On my journey to become a Ph.D. many have asked me questions so I have posted my own FAQ with my answers:
1) Why are you getting your Ph.D.? Read the essay below.
2) What is your Ph.D. going to be in? Read the essay below.
3) What the hell do you study again? Read the essay below.
4) What is it you want to do again? Read the essay below.
5) Why? Read the essay below.
What I have posted is an essay that I had to submit for something called Comprehensive Essay #1 aka Comp 1. After you have completed X amount of credits and taken certain required classes you have to complete three comps. One is to describe your doctoral journey thus far and outline what theorists & schools of thought have impacted you. My comp 1 also serves as the rough draft of my dissertation concept paper. So when you ask me any of the questions above – here ya go. Or if you are just a stalker and/or creeper and want to know all about me….here ya go.
Originally I enrolled at Fielding in 2000. After completing the requirements for a Master’s Degree and being approximately half way through the doctoral program, my personal and professional life began to unravel. I was juggling a marriage, step-kids, and operating a company with my spouse on top of attending Fielding. In 2004 I concluded that I would need to drop out of Fielding. After looking at my life and my priorities, I decided that obtaining a Ph.D. was just not important anymore. Becoming Dr. Core was a nice idea but the reality of going through a divorce and running a company full time with my then ex-husband seemed to override my dream. Additionally, I had a hard time explaining to those in my life why I was attending a doctoral program that had nothing to do with my career as a real estate developer.
I graduated University of South Florida in 1994 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. Shortly thereafter I began working in the mental health field for several years. Unfortunately the minimal salary became an issue. I job hopped for a while until moving with my first husband to North Carolina. There I secured a job overseeing the supportive services programs for a real estate developer who specialized in affordable multifamily housing financed with federal low income housing tax credits. It is a rather specialized niche market in real estate.
I never wanted to be a real estate developer, it just sort of happened. Several years went by and I found myself at the top of the management chain. I was very interested in organization development, management, and leadership so I began a certificate course through DePaul University. After completion and still feeling a void I applied to Fielding. Deep down, I had always wanted to write and teach at the college level. I wanted to inspire, motivate, and stimulate others to live up to their full potential.
Starting Fielding was both exciting and scary. For the next few years, if I wasn’t working, I was studying and vice versa. In 2004 I was assessing in KA 706 Social Psychology with Keith Melville. After getting very harsh feedback on one of my papers, I threw my hands up in defeat. I had finished the entire KA, applied project included, and all I needed to do to complete the course was to rewrite that paper. I had finished my comps but had not submitted them yet. However at that point in time I just couldn’t emotionally handle any more, so I quit.
During the next several years I worked non-stop and adopted my daughter from Russia in 2006. By that time I had come to grips that while I didn’t want to be a real estate developer, I was one. And frankly, I was very good at it. I’d come to embrace my career. When people asked about Fielding, I replied that it just wasn’t important anymore and my priorities changed. In late 2008, the real estate market was still crashing and serious changes were made at my company. By 2009, I was the only person left. It became one of those situations where things start coming undone, then they snowball, then they pick up at a high velocity and completely spin out of control. All the while, I just stood there and watched my professional life and my real estate career dissipate. It took me so long to come to terms with being a real estate developer that it was hard to watch it fall apart. I tried to control it but at some point I realized that sometimes when things get so out of control it is better to just let it go, because perhaps you are supposed to be ready for the next life adventure and this is God, the Universe or whatever unnamed force in action.
One day I looked around and realized I had nothing to do. No job to go to, no projects to work on, no loans to close and no apartment construction to oversee. It hit me that I had always said if I had the free time and the financial ability, I would finish my Ph.D. It wasn’t a passionate driven decision. It was more matter of fact, pragmatic I should do something because I have a lot of student loan debt and not much to show for it, type of decision.
The downside to being a doctoral student is 99.99% of the time I am alone in my quest. Not many in my circle of friends really “get” it. They listen and try to understand but I see their eyes glaze over and that’s okay. I think if I were a student in a traditional program like at USF and hung out with other doctoral students on a daily basis my journey would be really different. However, I am not looking to sit around with a bunch of academics theorizing about various psychoanalytical theories. I am looking for an academic foundation so that I can use it to help me, help adolescent girls.
In 2006 I self-published a book titled Good Music is Better than Sex: My Search for the Old Blue Chair. On Amazon the book description reads “Author Judy Core confronts her demons of alcohol abuse and fractured relationships and discovers the woman she’s meant to be. Frank, honest and appealing, this memoir is as memorable as the Kenny Chesney songs Core loves” (Amazon.com, 2011). My book may never be a best seller but the intrinsic value it has brought me is in the form of emails and letters from people saying that by putting myself out there I have helped them is enormous. It was a story that I felt I had to tell.
