Residency: Part 1

This week, I’m finally at my residency for my Master’s degree. In March of 2008, I started taking the degree through Norwich University’s School of Graduate Studies, working towards a degree in Military History. It’s an online school, and every day, I worked with fellow classmates, but through Internet discussion boards and through papers that I wrote and submitted online to my instructors. It’s certainly a different way of learning, but I’ve taken to it.

For every degree, we require that students come on campus, and this week’s our week. I’m finally able to meet my fellow classmates, whom I’ve worked with for 18 months now. Beyond that, I’m finally meeting students whom I’ve worked with when I first started the program. I’ve talked with them since day 1 of the degree, and come Friday, I’ll be walking with them across the stage. I still have some work to do after this residency (I’m an accelerated student) but the bulk of the program is over. I don’t have classwork, just research, which is exciting.

Residency is proving to be a highly productive and entertaining week here. While in years past, we’ve required students to present their capstone, we’ve moved away from that this year, in favor of faculty presentations which seems to be pretty popular with the students. Overall, students are enjoying the time, and meeting up with my fellow classmates has been extremely fun.

The first two days have been made up of presentations – I’ve sat in on ones about military doctrine, the Battle of Kursk, the IRA and the Easter Rising, Roger’s Rangers and Historiography and one on how to write and eventually publish a capstone paper. The rest of the week will be some rehersals for Graduation and our Academic Hooding Ceremony, then Graduation on Friday morning. I’m quite looking forward to that.

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Education …

 has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.
G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) British historian  

 

During my senior year of college, I took a course on Norwich University’s history. Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea of the course, because honestly, how intertesting is the history of one’s own institution? I ended up loving the course, and wound up typing up a piece on the Norwich University students who fought at Normandy, and went to France to talk about it. 

 

One of the things that I really took away from the course was the school’s founder, Alden Partridge, and his ideas about education. He was an incredibly patriotic man, who believed in the idea of a citizen soldier, but who also believed in a well rounded education. One of the big things that I learned was the idea of experiencial learning, and how much of the school’s history was set around this style of learning. Partridge would take students out on hikes, marches, field trips, while bringing in experts on all sorts of vocations, but also making sure that his students got out of the classroom and into the field, where students could learn something hands on. 

 

While I majored in History at Norwich, I also minored in Geology, which I think Partridge would have liked – a mixture of sciences and arts. The Geology department at the school is absolutely fantastic, and those classes are amongst the ones that I miss the most while at the school. We took field trips – lots of them. It wasn’t uncommon during some of my courses that we would get together on a weekend and end up in the middle of New York while looking at rocks along the way to see how the rock beds changed as we went further into what was a sea. More memorable, however, was the geology trips to the American southwest, where we visited and studied the Colorado Plateu and Grand Canyon. I feel that because I saw this all close up, I understand it far better than I ever could have by mere examination in a book. 

 

Over the past couple of months, I’ve gotten hooked on a webpage called Not Always Right, which features stories from people in service postitions and their odd, funny or disturbing encounters with customers. While reading these, I’m often astounded at the sheer stupidity of people featured in them, and it makes me a bit sad at just how ignorant, backward or just plain oblivious people can be, and while listening to the radio on a program about the state of education or something along those lines, the root problem to this can be solved by some of Partrige’s ideas when it came to teaching – experiencial learning can help to solve some of the problems. 

 

I think that the biggest problem that the United States faces when it comes to educating students is that our education system is largely out of touch with how life really works. Thinking back to high school, I can narry remember a class in which I learned something useful that I apply to today. Most of my social interactions I’ve learned from summer camp, where I could work with people in the real world. But in school, I never really learned how exactly Shakespheare fit in with a job or anything along those lines. 

