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WriteCast Episode 9: The Residency Experience: Reflections from Current Walden Students

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© Walden University Writing Center 2014

 

[Introduction music]

 

[Teaser] GLADYS: Coming to the residency has further improved my understanding and knowledge about writing.

 

NIK: Welcome to WriteCast, a Casual conversation for serious writers. I’m Nikolas Nadeau.

 

BRITTANY: And I’m Brittany Kallman Arneson. In today’s episode, we’re talking about collaborative writing and group papers.

 

[Transition music]

 

NIK: In this episode, we're actually going to be doing something a bit different. Rather than listening to me or Brittany talk about writing, we're going to leave it to current Walden students whom I met at the Walden student residency held in Atlanta last month. As some of you may know, residency is a place for Walden students to gather, meet one another, and attend presentations by Walden staff members from various different departments. It's also a chance to attend one-on-one advising sessions and make some intense progress on your academic work on research.

In this episode, we'll focus on three Walden students who have a lot to say about why writing is important in their fields, and how they can best use writing-related services offered here at Walden.

Our first student hails from Uganda and so far has been impressed with the passion and dedication he's found in the faculty and staff here at Walden. He also offers some good advice for those who are just beginning their graduate education and are looking for a head start.

 

LAM: My name is Lam Cosmas. I am from Uganda. I've just started the PhD program in management specializing in leadership and organizational change. So I've been in Walden since December 2013.

 

NIK: So, so far in your time here at Walden, what you have learned about writing and research that you've found valuable, especially here at the residency?

 

LAM: You know, especially the sessions that started yesterday on the requirement for writing at a doctoral level --for me, that was the insight. And then secondly, in the aspect of grammar--because, you know, some of us who come from backgrounds of mother tongues, sometimes our mother tongue [---] our English, therefore you need to work very hard to make sure that what you are writing is really English and knowing the audience. So for me that was very very important.

And then another aspect which was very important for me was differentiating between the different kinds of writing and research. So that you know that for scholarly writing, we are adding knowledge. And then, I learned the significance and the importance of reading widely and vastly, not only limiting myself--for example, now I'm in management--not only in management, but in other subjects as well. Because there could be a management-related aspect which could form such questions in those areas.

And then, another aspect which I should not forget to mention is the kind of commitment, the kind of passion, that the advisers and the faculty have. I think those ones they are [---], I think it's worth my money for having spent to come here. I spent a lot of money to come here and I think I'm going back satisfied.

 

NIK: That's amazing. A couple more questions: First of all, you're from Uganda?

 

LAM: Yes.

 

NIK: So, I'm wondering, in Uganda, what role does writing play in your professional life and in the life of Ugandans, and what advantages do you have if you have strong English writing skills?

 

LAM: You know, now in Uganda, they are promoting academic--what we call now the culture for reading and writing. Because if you write and it's not read, then it will not be helpful. You know we are coming from a predominantly oral tradition, so it's a big transition. So, I can tell you there are very few writers. So for me in this case, it will fit within the Walden University philosophy of scholars for social change. And in this age and era, writing is very important as a way of communication and as a way of giving new knowledge. And especially now, with the younger people--I am a parent now as I talk(?), and my children are always on social media--so if one can write, and for example using even this other media, one will be able to communicate a lot. So I think it's very very significant because even if our country still is a third world country, but you know, we are also one global society. So we are all connected. It is not surprising that you find young people in Uganda living like the young people in the United States. So I think here writing is central. And in one of my aspirations for doctoral study is hoping to be able to contribute in teaching at the universities. Now there are several [?} universities in Uganda, but one challenge is there are few qualified people with PhDs teaching those classes. So I hope in addition to one of the areas I could contribute to, and I will share with my friends that if ever I reach there and get that opportunity, I will put in the passion and and the commitment and the way of helping that I experience with the faculty here at Walden University.

 

NIK: And my last question is: What advice do you have for Walden students who are just starting or who are trying to figure out how to improve their writing over time?What advice would you have now that you've been here to residency?

 

LAM: I will give two advice. The first advice is to listen to advice. That is one thing that I, you know, I heard from some of our colleagues, they were so--they were feeling offended with the comments of the professor or the instructor, but I loved it. And that has helped me to move. And now I've been coming here. Yesterday, you were putting out some good challenges there, and one thing is that we should be able to realize that there's still a lot for us to learn. We should put ourselves to be able to say that we do not know all. Be open--that is what I would say.

 

NIK: Thank you very much.

 

LAM: ‘Welcome.

 

NIK: Next is a student who takes her work very seriously at Walden but also makes sure to build her own academic community of fellow scholar-practitioners.

I'm here with Gladys John, who is a student in human services, and my first question is: How do you view your own writing development here at Walden and what resources have been most helpful for you during this residency?

 

GLADYS: My view of my development is--the way I would describe it is very fantastic. And I've been so elated knowing that I'll have gained quite a lot from my experiences. Having to access some of the resources that have been provided in the portals, especially the Writing Center, I've had the opportunity to use Grammarly, and I've found it very useful. A lot of times I thought I'd written something very fantastic only to discover I had so many red lines pointing me to areas where the writing was too wordy and the tenses were not correct. And once I was able to make some corrects I found that I did much better.

