Your Goals

Unless you are independently wealthy or a master manipulator, you will have to work hard and make sacrifies to achieve your goals. I know to most people this may sound like a pretty obvious statement, but for some reason I get the impression that there are some who think that success just happens overnight. Trust me when I tell you I have made plenty of sacrifices to achieve pretty much everything that I have been able to accomplish including becoming a mother, purchasing materialistics things, and my professional accolades.

Right after I completed my undergraduate degree, I went on to do my master and doctoral degree. I studies non-stop for from my associates degree to my undergraduate to my master and then to my doctoral degree. Yes, I was a professional student for 12 consecutive years of my adult life. This does not include the two previous years of undergraduate studies that I did while I live in Panama (after graduating high school). By the time, I started my masters program, most of my friends (in Canada, the Unites States and Panama) were buying cars, buying houses, getting married, having kids, going on fancy vacations, and affording a lifestyle that I could not live because I was on a graduate student stipend.

But, I had a goal in mind. I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Therefore, I just stayed focus.

Why do I share this? I share this because I see graduate students comparing their journey with the journey of others. Trust me when I tell you that those who made it to the end (who earned their degree) also made sacrifices. You may not see how they worked hard or the sacrifices they made, but as someone who has been there I can honestly tell you it was not easy for them either.

It is also here where I would like to re-share a prior post I wrote called “Failure.” Here is a quote from that post:

“In academic circles, it gets really competitive. Heck, in life people get really competitive. We start looking at what others are doing and assuming that everyone is “doing things,” “going places,” and basically just “living the dream.” But the reality is that we are all working towards our goals and we all have moments of failures. That is just life.”

I would like to modify the last sentence of that quote and say: But the reality is that we are all working towards our goals and we all have moments of failure, sacrifices, and hard work. Stay focus on your goals and what you want to achieve.

By the way, sometimes I need this reminder too.

“We should all be feminists” Yup. I totally agree.

I put together a list of feminism related books that I want to read and I am very slowly starting to read them. One of the books that arrived this week and was in my list is “We Should all be feminists.” It is a book but honestly you can read it in 40 minutes. I feel like I am going to put it right next to my bed and just re-read it whenever I feel I need some words of wisdom. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the authors of We Should all be Feminists, said it all so well! It felt as if she could read my thoughts.

I laughed out loud when she discussed the views that others have of feminist women: angry, hate men, who refuse to shave their legs, don’t like to wear make up, and refuse to wear high heels. I wonder if people still have these views of feminist? I bet it is very different in different regions of the world, countries, and even within countries.

Anyways, there are three specific quotes from the book that made me nod my head and say “Yes!“:

“What struck me, with her and with many other females American friends I have, is how invested they are in being ‘liked.’ How they have been raised to believe that their being liked is very important and that this “likeable” trait is a specific thing. And this specific thing does not include showing anger or being aggressive or disagreeing too loudly.”

I have countless example of this in academia. God forbid your disagree too loudly! lol I will just leave it at that.

“We teach boys to be afraid of fears, or weakness, or vulnerability. We teach them to mask their true selves, because they have to be, in Nigerian-speak, a hard man.”

As a mother, this is an important message. How are we raising our sons? Feminism is not about a bunch of women trying to change the world, it is really about women and men working together. The way we raise our sons today, will have an impact on the type of men they are tomorrow.

“I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be. I like politics and history and am happiest when having a good argument about ideas. I am girly. I am a happy girly. I like high heels and trying on lipsticks.”

It is truly disappointing when people think that you cannot be girly and be an academic. Wearing make up, red lipstick, and wearing a dress? It probably means you are not smart enough. I have actually heard women in academia say that the more they behave like a man, the more accepted they are in academic settings. Sad! I love embracing my femininity and I plan to continue doing just that.

There is a lot more that I can quote, but I just want to leave it there for now. I am moving on to read Audre Lorde “Sister Outsider” and I really need to finish “I am judging you” by Luvvie Ajayi (this is not a book about feminism, but about keeping it real).

Me and my Uterus: It was Complicated

This post is not about COVID-19, life during the pandemic, or self-isolation. This post is not about online learning, emergency remote teaching, or Zoom. I could say this post is about wellness and care. But it is not about wellness and care as an academic or with your students. If you are looking to read about any of those topics, sorry to disappoint. This post is about me and my complicated relationship with my uterus. It is a about wellness and care as a woman; which eventually led me to the difficult decision of having hysterectomy at 39 years old (I did get to keep my ovaries, Yay!). 

Flower Uterus by Catharina Suleiman
Catharina Suleiman [www.catharinasuleiman.com]

Before I start, I want to acknowledge and recognize that despite my circurstances there are other womem who make this difficult decision much earlier in life or make this decision knowing that they will not get to experience a pregnancy or motherhood. To those women: I see you <much love>.