 

The general consensus seems to be that our education system is very out of date and needs to be revised because a lot of students aren’t learning what they really need to learn. The content is there, but it seems to me that people aren’t making the connection between the academic world, and how to apply things in real life. Looking back to High School and College, the best classes that I had were the ones that the teacher worked to link the class’s content with real world applications. In classes such as tech, mathematics, sciences seem to have concepts that are much mroe easily applied in the real world, while classes such as history and other social sciences are a bit tricky, but it is doable. 

 

What the US needs to do is look to experts in the education field and to see just how kids are learning nowadays. The argument of “It worked for me” just doesn’t work because the world that we live in is constantly changing – what might have worked for a politician years ago might not even apply now. 

 

Learning and education is the most important thing that we can spend money on – teachers shouldn’t be cut back, and we need programs that help to support failing schools, rather than undercut their support when they clearly need it the most. But above that, we need to teach people how to think, reason and operate in the world once they come out of the educational system and into the real world.

Making the Grade

Through my work here at Norwich, I have a somewhat unique perspective on the online education field, as I am both a participant through the Masters in Military History program, but also working as an administrator for it. Something interesting came across my desk a while ago, a request for interview subjects from MOAA (Military Officer’s Association of America), who wanted to speak with some of the officers in our program, to see what their perspective on the online program was. So, I e-mailed everyone and we got a good response. The article just went live, and it’s interesting to see not only Norwich University well represented, but I was alluded to by one of my classmates. Here’s the article:

Making the Grade
By Latayne C. Scott — July 24, 2008
More than two-thirds of American colleges and universities now offer online courses, and information provided by eLearners.com shows 62 percent of employers say the value of an online degree from an accredited school is equal to — or superior to — a traditional college degree.

Why? Because, although “cyberstudy” offers flexibility, it demonstrates initiative and great self-discipline.

Advantage No. 1: Convenience

Juggling work, military commitments, family, and a side career of breeding Tennessee Walking horses hasn’t kept Lt. Col. Nancy Cantrell, USAR, from pursuing a degree online. “You can fit your studies into your schedule and . . . you can study from home,” says Cantrell, who is pursuing a master’s in military history (MMH) from Norwich University in Vermont.

Also pursuing the same degree from Norwich is Maj. Craig Grosenheider, USA, who says, “I did not have time to attend night school — and was not interested in the programs or schools available locally anyway. Moving was not an option, and I was not able to take advantage of a fully funded graduate school program during my time on active duty. The online program offered the degree I wanted, from an institution I respected, in a format I could manage — easy decision.”

But not all active duty military officers who pursue online degrees focus on military subjects. Capt. David Leaumont, USAF, says he “didn’t want to just fill the ‘master’s’ check box in my [personal readiness folder].” Leaumont hopes to write, teach, and work in a church after retirement. But his local seminary required full-day attendance three days a week. “That’s an impossibility for [an Air Force] officer,” says Leaumont. “The only way I could get a master’s from a seminary program was to go online.”

Advantage No. 2: The world as your campus

Lt. Col. Donald R. Emerson, ARNG, is seeking a master’s degree in terrorism and counterterrorism at exclusively online Henley-Putnam University. He cites the institution’s accreditation and military tuition assistance requirements, but the clincher was he could study anywhere. “I travel too much to attend a traditional program,” says Emerson. Others, such as Norwich student Maj. William O’Brien, USA, laud the rich, diverse nature of online classmates. “We have students in California, Ireland, and, in my case, Iraq,” says O’Brien. “Some have civilian backgrounds, some military, some academic, and we even have a B-movie actor that has decided it’s time for a change of pace.”

Advantage No. 3: Cyberspace camaraderie

Lt. Lawrence “Mac” McKeough, USN-Ret., just completed his master’s in public administration through American Military University. W.Va. As a retired officer, he found the interaction with active duty students stimulating — as does Cantrell, who shares photographs with fellow students to reduce the impersonal nature of cyberspace.

Capt. Daniel J. Kull, USA, wanted to study at a traditional campus but knew he would be deployed to Iraq for 15 months and wanted to “get a jump on a master’s degree.” Kull found fellowship with a Norwich MMH major and fellow movie buff. “During our online discussions, we often drop movie quotes into our academic postings,” says Kull. “It is amusing when I am reading something he wrote, and I recognize a line from ‘The Big Lebowski’ or something.”

