By Daihong Chen
Milan Kundera, one of my favorite writers, claimed that life is about choices. Every choice leads to a different adventure and experience. I believe that pursuing a PhD degree is a crisis choice in life since it means a huge investment of time and effort. Meanwhile, the decision of which program to enter is a critical choice too. People around you as well as resources and opportunities you can have are essential to enhancing your knowledge, harnessing your research ability, and impacting the development of life values and personality. It sounds like a dramatic change for me to make the choice of transferring from the University of Georgia (UGA), a 33,000 student public university in a small college town to Seattle Pacific University (SPU), a less than 4,000 students private university in a comparatively big modern city. I am blessed and overjoyed that this choice has been leading me to a fascinating path of being a doctorate student.
I still clearly remember the most struggle-filled midsummer I have ever had. Every day I prayed for the clues and guidance from God, consulting pastors and experienced senior scholars, talking with family and friends, so as to figure out an answer to whether I should move to Seattle or stay at Athens. Most of my Chinese friends suggested that I stay at UGA without any hesitation because they even didn’t hear about SPU and obviously the program of the Learning, Design, and Technology at UGA enjoys a strong reputation. I wrote many emails to Dr. Lumpe asking many questions about the transfer and he was always very patient in answering any question.
Time flies! Now I have started my second quarter in the PhD of Education program at SPU. The journey of exploring and adventuring at SPU in the past half a year has provided me sufficient insights and experience to give answers to my questions and concerns before I came here.
My experience in the past six months tells that ranking doesn’t matter as much as you think. Being educated from kindergarten to graduate school in China, I cannot be clearer about the importance of the ranking of schools which is closely associated with the quality of education and the future career development opportunity in China. I have to say it was the biggest struggling I had. UGA is well known in China and the program I was in has been top ranked in the field of educational technology.
I talked about this concern with two Chinese professors working in UGA; however, they told me that, ranking doesn’t mean so much in USA because big public schools definitely have more resources and advantages regarding these standards for evaluation, but these standards for assessing a school usually are not too much associated with your personal learning experience and growth. What really matter is how much personal care, direction, assistance, support and resources you can have from professors and the school.
Now I can say that, the direction, care, help and support I gained from SPU is not less than I had in UGA, and is even more customized and personalized as it is a small group in which students can obtain more attention and assistance. For example, I was impressed that after the international student orientation, every international student has an individual meeting with the coordinator for personal issues or requirements. Because the program is small, everyone knows everyone very well and the acquaintance makes me feel comfortable and encouraged everyday. I have never met the dean of the College of Education at UGA in person, but at SPU, you can talk with the dean, faculty and staff frequently and they are always very happy to help. In this small school, actually, you can reach more resources and have more assistance.
The other main concern I had for the transfer was if there were opportunities to be involved in research and academic practice in the doctorate program at SPU. As we know, research is a critical part through the journey of the doctorate education. Now, I would say that the doctorate program in the School of Education at SPU provides many opportunities involving me into real research project and practice, conference presentation, and journal or book chapter publication. I have started to work in the bPortfolio project since I registered in the school. Benefiting from this ongoing project so far, I was listed as the fourth author of a presentation in at the 18th Annual Sloan Consortium International Conference on Online Learning in Orlando, Florida in October, 2012. Additionally, a full paper coauthored by Dr. Lumpe and I has been submitted for the AACE conference presentation in the coming June. The effort of coding data and writing a paper for this project is a rather valuable experience in terms of improving research skills and academic writing. Additionally, I am blessed to get involved in writing a book chapter in terms of “teacher reflection” with Dr. Lumpe and Dr. Bishop. I believe my knowledge has been broadened and enriched greatly in terms of teacher education, educational technology and research methodology in the past half a year.
Above all, I do enjoy my new journey in the school of education as a doctorate student. I like the fact that SPU places a huge emphasis on students’ development and individual needs and builds a harmonious and collaborative community.
In closing, I would like to use what my friend in my previous program at UGA told me about my choice. When I told her what I am studying and learning, she said that, I think you made a right decision for the transfer to SPU.
About Daihong Chen:
I am a current doctorate student in the PhD of Education program at Seattle Pacific University. I am originally from China. I graduated from Beijing Normal University with the Bachelor degree in Education and Master degree in Education majoring in Curriculum and Instruction. Before I came to USA, I was a high school teacher teaching Moral and Political Education for three years and then worked for the China National Curriculum Resources Center for two years. I finished my first year of PhD education in the program of Learning, Design, and Technology at the University of Georgia in which I was a graduate assistant working for the coordinators of Master programs of Learning Design and Development and School Library and Media. I also co-instructed the course of Introduction of Instructional Design with Dr. Clinton in the summer semester of 2012 at UGA. I transferred to Seattle Pacific University in August, 2012. My research interest is technology integration and teacher education.