I am so happy to share the news about the littlest Kreniske.
After a long and arduous journey, Solomon Bear Mervyn entered this world on 9.12.14, weighing in at 7.0 lbs and measuring 21.25 cm. He is the sweetest little bean and we are in awe of him – it’s an event even to see him open his eyes!
The three of us came home happy and healthy saturday night.
My grandfather Mervyn Susser passed away earlier this month. He was 92, and as one would hope for most people who live to 92, he had an amazing life.
I’m proud of him in so many ways. His work was extremely important to him and I think this recent article from the Times Health section does a good job of summarizing his contributions.
“He learned on the job in the 1950s while working in a clinic that served black South Africans and went on, over the next several decades, to examine peptic ulcers in Europe, hunger in the Netherlands, and AIDS in the United States and in South Africa. He and his wife, Dr. Zena Stein, promoted some of the earliest educational and treatment programs for AIDS in South Africa. Dr. Susser sought to improve public health from the ground up by gathering data on who was affected by diseases and why, and by trying to understand what their distinctive social and economic circumstances were”.
Though to me he was always Grandpa. Grandpa who spent long hours in his study and wasn’t to be disturbed. Grandpa who’d sit me on his knee and tell about camping in the desert and driving armored cars in the war. Grandpa with his big brimmed hats who knew every plant in the garden and couldn’t walk anywhere without stooping down to weed something. Grandpa who always joined the family for dinner, his booming, deliberate voice, pausing, to make everyone wait as he expounded on Israel, Iraq, global poverty – name it. Grandpa who’d recount playing rugby and cricket, while we watched hours of summer baseball – mostly the Yankees who’d introduced a precocious rookie shortstop.
Years later as my family gathered to sit shiva I listened to stories from my mother, uncle and aunt about moving from South Africa, to England and finally settling in New York – and yet never really being English, or American – never belonging anywhere. I reflected on my own experiences of belonging and how in my grandparents house and their garden I’ve felt a deep sense of belonging.
It took them the better part of 50 years but they finally did find a place to make a permanent home for their family. Though for my grandparents, and certainly my grandfather – home would always be South Africa. Some days after he passed away I searched the Times archive for his name. One article published in 1985 and titled Emigres Welcome Apartheid Battle caught my eye. Grandpa – or Mervyn Susser – is quoted, ”We still regard ourselves as displaced South Africans”. With Grandma Zena adding that their home in Hastings was “”a transit camp for South Africans.”
In his final years Grandpa became increasingly confused. As the family gathered for weekend lunches, the Hudson sparkling in the distance, grandpa would say things like “Whoever owns this place has done quite well”. Of course this was the garden he’d created and it was his home.
Then he’d tap grandma on the knee and say “C’mon Zeen it’s time to go”. And the rest of us would smile and gently remind him that of course – he was already home.
This happened quite often and at one point my brother playfully asked “Grandpa where are you going?”
“To the hotel, in Grootfontein,” his childhood home.
In his final weeks he stopped commenting on the lovely view from the veranda, and he stopped urging Zena to take him home. To check on him we’d sometimes ask, “Grandpa where are you?” And he’d reply confidently “In Grootfontein”.
As he said to the Times reporter all those years before, South Africa would always be his home. Though for us grandchildren he’s created a new home in Hastings. And of course it’s not the just the place but the wonderful and caring family who come together there that make it home.
…for the record a couple other obits were published since I wrote this:
My First Solo Symposium: The 2014 Jean Piaget Society Annual Meeting in San Francisco
I had three other conferences scheduled for the Spring of 2014, so I was ambivalent about submitting a proposal to the Jean Piaget Society (JPS) Annual Meeting. When my advisor Colette Daiute described her idea for the symposium it sounded exciting. The other panelists were my colleagues and friends and the discussant, Carol Lee, was a well known professor whose work I’d read extensively. This would also be my first opportunity to present the preliminary results from my doctoral research. Further, I had lived and loved San Francisco for three years before moving back to NYC to attend the psych program at The CUNY Graduate Center. I still had many dear friends in SF – at least one of whom I hoped would let me crash on their couch!
Two weeks before the conference our discussant had a family emergency and wrote that should would not be able to attend. However, she would still gladly read our papers and write a response that could be shared at the conference. Normally the discussant is present and shares their feedback, but this seemed a reasonable alternative.
Then one week before the conference all three of the other panelists cancelled due to their own family emergencies. I’m not exactly sure the odds of such a cacophony of calamities – it has to be small though.
This left me, who was already feeling a little drained from the previous three conferences in the spring as the lone presenter. After I recovered from from my initial reaction, which was dumbfounded, I went through my options.
Option A: Same same but different.
