PhD for what?


As someone who is preparing his finish line in the pursuit of PhD, I have been thinking about many different things about how to use all these experiences, skills, and networks, for my next career. During this moment of contemplation, I came across the following:

You find yourself better placed to help others do the research than doing the research yourself. – Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier.

I have enjoyed very much facilitating a service learning course, implementing its philosophy, and embracing its opportunities. I was first exposed to the practice service learning back in 2006 when I was a member of a community-based research team, and published a book documenting a total of 67 in-depth interviews with local community organizations; please read this interview about the book.

My service learning practice has produced two long term partnership with TNS Monona and the South Madison Farmers’ Market. For those who are not familiar, the challenge of a short-term service learning is immense; read an article about it.

So being able to maintain two long term partnerships is humbling. I have had my very best friends from these partnerships. Undergraduates students, graduate students, academic staff, professors, and community partners. Working on a community-based project, I feel I can accomplish a lot, and I have done some. Is it me being an academic, or being a member of a community?

Being an academic, I have to admit that the kind of approach I have applied is radical. Academics tend to view a service learning course as another course that has a service component. If it has a community-based project in it, the community element is not as strong. Overall, the civic engagement aspect does not have enough attention; see my poster about it. This has continued to challenge me about my role as an academic. How to be more useful as an academic?

However productive the conversations around these differences, they have given me some serious stress. But it has helped to be more strategic, though does not eliminate the roots of the stress, sadly, at least not yet.

Now being a community member, I have been educated and practiced how to honor the rights of communities  in relation to community-university partnership. Often times, honoring their rights have been the center of my differences with my colleagues. I have enjoyed working along with community partners by mobilizing higher education resources. I strive to be as effective and efficient as possible when delivering community-oriented goals.

Which one I enjoy more? Maybe, in which area I could make a difference more than the other?


* updated March 21st; also see the follow up posts on this.

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