I first heard the word “fibroids” in the year 2009. I was laying in bed one night and I noticed a significant lump in my lower abdomen. I was very scared so the next day I visited the student health center at Old Dominion University (which I was attending as an international student in her first year as a doctoral student).

The nurse practicioner at the health center referred me to an off-campus clinic where an ultrasound would be performed. After the ultrasound, I was told that I had multiple fibroids. The nurse and the technician told me that these fibroids were non-canceours tumors that adhered to my uterus and that depending on how fast they grew they could be an issue or a non-issue for my health. At that time, I had a very limited health care coverage and I did not have any symptons related to the fibroids so I figured I did not need to go for further treatment.

Fast forward three-years later, the fibroids had grown so much that I looked as if I was three-months pregnant, lived with constant back pain, could barely hold my pee (sorry! TMI), and had absolutely terrible anemia. I remember the face of disbelieve when my doctor saw the lab results of my blood work, she looked at me and asked: don’t you feel tired? do you feel lighheaded and nauseous all the time? I remember telling her that I was a doctoral student and I thought that it was just all part of the doctoral journey and that it was normal for all graduate students to feel that tired. Well, it turns out it was not normal at all!

Despite a few hiccups (finding the best doctor to perform the surgery), the summer of 2012 I had a robotic myomectomy. I remember that after the surgery the doctor mentioned that he had removed 5 lemon-sized fibroids. He did mentioned to me that future fibroids were possible and that I would have to “monitor” my uterus. But honestly, at that moment, I was so happy and the months after the surgery I felt really good. I felt energetic. I was hoping that I could put a life with fibroids and my complicated relationship with my uterus behind me. 

Unfortunately, my complicated relationship with my uterus continued as I tried to get pregnant and experience a miscarriage, which let to a D&C. During my second pregnancy, it was not my uterus that was complicated; instead, for a change it was my “incompetent” cervix.  

I feel over the last few years, I have been monitoring new fibroids that have grown in my uterus and it let me the decision to have a hysterectomy. I am tired of feeling tired. I am tired of feeling discomfort and bloating. I am tired of feeling weak for absolutely no reason. Also, the number of fibroids every year since my last pregnancy has continue to double.

I am writing this post while I am still healing from the surgery. As I wrote in a tweet, having the surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic was not easy, it was a lonely and emotional journey as family members were not allowed in the hospital. The weeks before the surgery, I was very anxious. I did not know what to expect. But, I have to say “thank you” to all the nurses and doctors, at the hospital. They took good care of me and I appreciate that. The physical recovery so far has been pretty smooth. Emotionally, I know in my heart that I was not planning to have more children but it feels so drastic (I don’t even know if that is the best word) to know that the possibility of experiencing another pregnancy is completely gone. But, I do feel happy with my decision.

This post is becoming relatively lenghty, but I just want to end and say thank you to everyone for their words of love, support, kindness, and get well wishes via text, private message, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I was struggling with whether I should share what I was going through publicly (I have not in the past with my misscarriage and complicated pregnancy), and it has made me feel better to feel supported by others. So much gratitude!

“Impact Learning” Podcast Episode

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join Dr. Maria Xenidou as a guest in the podcast that she hosts called “Impact Learning.” I truly enjoyed our conversation. We covered so many different topics. We talked about my educational and professional background. Life as a faculty member and eventually transitions to discussing topics related to instructional design and technology (online learning, research methods, motivation, and others). If you have an hour to spare above is the podcast player and below are the notes from the episode.

EPISODE NOTES

Production team:
Host : Maria Xenidou
Producer: Julie-Roxane Krikorian
Introduction Voice: David Bourne

Contact us:
impactlearningpodcast(at)gmail.com

Music credits:
Like Lee performed by The Mini Vandals
Transition sounds: Swamp Walks performed by Jingle Punks

Where to find more about Enilda Romera-Hall:
LinkedIn
Her page on the University of Tampa website
The masters she teaches in Instructional Design and Technology
Personal Website
The different courses she teaches
Her publications

Mentioned in this episode:
Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá
Centennial College
Emporia State University
Programs in Instructional Design & Technology at Old Dominion University
University of Tampa
Dr. Jozenia Colorado-Resa 
Dr. Ginger Watson
Dr. Thomas Reeves

