May 26, 2010 - 2:30 PM
Every morning I wake up around 7am and assess what I have ahead of me that day. Usually it's just a quick subconscious assessment, and then I go back to sleep immediately. However, this morning I came-to and realized: today is my thesis defense!
Eyes wide open, I sat up and reached for my notes and thesis to do some final review before my 10am defense. I ran through my presentation several times, ate breakfast, and dressed for success (I went with a business casual look). Ready for my defense, I trekked off towards PLC 448. I made sure to arrive early to give myself ample time to set up and get comfortable.
I walked up the four flights of stairs in PLC, walked down the hall to room 448 which has a placard reading "English Conference Room," and turned the knob. It was locked. Slightly perturbed but not too alarmed, I made my way back downstairs to the English office to retrieve the key and returned to the conference room. I got into the room and arranged the comfortable leather chairs to accommodate my committee and audience.
Before long, I heard my roommates Jamie and Jeff's voices in the hall and I invited them into the room. Their encouragement and joking helped keep me loose and calm my nerves. My other friends and roommates came in as well, and my committee (made up of Professors John Gage, Louise Bishop, and Nathan Tublitz) also filed in as the clock struck 10am. We almost always have warm, friendly relationships, but today my professors were all business. After some quick introductions, it was time for my presentation.
I presented my thesis, giving a thorough look at my analysis and plan for improving dialogue in University of Oregon classes. Following my presentation, my professors asked me questions about my thesis, focusing on precise points, asking for clarification and further detail in places where I was vague or they didn't completely agree. I felt like I fielded the questions well, and I was confident and effective in my presentation. As the hour came to a close, my committee kicked me and my friends out of the room, and they collaborated to decide my fate.
My friends and I stepped into the hall, and I took a deep breath. I thought the defense went well. My roommate Margo presented me with a t-shirt that she had stenciled with my own face on it (she was also wearing a t-shirt with my likeness on the front). I was very lucky to have my friends' support, and it made the experience that much easier to have their backing. We conversed in the hall, and before long my committee called me back into the room.
Professor Gage broke the news: "we're passing you with honors." My smile spread from ear to ear. I could hardly contain my happiness, and the stress that had been weighing on me was instantly lifted. I thanked my professors and made my way out of the conference room and joined my roommates to celebrate. It has finally hit home: I'm just about done!
May 23, 2010 - 9:41 PM
For the last few weeks I've done my best to avoid the Honors College. It stresses me out. Believe it or not, I've managed to stay fairly relaxed and not perturbed by my imminent thesis defense, graduation, job requirements, Teach For America training, and countless other necessities I must focus on before I leave Eugene. Every time I stop by the Honors College I am always confronted by friends, faculty members, or office staff that inquire about my thesis progress and hint at how busy and stressed I must be. Surprisingly, I haven't been stressed, but then I think that I should be stressed and start getting nostalgic over the fact that I have only two weeks left in Eugene. Thus, I do my best to not think about the onslaught of deadlines and changes ahead and take them as the come. It's getting harder, though.
Adding to places I try stay away from: I find myself not wanting to visit Facebook. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; the social networking site can easily consume time in a thoughtless, pointless manner. However, it does have it's merits in certain respects. Nonetheless, the acquaintances I've made through Teach For America that I'll be teaching with in Tulsa next year love to countdown and fret about the fact that we start working in two weeks, and they are nervous about getting the pre-work done, finding housing, moving, and teaching. I think to myself, "Great, just another set of issues I haven't had time to confront." In addition, this makes me angry more than anything because a lot of these individuals have already graduated and have time on their hands; I don't.
One thing I realize more and more is that I channel myself back to my friends to avoid stress and the countless obligations I have weighing on me. There's simply no possible way to handle everything at once, so I deal with one thing at a time and I don't panic. I understand how it's easy for people to get emotional and nostalgic about change, but it's just not my style. I can't dwell on my "last this, last that" or the huge laundry list of stuff I have to get accomplished. Though not consciously, I find myself spending as much of weeks in Eugene with my friends as possible, and I like to think that this is indicative of the fact that I'm a level-headed, rational person with my priorities in line.