Advantage No. 4: Benefits beyond the diploma

Getting a degree online requires some proficiency with computer technology. That will pay off in other ways, says Norwich student Capt. David Weber, USA. “An understanding of other applications of technology directly helps . . . [because of] the rate at which technology is advancing in the military.” Another Norwich MMH student, Capt. Christopher Center, USA, has reaped a different kind of bonus from his studies. Armor magazine published an article based on one of the papers Center wrote in his first seminar online.

Most people take an online degree with the idea of qualifying themselves for something in the future. But Norwich MMH student Vice Adm. James A. Sagerholm, USN-Ret., isn’t looking toward a future in the Navy. At 80 years old, he finds it “amusing and ironic” that one of his classmates, a 2002 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., is exactly 50 years behind his own graduating class. After graduating, this articulate man would like to write a book, possibly about Navy founders John Barry and President John Adams.

If the convenience of a work-at-your-own-pace online college education sounds appealing, keep in mind there also are a few aspects of an online education some might consider disadvantages.

Disadvantage No. 1: The nature of online coursework

Some students find online coursework more strenuous than a traditional course.

“You’ve either read the material and done the work, or you haven’t. This is especially evident due to the necessity of written communication,” says O’Brien. “You can’t roll the dice and hope you’re not called on in class, and you can’t tank an assignment and figure that you’ll make it up in class participation.”

Though O’Brien cites the difficulty of absorbing academic materials when he reads late at night, daytime study can bring another kind of difficulty, according to Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Urbanek, USA-Ret., who currently works at U.S. European Command Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, while pursuing a Norwich MMH. “I spend about 20 hours on the weekend doing course work, and that’s hard to do when the sun is shining outside.”

Disadvantage No. 2: Impersonality

One issue that is difficult for many online students is they usually never get to meet their professor face-to-face. McKeough cites the disappointment he felt after working hard on a paper and getting it back with the sum total feedback “agro-terrorism is all about money.”

And sometimes the increased interaction with other students can be unpleasant, as Lt. Cmdr. Stanford Fisher III, USN, observed when “liberal-minded” students without military experience voiced “heated” opinions in discussion rooms. In addition, Fisher notes — as do almost all online students — the insufficiency of “cyberdiscussions” to convey a tone of voice or other nonverbal clues.

Disadvantage No. 3: Juggling priorities and finances

The difficulty of integrating a college education into an already full life is extremely difficult for most — and impossible for some. Boatswain Mate 1st Class Keith W. Underhill, USN-Ret., graduated with a bachelor’s in business management from what he characterizes as the “military-friendly” University of Phoenix — but only after cancelling his online classes. “It was not my style of learning,” he says, and was happy to learn the university offered on-campus classes in his area.

“Some instructors require you to work in teams, which is very difficult when you have people all over the world in different time zones,” says Capt. Sandra Davis, USAF, who is nonetheless enthusiastic about her master’s in management and leadership from Webster University. Davis also notes her online studies are more expensive than a brick-and-mortar facility, and “you probably won’t have the opportunity to sell books back at the end of the semester.”

Disadvantage No. 4: The world as your campus

Finally, for all its flexibilities, online education has its challenges abroad.

1st Lt. Richard Ingleby, USA, recalls “I was writing a response to a discussion question, and I swear, every … bug in Afghanistan decided that night to fly into my face or computer screen, since it was pretty much the only light on in the whole FOB [forward operating base],” says Ingleby. “I just remember thinking how this was definitely not your normal educational setting back at the university library.”

After weighing the advantages and disadvantages, is an online education right for you?

