Saturday, April 14, 2012

Doctoral Confessions: Eva Lantsoght, Ph.D. Candidate

By Eva Lantsoght, Ph.D. Candidate

In this entry, I’ll be sharing you my experiences as a doctoral student so far. Currently, I’m in the 3rd year of a four year program to obtain my Ph.D. in Civil Engineering.

I applied for a position as a Ph.D. candidate at Delft University of Technology by simply sending an email to the research group I was interested in working with. I had read a description on their website about new research which they would start, and decided to inform if they still had an opening. I was very glad to receive a positive answer, and I was invited for an interview at the end of December 2008. At that time I was still studying at Georgia Tech, and my soon-to-be advisors from Delft asked if I could graduate as fast as possible since their project would start in January 2009. I took a deep breath, plunged into my study books and finished my MS in August 2009, ready to join the research group in Delft in September 2009.

When I arrived to Delft, I knew I was by far the last one to join in the project, and there was a certain amount of time pressure from the funders to deliver experimental results as soon as possible. As a result, I ended up having my first specimens made just a month after I got started – and got involved with lab work right from the beginning. While most PhD students start by reading about their topic and get an understanding of their field of research, I had to roll up my sleeves, plunge into the deep to start experimental work for the first time in my life, and at the same time read about my topic. Even though I could sense the pressure to deliver results and work on the reports from the very beginning, I enjoyed the variety of tasks very much.

However, little did I know that I was about to end up in the lab for the next 2,5 years. As time progressed, the initial planning for the experiments seemed to be stretched to infinity. More parameters would need to be studied, which meant more specimens needed to be tested. While my initial planning included experiments until Fall 2010, I ended up testing until Spring 2012. At the same time, I had to show our funders what we were working on, and make intermediate versions of our research reports. While I always thought researchers get to sit down at their desk and think about how to solve the world’s problems, I soon learned that I was in for juggling a large amount of tasks.

From the very beginning of my doctoral studies, I was producing experimental results – and publishing these in conference papers. In fact, I wrote the first abstract for a conference when I was only 2 months into my research. Since then, I’ve been keeping updated with the conferences in my area, and trying to balance preparing for a conference with my other research and teaching responsibilities.

After the first half year, I felt that I started to gain inertia: I had my experiments going, was keeping up with my reports, writing and giving my first presentations. I started to find a routine and had found a permanent place to live. Adding TA-ing a course and assisting MSc students with their thesis, and I had a mix of tasks which I worked on for the first 2,5 years of my PhD.

Mid March 2012, I finished my experimental work (so far). With my thesis due around mid April 2013, I had the feeling that so much work is left unfinished. However, I sat down and started to prioritize and see what is necessary to come up with a coherent argument for my dissertation – the material I have so far and what still needs to be done. I outlined the contents of my dissertation, and started working on the chapters. I wanted to get started on writing as soon as possible. As I finish up my reports, I want to condense them immediately into the respective chapter. While this is working fine, I still need to find a large chunk of time to research on the missing parts for my dissertation. By times, this goal seems rather challenging to me.

When I started planning the writing phase of my doctoral studies, I did not really take into account all other tasks I have at hand. Now, at times I feel a sense of panic when I know today is April, in May I am travelling for 3 weeks, in June I will be away for a conference, in July for two conferences and in August I am getting married. When will I find the time for writing? That is my next challenge at hand – I’m excited, nervous, worried, hopeful and stressed, all at the same time.

Eva Lantsoght is a structural engineer currently pursuing a PhD at Delft University of Technology on the topic of shear in one-way reinforced concrete slabs. Originally from Lier, Belgium, she received an Engineering Degree from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and a MS from Georgia Tech. At her blog PhD Talk, she blogs about her research, the process of doing a PhD, the non-scientific skills you need during your PhD, living abroad and her travels.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doctoral Confessions: 14 Years Later

By Dr. Shira Leibowitz

“Doctoral confessions” is a series of stories started by my twitter friend, Will Deyamport (@peoplegogy) on the good, the bad and the ugly in pursuing a doctorate. Will, currently in the final stages of his doctorate, refers to those of us who have graduated as “brave souls”. I think it’s more honest to call us “persistent souls”. There are surely much more difficult experiences in life than pursuing a doctorate. Getting a Ph.D. doesn’t require bravery; just time and patience.