Lessons that I had learned from Fielding played a major part. I deeply connected to the studies that Carol Gilligan (1982) and Lyn Mikel Brown (1998) had conducted regarding voice and adolescent girls. While working on my first KA, Human Development, I came across Gilligan’s groundbreaking work on voice. She defines voice as such, “To have a voice is to be human. To have something to say is to be a person. But speaking depends on listening and being heard; it is a relational act” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XVI). During the course of the five year study of girls ages seven to eighteen, it came to light that girls on the edge of adolescence encountered deep psychological dilemmas’ where they felt that if they said or revealed what they actually thought, then no one would want to be with them. Yet if they didn’t speak what they were feeling they would be all alone (Gilligan, 1982, p. XX). It was a paradox that created painful cognitive dissonance.
This dissonance begins the girls’ movement towards disassociation. Whereas a student at eleven can state something with “ordinary courage”, by age fifteen she was questioning herself, changing her mind and changing her heart (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXII). Girls struggle against losing their voices with losing relationships and ultimately end up carrying “unvoiced desires and unrealized possibilities” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXIII). These girls are at a high risk for future unhealthy relationships and psychological suffering. Not only does Gilligan rethink women’s psychological development, but she calls for a rethinking of psychological development as a whole. She posits “the lie in psychological theories which have taken men as representing all humans, and the lie in women’s psychological development in which girls and women alter their voices to fit themselves into images of relationship and goodness carried by false feminine voices” (Gilligan, 1982, p. XXVI).
These studies led me deeper into women and relationships and women’s aggression. Social psychologists such as Lerner (1985 ) and Jack (1999) filled my research notes. Jack points out that “As our society defines it, aggression designates male; the term derives its meaning in relation to female ‘absence’ of aggression. A man’s aggressive behavior enhances his masculinity. A woman’s destructive or dominating, aggressive behavior detracts from her femininity…Aggression by women connotes destructiveness and a challenge to male authority. One of the surest ways to neutralize the force of an intelligent, sexually assertive, independent woman is to depict it as destroying others, particularly children or men” (Jack, 1999, p. 29).
Using these academic lessons and others I weaved my own life experiences into a book. In the beginning I did this because I felt I had no say in the matter. It was something within me that burst out onto paper and then into a finished product. As I stated before, I doubt it will ever be a best seller but the feedback that I have received from readers is more than enough in royalties. The feedback I received confirmed what I had been silently thinking for so long. I am not the only female on the planet that struggles with relationships, self-esteem, and self-identity. If I could not even hear my own voice amongst all the other incredibly loud ones in my life, would inner peace and happiness really ever be possible? The answer at the end of my book was no.
People often ask me what the old blue chair that is in the title. Old Blue Chair is a song written and performed by Kenny Chesney (2004); it was the catalyst that blew the lid off of all the silent thoughts inside my head and forced me to put my pen to paper. The lyrics tell of the one place where Chesney can ultimately find peace and contentment. As a country music superstar, Chesney has seen a lot of the world, more than the average person could ever hope or dream. However he always finds peace in the solitary old blue wicker chair that sits on a beach in St. John, USVI. The chair provides his escape from all of the noise and chaos of his life; it is the place where he can hear his own voice. The song set me off on my own quest. I needed to find and be able to nourish my own voice. And I did.
With the previous information, one can see how during my first Fielding tenure my area of research interest lie at the intersection of female adolescent development, voice, authenticity, female aggression, and pop music lyrics. Prior to my 2010 re-enrollment I started researching and thinking about what and where I wanted to end up on this doctoral journey. My area of interest was unchanged. I still felt strongly about pop music. I felt strongly about female adolescent development and the idea of voice. And deep down, I still believed that my original dissertation question was a good question.
My dissertation concept is that I think that as toddlers we females listen to fairy tales that send us messages as to how to behave in order to find our Prince Charming. As we age into our twenties we read Cosmo, Glamour, etc. and it gives us advice on how to keep our man happy. In between there what do we have? We have music. Many people connect with music and identify with the lyrics. Songs can become anthems they can be the important soundtrack to important events in our lives.
The lyrics send messages. But there is also another place we get messages from…..other people who talk, write, or review the songs. What they say about the music/lyrics sends messages into the vast universe of society. I believe that these messages, albeit completely unintentional, are important and they become additional voices we hear that tell us what is right, what is wrong, what is socially appropriate and what is not socially appropriate.
