Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Thanks to 911, and the Orange County EMS and First Responders...

I just made my first call to 911. Last week, my 10-year old daughter, Maggie, had an allergic reaction to Zithromax. We were on our way to the UNC hospital, when the nurse there (who was on the phone with me--I was in a panic as my daughter could not breath!), told me to pull over and call 911. It was the most scared I have been for her life--ever, but I have to commend the man on the other end of my call. He was very calm and reassuring as he told me what to do while we waited in the Wendy's parking lot for the first response crew from the fire department and then the paramedics. Each time he could tell that I was getting a bit nervous, he told me to calm down so that I could calm Maggie down--and it worked. The paramedics arrived, gave her oxygen and got her breathing back to normal and sent us home. They did not think it was an allergic reaction, but her pediatrician did think the Zithromax inflamed her lungs and esophogus, making her feel like she was having a heart attack, which is how she described it. All in all, it was an exhausting evening. The paramedic told Maggie that she had expended enough energy equivalent to running a marathon. As we were leaving, the paramedic reassured me that I would not see a bill for their services, but I told him that I would have been happy to pay any amount that he would have charged me for their immediate, decisive, kind and amazing attention to my daughter.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gender Discrimination: Still alive and well...

This week in my Public Relations seminar, we read articles about gender discrimination in the field of public relations. The upshot is that while there are more women than men in the field of PR, women still don't have access to the power positions that men do, are paid less, and respected less. The research was based on surveys and interviews of both men and women, and some of the quotes were quite revealing: men whose wives stay home, wondering what women are doing at work; men who think that women aren't fast enough decision makers, using furniture shopping as the basis of their thinking. Here I thought that my work experiences were old and out of date, but these articles proved that sexism is still alive and well.

In my first job at General Motors as a college intern, I was placed in a department with a white-haired man who directed me to the filing cabinet as soon as I arrived. When I asked when I'd be investigating suggestions, like the other college men, he said that his wife stayed at home so he didn't see much point to women in the work place. He said all of this while his head was bent over a putter in this office. Welcome to the corporate world! I ended up filing for a few weeks, which was fine. But by the end of that rotation, I was out in the plant, investigating suggestions with the guys.

The other insight this article mentioned was that women don't know how to get ahead because they are not conditioned to ask for promotions, like men are. I also learned this the hard way. After finishing my MBA, I saw that my male colleagues at Johnson Controls were getting promoted faster than I was, so I realized that in order to get ahead, I would have to ask for a promotion, and ask I did. In four years, every single promotion or pay raise I got, I had to ask (or fight) for. I learned that you only get what you want by speaking up.

Friday, September 16, 2005


We talked about lurkers in my blogging class as those people who read blogs, but don't comment on them. I realized that I am a lurker, as there are blogs I enjoy reading, but don't necessarily feel compelled to make comments on. I figured that was okay to read and not comment, until we got into a discussion of community and how the comments create community, as people living in a community create part of the whole.

It reminded me of living in Southern Village, near the campus of UNC. We just moved from there to Durham recently, to be closer to Durham Academy where our children are going to school. There are many wonderful things about Southern Village--being able to walk everywhere, our wonderful next-door neighbors, the great bookstore and coffee shop...But, there are also "lurkers"--people who don't mind living in close quarters (the homes are all quite close to each other), but who are not interested in getting to know you or say hello. We always thought it would be odd that someone would choose to live in such a close community, but not participate in the community. Now I understand why "lurkers" are called just that. They really don't add to community--they just take up space.

Convergence of Topics...

This week in my classes, it was exciting to see a clear convergence of topics:
higher levels of transparency in media messages, the power of affect and emotion on message delivery, the need for new ways to deliver messages to organizational constituents via the web, and the research on technology demonstrating how people see computers as social actors. Across each of my four classes, I can see my research interests coming together, knowing that soon, a dissertation topic will reveal itself to me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Joining the Conversation...

We are reading We the Media by Dan Gillmor in my blogging class. He makes an interesting point in his first chapter that blogging is allowing ordinary people to "join the conversation", whether it is a journalistic conversation or a market conversation. Blogging levels the playing field, allowing equal access to the publishing sphere. I suppose that I don't think of myself so much as a publisher, but as one who is expressing herself in a new way. My topic is of no interest to no one but me, but that is fine, because writing is cathartic for me.

There are other bloggers, however, that publish information on topics that we might never have had access to, if they had not started blogging. In that respect, their voices add to our global conversation, and we are all wiser as a result.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Are Blogs Virtual Communities?

Our readings for class this week include an article asking if Blogs can be considered virtual communities. This is an interesting question because I've begun to wonder if both for-profit and nonprofit organizations can harness blogs to create community and cultivate a dialogue with their constituents. The article, "Blogs as Virtual Communities: Identifying a Sense of Community in the Julie/Julia Project" argues that those who participate in the dialogue of the blog did feel that the Julie/Julia project was a virtual community, as compared to those who were more lurkers (those who preferred to read, hang back, and not comment).

It made me consider why, then, that I blog? Do I blog for others? For myself? Do I think that a community will emerge? I remember that when I started this blog, I just wanted to learn how to blog, and thought it would be appropriate to discuss a topic I was familiar with. I even thought that I was alone in the world--the only 40+ year old graduate student with children and a commuting husband. Then I took a pedagogy course and realized that there really are more of us than I even knew and if we all could actually find each other, we could actually become a community. But, that is ironically the most challenging attribute about my demographic--we are not targetable--we don't self-identify--we don't check a box saying, "I am an older student with a family trying to forge a new life for myself." Mostly, we just keep to ourselves, hoping to get through each day with clean clothes and get everyone where they need to be on-time.

The first week of class is over...

I'm a second year doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That first year sure flew by fast. Now I feel as though I have no time left to learn the amount of information I need to learn before I have to write a dissertation. I suppose all doctoral students feel this way, which is why we choose this life of academia where we can continue to study and learn and teach.

This fall, I am taking three journalism classes and one social psychology class. My first class of the week is on blogging with Professor Paul Jones. Now that I've written a paper on blogging, it is time to learn from "the master." I'm also taking Human Computer Interaction from Professor Sri Kalyanaraman. This class will be immensely helpful in getting closer to my dissertation topic of online communication. My third journalism course is the Public Relations Seminar with Professor Lois Boynton. She was kind enough to spend time with me before I even applied to the J-School and allowed me to ask all kinds of questions about the school, making sure that it would be an okay place to be an older student. Finally, my social psych course is with Dr. Sanna. His PhD is from Penn State--our home for five years--this is a small world. All in all, I once again have this feeling that I am so thrilled to be sitting in class, soaking it all in.

I'm so glad the semester has started.