I hadn’t intended to start a doctorate. It was the early 90’s and I was a rabbinical student, not yet sure how I would craft a career. I taught religious school as a means of supporting myself and found I loved being in the classroom; adoring the middle school students I taught. To improve my teaching skill, I added to my schedule as many education electives as I could. I found myself drawn to education.

At the time, the field of Jewish education seemed to be expanding and there was great demand for qualified Jewish educators to serve in a range of settings. My school, The Jewish Theological Seminary, among other institutions was asked to produce doctoral students capable of becoming educational leaders. Apparently, I was gaining a reputation for holding educational promise. The chair of the education department, with whom I took a course, invited me to lunch. Would I be interested, he asked, in a full scholarship along with a living stipend to pursue a doctorate in Jewish education?  It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The experience was a dream come true. I continued rabbinical school, with the cost of classes covered as part of the same scholarship I received for my doctoral studies. I engaged in learning with professors and colleagues who stretched my thinking. I read countless books and journal articles that were meaningful and thought provoking.

Do I have “war stories” – the bad and the ugly as it were? Well, of course I do. There was the German exam I failed miserably, finally squeaking through the language requirement with a B- (by the skin of my teeth) in two semesters of German.  There was the moment I and three colleagues in my program approached our department to schedule our comprehensive exams, following six months of intensive study, only to be told the department had a new literature list and we would need to begin our exam prep anew. We protested that decision and were allowed to take the exam on the material we had initially been told to learn. There were the demanding years of intensive writing, critique and revising. Through it all, I always felt privileged both for the opportunity to learn and for the potential to contribute.

Now, looking back 14 years into the past, the pain of grueling hours, days and years of writing almost forgotten, I wonder whether the intensive academic study prepared me for real challenges in real schools. Hubris aside at being able to call myself Dr., I question whether the study made me a better educator today than I would have been without pursuing the doctorate.

I suppose the answer is yes – my academic training has helped me become a more effective educator.

I can read and apply educational research utilizing critical thinking honed in my doctoral program. I can ask good questions. I can research and I can write. I can assess the quality of data and utilize data to formulate hypotheses and opinions. I can recognize the possibility of multiple interpretations of the same data. I am open to differing perspectives.

And, I suppose the answer is also no – my academic training is not primarily what makes me an effective educator.

I wasn’t prepared to support a child excluded by peers or frustrated by work that is too challenging or not challenging enough. I wasn’t instructed in ways of assisting a parent saddened by a child’s difficulties or angered by a school decision. I wasn't shown ways of empowering teachers stiving to meet ever rising demands. I wasn’t made ready to allocate insufficient financial resources during economically trying times. Perhaps most significantly, I wasn’t equipped to lead the cultural change required in response to the rapid changes our world has experienced in the past fourteen years since I received my Ph.D. All of that I have learned from experience.

Was receiving a doctorate worth the effort? Absolutely! Was it sufficient? Not by a long shot. Are there other paths to becoming an effective educational leader? Of course! Am I still grateful for the opportunity I received? Unquestionably; grateful and ever-committed to utilizing the gifts given me in order to make a contribution for the sake of our children.

Shira Leibowitz has served as Lower School Principal of Schechter Westchester in White Plains, New York since August, 2000. She holds a Ph.D in education and a rabbinical degree from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America as well as a B.A. from Cornell University. Dr. Leibowitz is a speaker and writer on educational topics with particular interest in character and values education. Dr. Leibowitz trains in Tae Kwon Do and has earned her Black Belt. She lives with her husband and two teenage children. You can follow Dr. Leibowitz on twitter @shiraleibowitz where she is co-moderator of the weekly chat #educoach on the topic of instructional coaching.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dream Energizer Video: Life in Black and White

By Abdul-Rahmaan I. Muhammad, MSW

Muhammad received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Tougaloo College, in Tougaloo, MS and received his Masters in Social Work degree from Clark-Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a brother of the Beta Sigma Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Muhammad is married to his beautiful wife, Dayeshell and is the proud father of three children, Aminah, Amirah and Amir.

