Ask a Vet: US Army Vet Reflects on His Transition to University Life at DU

So much goes into the transition from active duty to civilian life for a veteran, especially when it comes to integration into a university. This Tuesday, 10 student veterans will be sharing their diverse experiences while serving our country and transition to civilian life at DUSVA’s Ask a Veteran Anything event. We hope you’ll be able to join DU faculty, staff, students and alums as they ask DU veteran students about their varied perspectives. Today we’re excited to highlight one of those student veterans, Dan Rouse. Dan Rouse is a graduate student enrolled in Daniels College of Business’ Executive MBA Program (EMBA).

How long were you on active duty? My total service in the U.S. Army comprised 27 years. I served 23 years as an officer, and 4 years as an enlisted soldier.

Dan in Tibet

Where did you serve? I guess all over is too broad, but I did cover some serious distance whilst serving in 5 of the 10 Army divisions. After Ranger School, I started out in Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division. Next was the 101st Airborne in Kentucky. Following that I went back to Hawaii and did three years of POW/MIA investigations and recoveries. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) kicked off and I did a year there. Then I went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for a year at the Command and Staff College, before stationing at Fort Bliss, Texas, with the 1st Cavalry Division/1st Armored Division and followed by15 months in Iraq. Finally, I went back to Hawaii for 3 years of POW/MIA missions and then retired from the 82nd Airborne, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Overall I’ve worked in the United States, Australia, New Guinea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, Tibet, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates!

What was the hardest part about transitioning to civilian life? Actually, two things come to mind. The first, and most significant, was the loss of purpose. No matter “the suck,” when you’re in the military, you always had a sense of duty to a higher cause, whether it was to your comrades, your unit, or the basic oath to “Defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign or domestic.” You were a part of a distinct culture with its own values and norms. So the cultural dislocation was huge. You live your life as a member of it, but end as an employee moving on. It’s hard to get that same feeling from turning a profit, etc.

The second, for me anyway, was finding my next career. I did my time and could have had all the “security” t-shirts I wanted, but I had no desire to be a government contractor/beltway bandit or get a government job. When you put those restrictions on future choices, the prospects dim a little. As one recruiter candidly put it, “I’m looking for round pegs for round holes and you’re an oval.” I was either overqualified (meaning they didn’t think I’d stick around very long) or didn’t have the right background experience. Bluntly, too many civilian recruiters and HR folks considered me too expensive. HR computerized applicant tracking systems didn’t really digest military resumes very well – even when they’re “civilianized” by resume reviewers. These two components, along with many others, were what motivated me to pursue the EMBA program in Daniels; civilian credentials and networking as “mercenary” as it sounds.

Do you have any recommendations for other veterans transitioning from active duty to university life? Treat your education as you treated your service; you can’t just show up. You need to maintain the work ethic and discipline you had when you were in service and transition it to your studies. Build connections with your professors, alumni, peers, etc.; they may be the key connection to your next career. For undergraduates: you have life experience advantages that almost none of your peers do, so use them. “S2” your situation (most service members will know what “S2” is) and get the most out of your university experience (which doesn’t end at attending class or getting good grades).

*Curious to learn more? Don’t miss DUSVA’s Ask A Veteran Anything event this Tuesday!

Collaborative Classrooms, or the Art of Letting Go

– By Dr. Julia Roncoroni, Counseling Psychology, Morgridge College of Education

 My first day teaching college was awful. No, no, take note. I mean that. I knew the drill: you stand in front of the classroom, you pull up a digital presentation, you talk, and you command control. Students, well, they just stay quiet and listen. Except for I was bored, really, really bored. And I know students were too. I could not decide if it was my uncharming tone, the lack of animation in my slides, or the classroom lighting… but I was doing what teachers do, and students weren’t buying it.

