It’s here, the end of the semester is here. Contrary to undergraduate times, (when this was a time of exams, final projects and memorization as premonition of Christmas partying) graduate school’s end of semester calls out for (and brings about) reflection, introspection and self-evaluation.

Interestingly enough, I find myself in a sort of academic déjá vu.

How can one look back at 4 months of personal work and be critical about it? Well, back when I was at Syracuse University, during the 2nd semester of my junior year, I took 2 classes that explored a similar reflection (in terms of their own academic topics).

In advanced Newswriting class, Prof. Steve Davis had us reflect on the responsibilities of a reporter. Having already taken an introductory reporting course, this reflection was culturally framed in relation to various factors: the topic being covered, sources and their identities, ethics, and the intended audience of our writings.

In advanced cultural anthropology theory class, Prof. Peter Castro delved into the idea of cultural relativity and the anthropologist’s responsibility when it comes to observation, analysis and reflection. We talked about how we take our culture everywhere. It is not something we can take off ourselves and we must be aware of this when trying to comment, study or understand others.

What I have been able to grasp today, almost 4 years later, is that in those undergraduate experiences our reflections were framed by the professors. Discussions on the various topics generated thinking over the impact we can have on others through our work, but reaching this conclusion happened within a highly controlled atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong. It is not a bad thing. It is exactly what needed to occur at that particular moment of the academic development.

I am in graduate school now (which only means that I am just older…jejejeje) As a first year graduate student, this upcoming monday I am expected to articulate how the previous 16 weeks actually meant something within the larger scheme of my design thinking and body of work. The pedagogical implications of such an exercise, not apparent at first (being honest), are based on an ideological framework. I will think about my work beyond the artifacts, texts and images produced. I will not think in terms of projects. It is not about what I did necessarily, but about why I did it.

So as I pull together a semester’s worth of work, I’ve realized that it can be framed under four distinct exploratory stages: empowerment, motivation, identity and representation.

Issues of empowerment were approached through explorations of graphic design as a touch point of communication between different groups(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) and from storytelling exercises on designer control and amateur expertise. (1) (2).

Issues of motivation were touched upon in various forms, from the personal (1) (2) (3) to the collaborative (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Identity was researched by looking into the future (1) (2) and into new digital social spaces.

The relationship between the physical self and the possible digital representations was experienced through personal publishing platforms (1) (2) (3), social realms (1) and research grounded writing (1).

What does this all mean? In the end, that I am interested in too many things. That has always been my case. (In addition to all of this I have also developed an interested in Shadows and their cultural and metaphorical significance.) As monday approaches I will think through these ideas.

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One Response to Reflections on graduate school: At the end of the first semester

  1. Chad says:

    Sheesh. 16 weeks in grad school and this is ALL you’ve done? Ha.

    Here I am, still toying with simple baseline grids.

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