Article Source

It’s a decent enough article – I did pick out a couple of spelling mistakes, which is odd, but for the most part, it’s largely on track with it’s view of advantages and criticisms. The only thing that I really took issue with was the jab at liberal students without military experience – I don’t see this as a drawback, and while the online format does eliminate verbal and visual cues, there are ways around it. Liberal opinions aren’t wrong opinions, any more than conservative ones. It’s just different. This is one reason why I don’t like tying myself down to any one belief, because it’s incredibly limiting.

End of Seminar 1



I just finished my first seminar of my master’s degree. My final paper was a little short, and as a result, I had to do revisions, but my grade just came through, an A – for the seminar. I’m pretty happy with that. Normally, I’d have two weeks off between seminars, but in this case, I spent the two weeks doing additional research and writing for this paper.

The first seminar was interesting, and I think I learned a little as well. This seminar was entitled Introduction to Military History, and, as the title suggests, serves as an introductory course to Master’s level work, and the fundamental concepts of military history.

Military History on the Academic level, as some students are shocked to learn, isn’t battlefield analysis, specific figures or things along those lines. Rather, it’s more an examination of concepts and the way in which warfare has changed over history. I found that I’m particularly interested in the way that society and war interact – we haven’t really examined it in a whole lot of depth, but it should be interesting.

My final paper (which just got graded) was on the failure of the Uprising in India in 1857-58. Basically, I looked at why the Uprising failed to push the British out of India, and found that it boiled down to a couple points – they weren’t well organized, there wasn’t a clear leader or goal, they had inferior tech, whereas the British had an entire Empire and up to date tech to fight, and the general Indian population didn’t rise up against the British. It was an interesting study.

I’ve had it in my mind that I’ll be focusing on British military history, and I’ve gotten a couple of ideas for my next Long Paper (which I’ll start work on earlier.). I’m thinking looking at the Falklands War as the last major naval battle or as an example of where too much specialization causes problems. (In the case of the British navy, they had been super specialized to counter Soviet grade military equipment, while they were essentially fighting their own technology in some cases). I also just picked up a book called Redcoats, about the British in the US, so that might be an option as well. Anyone have any suggestions?

Things are going really well now.

This is where the movie ends..

So, I graduated today. It’s a bit weird, and sad, because despite my feeling that my time here was somewhat manic-depressive, I had a good time. I met a lot of good people, and saying goodbye was hard, because I know that some of these people, I’ll probably never see again. The advantages of the Internet, like Facebook and e-mail means that I’ll be able to keep in touch with some people, remember their birthdays, but I wonder if I’ll ever connect with any of them, see them at reunions or go out to the bars with them.
It’s such a relief to have gotten my diploma, to have passed each of my classes in the four years, not to have to study for exams in classes that I don’t care about, and to have found something that I truly love doing – research, writing, everything that goes into history. I discovered a love for geology and have done and gone some terrific things while I’ve been here. I was the president of the games club for two years, on the Civilian Honor council, I went to a Star Wars convention, got people hooked on things like Firefly and Battlestar, I’ve fallen in and out with people, seen friends get married, break up and leave, I’ve gone across the world to other countries and seen some of the most incredible things in my life, and I’ve met some of the most interesting and wonderful people that I’ll ever meet.
I’ve found myself aggravated at people’s shortsightedness, found myself as a liberal on a military campus, at odds with just about every topic that I’ve ever come to accept, and along the way, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t a blanket good and bad, right or wrong and that people don’t uniformly disagree, and that if they’ve got a different perspective on the world, they’re not bad or misguided people, they just think differently, and that’s a good thing.
I have no idea what the future holds. Walking across the stage after getting my diploma and shaking President Schneider’s hand, he said ‘See you in Normandy’. I guess things will come one by one, and I’m okay with that. I can’t wait to see what happens. I’ve got a trip overseas with a bunch of important people. A girlfriend 800 + miles away. A job at a bookstore. There’s a couple of building blocks. I’d like to attend graduate school for history. While everyone asks me what History is going to do for me, as if it’s one of those majors that’s completely useless, it’s heavy with reading and writing and communication skills, critical thinking and analysis. I think I can find a future with that.
I just wish that I could have said goodbye to everyone.

