Tag Archives: Education

And Away We Go!

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She’s at it again, they’ll say! Will she ever settle down?

Yes, I am at it again. And no, other than the whole got married part, I doubt my incurable wanderlust will dissipate.

This summer, I will be heading to South Africa, as part of Rutgers University South Africa Initiative.

We will be meeting with universities, schools, community organizations, government officials, and change agents. How do schools and education more broadly lead to social change? In post-Apartheid Africa, I will learn more about how schools educate and communities transform through major social changes.

One of the things I am interested in is how social change, reconciliation, and forgiveness have and continue to shape a community marked by violence and racism. How have students help lead that change? What lessons or observations will I learn/make during my visit that will relate to some of the struggles we face in our own country?

We had our first of a handful of orientations last night where I met the other 8 or so participants–who are PhD students (like me), current teachers, masters students, or education and community leaders.

I hope you will join me in this journey by:

  • Reading the book Knowledge in the Blood: Confronting Race and the Apartheid Past by Jonathan D. Jansen and/or Social justice and transformative learning: Culture and identity in the United States & South Africa by Darren Clarke and Saundra Tomlinson-Clarke with me and sharing your insights
  • Following my blog
  • Suggesting other reading or giving me travel recommendations

Fair warning: True to my previous entries about my travels to India, Nepal, and Thailand, these posts (as demonstrated) will not be short entries. Sorry not sorry.

Why South Africa?

Listen to the Day of Affirmation speech Robert F. Kennedy gave at the University of Capetown during his 1966 trip–even just the first minute and 15 seconds is enlightening.

Solidarity, Sister

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Today, I went to one of the best panel I’ve ever attended (and definitely better than any I’ve planned/hosted/moderated). And, I have been to many panels in my day. This particular event was entitled White House Women in Foreign Policy, a part of the White House’s celebration of Women’s History month. Aside from the yearbook’s worth of photos I took of the East Wing, the even itself was just spectacular.

What about this event was so spectacular? Was it an audience of predominantly women listening to some of the most powerful women in foreign affairs? Was it all the cute professional clothes and shoes I now feel inspired (compelled) to go out and buy?

These were all wonderful accidents of the amazing substance. Hearing four accomplished women talking about their mid-20s was like having them read my mind. I ran into a friend from grad school in line for security and we ended up sitting next to each other. We kept glancing at each other with looks that said, this is down right creepy–it’s like they’re reading our minds.

These well-educated, poised women were up here talking about the fear and uncertainty of their 20s and onward–of their careers, of their families, of their first boss, and of their first jobs. What it’s like to be a minority in the field as a woman. They discussed work-life balance and whether or not it was realistic to “have it all.” Everything that has been on my mind–working abroad, working in government, working outside of government, careers, relationships, plans for a family, all of that were accounted for in the wonderful accounts these women gave of the ups and downs of their lives.

To say the least, it was encouraging. These women worried and planned. They got degrees and went through job searches. They had jobs and bosses they didn’t like. They got opportunities that changed their plans and careers. They sought out mentors. They worked their butts off. They failed. And they succeeded.

There is something immensely encouraging about knowing you’re not alone. And there is something immensely inspiring about knowing these women have trodden the path before me–that many of them blazed the trail. I find that there are few things more valuable in life than being an attentive listener to those that have walked before you and those that walk with you. There is a comfort in knowing that even if we don’t always know the answer, we’re not alone.

White House Women in Foreign Policy Panel

Linda Etim-Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa, USAID; Caitlin Hayden-Spokesperson, National Security Council, White House; Maria Otero-Under Secretary, Dept of State; Michele Flournoy-Under Secretary, Dept of Defense

“Live the life you have imagined.”

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Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.
Live the life you have imagined.
—Henry David Thoreau

Do you ever just “feel” a blog post coming on? Well I do. I actually have another post written—a story from last week. It’s a good one too, though it rambles a bit. I also have a collection of pictures from the impromptu photo shoot we had last week at the office. Ah, well…sometimes you just need to write. I don’t consider myself a “writer” or an “artist” by any means, but I do love to create—something new and totally my own.

Today I woke up and came to work, continuing typing up the report on my study. As I was typing, I realized a few things. First off, I care way more about layout than I should…I like aesthetics, so sue me. (I will not get off into a discussion of the Beautiful right now.) But more importantly, I am much better at asking questions than answering them. I also really only have some interest in the answer.

My report so far is full of far more questions and suggestions for future studies than actually analysis (I know…I’m working on it!!). I noticed at the museum here, I turned into that six year old—constantly asking my host, What about this? How did this come about? Why? (Who are we kidding? I WAS that six year old and probably never grew out of it. Thank you, Mom, for putting up with me.) But my interest lies in the possibilities of a problem or an issue, rather than implementing the concrete solution. Now if only I can find a job that requires me to be an ideas woman…

The quote which fixed itself into my brain this morning sometime between breakfast and morning tea time was the Thoreau quote above. Admission. I am part transcendentalist at heart. I know this quote is a perennial of every high school yearbook ad and commencement speech—every spring without fail, someone somewhere is looking out at bright, young, optimistic graduates spouting this call to action.

How is this relevant to India? Like a broken record, the second part of this phrase is spinning in my brain. Is this the life I have imagined? (There I go again with the questions…) I don’t think I would have in 1,000 years have imagined coming halfway across the world to India. I don’t think I would have dared to dream of India. And yet, going confidently, doggedly, in the direction of my dreams is something I’m well-practiced at (notice I didn’t say “always succeed at”, because I don’t!). I have dreamed of going to Nepal after a particularly awesome Tulsa Town Hall Lecture years ago…it was never a someday sort of dream, however. It was an I AM going to Nepal—even if it was qualified by an ambiguous “someday.” In 3 weeks, I am going to Nepal.

I think the point of this blog post is two-fold…first, I am constantly amazed at the opportunities I have. My Grandmother once told me, “Molly, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You are lucky.” I would like to think my indomitable spirit—and my ability to submit as many scholarship, grant, trip, graduate school, etc. applications as necessary (until someone says YES!)—has some to do with it. But I know every step of the way that I am blessed and that others have sacrificed so that I can have these opportunities (my mother and grandmother just to name a few!).

Second, I am in the middle of trying to figure out what to pursue upon completion of my master’s degree. And while I decided as a middle schooler that my dream was to travel the world and meet new people (and I am well on my way there)…I am faced with the question, what is the life that I imagine?

Nine years ago I read a quote from Ben Stein that haunts me to this very day. “The first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.”

Going confidently? Done. Living the life I’ve imagined? Damn, I wish I was better at answering questions.

Now back to get back to the study I’m conducting…