My main example has always been the case of Alanis Morrisette and Meredith Brooks. My personal experience was that when I would blast “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette I was given the feedback from guys, friends, radio DJs, magazine writers that I must be an “angry young woman” just like Alanis and Meredith. In my head, I processed those messages into “so…. it’s not okay for me to be angry?” Apparently not, because I picked up messages that guys do not like angry girls. Angry girls are angry bitches. Anger is not good for me. Anger disrupts the relationship. I am a man hater. Anger is bad.
When discussing my concept with professors and other students, sometimes I would hear back negative comments. Then the self – critical debate in my head was “maybe I’m wrong, maybe I am off base, wow, and I am totally alone in vast ocean maybe I should drop out again”. However I have learned that sometimes in life you just have to continue on and maybe you will have an epiphany or just a small sign that you are on the right track. Somehow it will all work out as it should because you always end up where you are supposed to be. You just have to trust in that. And I did.
I ended up on academic probation my first year back because I dilly dally. Bottom line I read too much, research too much, and dilly dally around on the internet without realizing I am wasting valuable time. Once I actually started reading books for the overview of social psychology, I found myself getting bored and dilly dallying. That was until I started The Heart of Social Psychology (Aron, 1989). I never thought I would describe a social psychology text book as “exciting” and “can’t put down” but I enjoyed the book so much that I read it from front to back, every page, and sometimes several times again. It also got me questioning myself deeper. Social psychology is about the love of theory, Aron says. He states that “this freedom, this love of wild ideas, is actively taught to each generation of social psychologists “ (1989, p. 127).
This book was a catalyst for me. I sat here entranced by the energy and excitement that the authors brought to the field. One day it hit me, I want to be a social psychologist. In my heart I am a social psychologist. YES! This is it. Granted, I am not in the Fielding Psychology program but while I have felt at home at Fielding most times I feel alone in the Human and Organization Development program. I feel that I am one of the few students in the Human Development portion of the HOD program.
With that said, I have no intentions of switching programs. What I do have is a new sense of confidence in my role as a doctoral student. I have found a home base in social psychology. Aronson (1999, p. XI) states that implicit in his belief is that social psychology is extremely important – that social psychologists can play a vital role in making the world a better place. I’m utterly fascinated with most every aspect of the field.
I have always envied the people in the world who knew exactly what it was that they wanted to do when they grew up. This was never the case for me. I’ve always just stumbled along. Granted I have been successful in my stumbling but I never felt that sense of confidence in the direction of my life’s path. Until now, now I feel confident, strong, and I can see how everything in my life fits together and has brought me to this point.
As a young manager at Busch Gardens in Tampa I was working my way through college full time. I had a co-worker, also a college student, who would stop me in the middle of some menial task that required no thought and say “Stop. What are you thinking right this minute?” I would have that childish look of you caught me. Then I would say something like, “Well I was thinking about the prison system and how it doesn’t work and what alternatives might be helpful to end the recidivism rate and actually help prisoners”. He would just roll his eyes and shake his head. Statements like “you think too much”, “who thinks those types of things” and “you are so strange” were quite common from my friends.
Aron (1989) made the history of social psychology so very interesting, very enjoyable, and really makes me ponder not just the academic side but the application side. Aron (1989, p. 148) discusses many examples of social psychologists utilizing their findings to make a difference in society. Citing examples from action research, Aronson’s jigsaw classroom, and Kelman’s conflict resolution work with Palestinians, Israelis, and Egyptians, Greek and Turkish people caused me to look deep inside myself. What social impact do I want to have? What good do I want to do with my knowledge?
As I stated earlier, I want an academic foundation that will help me help adolescent girls, young women, and even adult women. I also believe that popular music plays an important role in the psychological development. In my opinion, I feel that popular music studies is somewhat brushed aside by other scholars as though they don’t see any value in the work. However I feel strongly that it is incredibly important. If we as researchers want to understand the common man so to speak then we must understand and develop an appreciation for common things, such as Top 40 radio. It cannot be written off as fluff or inconsequential.
I’ve read articles where the author is amused at a University for offering a course in Lady Gaga. Yet she is a strong, creative, artistic, and immensely successful young woman. She is a newcomer in most aspects and she has only released her second album in May 2011. Within six months it was certified 2 times multi-platinum in the United States. That equals sales of 2 million albums for an artist who is only on her second album. It took 33 years for the Beatles second album to sell 2 million in the United States. In addition to music sales, Lady Gaga is an outspoken advocate for the gay community. Most recently she met with President Obama to discuss anti-bullying laws. To not study such a powerful and influential person seems rather irresponsible as a social psychologist.