Oh god, I'm about to Graduate

Toy Soldiers
Today I strike out on my own
The dog is dead. The kids have grown
I fell asleep in my writing chair
I drempt I’d found my childhood stare
To family dinner Christmas night
We’d cross the river shipyard lights
Before the heartbreak and unknown
Today I strike out on my own

Hi-diddely-o, didn’t ya know?
You fade once you glow
Didn’t ya know, child?
After the ryhme, high time
diddely-o, didn’t you know?
You fade once you glow.
Didn’t ya known, child?
After the ryhme, high time.

The families gather but we’re all
Mere Shadows in this Banquet Hall
I’m beggin mom will you understand
I’m beggin dad will you hold her hand
To play outside was all i’d known
And Christmas lights on every home

Hi-diddely-o, didn’t ya know?
You fade once you glow
Didn’t ya know, child?
After the ryhme, high time
diddely-o, didn’t you know?
You fade once you glow.
Didn’t ya known, child?
After the ryhme, high time.

We find the people of our dreams
We find that they’re not what they seem
I’ve learned that people come and go
I’ve learned that families break and grow
Toy soldiers brave away those tears
Toy soldiers hope for better years
Today I strike out on my own
The dog is dead. We kids have grown.

Hi-diddely-o, didn’t ya know?
You fade once you glow
Didn’t ya know, child?
After the ryhme, high time
diddely-o, didn’t you know?
You fade once you glow.
Didn’t ya known, child?
After the ryhme, high time.

Revisions, Projects and Deadlines

It’s one week to go before classes are finally over, and exactly one week before my Normandy paper is due to class. The amount of work that I’ve done on it since receiving the edits? Minimal. I didn’t even start my english paper until about 12 hours before it was due, although that came together really quickly. My work ethic is sucking this week, I think senioritis kicked in becauseohgodintwoweeksi’mgoingtograduateandi’llbedonewithschoolfortheforseeablefuture. Gah. Part of me is very happy about this. The part isn’t, because I genuinely enjoy learning and this sort of thing. I’m still thinking and planning on attending graduate school at some point, with the intention to teach or research history somewhere, because this is what I like doing. In the meantime, I have to actually find a job and you know, a place to live.
I’m currently editing a paper for another member of my NU History Seminar, on the US Militia System and our school’s founder, Alden Partridge. It’s an interesting read, and we’re hearing three more presentations later today. I need to type up a critique for this paper, and I think I’ve found some good things to discuss.
After being rejected from Abnaki this year, I’ve started concentrating on full time jobs for the time being. I’ve applied to another book store with the intent on working there and Walden Books and getting some hours between them, which would be nice. I like Bear Pond Books, and have shopped there all my life. It’s one of the independant bookstores in Montpelier, and has a very cool atmosphere to it. I’ve also gotten a called from the Green Mountain Club for an interview with them, which would be very, very cool. My outlook on the summer has improved dramatically. I’ve also learned that a new airline is about to start operating, something similar to Ryanair (a UK carrier), that has prices that are literally as low as they can get. On a good day, a round trip flight to Ohio will cost me under $40. Hopefully, this will help me and Sarah get together more often, as it’s quite expensive and time consuming to drive from here to there.
Also, Drive was cancelled yesterday. Once again, Fox torched a show because of lackluster ratings, although this one was probably cancelled for more reason than Firefly was. (Tim Minear was a producer for Firefly, and the creator of Drive). Poor Nathan Fillion can’t get a break with his shows.
Drive did have potential, but nowhere near Firefly‘s. It had an interesting premise, some interesting characters, but a very limited premise – While it would have been an interesting thing to see play out, but some of the characters were really irritating. Fox was behind this show, unlike with Firefly. There was a ton of ads for it, and really early ads for it – Fox wanted this to work – unfortunently, the viewers just weren’t there – The show got about a 2.5/6 rating for the first episodes and was dragging 24, one of Fox’s most popular shows, down. It’s a pity, this year there were a bunch of cool shows that were cancelled. Andy Barker PI, Smith, Drive, Studio 60 (most likely), Black Donnellys, Daybreak, The Nine, among others. Hopefully, there’ll be some of the good shows, such as Heroes, Raines, LOST, Supernatural and Veronica Mars, that will get another couple of seasons.
Right, back to my editing…

