Monday, March 31, 2008

End of Semester Craziness

So it's here...the end of the semester scramble. No matter how much work you do during the rest of the semester, the last 4-6 weeks are usually the most stressful. Everyone keeps asking whether or not we will make it through and we always do, but we can't help but asking.

Funny story related to the end of semester [might help some of the seniors nearing (or surpassing) their breaking point]. I almost walked away from my undergrad program in the last week because of my senior seminar (a campaigns course). I pretty much had a nervous breakdown and was ready to just quit. However, I had great teammates and friends who managed to convince me that I would make it through. We did and gave an awesome presentation and the on campus health center (our client) loved our ideas.

No matter how low it gets or how much work you have, think about how far you've come and the many accomplishments you have in your four (five, six, etc) years. This time of year is always the hardest, but remember it's also the best. Take time out to enjoy the few moments you have left in college.

Keep in mind: “Life's a journey, not a destination” -Steven Tyler

What's left for me to do/finish this semester:
2 conferences papers to tomorrow?!
Critical Analysis in quantitative methods & presentation
Multivariate Analysis final project & presentation
4 critical-cultural-historical (CCH) short papers
Final project in public opinion - coding of articles, analysis of polling data, finish writing, etc - & presentation
3 final exams - CCH, quantitative methods, & public opinion (only semester since I was a sophomore in undergrad that I've had 3 finals)

End of 1st year of doctoral program: 30 days
ECA: 31 days
Week in the Keys on a sailboat: 33 days (my inspiration)
Peachtree Road Race (my 1st 10K): 96 days
CONNECT 08: 207 days

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fun with the Flip cam

Dr. S takes her Flip camera everywhere...even into research meetings. It definitely lightens the mood, but of course I'm looking like I haven't showered (for the record I did, just wanted to wear a hat).

Getting back to the point, the video is a brief description of what we're working on and a little about research in general. Enjoy!

What Does Easter Mean to You?

Note: This post is about something personal that I wish to share. It's not about politics, technology or education. It is about communication...spiritual communication.

It's funny to think about what major holidays mean to you and why we celebrate them. I've gone through various phases in my life and dealt with the holidays and celebrations in many ways.

As a kid, Easter meant a big basket full of chocolate eggs, jelly beans and various little toys; an Easter egg hunt at Grandmom's; dying hard-boiled eggs; and being forced to wear a floral dress. All of these activities were traditions, but I never really understood the holiday until I was much older.

Throughout my teenage years, I struggled with my religious and spiritual beliefs. I spent a lot of time exploring the meaning surrounding the various holidays. During this time, I focused on the resurrection of Christ and what that meant during Easter.

College saw my beliefs fade into the background as other priorities took over. I went through the motions during my undergraduate years with the holidays and fell into a commercial celebration of them.

When I reached Virginia Tech, I began again to explore my beliefs and started my path back to a more spiritual being. The past two years I've spent more time on reflecting on the meaning of the holy period of Lent, giving myself a challenge and spending more time repenting for my sins. I also focused on the rebirth aspect of Easter, allowing for the creation of a new 'me' through the Lenten process.

This year was an interesting Lent due to where I am in my life. The past year has been rote with struggle and I've been forced to adapt to the changing tides. As the 40 days passed this year, I allowed myself to meditate and carefully consider where I had been and where I wanted to go. Yesterday all of that came to fruition when I attended service with Sue and Connie at Sue's church.

One of my most productive times spiritually is not productive in other ways. This aspect of my 'spiritual maintenance' always frustrates me because I always use my time very carefully. With that said, I gave myself to 'the spirit' once I got to the church. No matter what was bothering me that morning. It didn't matter how my outfit looked or that I was having a bad hair day, it was no longer about was about the connection. Giving up control in a particular situation is a difficult task for people who want things a certain way. However, there are times in your life when you have to consider whether having control is really important.

As I sat in church for yesterday's Easter service, I got lost within my spiritual connection. I sat there listening to the messages, singing along with the hymns and praying. There were tears and laughter, but most importantly, a rebirth of my being. It's hard to describe in words, but it gave me a new perspective and I hope I can hold onto that as I open a new chapter of my life. And that is what Easter means to me. Thank you for listening.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring Break Recap - New Friends, New Experiences, Great Paddling

Back from South Carolina...