At the same time I was studying social psychology, I happened to have an interesting exchange with the music contributor for USA Today, Brian Mansfield. I happened upon his review of Kelly Clarkson’s new album Stronger. This is how it begins:
“Guys, if you start going out with a girl who tells you how much she loves Kelly Clarkson’s latest album, run away. Fast. Kelly takes telling guys off to new levels here, to the point that you eventually start to wonder if, just maybe, it’s not the guys with the problem. By the time you get to the end, the country song you’re half-expecting to hear isn’t Don’t You Wanna Stay, her chart-topping duet with Jason Aldean. It’s Before He Cheats” (Mansfield, 2011).
What is so interesting is that how he perceives the album is not how I perceive it. In regard to the first single Mr. Know It All (James, 2011) Mansfield says, “Kelly sings, practically spitting the words in the face of the person she’s singing to, because she clearly thinks he ought to”. I don’t think she is spitting the words. In my head I picture a strong woman who is calmly confident and just smiling with her secret knowledge that the poor guy is just so sadly mistaken. I don’t even it take it as an angry song. I just picture her walking away from some man who is trying to control her, telling her what she thinks, what she needs, how she should act, and she isn’t mad. She isn’t crying, she is just holding her head high and walking confidently into the future with the knowledge that all his grandstanding was just about him, not about her. Kind of like my second husband. It took me a long time to break down that wall, the wall that was built from all of his critical hurtful demeaning statements. In Clarkson’s video for the song there is a wall of newspaper articles of all the negative hurtful opinions, comments, and/or rumors. In the video she starts ripping them down and steps over to the other side, smiling. It is almost as if her smile is saying “say what you want about me, you don’t know me at all”. In my view there isn’t any anger just quiet confidence.
For the second track What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) (Elofsson, 2011) Mansfield says “Just in case Kelly didn’t belittle Mr. Know It All enough in the first song, telling him, “You know everything about everything, but you don’t,” now she’s back for round two: “The bed feels warmer, sleeping here alone” (Ouch!). Nah, her life doesn’t suck without him. What sucks is that she didn’t deck him before she left. With a song that would fit with a boxing film’s workout montage, she’s clearly thinking about it: If she does come back, she’ll come back swinging” (Mansfield, 2011).
I feel like we are listening to two different albums. To me here is a woman that has come out of a hard time and she is better for it. She isn’t angry and vengeful, she is stronger. Hence the album title I would gather. To me this is the part of the movie where she gets out of her bed where she has been for days crying, gets her butt in the shower, cleans up, looks herself squarely in her eyes and says back to herself “I can do this”. The message I take is that I can tackle life again. I get empowerment and confidence from it. Mansfield thinks she is pissed off and ready to punch the guy.
For the third song, Dark Side (Busbee, 2011), Mansfield writes
“This song’s music-box intro quickly turns nightmarish, as Kelly sings about place that’s not pretty and that few have ever gone. She’ll show that dark side to you, lover, but you better promise up front that you can handle it, no matter how bad it is. This could wind up being a favorite songs of psycho girlfriends everywhere, because it’s a set-up. She never quite says so, but, given the first two songs, here’s how it plays: If you bail before seeing the dark side, she’ll tell everybody she knows that you’re shallow. If he bails after, she’ll tell everybody you’re a jerk. Kelly finishes the song in her most siren-like voice, singing, “Don’t run away, don’t run away.” Don’t listen to her, guys”(Mansfield, 2011).
I completely relate to this song. I often referred to myself as the Badass Barbie that was so fun for guys to play with, I drank, cussed, had sex but then…..once the dark side started creeping out, Barbie got put back on the shelf. But after getting told for so long that my dark side made me unlovable I believed it until I was in my 40’s. Now looking back, to me it is yin and yang. The dark side balances out the light. Everyone has a dark side. It is human nature.
Yes, I do believe everyone has a dark side. It is filled with doubt, fear, tears, insecurities etc. Mine happens to be filled with a label called Bipolar. It took me a long time to accept it, took me a longer time to take medicine for it and took me until a few months ago to get okay with it. The downside is sometimes there are mean people out there who quickly label me and automatically run away. I roll my eyes and shake my head and in my southern way say “bless his poor little heart, he just doesn’t know any better”. So that is my dark side. Have I found someone who can handle it? Nope. But really there are 7 billion people out there. Statistically the odds are in my favor. I’ll be okay.
Mansfield’s review and my review are completely different. We bring completely different perspectives that I believe are gender based. We chatted on twitter about his review and he said that he would worry if his wife or daughter felt like those were the stories of their life. Well, I hazard a guess but I’m going to say at some point in their lives it was or will be. Anger is just a normal emotion. Everyone gets angry. Everyone gets sad. It’s okay. Just because you get angry doesn’t make you a psycho bitch. Anger is just a different shade of hurt. Sometimes, the best way to work through anger and hurt is to make a soundtrack for the movie of your life.