Coming to the residency has further improved my understanding and knowledge about writing. I was particularly very happy when Dr. Prince had the lecture on APA format, and I was really very very happy to learn quite a number of things that I hadn't known before, even though I had been accessing a lot of the materials that the Writing Center had been posting into the portals. So I think that the residency is a very good thing, and Walden University has really done well because all along we've been dealing with faculty and fellow colleagues online, faceless. But now we have the opportunity to see face-to-face and we can ask more questions. You get more responses quicker because most times when you talk online you probably have to give the faculty some hours or days to respond. This time around you have the opportunity to meet face-to-face and get your questions quickly answered. So it's quite an experience.

And improving on my writing will help me back in my institution where I lecture. I'm a chief lecturer and the immediate past head of the department of the department of social development.

 

NIK: And what is the name of the institution?

 

GLADYS: Kaduna Polytechnic. That's a high institution in Nigeria.

 

NIK: My last question: What advice do you have for your fellow Walden students who feel that at residencies, they're able to have all of these resources available, but then they go back home and they feel isolated again because it's just them and their computer and the internet. How can students feel that they're really collaborating together and helping each other along the way?

 

GLADYS: I would say that it's a wonderful opportunity to meet first and then you can collect each other's addresses, and don't let this be the last time you talk or see each other. I think we should continue the community interaction even online. It's a nice opportunity to meet and know each other face-to-face and now that we know each other, I think that the scholarship should even be much better.

 

NIK: Well, Gladys, thank you so much for your time. It's been a pleasure.

 

GLADYS: Thank you.

 

NIK: Our third student is from Canada and holds a government position. He's well-versed in economics but also talks about the high value his supervisors place on ability to write clearly and concisely.

 

Karim: Hi, my name is Karim McDaniels. I'm in the PhD in Management program, specializing in finance, and this is my second quarter at Walden.

 

NIK: We worked together over the last half hour or so. What did we actually work on and what do you think you gained from that experience in advising here with the Writing Center?

 

KARIM: Well, I actually stopped Nik in the hallway to discuss something more related to flow of writing because I was concerned about--being more of a technical person--how my writing was going to come across. But in fact, we ended up in our discussion working more on narrowing the topic from my first KAM, because that's an area that I'm finding to be a little bit challenging. In order to get started on the KAM, I really really need to narrow down the topic, and you've helped quite a bit with that, at least in terms of the process and how to start thinking about the subject more broadly, narrowing it down, and finding a topic of interest within that.

 

NIK: I also wanted to ask you what role writing places in your day-to-day job, and how writing can even have an importance or an influence in something like the financial sector or in the sector of economic policy.

 

KARIM: My job title is Senior Analyst at the Federal Bank of Canada. Most of the writing I do is internal to the government of Canada, and in the writing has a very narrow focus and it comes with the constraints of how a government thinks and what a government wants to see. So it has political nuance to it. The writing has very specific needs and stakeholders in mind. But the writing is actually part of the job I enjoy the most. I write a number of papers, they're considered to be research papers. It’s actually helped an awful lot to be here, and I'm looking forward to more practice with it.

 

NIK: Last question: In your line of work, what consequences are there for unclear or ineffective writing? And then, what results can you achieve when you have really well-worded writing that's clear and concise?

 

KARIM: Our organization, like a lot of government organizations, are quite hierarchical, so if I have something that's badly written, it's not going to go very far. If it's badly written, my direct supervisor or my supervisor's chief--is what they're called--will give me feedback and advice on how to change it in such a way that it will reach the intended audience successfully. That being said, once something is properly written, it's actually very beneficial because we're a public policy institution, we do have the ability to change what happens on the day-to-day world’s economic front and financial front in Canada. So it's kind of nice to know that what you're writing means something or could mean something at the end of the day.

 

NIK: Karim, thanks so much.

 

KARIM: Thank you.

 

NIK: So I hope that through these interviews and conversations, you've learned that succeeding at Walden or any other graduate institution, especially an online one, requires a lot of initiative. It requires asking questions, even if you think they may be dumb or obvious to some people. It means reaching out for help and really researching how to do that when you're unsure of what to do next. And it also requires, to some extent, networking. You know, being kind of a magnet of other students who are either studying the same thing or studying something completely different but who still have a mutual interest in succeeding at Walden and supporting one another. Your journey at Walden does not need to be done in isolation. It sometimes can feel that way, but at Walden we often say that the students who most focus on building that sense of community and even friendship among their students and then also who communicate frequently and have a positive relationship with their faculty are the students who are both most successful and also the most happy after leaving.

So, I hope you enjoyed this episode, and we'll look forward to having you back next time.

 

[Music transition]

 

NIK: This podcast is a production of the Walden University Writing Center.

 

BRITTANY: This episode was produced by me, Brittany Kallman Arneson, my co-host, Nikolas Nadeau, and Anne Shiell.