First of all, this trip was definitely one of the best I've ever taken. That's not an was perfect. We had great weather, great paddling, funny stories, lots of new memories, and most importantly, a clearer mind.

The first day we met at the UGA's Ramsey Center to load up the kayaks and van to set off. It was snowing...yes in Georgia, as we left for Spring Break. We all thought this was quite amusing. We got on the road and headed to Charleston. The first night we stayed at the KOA campground. We learned how to pack the kayaks and found that it was not as difficult as we had imagined.

The next day we got set for our first launch at Gadsdenville. While we waited for the car switch, we learned basic paddling strokes and various other important pieces of information about the trip. After I stopped fighting my kayak, we all got on our way. It was about 2.5 miles to Capers Island where we set up camp for two nights. After getting camp set up and eating, Sue and I decided to explore the island a little and walked up the beach for a few miles.

The next day we were allowed to sleep in...which felt awesome. I kept waking up thinking, "oh I should get up" and then I realized I had no real I rolled over and fell asleep again. Finally, we all rolled out and get ourselves together to explore the island's marshes in the boats. We went through until we ran out of water. Then, we headed towards the open ocean, where some people decided to go surfing...Sue and I stayed back and just floated around a bit, enjoying the scenery and watching everyone else. After we came in from that, we went for another hike. This time into the island where we discovered the alligators. That night we ended our stay at Capers with a nice bonfire.

Tuesday was by far the toughest day of kayaking. We went over 7 miles the whole day through a lot of territory. We did take a couple of breaks, but I was a little cranky by the end. Sue can attest to my cranky mood. The only injury for me occurred as we got out of our boats after the 7 mile journey. I didn't balance myself well getting out on the boat dock and proceeded to slip and smack my rear and back on the dock. It didn't hurt right away but let me tell you the next morning I thought a Sumo wrestler had slept on me. There was also quite a bruise.

After we loaded the boats, we headed back to the KOA to get a shower...which felt awesome after 3 days without one. That night we tasted real food (as compared to the freeze dried, ramen noodles & power bars we had been eating). We went to a restaurant called The Wreck. Now, it doesn't look like a place you should be eating from the outside...or really from the inside either, but they had great seafood, friendly waitstaff, and quite honestly nothing beats a plate full of perfectly friend seafood and a cold beer after a long day. After our feast at The Wreck, we headed into downtown Charleston, where we proceed to take a driving tour (looking for a parking spot) and then get rained on. So, what did we do...went for Starbucks. Seriously...everyone was going their separate ways, but we all ended up there. After the rain let up, Sue and I walked around a bit. I would really like to visit Charleston again, it looks like a great city.

Our final day was another early one, but we had IHOP for breakfast. Let me tell you...there's nothing like having green eggs and ham with Whoo cakes to get your day started. We then put in at Remie Point, cruised around the Harbor, under the Cooper River Bridge, past a aircraft carrier and Coast Guard ship. We also stopped on a little island that served as a bird sanctuary, passing by some shrimp boats (I could not resist acting out the scene from Forrest Gump...boiled shrimp, broiled shrimp, fried shrimp...hehe), before getting out at Shem Creek. We then grabbed some lunch at the marina before heading back to Georgia.

During the journey home, we played a rousing game of mobile Who Wants to be a Millionaire that ended in some disappointment. Needless to say, we could only get to the $500,000 level. When we got back, we unloaded the boats into the Ramsey Center and headed home exhausted. I slept very soundly the next few nights.

The experience taught me a lot about myself and my abilities as well as allowed me to completely let myself relax and enjoy the world around me. These times truly give me the perspective I need to keep doing what I'm doing. I felt a lot of clarity and gained a new sense of myself out there on the water. I can only hope that I can hold onto that for awhile. At least until the end of this semester.

Some pictures:

Setting up camp the first night

Our Capers Island campsite

Preparing to launch

Awesome shot of me edging

How you doin?

Good Morning Kayaks!

"Googly Eyes"

More pictures:
My Flickr
Dr. Cramer - one of our guides
Sue's blog

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Making it to Spring Break

Well, I've been quite neglectful with the blog this week trying to get through this last week before a much-needed Spring Break. I've been quite busy since the weekend's crazy pace of technology. In addition to the normal hundreds of pages of reading, writing my weekly paper, etc...I started my first experiment on YouTube this week. I was thrilled today to get into the study groups and start seeing what the young people are going to say about the videos, their political views, etc. Research can definitely be a rush...yes, I am a geek.