Nonetheless, I sit in my room as I write this surrounded by half-empty moving boxes loaded with various personal belongings, a reminder that my time in Eugene is numbered. It's a pretty surreal feeling, and it's getting harder not to stress. I am lucky to have my friends to keep me level-headed, and it will be a huge relief to be done with my thesis in several short days. On top of that, I will be headed back to Phoenix on Wednesday for my sister's high school graduation. I need nothing more right now than some time at home, a little break from the action, and that huge monkey (called a thesis) off my back. 72 hours and counting. Until then, I'm just takin' it one thing at a time.
May 17, 2010 - 7:33 PM
I printed it tonight: 73 pages. My thesis, officially titled: "Better Talk: Analysis and approaches to improving dialogue in dialogue-centered classes at the University of Oregon" has been turned in. After months of research, writing, and crafting, the process is near closure. I made my way around campus attempting to slip my thesis under my advisors' office doors, but I quickly realized that 73 pages is much too thick to squeeze under a door. That fact made me both amused and satisfied.
Surprisingly, turning in my thesis did not give me as much joy and liberation as I anticipated. It is very nice to not have to worry about the stress with writing and meeting self-established deadlines to get the thing done, but I still feel like it is uncompleted until my committee reads it and I successfully defend it. Luckily, in nine short days I will hopefully be just about finished with the process (pending revisions and reformatting so it can be bound). Until then, I will reread my manuscript, figure out weaknesses in my argument, and create talking points to present and summarize my argument. On top of that, I may even bake some cookies for my committee and audience.
On the up side, I don't feel that nervous about my defense. I feel like I am an expert in the subject after the amount of reading and research I have conducted, and I believe that I have assembled a compelling argument and piece of work. I know that my professors are going to do a fantastic job of grilling me, but I look forward to the challenge of dueling with some of the most brilliant minds on campus (my committee consists of the University Senate President, the Director of the Center for Teaching writing, and the Associate Dean of the Honors College) and thinking on my feet. It will surely be difficult, but I relish the opportunity.
Though I am still antsy about completing the project, I am proud of my work thus far. I have never put this much time and effort into an intellectual endeavor, and my progress reflects some of the strongest thinking and writing that I've done-- as it should. In retrospect, I am very glad that a thesis is an Honors College requirement because it is an exercise that requires intensive self-disciplined time, research, and thinking-- skills that will serve me well in whatever field I end up in. Do I want to do it again anytime soon? No way, but watching page after page stream out of the recalcitrant Honors College printer made me feel relieved that I'm another milestone closer to completion. I cannot wait for my defense on May 26th; I'll keep you posted as to how it goes.
May 15, 2010 - 9:23 PM
We're pushing the bounds of this blog once again by entering into the realm of [self proclaimed] culinary excellence. The weather's getting nicer and with that it's time to fire up the grill. My friends and I were kicking around Saturday Market this afternoon, eating some tacos and contemplating our next meal, when I turned my head behind us to see a woman about to bite into a personal pizza from the Ninkasi tent. Thus, our dinner plan was hatched.
I quickly got my friends Jeff, Aaron, and Melissa on board with the dinner idea, and we compiled a mental ingredient list, grabbed a bundle of fresh basil from one of the farm's booths, and made our way out of the market. Our next stop was Trader Joe's where we picked up dough, cheese, and peanut sauce. We stopped by Melissa's house as well to pick some fresh cilantro from her garden, and we were ready to cook.
