences.

So you see my dilemma and frustration: I am being asked to use a medium and then go against its very nature. That doesn’t sit well with me as a technical communicator.

The main question I asked Lynne when she was done with her questions was:

I asked, by now, what’s probably become a tiring question, but I was determined to ask it of all three candidates, and once I did, Lynne did remark, “That’s a very good question.” J

I loved that she gave me a “three bullet-point response,” and as an aside before enumerating them, she told a little story about how on one paper in one of her classes, she allows her students to use only one bulleted list throughout the entire paper. :-)

Here is her one-ordered-list answer to my question, When you saw the ad for this job, what about it made you think, “Yes! That’s the place I want to work.”
  1. I know some of the faculty here from RPI, and I would love to work with them. I respect both Susan Katz’s and Jason Swarts’ work, and I would love to work with them. I’ve never worked with Carolyn Miller, but I have read some of her work and I admire her scholarship.
  2. I really like the fact that you have both a Master’s degree and a PhD program here. We don’t have a PhD program in North Texas, and it really appeals to me to be in an institution that has one.
  3. “It’s not in Texas.” [This was said with her deadpan delivery, which I’d begun to recognize and appreciate by then—perhaps due to the direct correlation to the amount of alcohol missing in both pitchers. ***You did want us to be honest here, right?*** :-)] She made sure no one took offense to this, and meant that she would like to live in a place where there are, for instance, some trees.

To answer the “suggested” questions:

Q: My impressions of Lynne as a teacher: In what ways would future students benefit from having classes with this person, both in terms of the content of courses he or she might teach and in terms of teaching style and strategies?

A: I think there is a lot of interest in usability in this area due to the type of businesses here, and I could see Dr. Cooke contributing toward bringing our usability lab from one that is recognized as “high tech” to one that is recognized as “connecting usability education and research with industry needs and practices.”

Q: My impressions of Lynne as a researcher: What contributions would he or she make to our graduate programs by directing student research and making connections to employers and other researchers?

A: With the number of people working for IBM and SAS in our program, I would imagine that it would be easy to get not only graduate students involved in new usability research, but to bring in businesses through those graduate students’ respective employers.

In conclusion, thank you for asking for, and considering, our input during the hiring process. I look forward to seeing the recommendation that the faculty come up with.

I met with Jason about my proposal. I showed him my prototype, and then we talked about his 8 feedback points on draft one of my proposal.

I met Joe at Two Guys for dinner, after which we went to Flex for $1.25 cocktails night. We played five or six games of pool, and then went over to CCs, where it was open mic night.

Two guys (not the same two whose place we ate dinner at) were on stage—one playing guitar and one singing, and we proceeded to carouse with Lenny (from the ride), who was the third member of the audience, and a fourth person, named Phillip who thought that the singer was his soul mate. The singer seemed to be totally unaware of his role in Phillip's universe, however.

Joe tied one on, and I ended up taking him to my place, where he spent the night sleeping fully dressed on the bed in my guest bedroom.
Tags: bar talk, grad school, service-learning

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