Over Spring Break, in addition to getting a start on my final projects and various other work, I'm going to take 5 days to go kayaking in South Carolina. Tonight starts that process when I go to the campus pool and learn how to roll, self-rescue and generally not panic in crazy conditions that we may encounter on our trip. Though I've been kayaking several times, this is really the first several day trip and only the second time I've done sea kayaking (the first time did not go well). So, Sue and I will be heading out Saturday morning and getting back on Wednesday night of next week. We have to have 3 days worth of food and water with us and we will be taking all of our gear with us as we cruise around the waters off of South Carolina. We have dubbed it "Survivor South Carolina." Here's the schedule:

So wish me luck on my little adventure and I will be sure to let everyone know how it was when I return...if I do (just kidding).

Some interesting links from my weekly reading of blogs, websites and various other web surfing:

Monday, March 3, 2008

Follow-up on the EDB

I spent way too much time yesterday attempting to format the picture post for the EDB. Now, I'd like to write a more comprehensive report of my experience. First of all, the Campaigns team (under the direction of Connie & Dr. Sweetser) and Edelman did a great job putting a fantastic job putting this together is 43 days. Also, the Word of Mouth class (under the direction of Sue & Dr. Russell) did a wonderful job at covering it.

In an effort to spend less time explaining the whole event, here's some information on the format and background.

I participated in the educator's track along with professors and instructors from UGA, University of West Florida, Clemson, Georgia Southern and Auburn. We had a great group and we covered a lot of ground in discussing the various forms of social media available, how to incorporate it in the classroom as well as specific lesson plans to implement within our curriculum.

Phil Gomes discussed his work with intense social media training that he runs out of Edelman's Chicago office. We discussed the various aspects and uses for many social media formats. Emphasis was placed on incorporating the instruction within the curriculum because students will be expected to know it when they go into their entry-level positions. Gomes also shared what he looks for in new we can take that back to the students.

Robert French, Karen Russell, Mihaela Vorvoreanu, and Kaye Sweetser also went through several specific assignments, how they've used them, what worked (and didn't) as well as how to grade them. This portion was probably the most beneficial because it provided very specific assignment sheets with examples. These were included in the booklet given out to all educators who attended as well, making it easy to adapt them.

One thing I wish we had had more time for was talking with students about what they learned from their workshops. I spoke to a couple of students about what they were doing, but I would have liked to see their suggestions. Just from what I heard from the few I spoke to, they were very creative.

By the end of the day, I think there were countless ah-ha moments, lots of new relationships started and a lot of comfort zone expansion. The Edelman folks were a great group of people who provided not only great information, but were also a blast to hang out with after the event :)

Here are some of the attendees share their thoughts:

Robert French of Auburn

Dr. Mihaela Vorvoreanu of Clemson

Brett Pohlman of Auburn

William Wickey of UGA

Dr. Kaye Sweetser of UGA

Barbara Nixon for Georgia Southern

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Pics from the EDB (Sorry about the formatting)

Here are a few select pictures from yesterday's Edelman Digital Bootcamp (EDB). There are many more pictures available at the EDB Flickr account.

The educators were hanging on every word and tweeting the highlights.

Professional & academic educators interact (L-Phil Gomes of Edleman, R-Robert French of Auburn)

We learned from the Ninja...oh and Phil Gomes of Edelman

Ruthann Lariscy (UGA), Eileen Perrigo (UofWestFl), & Bryan Reber (UGA) learning how to teach social media in the classroom.

The students worked hard on their of my students, Diem (forefront) works with his team.

Evidence of the students' hard work

Cindy asks me some very important questions

Sweetser in the educators how to teach social media

The Word of Mouth class served as our coverage team for the day by recording podcasts, videos, blogging, snapping pictures & tweeting. Sue (on far left) lead the team.

Connie (Campaigns team leader)

Sweetser & Me at the end of the day...
Her caption: Ready to rock some social media in politics research!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Bootcamp Day!

Follow the Edelman Digital Bootcamp at UGA:

General Website & Blog



Also, I'll be updating over the course of the day!