diary of a doctoral student

Plans for spring fun

Aside from undergoing death and rebirth and thereby achieving atonement with the father this spring, I have a lot of fun stuff to look forward to.

First, my classes, which promise to be extra fun since they are almost all statistics:

  • Structural equation modeling. Social scientists do this mainly by drawing graphs showing presumed causal relationships between variables but I came across these long ago in economics, and economists like to do them with equations (I think I like equations better). Sometimes this is called “causal modeling” but better to avoid that term because causal inference is hard.
  • Latent growth curve modeling. The prereq is SEM, but my advisor agreed I can take this simultaneously. Good thing because otherwise I’d have to wait two years to take this required course. In two years I’m going to be done!
  • Multivariate analysis. According to my friends, this is just a grab bag of different techniques. I’ve seen most of them before, so this should be pretty easy. And I have my data set for the project all ready. I’ll just re-use the TIMSS 2007 8th grade math achievement data.
  • Meta-analysis. Cool thing about this is it’s a great way to get a publishable paper out of a lit review plus some data analysis. I’m actually assigned as the TA but I’ve never taken it before, so I won’t be that helpful.
  • Ethnographic research. The lone qualitative class amongst a sea of quantitative. Not even sure I will take it — how fun would a quarter of all statistics be? — but it will cover one more requirement and get me one class closer to finished with coursework. Also, I like the idea of finding out what my sister the anthropology professor has been doing for the past 10 or 15 years. I’m terrified at the thought of doing my own mini-ethnography, though.

Then NCME and AERA are in Denver, score! I signed up for a few extras:

  • Data visualization using R. So excited for that, because my graph-making skills really suck. I think I could do a whole lot better if I started using R instead of fighting with SPSS.
  • Using the TIMSS 2007 International Database for secondary data analysis. I really need to know more about using TIMSS. I think I will use it in my dissertation research.
  • Grad student mentoring session. “What They’re Looking for in Hiring New Graduates: Transitioning From Graduate Student to Professional.” Maybe it’s kind of early for me to be attending something like that but since I’m on the bullet train to a doctorate I figured I might as well start thinking about what comes after. It’s probably most useful to know now, not a year or two from now, what employers are looking for.

Also taking this online workshop:

On the personal side:

  • Road trip to see Mount Rushmore. The girls already decided which stuffed animals they’re bringing even though it’s weeks away. The older one asked, “Can I bring two backpacks, one for my clothes and one for stuffed animals?”
  • April birthday marathon. So many people in my family were born in April — three out of five in my immediate family alone. The many birthdays are a great excuse to celebrate and hang out with my favorite people. But by the time mine arrives in late April I don’t want cake or presents or a party, I want a nap.
  • 500 — 500! — daffodils and tulips in my front yard. I splurged and had them planted last fall. Now that is something to look forward to.
  • Tennis classes at the neighborhood park. Love the teacher, enjoy the other students, and can’t wait to feel the smack of my racket against the ball. Too bad it doesn’t start until May. I really need to get out and play more.

Happiness expert Gretchen Rubin says one key to feeling good is having something to look forward to. I couldn’t agree more. There’s so much pleasure in anticipation, maybe even more than in the realization.


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