I could cancel like everyone else, but in my case it was different because I was only canceling because I didn’t want to be the only person presenting at the symposium – it’s not a symposium if only one person is presenting work!
Option B: Find new Friends?
Colette kindly emailed the conference coordinator who informed her that there was no room in any other symposiums as most other cancellations were accounted for and necessary shuffling had already taken place. So Option B…
Option C. Go it Alone.
At first this going it alone seemed overwhelming. I was at the very early stages of data analysis. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to say, or how, or that I had anything even. Either way I would be working with my data, either for the conference or for my dissertation. So I put my head down and finished a first round of coding. A few days before the conference it looked like I did have some results. I had also written an extensive dissertation proposal so the main work was cutting down what I was going to say so that it could fit into a 15 minute presentation. And of course now that I was the only person presenting I could present for longer, I had the room for an hour and a half! Not that I was planning to talk for that long. I decided on Option C, to go it alone.
The Presentation Day
What I feared was that it would really be me…alone! The presentation was scheduled for 10:30am on Saturday, the third and final day of the conference. Generally, conference attendance fluctuates throughout the day or days and this is particularly noticeable at smaller conferences like JPS, where there are many fewer audience members in the morning of the first day and in the afternoon of the last day.
So it was 10:29 and this is what the room looked like…no-one:
Thankfully, in the next ten minutes, as I paced around the room, people began to trickle in, and by 10:40 there were about 10 people in attendance! I know, I know, that’s not so many people. Why do all this work, fly across the country, stress out, just for 10 people to attend your talk. Well that’s the life, and 10 is actually not a bad number! It’s also about who the 10 are – and these 10 people were interested and offered insightful comments.
Colette gave a brief introduction and apologized for the people who could not make it and then I gave my talk about how transfer students blogged about their transition to college experience and how their blog posts reflected their cognitive and emotional development. I used PowerPoint not Prezi as I wasn’t sure about the Internet situation at the conference. This turned out to be a good decision as there was no free Internet in the conference room. In case any reader’s are interested, here’s a copy of My JPS PPT, Digital Sense-Making.
I talked for around 25 minutes. It was different than a normal conference presentation because there was no strict time constraint and members of the audience asked questions and we engaged in dialogue during the presentation that continued once the presentation concluded.
The conversation ranged from theoretical perspectives on the diversity of stories and how one person may tell the same story many different ways in part depending on their audience, with one scholar referencing a TED talk by Ngozi Adiche that I’m looking forward to watching, and also to reading Adiche’s work!
Another scholar wondered about the strengths and shortcomings of using human coded narrative analysis – as I had done – as compared to using a computer program like the LIWC. Others questioned the definition of genre and we explored some of the implications of the definition and why it is important to consider genre when doing narrative or mixed methods research.
Usually conference symposiums allow for about 5 minutes of questions and conversation, but we talked for an hour!
This turned out to be one of the best symposiums I’ve ever been a part of!
Seeing the City
It was also great to see my San Francisco taking lunch hours to explore Chinatown and some of North Beach.
Catching up with my olde Willie Brown middle school teacher friends in the evening was super fun. And of course kicking it with my great buddy Nick and his wonderful wife Sarah is the best! So in the end,I’m glad I went with Option C!
As the semester comes to a close we’d like to thank everyone who read, commented and posted on the GSTA blog. Here’s the list of the posts, which we hope will serve as a useful resource when planning your courses in the fall!
In my final class, at least for the next year as I move on to a be a writing fellow at Baruch, I talked with my students about how I hoped that rather than remember any particular facts about research methods – that they had developed a new perspective on how to approach research articles and research presented in the popular press.
On the bus ride to class I’d been reading a recent issue of The Atlantic on The Confidence Gap. I thought the article quite relevant as 19//20 of the students in my course were women – many of whom were quite nervous about presenting their final projects . I questioned if they thought a confidence gap existed between genders and if this gap might contribute to differences in pay? Or perhaps the confidence gap was a symptom of other systemic factors at play?
My hope is that after working through the research methods course my students will be equipped to grapple with, deconstruct and then take a position in relation to the research presented in The Confidence Gap and in other relevant issues and articles.
I concluded the class by reading an excerpt from a poem featured in the same Atlantic issue, The Five Spot by Billy Collins. Ever since Questions about Angels was high school’s required summer reading I’ve had negative associations with Collins, but The Five Spot seemed to speak to an element of the course and hopefully to how students might think about issues in the world as they move on with their lives. The poem summarized my hopes for myself and my students better than I could in clumsy social science terms. And as in class instead of trying to summarize these thoughts and emotions I’ll let the poet do this work…so direct from my fridge here it is:
When my students see the syllabus on the first day of class they cry in unison, “But I’m no good at writing”. Writing a research paper is one of the greatest challenges for many psychology undergraduates, and teaching students how to write research papers is certainly one of the greatest challenges educators face. At Hunter College, as at many CUNY schools, all psychology majors must complete a psychology research methods course. At each campus this course involves slightly different requirements, but the one unifying component is the research paper.