Listen to this episode and explore:
Enilda’s interest in various topics at a bilingual school in Panama City (3:03)
Moving to Canada and studying computer programming (7:56)
Getting a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (9:54)
Why she chose to study Instructional Design for her Masters (10:32)
Enilda’s decision to pursue a PhD in Education and the impact of her mentors during this time (12:46)
How she combines teaching, mentoring and researching in her current role as Associate Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator at Tampa University (16:50)
Enilda’s thoughts on the biggest advancements in Instructional Design since she started working in the field (20:34)
Improving Instructional Design: learning how to apply the research findings to the practical field (23:18)
Enilda’s book: a collaborative project designed to bring theory to practice (25:49)
The trends that Enilda sees in the future of instructional design and technology (30:09)
Enilda’s work in online social communities (32:01)
How to use social media to advance higher education and career development (33:16)
How COVID has affected the digital learning experience (38:08)
What demotivates students in an online course (41:32)
How to make synchronous meetings attractive to students through active learning experiences and games (45:12)
How Enilda builds the courses she teaches (47:49)
Sharing her work openly to help others learn from it (50:22)
What keeps Enilda up at night or what she thinks of first thing in the morning (54:14)
What Enilda wants to leave her mark on during her lifetime (54:58)
How her 4-year-old son has influenced her creativity during the pandemic (57:24)

#COVID19 briefs via Instagram

I arrived in Panama at the end of February, a week before the first COVID-19 case in the country was announced by government officials. Of course, COVID-19 had been an issue in many other countries so there was plenty of news coverage in the Panamanian news outlets and different media outlets on the Internet. However, after the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Panama the Ministry of Health became the main source of information and updates regarding the government’s response.

The social media accounts, and in particular, the Instagram account (@minsapma) for the Ministry of Health provided all the necessary information related to new cases, new policies, and public health campaign. The updates would include press conferences, twice a day, that were shared via Instagram live.

Probably one of my favorite elements of the use of Instagram to keep a country inform were the public health educational campaign. I am an instructional design faculty and teach multimedia design so I was impressed with the infographics and visual representation of the content shared (example of Instagram post below). Of course, I was also impressed with the rapid response that was taken to try to contain the spread of the virus. New measures were taken quickly. In a three-week period Panama went from business as usual to a country under a major lockdown (that is still in place today). 

I want to acknowledge that I appreciate the efforts made by the Panamanian Ministry of Health to use these medium to keep the citizens inform and educated. I know that other traditional outlets are been used to disseminate the message to Panamanian citizens such as the radio and television; however, this is great because I know that there are folks who spend more time on social media than watching TV or listening to the radio.

The Acknowledgement

With the intent to hold on to every bit of positivity during this bizarre days in which we are all dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I share with you: the acknowledgement.

I am in the final stages of getting all materials to the publisher for the “Research Methods in Learning Design and Technology” book. These materials include the front matter documents. I figured what better way to start blogging about this edited volume than to share the acknowledgement and to recognize those who in one way or another had an impact on this work.

Webinar Recording:Universities in the Age of #COVID-19

This morning I participated in a webinar organized by the Società Italiana di Ricerca sull’Educazione Mediale dedicated to: how universities in different countries are coping with higher education in the age of COVID-19 and the future directions (immediate future and long-term suggestions). Special thanks to my colleagues in Italy for the invitation to serve as a panelist in the webinar and for the diversity of the speakers from Spain, China, Lebanon, New Zealand, and Brazil [Here is a link to the recording]

I would also like to share a few of the resources that were shared during the webinar by myself and other colleagues:

UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education: Handbook on Facilitating Flexible Learning During Educational Disruption

The International Council for Open and Distance Education: Tips for Distance and Online Teaching #LearningTogether

UNESCO: National learning platforms and tools

DQ Institute: Digital Institute, Culture, and Innovation

European Commission Education and Training: Coronavirus: online learning resources

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT)’s Response to the COVID-19 Virus: https://www.aect.org/aects_response_to_the_covid-1.php

 

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Photo Blog: IFDS in Tunisia

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful country of Tunisia in June as part a faculty member participating in the international faculty professional development (IFDS) seminar titled: “The New Tunisia: Migration and Democratic Consolidation” organized by SIT abroad. My participation in the seminar was sponsored by an IFDS grant awarded to faculty members at The University of Tampa by the Office of International Programs and the International Programs Committee. I was honored to received this grant. Participation in this seminar gave me the opportunity to learn more about topics related migration in the African continent, specifically the Maghreb region. Several of our meetings with experts and NGOs focused on conversations that allow use to learn more about the social, political, and economic effects of migration in the Maghreb region, sub-Saharan Africa, and European countries. I plan to write more about the seminar in the near future; however, for now I want to share some of the photos taken during the seminar.

One of the many reasons I am sharing this photo blog is that in the months prior to my departure to Tunisia, I mentioned to a few colleagues, friends, and family members the destination of my IFDS. I was amazed by the number of people who do not know where Tunisia is located or that it even a country. So, I feel that it is important to let others see (even if just through the lens of my camera) a bit of Tunisia.