Paulo Freire suggests that, in the traditional model of teaching, we view students as “empty vessels.” So we teach how we were taught, and we measure success accordingly: the more we fill the receptacles, the better professors we are. And students typically buy into the model. In fact, they are often baffled by the proposal that “this is [their] class and [they] decide what form it takes.” Many students go into courses thinking, “education happens to them.” If they sign up and show up for class, as professors, we will do something that will transform what/how much they know about a topic.

Yet, education is a deeply civic and moral exercise, an inherently political practice that enables students to expand on the possibilities of what it means to be critical citizens of their worlds. Capturing the spirit of Freire, Theodor Adorno claims, “Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway. As long as it doesn’t break off, thinking has a secure hold on possibility. Its insatiable aspect, its aversion to being quickly and easily satisfied, refuses the foolish wisdom of resignation… Open thinking points beyond itself.” The cycle of student dependency must be broken, but one of the most difficult steps in our journey as professors is to do away with the way we were taught.

Syllabus Design 

The syllabus is a key communication tool between a professor and his/her students. Many instructional resources will advise professors to ask themselves the following questions as they design the syllabus: (1) Who are the students? (2) What do I want students to be able to do? and (3) How will I measure students’ abilities? Little is said about what students want to learn and how they would like to measure their increased abilities.

Democratic education is emancipatory—students’ understanding of what they should learn and how is just as powerful as the teacher’s. In democratic education, students are empowered to collaboratively (with the professor) design and implement class materials, including the syllabus. The role of the teacher is not to decide what students will learn and how, but instead, facilitate an environment where the students can decide and make meaning of class content.

Classroom Activities

When I surveyed students in my first class at DU, in Fall 2016 (four years after I first taught college), about their class experiences, the response was unanimous: the most liberating aspect of their participation was selecting a topic for a mini-lecture and sharing the results of their research with their peers and the broader DU community. It is easier for students to grasp core psychological concepts and frameworks when they become active collaborators in the investigation of psychological theory, research, and practice. I invite students to participate in projects that allow them to select and present topics that are appealing to them personally. When we design curricula in a way that gives students freedom to decide what (and how) they want to learn, students gain knowledge and skills that go well past the content matter of the course.

Assessment

Faculty member have the “beauty” of getting it both ways—students think we are out to get them; my colleagues think students are out to get us. Whether you are taking or preparing/grading them, exams can be truly tedious.

We frequently play the ‘gotcha’ game: we use exams and other assignments as an instrument to oppress our students, to see how well they can adjust and not how well they can think critically to the service of their own learning.  We want to know, can students regurgitate this motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable bits of ‘reality’ that we have narrated to them?

Instead, we should ask, are students moving in the direction of being able to think creatively about their reality and participate in the transformation of their worlds in ways that fit their personal and cultural backgrounds and developmental levels? Assessment needs to be consistent, using multiple methods over time. These methods have to be, in part, determined by the expertise of the professor, but they also have to be defined by the expertise of the student-colleague. Making ourselves vulnerable is pivotal in deciding if learning has happened. As professors, we model this vulnerability and make space for students to engage. Students set their own personal baseline against which to contrast class outcomes and decide if learning has happened.

Conclusion   

Democratic education can take many different forms, but all forms have one common denominator: a commitment to go outside the box of standardized one-size-fits-all education, so that students can feel empowered and engaged as learners. If we wish to train well-informed citizens who are intrinsically motivated and prepared to confront society’s most pressing challenges, we must provide them with the skills and critical thinking opportunities they need to build a more equitable and socially just society.

Dr. Roncoroni is an Assistant Professor in Morgridge College of Education’s Counseling Psychology department. She received her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Florida. She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Roncoroni’s primary research interests include health disparities, customized culturally sensitive health promotion and health care, and the integration of health promotion in medicine. She is a yoga and Zumba instructor and enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.

