New Challenges, New Concepts


I took this photo after class one evening.

Now that the semester is over, I can figuratively catch my breath and reflect upon the past 15 weeks. It was a tough semester; working full time and taking PhD classes at night is hard. Yet, the past term was particularly difficult because I began to take care of 77 year old cancer stricken father. As if having cancer were not enough, in July he fell and suffered a traumatic brain injury. As a result of the fall he was forced to endure 4 brain surgeries as doctors fought to save his life and restore his health. My family members and I were afraid we were going to lose him, but remarkably he fought back and survived.

Dad currently lives in a senior citizens housing complex, and during the semester I tended to him three times a day. Before work I went over to feed him breakfast, at lunch time I went over again to make him lunch. In the evening I prepared dinner for him, gave him his meds and made sure everything was in place for the next day.  I wanted to look into Meals on Wheels and other forms of assistance, but I really didn’t have much time to look into such programs. However, now that the semester is over I will do my best to see what is out there.

Despite the challenges I faced, I was able to do well in my courses. Last semester I took Into to Qualitative Research. Like all courses there were chapters to be read and papers to be written. However, unlike my previous coursework this was largely an online class. Initially, I struggled to keep up with the discussion board posts. I simply wasn’t used to the class format. Yet, early on the professor introduced me to a genre of qualitative research called phenomenology. Broadly speaking this term refers to the “study of the lived experiences of people.” I began to learn as much as a could about phenomenology. How and when do scholars use this framework? How do they collect data? Which journals support this approach? I became enthralled with this form of qualitative research.

In addition to Into to Qualitative Research, I also took Intro to Statistics. Now that was a hard course! About 10 years ago I took a similar course when I was working on my Master of Social Work degree. But this course was much more intense in part because it covered roughly twice the amount of information. Fortunately, the professor taught the course in such a way that I was able to grasp the material. We looked at data from educational dissertations and learned how data can be used to predict things (e.g. a student’s first semester GPA). Additionally, we learned how, by using Pearson’s correlations, we can determine if there is a relationship between a student’s socioeconomic status and his or her academic performance.

There were times when I walked into my Stats class and I just felt like I was about to lose it. I was worried about my father, concerned about obligations at work, and stressed out over the financial burdens of being a student. But after class got started I found a way to relax, my problems went away when I was learning something new, and sitting in Stats became the most peaceful part of my week.


7 responses to “New Challenges, New Concepts

  1. So sorry to hear about your father. I am a full time MSW/PhD student AND a single parent of teenage daughters. I also took qualitative research this semester and took a real liking to it. I am right brained so it makes a lot of sense to me. Are you in a social work Phd program? Yonason (my blog is ) not nearly as polished as yours 🙂

    • Qualitative research is great! I like ethnographies. I have my MSW but right now I am working on my PhD in Urban Education. I took a look at your blog – cool! You are taking classes full time? What are your research interests?

      • Thanks. Yes full time 5 classes in the Spring. Not sure yet what my research interests are. I am drawn to Trauma work or maybe different creative interventions but I am planning to do a bunch of lit reviews on topics I like to stimulate ideas. Do u have a dissertation topic yet? How do you get your blog on the freshly pressed list :-)….?

      • I did that before, took 5 classes while I was working full time. It was a bad experience. I won’t do that again. How does it work for you? You are a PhD student and then they through in your MSW while you are half way finished? As for me it looks like urban black males and academic achievement. That could of course change. I think I got on the freshly pressed page by hitting the “Press This” button. I am not sure though.

      • Yes last spring I took 5 classes. I swore (kind of 🙂 ) that i would never do that again. But for my 2nd year of my Msw i joined a joint msw/phd program. I take all phd classes this year except my practice class and they give me msw credit for it so in may i will have both msw and 1 year phd and unfortunatrly this is the roadmap. It was horrible but G-d definitely helped me through! I still got all A’s.

      • Thats interesting. When u right on such a topic is it to take those who were successful and get to the essence of what they did as in phenomenology or is it simply to report on the statistics etc. ?

      • Sorry for the delay. The semester has started and things are crazy already! Right now I want to conduct research on what the students did or the factors that contributed to their success. I want to better understand the phenomenon that took place.

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