For more information about the Dream Support Network, visit our website or visit our location at 29 West Main Street, Rockville, CT. For more information about My People Clinical Services, visit our website at

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Getting Started with Yoga

Where to begin?  You've been telling yourself you'd like to try yoga for years.  You've even looked up studios nearby and picked up schedules.  So what's stopping you from starting?

In my years of teaching and practicing yoga I have had numerous conversations on this topic.  People want to do yoga, but don't.  The number one thing that holds them back is FEAR.  Now, yoga is far from a scary thing.  The leap from thinking about practicing yoga to actually going to a studio to take class is a bigger jump than you may think.  I get it.  I get the fear of not knowing what it's going to be like.  Is the class really suitable for  "all levels?"  Will you stand out or feel left behind because you can't keep up?  Or are you waiting to lose weight, become more flexible and look better in your yoga pants before you go (yoga models you see online or in magazine are just that, models)?  These are all of the popular reasons I hear of why that desire to start yoga lingers on the to-do list.

I encourage you to take the LEAP.   Here are some tips I hope will help you on your path from thinking of to practicing yoga.
  • Do your research.  There are many forms of yoga out there and even more studios to choose from    (I will post more about the various forms of yoga in an upcoming post). I suggest newbies begin with a gentle or beginner yoga class or series.  Another option is to do private sessions with an instructor.  I am wary of using a DVD as your first source of practice since there is no one watching you to ensure proper form and alignment.  Try not to base your experience on the first class you try.  With so many studios to choose from I encourage you to try different studios or teachers until you find your fit.
  • Let go of your expectations.  Yoga is about letting go.  In it's purest form yoga is about finding awareness and connecting your body and mind through movement and breath. It's non-competitive so  allow yourself to be childlike with exploration of your breath, your body and the poses.  It may be helpful to look at others in class when getting into a pose however you should be mindful not to compare how you look to them.  We are each on our own path, and it's not a race.
  • Set your intentions.  Intentions differ from expectations.  With an intention you are looking at what is at the root of wanting to take yoga.  Examples of intentions are to nurture yourself, relax, be fully present, learn something new about yourself, or to sweat and detox.
  • Have fun!  Yoga is something you are doing out of love for yourself.   The many benefits of yoga are well known.  Whether it's simply to bring movement back into your life, to calm your mind or to tone up, the benefits of yoga are plentiful.  In your practice embrace this sense of abundance, health and vitality.  You are nurturing your mind, body and soul.  
I am very happy to begin this partnership with Peoplegogy.  I will be contributing articles on yoga, Pilates and holistic mind-body wellness.

Classically trained in ballet, Meg Zirm Everingham translates her love of movement to teaching yoga, Pilates, Balleticise™  & barre work. A student of Yoga & Pilates for nearly 15 years, she is a certified Pilates instructor through Balanced Body University and a certified in Yoga instructor via the YogaLifeInstitute in Wayne, PA. Meg believes in living a wholly natural, healthy “yoga life.”   Through the study of Ayurveda & this yogic lifestyle Meg has built an extensive knowledge of holistic nutrition.  Fusing her classical training, knowledge & love of motion, Meg strives to empower her clients through the freedom & strength of mind-body movement & wellness.

Follow Meg on Twitter and learn more about her at her personal blog at

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Interracial Dating, Relationships & Marriage with Will Deyamport on The LaKesha Womack Show

The LaKesha Womack Show discusses current events, interviews up and coming authors, explores methods to improve your personal, professional, and spiritual life. The LKW Show airs daily at

I was a guest when she discussed interracial dating. This episode aired on December 8, 2010. Take a listen and feel free to leave comments.

Listen to internet radio with LaKesha Womack on Blog Talk Radio

LaKesha Womack is an author, blogger, business consultant, inspirational speaker and radio show host. She writes and speaks about a variety of lifestyle, relationship and business topics.
Her goal is to help you develop personally, professionally and spiritually because...
You can have it all!