For my depth portion of the Social Psychology KA I am researching the social psychology of popular music. One study that I found centers on music and aggression. Fischer and Greitemeyer (Greitemeyer, 2006) examined the impact of sexual – aggressive song lyrics on aggressive thoughts, emotions, and behavior towards the same and opposite gender. The part that caught my attention was in their study #2 they used lyrics that had been deemed “man – hating” and “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morrisette was included. The researchers note that “pretests revealed that the lyrics of these songs were perceived as more man-hating (M=5.42, SD = 2.32) than the misogynous (M = 0.33, SD = 0.92) and neutral song lyrics (M=0.73, SD = 1.29)….”(Greitemeyer, 2006, p. 1170). I am curious as to exactly how the pretests were structured and precisely how the lyrics were deemed man-hating. I emailed the researchers but have not heard anything back.
The other important study that I found happens to come from Brenda Osuna, a recent Fielding graduate. Her dissertation is a methodological study on the psychological impact of music with lyrics (2011). This work is provides me with a foundation on which to build. Osuna analyzed various studies and the methods used and created a quantitative method that will provide the necessary validity. Additionally, she composed best practices guidelines for future studies that involve music with lyrics.
I’m extremely excited to move forward in my Fielding journey. Popular music studies is a passion of mine and I want to be able to contribute knowledge that can be used in adolescent interventions, the classroom, and provide a voice of experience and empowerment to teen girls through my humorous tales.
My next steps include completing KA 706 Social Psychology, completing my Comprehensive essays #2 and #3, and completing KA 753 C with Annabelle Nelson. I believe that once I complete my literature review of the psychological studies of popular music my next challenge will be to gain a solid foundation in quantitative research methods.
I am still in the beginning stages of the dissertation process. My mentor Judy Stevens Long will also serve as my dissertation chair. During my progress review I was excited to learn that Rich Appelbaum has a personal connection to the popular music field. His son in law is the lead guitarist for the highly successful and talented band The Foo Fighters. Rich has also agreed to serve on my committee. I contracted with Annabelle Nelson for 753 C for the express purpose of working with her and learning more about the area of music therapy. I continue to participate in the International Association for the Study of Popular Music and am keeping my eyes open for an external examiner.
Early on in my Fielding journey many, many faculty and staff advised me to trust the journey. This journey most certainly has been a leap of faith. I’ve gotten lost, taken long detours, and stopped at many scenic vistas. It has been an incredible adventure thus far.
Amazon.com. (2011). http://www.amazon.com/Good-Music-Better-Than-Sex/dp/1419628666/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322593763&sr=1-11
Aron, A. A., E. N. (1989). The Heart of Social Psychology A Backstage View of a Passionate Science. Lexington: Lexington Books.
Aronson, E. (1999). The Social Animal (Eighth ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.
Brown, L. M. (1998). Raising their voices: the politics of girls’ anger. Cambridge Harvard University Press.
Busbee, A. (2011). Dark Side BMG Platinum Songs, Hello I Love You Music, Jam Writers Group (BMG).
Chesney, K. (2004). Old Blue Chair (pp. Song). Nashville: Sony/ATV Tunes, LLC, Islandsoul Music.
Elofsson, J., Tamposi, A., Gamson, D., Kursten, G. (2011). What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger): Universal Music Publishing MGB Scandanavia AB, Sony/ATV Music OBO Perfect Storm Music Group.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Greitemeyer, T. a. F., P. (2006). Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual – Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression – Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior Toward the Same and the Opposite Sex. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 32(9), 1165-1176. doi: 10.1177/0146467206288670
Jack, D. C. (1999). Behind the mask: destruction and creativity in women’s aggression. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
James, B., Dean, E. Jones, D., Seals, B. K. . (2011). Mr. Know It All: B UNEEK SONGS C/O Universal Music Group, EXTERNAL COMBUSTION MUSIC , .
Lerner, H. (1985 ). The Dance of Anger New York: Harper & Row.
Mansfield, B. (2011, 10-23-2011). Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Stronger’: A track – by – track review Music Review USA Today. Retrieved from http://content.usatoday.com/communities/idolchatter/post/2011/10/kelly-clarkson-stronger-review-track/1?csp=34life&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter&dlvrit=285341
Osuna, B. L. (2011). Psychological Effects of Music with Lyrics: A Methodological Study. Ph.D. Dissertation, Fielding Graduate University, Santa Barbara. (UMI 3454580)