Human Relations (Communication Studies) Senior Pascale Jbeily
What an educational and life changing experience it has been @ The University of Texas-Austin, through the Intellectual Entrepreneurship course work. It all began when I had raised questions about what my purpose in life could possibly be after undergrad; a B.S. in Communication Studies, and a specification in the Human Relations track. People always ask me "so now what"? And honestly, I felt that I need, and I could learn more in order to provide more! It all came down to when questions in my head started to arise about graduate school. I always wondered about the TAs who were in each communication class, helping out the professors, while seeming to enjoy their own course studies. Spring 2007, is when I was introduced to Lexi Hampel as the TA for the CMS Persuasion class that I was enrolled in. So, I decided to asked her about her involvement in graduate school and saw that she enjoyed and looked forward to teaching her own classes and researching as many subjects as she could. She then referred me to the IE program and offered to become my mentor for Fall 2007. It was the best decision that I had ever made! It didn't take much to enroll in the program other than having the right mentor who is in the program that I was interested in, and a sponsor who is supposed to be an instructor in my field of study, along with having the will and the inquisition to learn more and explore as much as possible the endless opportunities that the IE program had in line for me. After our first meeting, Lexi offered me to attend graduate a class with her. The course that I went to was CMS 368P, which is called Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication, taught by Dr. Rene Dailey. The setting of the classroom was what really took my breath away! I loved the fact that all grad students sat around one big table and the instructor was among them! The assignment for that week was to read 4 long research journals from the communication studies material. Lexi had sent them to me, and I briefly skimmed them, only to find out that I had an interest for what the articles were referring to. This made me even more enthusiastic about attending graduate classes with Lexi!
In the classroom, 2 students were responsible for leading the class in a question and answer session. The entire class had to participate in either commenting on the research or drawing examples from their real life experiences along with a focus on the particular subject that was of interest for that week. I found out that not all students had read the articles given, but they somehow pulled through by referring to articles that were read in the past and in one way or another connecting them together. The subject matter was about guilt, shame, and jealousy. The grad students had to look up each subject matter in the articles and somehow infer on how each human behavior is played out in real life and then, come back to the articles and discussing personal experience and the reasons why and how human behavior is played out by using all three behaviors. Sounds like being in the lab and dissecting an animal, but in this case dissecting human behavior!
I couldn't just sit back and observe how things were done just for the sake of experiencing graduate school. I had to, by some means, get into the conversation, and give my personal life experiences on the subjects that were discussed. The entire class was open to discuss things with me and made me feel as if I was one of them. I truly felt that I belonged in such a class. The way things were discussed, in an open and honest manner seemed to be analyzed on a larger and more mature way of thinking. The graduate students sounded like professionals or even better, they sounded like scholars! I felt that I was ready to make the transition and that I just wanted to enroll in graduate classes to able to have an opportunity to explore and dissect topics that I have always been interested in, and wanted to find out more information, so that I could start to put the puzzle togetherIn all, as I was leaving the graduate classroom, I turned around and expressed to everyone my hopes for them to find all the answers that they are looking for. Dr. Dailey was kind enough to redirect my way of thinking, as addressed my attention in educating me that their mission is not to find the right ways of behavior but the ways in which human beings behave and relate to one another and simply gathering the evidence, which later becomes data and reporting on it in a scholarly systematic approach.
Another great opportunity that was through the IE program, which allowed for me to participate in, was transcribing data for Nicole Laster. Nicole had brought me into her world of gathering data for her research subject, which she has a lot of passion for. Nicole is interested in the communication that exists in big corporate business. She is particularly interested in ways that the upper management lacks to communicate, or finds other means in which to inform their employees about merging with other companies and the changes that take place both on a professional level and on the personal level. To put it all together, I am currently listening to all the personal and confidential information, which Nicole had gathered through interviewing a wide variety of personnel in one or more organizations. These people expressed the lack of communication their companies engaged in and gave their opinions on how they think the company should inform them about their current job situation and their changing roles of which they should anticipate for the future. In all, I learned that the problems that arise in any situation, starting from the fundamentals of a household all the way to big corporations, take place due to lack of communication or the wrong information being tackled to the point where attributes escalate and the process of assumptions contribute towards the costs, in leading people to either leave their jobs or get fired.
My last and most amazing opportunity that I was granted, also through the IE program, was to attend The National Communication Association Convention in Chicago. What a treat that experience was! It was a 4-day ordeal, which answered all my questions and allowed me to shift my way of thinking from the undergraduate way, to reallocating into the end of the spectrum, which took me to finding out more about the students who don't stop until they reach their Ph.D. title. NCA demonstrated all the hard work involved, which grants graduate students to participate in presenting their research material to a vide variety of panels. Graduate students apparently start off by having a particular subject of interest or a specific life experience which leads them into cognitive dissonance; guiding them into elevated inquisitions about their situation. Therefore, and on a smaller descriptive scale, just for the sake of writing this essay, the graduate students go out and start gathering data, have a theory in mind to guide them, and start putting their research projects together. The finale is a very long scholarly article that has to be submitted to the NCA personnel for a comprehensive examination. If the research product gets accepted, then, the grad students are in luck for some action at the convention. This is where they have to sit among others in their chosen domain of exploration and present briefly to the panel and to the audience of why they chose such a research and their specific findings on it. Then a respondent is responsible for commenting on the final artifact, making suggestions for further research, and combining past scholarly work to broaden findings that could become more comprehensive. Then the audience is allowed to make comments and to ask particular questions about the process of the research. Some presenters have simple power point visual aids others have their entire essay available. Overall, it was such a resemblance to a college atmosphere, however, this time, you are in the same room with the person who actually put forth the efforts for completing an entire semester of investigative study and reported all about it in a long and detailed thesis paper!
I admire all the efforts and the passion that all the presenters had. They sure did exemplify what the graduate culture is all about. With hard work and a will to ask questions while going after in trying to find the answers, is what makes graduate school happen. The NCA experience was the crme of the crop!
Dr. Cherwitz and Johanna Hartelius have put together a variety of endless opportunities for us to explore and choose from at the end of our IE journey. The most significant of them all, were, the monthly meetings that educated us in opening our minds and learning how to think outside of the box. This was done by presenting us with a picture of what reality is like in graduate school. What I chose to take away from this experience, is that the IE design, is an endless path of granted resources and information, and that with honor, you are gathered with other undergraduate students who are also interested in their own tracks of study; enlightened about what they do, and the importance of it all. We are particularly reminded that without the help of all of our tool studies; we as scientist, scholars, and explorers, cannot do much to accomplish things on our own! It is through the field of interdisciplinary studies of the IE program that a group of talented people, collaborate to go through a journey of gathering information to put together an endless path of knowledge and significance.
IE Alum Featured in Austin Woman Magazine (February, 2011).