What I Learned as an Amazon Intern: DU Computer Science Grad Student Shares Her Experience

sneha-sawlaniSo a summer internship probably isn’t at the forefront of your mind with papers, projects and the end of the quarter looming ahead, but when it comes to grad student internships it’s never to early to get the ball rolling. A lot of competitive internships have deadlines in late winter and early spring and it’s definitely worth fitting in some time to apply. Just ask master’s student Sneha Sawlani. She applied early in 2015 and landed a 2016 internship at commerce behemoth Amazon. This internship was so successful that she even landed a full-time position with them! Take a read below and check Sneha’s advice to DU grad students looking to land their dream job.

Intern: Sneha Sawlani, MS student majoring in Computer Science
Employer & Position: Amazon, Software Development Engineer Intern

The Application/Interview Process

The application process was fairly rigorous and involved 2-steps:

  1. Online Coding Challenge: This involved solving 7 questions in 20 minutes. After one week of passing the Coding Challenge, I was notified of a Phone Interview round and was given 2 weeks of time to prepare for it.
  2. The Phone Interview: The phone interview was technical in nature. It lasted for 45 minutes and the individual I spoke with had me write code on a shared screen to solve 2 problems. The problems tested my understanding of object-oriented design, data structures, algorithms and basic coding skills. The interviewer concluded the interview by briefly explaining intern activities at Amazon.

The Internship

From June–August 2016 I worked in Amazon’s Search department as their Software Development Engineer (SDE) Intern in the rainy city of Seattle. The first week of the 12-week internship was spent getting oriented – meeting my team, settling into the culture, and getting the hang of Amazon’s internal tools and technologies. Then it was time to get more focused. I was assigned a Software Development project to be completed under the guidance of my mentor. SDE Interns at Amazon are given most of the typical responsibilities of a full time software engineer, including writing code, attending scrum meetings, code reviews, and reporting progress to the manager.

At the end of the internship, I presented my work to the team and received feedback from senior managers and engineers. I was also required to write a self-performance review, which along with my manager’s and mentor’s review, were used for evaluation of a full-time hiring decision. I’m happy to report that at the end of the internship I was offered a full-time position and will soon be working for Amazon Search!

Favorite Parts of the Internship

  • Meaningful work, challenges, and learning: At Amazon, I got to work on an actual application that was used internally by mangers, engineers, and data scientists. The challenges of writing production code that is maintainable, scalable and efficient pushed my skills to the limit but also helped me grow as software developer. It was a productive summer with a steep learning curve.
  • Perks! Amazon took all the responsibility of relocating me to Seattle for the summer. I got to stay right next to Lake Union, attend fun intern events on weekends, and received a humongous stipend which made all the hard work worthwhile!

Advice for DU Grad Students

  • Start early: I noticed that most summer intern positions at Amazon were filled up by March. I would suggest students to apply to jobs and internships at least 7 to 8 months before the actual time.
  • Prepare for the Technical Interview: From my personal experience and from what I heard from other interns and employees, data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented design are very important topics for the technical interview preparation, especially for people fresh out of college. So take those classes seriously!
  • Get an Employee Referrals: Although I got the interview just by applying online, I think it was easier to be noticed in the pool of thousands of applicants by having an employee referral. I would suggest networking with people who already work at your target company in order to obtain one.

Getting summer internship at Amazon was a dream come true and getting a job offer out of it was even a bigger dream come true. Working with so many smart people, learning and using cutting-edge technology to solve complex problems, and applying classroom knowledge to real-world problems was a very valuable experience. It also gave me an opportunity to showcase my skills and capabilities to Amazon and allowed me to network with fellow employees. All of these steered my career toward an exciting new direction with the e-commerce giant.

Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Leanne McCallum

Today we’re excited to share with you the research of DURAPS presenter Leanne McCallum. Leanne’s presentation will uncover the history of anti-trafficking efforts in the US to demonstrate how certain stakeholders and ideologies have (for better or for worse) driven the anti-trafficking narrative. Leanne’s goal is to have her scholarship aid State Department policy makers in reforming the Trafficking in Persons Report to reflect a more accurate representation of anti-trafficking efforts around the world.

