whirlwind two weeks – need sleep

So, last week, I met with one professor and set up my research plan for my final project. It was enlightening and helpful, and encouraging. Then, I left on the 7th for 4 days at my alma mater for a conference that left me without sleep, and more work, not only from missing work, classes, and time at home, but from tasks that came up during the conference.

However, would I trade that yearly excursion for anything? Probably not. Meeting with other alumni about how to make the University better is always great, and spending time with current students, former classmates, and respected administrators makes the time worthwhile. Add some time reminiscing at the local watering holes, and you’ve got a weekend to remember.

I was glad to be able to talk to the current students, but honestly, I personally got the most out of an activity I didnt even know about until 2 days before: Media School Day. Alumni came back to talk to students about life after graduation, and I could see them making a real difference. And, I got to talk to former coworkers and classmates about their work (now) as professors and administrators, and tips for my own student life, dealing with professors that we’ve all had, and I am just dealing with now.

It’s always energizing to talk to current students and see the youth and energy we used to have, decades ago, now in them. In an unplanned event, the current general manager of my old radio station managed to get over a dozen alumni, over 20 students, and the faculty advisor together on a school night, to discuss the state of the station, and the future. It goes to show, when the stars align, great things can happen.

Once I got back, a week ago today, I was without sleep, and falling WAY behind on projects for class. No surprise there, but the sleep deprivation was killing my productivity, too, and I couldnt get back on track.

This past Monday,  I met with two of my professors about my research project (final for my innovation class), and about my proposed thesis/admission to the graduate program in engineering. This was scary, enlightening, and frustrating.

I feel like I have a much better chance of getting into the engineering program, but honestly, I’m not feeling like it’s a great fit. Yes, it’s studying what I need and want to study, but I found out I’ll have to sacrifice a written-thesis based Masters (which would lead right into a PhD) for a project-based Masters, which is a dead-end degree, because no professors in that program are doing research in my area. It really made me question whether this is the right decision, at least at first. However, my professor understood my plight, and wanted to encourage me to apply. Taking courses without a goal, at least in my case, was not an option, and he understood my need to get into a program to not throw away college credit.

When I mentioned the joint program in engineering and design, I was told that it really isn’t quite that, and that only three students have done it (one of whom, I know). It really is two separate degrees. And, it seems, not for me, but only because of the previously mentioned project-based Masters.

However, I am thinking of still applying to the Design program. My friends and classmates have all encouraged it, and I’ve started researching more details. I know the professors (or have some familiarity with them), and I know several people who have come through the program.

My classmate, who is graduating this quarter in the design program, has encouraged me to talk to the design chair, and to do both programs, but do the research for a written thesis in the design program and apply the research to a project thesis in the engineering program. It makes the most sense — best of both worlds.

I also realized there’s some overlap in the communications department, but it may be difficult to find someone doing the type of research to support a project like mine.

Anyway, I continued to get very little sleep this past week, and it’s been taking a toll on my concentration and productivity. Thursday night, my class was cancelled in order to fascilitate attendance of the Usability Professionals Association meeting downtown, to hear the design chair speak. Two of my professors are members, as am I, and it was a great meeting, and helped with my proposed thesis, to get me to break out of my self-imposed box, butI lost another two to three hours of sleep just thinking about my project.

I had been focusing on applying traditional web interfaces and newer search technologies to an existing group of problems. But then, thanks to the design chair’s presentation, I broke free of the constraints of that to try to address the real problem, which wasn’t utilizing existing tech to facilitate better usability, but building a comprehensive system to better organize and present the data to increase student efficiency, confidence, and independence.

I managed to sleep in a little this morning, but I could still use a nap. Unfortunately, I need to rewrite my letter of intent, buy a sketch pad and pencils, and start working up designs. Then, I need to dig out and photograph a bunch of action figures for my other class project.

Taking two classes this quarter made me a 3/4 time student. My professors called me crazy. I’m beginning to think they’re right. I can see the end of the quarter in sight, but it ain’t pretty.

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