Here are 3 tips for teaching the research paper
1. Use a Rubric
Using a rubric and sharing the rubric with students before the paper is due makes expectations and grading criteria clear. A rubric tells students important information about what their audience (me – the teacher) will be looking for and helps them compose their paper accordingly. The rubric is also helpful for me as I grade and later return papers. Along with track changes, the rubric is incredibly useful for dealing with student’s grade related queries. Admittedly, I do not always remember each paper – or why a student earned a particular grade, but one look at the rubric and I can see exactly what I was thinking when I read that paper and I can quickly articulate this to the student in person or over email. This gives the student a better sense of what they need to improve on in the future too. Why not use a rubric? Rubrics – like many useful tools take time to create. So don’t create it from scratch – adapt one. Here’s a rubric I adapted from Seamus Donnelly (a graduate student whom I TA’d for), or here’s a few others from the Hunter psych department, or create your own usingRubistar’s templates.
2. Writing Time and Rewards
I’ve written a number of posts on my personal blog about the pros and cons of Silvia’s (2007) writing approach detailed in his APA published How to Write a Lot. Silvia’s book is geared towards professors and graduate students – though his approach is useful for undergraduates too. Silvia encourages his readers to make a writing schedule, plan out goals and form writing groups.
The writing schedule, or what I call “my meetings” should be regular, at least three or four days a week for about two hours. The time can be used for any writing related activities, such as searching for literature or running analyses. A writing time is not to be used for checking Facebook or responding to emails. During this time Silvia suggests turning off phones and even the Internet (gasp!). Furthermore, I encourage my students to plan appointments and extracurricular activities around this time, as I if it were an actual meeting. To bring this point home I show my students my Google Calender and writing times.
In addition, Silvia suggests charting writing progress and goals and keeping track of completed and uncompleted writing times with an excel spreadsheet. I encourage my students to make goals and spreadsheets for themselves.
To scaffold this I make certain components of the paper – such as writing an article summary – one of their homework assignments. Furthermore, I consistently reference what they should be planning for their weekly writing times, with statements like “this week you should use your writing time to search for sources”.
Finally, Silvia emphasizes the importance of rewarding oneself for completing projects. In the past my students have rewarded themselves by planning dinners aftercompleting a major paper, or, in my case, after passing my second doctoral exam I bought a used bike! The only reward, however tempting, that is not allowed is skipping writing times!
3. The Paper Workshop
In my class, I ask students to bring in a working draft the week before each paper is due. During the class period, I lead a workshop where the students critique each other’s work. I think it is important to set very clear guidelines for this workshop and to walk the class through the paper section by section – starting with the cover page. For each section, I ask students to make at least three positive comments and three critiques or questions and if they can to relate these to the rubric. I even give an example of positive comments such as “I like how your running head is in all capital letters”. Depending on the complexity or length of each section of the paper I give students different amounts of time. I usually allow students two minutes to review each other’s cover pages, while I might break the introduction into two five minute review sessions. During this time I often project an APA sample paper for the corresponding section as I walk around the room and check in with groups. After the allotted time, I call on groups (I suggest groups of two and no greater than three) and ask them to share a positive comment from their partner’s paper. I elicit about three positive comments and then shift to asking for questions and critiques. As a class we work through the entire paper.
Perhaps someday I will meet this mythical being called “the good writer”. Until then I believe that good writing takes practice, perseverance and planning. Throughout my course I show students the strategies I use to become a better writer. I approach my own writing projects by studying the provided rubrics – beyond the classroom such rubrics more often take the guise of calls for papers or grant guidelines. I plan out what I will do and when, generally by allotting blocks of time and aiming for specific deadlines. Finally, in search of constructive feedback I share my work with my adviser, my colleagues, and sometimes my wife. In my research methods course I encourage students to try out and adapt the practices that have helped me develop as a writer into their own schemas and schedules.
It’s time to write up the results in APA format (step 4)!
APA Conventions for All Statistical Analyses:
The specific numbers and letters to report for each analysis are different. However, all letters, like t, M, SD should be in italics – that’s key for APA style!
Here are a few sites that I’ve found to be useful for figuring out how to report certain statistics in APA style.
(A number of my students are using MANOVA’s for their final projects so the number of MANOVA links reflect this. If these links are not helpful a Googlesearch of terms like “reporting a chi-square in APA format” should yield some useful references).
Another great resource is UCLA’s stats site – though the site can be difficult to navigate so at times I find it easier to Google “UCLA reporting a chi-square in APA format” as opposed to going directly to the UCLA page.