Researcher: I am a 2nd year graduate student at the Korbel School of International Studies studying International Studies, with concentrations in human rights and human trafficking.

DURAPS Presentation: Title- Historical Analysis and Critique Of the U.S. Trafficking in Persons Report

In undergrad I studied International Relations and had a vague interest in gender and refugees. I participated in a month-long study abroad course in Vietnam and Thailand to study political change and modern political issues facing Southeast Asia. While I was in Thailand, I saw firsthand the way that vulnerable populations like migrants and refugees can be exploited by human trafficking. Particularly, there was a night when we visited Soi Cowboy, a notorious street in Bangkok known for its prostitution and connection to sex traffickers, where we saw women and trans women (known as Kathoey or Ladyboys) being openly exploited in a commercial sex establishment. Though I realize now that my understanding of human trafficking during my first trip to Thailand was relatively shallow and misinformed, it was a catalyst for my subsequent anti-trafficking advocacy and research.

My research focus is on anti-human trafficking policy, both domestically and abroad. I generally focus on the US or Southeast Asia, while paying particular attention to Thailand and Myanmar (Burma). The specific project that I will be presenting at DURAPS analyzes the U.S. Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report– an annual report on global country-level anti-trafficking efforts that is conducted by the U.S. Department of State. The project includes an historical analysis of American anti-trafficking policy, the foundations of the TIP Report itself and how it has evolved since it was created, and the major critiques the TIP Report is facing today.

The intent of my research project is to unpack the history of anti-trafficking efforts in the US to demonstrate how certain stakeholders and ideologies have (for better or for worse) driven the anti-trafficking narrative. Although my research paper itself has not been published, I have published several academic blogs related to this topic on the Human Trafficking Center (HTC) blog. My ultimate goal is to have my research help the State Department reform the TIP Report to reflect a more accurate representation of anti-trafficking efforts around the world.

Biggest Challenges: There are two main challenges associated with my research.

  1. The first is that there is so little academically rigorous, methodologically sound information available about human trafficking. Since human trafficking is a hidden market- because it is an illicit market, and because the victims are generally legal vulnerable populations or hidden populations- there is little verifiable data available. This means that I often am faced with a difficult question: do I utilize flawed data to inform my conclusions, or do I attempt to do the research myself?
  2. The second challenge is overcoming the pervasive misunderstandings surrounding human trafficking. This human rights issue was not recognized until the late 1990s, so there isn’t a lot of information available. As such, there are many misunderstandings about what human trafficking is and who is affected by it. For example, people often talk about US domestic human trafficking using the “perfect victim” paradigm. This is the idea that there is a specific type of person (generally a white, American girl who is sex trafficked) that people associate with human trafficking. In reality, the people most vulnerable to human trafficking are people of color and people of marginalized identities such as LGBTQ+ or compromised migratory status. This is just one example of a misunderstanding that informs anti-trafficking policy and inadvertently causes further harm to trafficking victims.

Collaborators: I work with the Human Trafficking Center as the Human Trafficking Index Project Manager. I also am a Student Event Coordinator with the Korbel Office of Career and Professional Development.

Research Advice: My advice is simple and comes from the HTC’s Director, Professor Claude d’Estrée: match your passion with your academic rigor. Your passion and interest in a topic is an important component of your research, and will help carry you through the difficult times of the research process. However, academic rigor is crucial. We cannot accurately represent the populations that we seek to support if we are conducting research that is methodologically flawed. Question the sources that you use. Are you using it because it agrees with your opinion? Or are you using it because it has clear research design and has a sufficient literature review, research background, and/or a transparent bias? Also, if you are focused on a specific population or a human rights issue, I suggest that you utilize the voices of survivors to inform your conclusions. If you exclude their voices from your research you are missing a key component of holistically understanding the nature of the problem and the solutions.