Done! Sort of…

I’m done with my paper! Well, I’m done with the penultimate draft anyway. Topped out at 25 or so pages, without the appendixes (probably 3) and the bibliography. Those will probably add on about five pages or so. I’m not entirely thrilled with the end product, because I don’t have all of my research done, and while finishing up, I found a couple of other guys to add to my list, and need to look into their backstories a bit more. Might need to do some more detail work throughout the Normandy campaign, and include some details on the various reunions that Norwich students had in France, which we have quite a bit of details about.
My history class just got back from a trip to Norwich Vermont (Norwich University is located in Northfield, but was originally the American Scientific, Literary and Military acadamy, located at Norwich), which was amusing and interesting, mainly because that class rocks.
In the meantime, I’m going to actually rest for a bit, catch up on my sleep. I just found a cover of Bittersweet Symphony by Coldplay, and I have pizza for dinner. That just about makes up for the foot of snow that fell this morning. And my busted tire that I got on Tuesday night. Blarg.

Norwich + Normandy

So, graduation headaches aside, I’m working on my final project with a seminar class, Norwich University History. It’s an interesting class, and I’ve had the professor before in other classes. In addition to learning about the school (and American Higher Education in general) we’re required to do an intensive project on some aspect of the school’s history. I selected one that Prof. Lord suggested, an examination of Norwich alumni who participated in the Invasion of Normandy in 1944 towards the end of World War II. Thus far, it’s been an interesting project. Apparently, Norwich is sending a number of alumni to the battlefields this summer for a fundraising thing, and they wanted a companion history to go along with it. So, I’ve had a meeting with the president of the university, who was able to give me some connections that’ll help.
So far, the project has been going well, and I’ve outlined it into three phases. The first phase is tracking down the names and units of Norwich alumni who were in the battle. So far, I’ve gotten a lot of hits for people in the area at the same time, but there’s 23 that I’ve found thus far who were in the battle – 11 or so more than previously known about. (All they had before was a list of people who were in the battle and died afterwards) So far, my list stands at about 121, of people who I have the units and names, ranks, etc, but no word on whether they were actually in the battle or not. I send my list off to my contact earlier today, and hopefully, I’ll get a better view on who was there, based on their unit histories.
The second phase will be research into each unit that was at D-Day that had a Norwich student in it. I’m hoping to get a map and plot their locations on it. Combined with various accounts that I’ve uncovered, and a couple of sources that I’m going to track down, hopefully, I’ll get a good picture on what the Norwich alumni were up to.
The last phase is the report itself, which hopefully shouldn’t take too long, after all the research has been done. It’s an interesting project, and I’m very happy to be doing this sort of work – I’ve really been enjoying the process and looking things up. THIS is the sort of history that I’ve been wanting to do for a while now, and I’m thinking that it’s what I want to be doing in the future.

Blarg

Taking two 100 level classes and a 200 level class has it’s advantages and disadvantages. Advantage 1 : The work is brainless and easy. Especially Politics. Disadvantage 1: Everyone else in the class is a freshman with no brain. Or they just ask incredibly stupid questions.

And a fan in my computer is making a lot more noise than it should be. It’s irritating, and I can’t figure out how to make it stop. Gah!

Firefly marathon with the Tactics club is today, right now in fact. I’m taking a short break for lunch while people are there and will be back in a bit to close everything out and catch another episode or two. People actually showed up, which is good. I’m thrilled with the Tactics club this year. It’s really taken off and become a real club.