When it's sunny, it's simply understood at our house that grilling must take place. Luckily for us, the pizza idea was a terrific grilling option, and it was the first opportunity we've had to make grilled pizza since last summer. Pizza in the oven is good, but the flavor and crispy, semi-charred crust of grilled pizza is absolutely unparalleled. As the cursory ingredient list above may suggest, we settled on three different pizzas: a Thai chicken pizza, a barbeque chicken pizza, and a margarita pizza (with feta and sun dried tomatoes).
Jeff cooked the chicken while I chopped vegetables and spread the dough. For our first pizza we used Trader Joe's Garlic and Herb pizza dough (I highly recommend Trader Joe's pizza dough if you haven't tried it already-- it's inexpensive, easy, and very tasty) and baked it in the oven for about seven minutes to get it firm enough to put on the grill. We then brushed it with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkled it with a variety of cheeses (mozzarella, asiago, Parmesan, feta, and provolone), and topped it with fresh tomatoes, basil, and sun dried tomatoes. We then threw the pizzas on the grill to cook while we assembled our other two pies.
For the other two pizzas, we got a little more creative by assembling a barbeque chicken pizza and a Thai chicken pizza. For the barbeque pizza, we spread barbeque sauce on a whole wheat crust and then topped it with cheese, red onion, chicken, and cilantro. For the Thai chicken pizza, we used a peanut sauce from Trader Joe's and topped it with mozzarella cheese, green onion, red onion, carrots, chicken, and basil.
The food turned out marvelously, and we enjoyed the pizza paired with our home brewed Marathon Blonde Ale (a blonde ale with Cascade Hops and a hint of grapefruit-- perfect for spring time). We sat out on the deck listening to the sweet sounds of Fleetwood Mac and birds chirping as the sun set. The meal encompassed all that I love about spring in Eugene: fresh ingredients either self-produced or bought locally, Saturday Market, beautiful weather, grilling, and hanging with friends. I couldn't ask for a better spring day in Eugene.
May 15, 2010 - 1:22 PM
"...This may be your only chance to compete on Hayward Field," my running instructor Joe Henderson explained. Up until that point I hadn't been paying attention to what he was saying, but his appeal caught my attention: a chance to run at Hayward?
After he got done addressing the class I inquired about the track meet, and Joe explained that there was an intramural track meet that would be held Friday afternoon. I hadn't run in a track meet since high school, but I figured it was a good opportunity to see how (un)fit I am and actually compete on the legendary track at Hayward Field.
Friday afternoon rolled around, and I headed over to Hayward with my girlfriend Melissa who I obligingly talked into going with me. I signed up for both the 800m and 1500m runs. I had 30 minutes before my races, so I was able to watch the others compete. There was actually some really good talent: the winner of the 100m ran a 10.85 (only .03 seconds slower than running back Kenjon Barner on the football team) and the distance runners posted some quick times in the 3,000.
At long last, the 800 was called and I made my way to the start line. Joe blew the whistle and we were off. Everyone jostled for position and I was cleated in the calf, but I fought my way to the front of the pack. I am usually uncomfortable setting the pace, but no one else was willing so I lead the entire first lap. However, as I started the second and final lap, a guy breathing down my neck passed me and I tried to hang with him for the next two hundred meters. I was gassed at that point, but I started my kick with 200m to go, unable to catch him, but finished in second place with a time of 2:27. It was about 20 seconds slower than I ran in high school, but it was still fun to compete.
I ran the 1,500m next with only a 2 minute break (the only race in between the 800m and the 1,500m was the 4x100m). I had no energy left, but it felt like four victory laps. I'm glad I participated; some took the event too seriously, but it was fun nonetheless. I got a good workout and the opportunity to run on Hayward, so I'm happy. Plus, there were workers adding a fresh coat of paint to the Hayward bleachers while we ran, a reminder that the NCAA Track and Field Championships are fast approaching. I bought tickets for the Championships yesterday morning, so I am excited that the next time I step foot in Hayward will be to watch some real competition. I strongly recommend you do the same; visit http://www.goducks.com/ to get your tickets now.