I can’t wait to share more about my research with you all at DURAPS!

Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Kierra Aiello

Happy first day of Spring Quarter!
We hope you had an adventurous spring break filled with skiing, hiking, travelling, and all other things that make Denver such an exciting city to live in. Today, as part of our DURAPS series, we’re going to take you on a journey through Salvador Dali’s lesser known art medium: jewelry. At the 2017 DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS), master’s student Kierra Aiello will be sharing how Dali was able to transfer popular motifs such as of melting clocks and eyes into objects of gold and jewels. We hope you enjoy this snippet of Kierra’s scholarship and encourage you to stop by and see her at DURAPS!

Researcher: I am a master’s student enrolled in DU’s Art History Program.

DURAPS Presentation: Title- Love that Sparkles: The Jewelry of Salvador Dali

At DURAPS, I will be presenting my paper, Love that Sparkles: the Jewelry of Salvador Dali. In this paper, I analyze specific jewelry pieces that Salvador Dali created throughout his life.  Instead of looking only at gemstones and the karat value of the gold, like much of the scholarship on the subject, I take a look at Dali’s use of Surrealist motifs and his motivation to enter the jewelry medium. I hope to clarify some of the design choices made by the artist and connect many of his jewelry creations to his passionate love for his wife, Gala, and their shared love of fame and fortune. Through the presentation of this paper at an interdisciplinary symposium, I am hoping to discover new lenses through which I can view not only Dali’s work, but jewelry in general.

Part of the joy of studying art history at DU is taking a variety of courses, each of which has a different focus and requires a research paper. One must then fit their specialty into each course. Initially, I was taking a class on the art movements of Dada and Surrealism and I was completely stumped on how to align jewelry with artistic periods traditionally known for being off the wall eccentric and, in some cases, rejecting formal art practices all together. Where does one go when they have no idea what to research? Google. I stumbled upon the jewelry designs of Salvador Dali through a random search of Surrealism and jewelry and my interest only grew from that point. Jewelry by artists has become a regular part of my focus and it is the perfect vehicle for looking into the intersections between jewelry and art.

My current research focuses on jewelry made by artists and expands into the intersections jewelry has with more traditional definitions of “art.” In order to do this, I look closely at the jewelry creations of well-known artists such as Salvador Dali, Alexander Calder, Meret Oppenheim, Bernar Venet, and many others, as well as artist jewelry collectors, like Diane Venet, who owns and displays jewelry piece by over one hundred recognized artists. In some cases, the artists chose to use jewelry as a means of exploration and veer into new motifs and materials, at other times, they practically duplicate their other works into miniature gold sculptures that can adorn the body.

Historically, jewelry has been viewed as more of a “craft” than an “art,” and therefore has not been studied and analyzed the same way as painting and sculpture. Art historians constantly assess the life, motifs, materials, and practices of an artist, along with more foundational elements of the art itself, such as color, line, composition, etc. These thorough practices of studying and looking should, in my opinion, be used in jewelry study as well. I am currently attempting to make the intersections between traditional “fine art” and ornamental jewelry known by studying the materials, means of acquisition, uses, and designs of artist jewelry.

Collaborators: Dr. M.E. Warlick is one of the wonderful professors of the DU Art History department. She encouraged my work with Surrealist jewelry and helped me to understand the fundamentals of the movement. Now, she is my master’s research paper advisor and is currently helping me to hone my topic as well as expand into new areas. Dr. Annette Stott is another professor I am happy to have working with me on my research. She has helped me to reshape topics into papers and then continues to push me to rework the papers into concise and meaningful presentations for events such as the annual DU Art History Symposium.

Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Kirsten Fahlbusch

Hello Grad Students!
All this week and next week we’ll be featuring research that will be featured at the DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS), which is only 2 weeks away! Today we’d like to bring you the eye-opening research of GSPP master’s student Kirsten Fahlbusch. Kirsten’s prior experience as a deputy probation officer motivated her to tackle the tricky issues surrounding gender in law enforcement. She specifically looked into whether a probation officer’s and/or victim’s gender had an influence on a probationer’s compliance. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about her research both in this blog and at the summit!