In honor of International Women’s Day: “Undisclosed stories of instructional design female scholars in academia”

It is International Women’s Day and I would like to re-share a journal article that I co-authored with other Instructional Design Female Scholars: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277539518302231

In addition to sharing a link to the article, I am also sharing a short excerpt from the discussion section of the manuscript (which complies with the copyrights set by the publisher). If you would like to get a copy of the full article, I will gladly share it via email.

IMG_7424

Significance of this Research

Why are these issues that we present through our stories of significance to the ID field? Because we teach, practice, and research this field. We aim to present our field as a process-based, relational, inclusive, equitable, and transformative community.  Yet, instructional design practices, research, and teaching are heavily influenced by the male dominance that permeates higher education institutions. We attempt with this paper to raise awareness, seek understanding, and open the doors for discussion of women’s issues in higher education and the instructional design field.  In the past, “feminist approaches to design have problematized a range of taken-for-granted assumptions (Campbell, 2014, pg. 233).” These assumptions continue to marginalize and oppress through our practice. It is a trickle down effect: if some voices being part of the IDT community are ignored, oppressed, and marginalized , how can we expect the outcome of our design, research and teaching experiences to be inclusive, equitable, and transformative? In the global economy, we talk about reaching out to diverse groups of learners. If those diverse groups can be represented in the decision making mechanisms, then, it might be easier to develop empathic relationship with the diversity, we strive to address.

As an attempt to challenge the hegemony of patriarchy in academia, this paper explores gender-related challenges and issues female scholars experience in their lives. The male dominance in academia and socio-cultural roles assigned to females create conflicting roles. As female academics are assigned with a range of social, cultural, and professional responsibilities in a male-dominant context, it is essential that they are provided with support (Misra, Crist, & Burant, 2003). Changing this mental frame is not easy since it is legitimized and encouraged by power dynamics. As a socially-accepted and culturally-valued role, females are supposed to take care of domestic responsibilities first. The role of parenthood and marriage once combined with the gendered and biased institutionalized norms conflicts with the role of a scholar (Acker, 1992). As a potential strategy to solve this problem, it is essential to recognize gender as a social construct that is shaped by the patriarchy to designate social and cultural roles to women as a tool for suppression and marginalization (Acker, 1992); thereby, allowing us to perpetuate these inequalities that we have been trying to overcome (Valian, 1998).

To make matter worse, the lack of collaboration among the female academics aggravates the practical impacts of these anomalies. Women’s issues are an important part of the female academic identities that are embodied and situated in a social and cultural discourse dictated by the dominant socio-political forces through the gender, power, and context sensitive knowledge creation process (Nightingale, 2003). It is vital for female academics to have an open forum in which they can share their experiences and insights on women’s issues, and triangulate the silences and incompatibilities across the settings. It is important to raise skepticism concerning the neutrality of the knowledge creation through the practice of normal science, and uncover the silenced and empowered voices by the hegemonic forces situated in a social context (Vaivio & Sirén, 2010).

 

When a Scholar Dies

Several weeks ago I was lurking around Twitter and came across tweets that mentioned a scholar. Someone had created a hashtag and asked others to share their memories related to this scholar (and to include the hashtag in the tweets). I was curious to know who this person was and why people in Twitter were sharing these stories. I quickly learned that the name of the scholar was Dr. Erik Olin Wright. After following a few twitter threads, I found out that he was very ill and the tweets from others were a way to honor what he had done as a scholar, advisor, and as a person. In the mist of the different Twitter posts, I came across a link to his online journal (https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/erikolinwright/journal). In it, Dr. Wright was documenting his illness  and life after his cancer diagnosis. The very first post that I read, in his journal, was titled “Strange State of Existence” posted on Jan 5th in which he discussed having three weeks to live. This is a portion of Dr. Wright’s post on Jan 5th:

Screenshot 2019-02-02 21.44.59After reading his initial post, I continued to silently follow his journey. Every couple of days, I would click on the link and read his new entries. One of the most emotional and wonderful parts of the journal were the comments left by hundred of individuals who had been touched by Dr. Wright in one way or another. This is just one of hundreds of comments shared in his journal:

Screenshot 2019-02-02 21.53.37

If you did not clicked on the link to the online journal, I am sad to share that Dr. Wright passed away on Jan. 23. Reading his journal and the comments made by others has made me reflect tremendously.

  • The reality that we have a limited time in this planet.
  • The reality that as scholars the impact of our work goes far beyond metrics that are often used to rank, classify us, or give us “status.”
  • The beauty of Dr. Wright’s thoughts and humanness in his journal, as well as, the comments by others reminded me that there are still individuals who are genuine, sincere, and candid.

I hope that others find his online journal and continue to read it.