Researcher: I am a second year master’s student enrolled in the Forensic Psychology program which is in the Graduate School of Professional Psychology department.

DURAPS Presentation: Title- Probation Compliance and Gender

I conducted research on the interaction between the gender of probation officers, probationers, and the victims of the probationers’ offenses, I then explored how these various gender combinations impacted the probationers’ compliance. Some of my questions included: “were male probationers more compliant when assigned to female probation officers compared to male probationers assigned to male officers?” and “were probationers with female victims more compliant when assigned to female probation officers compared to those assigned to male officers?” My sample came from a Domestic Violence and Sex Offender unit, so all of the probationers’ offenses had identifiable victims. The results of my study found that the gender of the probation officer has an effect on the probationers’ compliance, and that the gender of the probation officer and the probationers’ victim makes a difference regarding the probationer’s compliance. Specifically, probationers were more compliant when assigned to female probation officers.

I was a deputy probation officer on the Domestic Violence and Sex Offender Unit for my field placement during the first year of my program, and I was interested in the demographic makeup of both the clients and the officers working on the unit. Probation is historically a male-dominated field, but the unit I worked on was predominately staffed by female officers so I wondered whether gender played a significant part in any of the work. I was especially interested in how probationers who had offended on female victims would interact with female versus male officers, since probationers would have to interact with a female in an authoritative role rather than as their victim.

Collaborators: This was an independent research project, but I received help throughout the process from Dr. Neil Gowensmith and Dr. Laura Meyer.

Research Advice: Going through the IRB process and getting the project off the ground was probably the most frustrating aspect of conducting my study, and the process took longer than I expected. So, my research advice to other DU graduate students would be don’t let the IRB process get you down or discourage you from working to get a project approved.

I hope to see you all at DURAPS on Friday April 7th, 2017 where I’ll be presenting my research!

Graduate Citings: DURAPS Edition with Jiade Xiao

The DU Research and Performance Summit (DURAPS) is just around the corner pios! Graduate Student Government is working hard to organize an awesome event for you all, filled with prizes, lunch, and some truly fascinating research! Today we’re happy to share with you the work of master’s student Jiade. Jiade will be highlighting two intellectuals who were highly influential in Chinese and Islamic independence movements in her presentation this year.

 

Researcher: Jiade Xiao is a first year student in the Josef Korbel’s International Studies master’s program.

DURAPS Presentation: Title- Comparative Analysis on Chinese and Islamic Modern Political Thought Pioneers – A Case Study on Liang Qichao and Sayyid Qutb

Harnessing my knowledge of Chinese modern political thinkers I will be doing a comparative study for my DURAPS presentation focusing on movements in China and the Middle East. Both China and the Middle East region experienced long lasting glorious ages with splendid culture and great wealth before the modern period, an era faced with the shock of Western influence and the threat of colonization. Western nations significantly challenged the traditional lifestyle and regimes in these two regions. In my presentation I will compare two thought pioneers: China’s Liang Qichao and Egypt’s Sayyid Qutb. These two intellectuals were pivotal figures in their respective countries and played important roles in the salvation of their homelands, facilitating a realization of strength and development. While you might not see similarities between China and the Middle East initially, both have had to deal with increasing Western influence and invasion. As a result, both regions experienced the rise of local intellectuals whose work help encourage movements focused on independence.

Collaborators: Dr. Hashemi, who teaches INTS 4526, Modern Islamic Political Thought, was a huge help and mentor for the work I am doing.

Research Advice: Professors are always nice and helpful at DU. Frequent meetings with professors to brainstorm newly emerged ideas has been vital to developing my research.

Hope to see you all at DURAPS on Friday April 7th, 2017!