Family, Work and Doctoral Studies

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By: Dr. Abrilene Cynthia Johnston-Scott – Organization of American States (OAS) fellow from Jamaica, pursued Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University.

The Scholarship

When the recession hit the global economy in 2008, I was completing my first semester in a doctoral program at Nova Southeastern University. Because of financial constraints, I had to take a leave of absence from the program. Despite this, I remained committed to finishing my doctorate and fortunately, I was introduced to the Organization of American States scholarship program by a former colleague at the College where I worked in Jamaica as a teacher educator. I immediately made contact with the Ministry of Finance in my home country and got further details on the scholarship. I applied and attended an intense interview in 2009 lasting about 40 minutes.

After seven months on leave of absence from the university, I received a call from Washington, D.C. informing that my scholarship application was approved for the prestigious Organization of American States (OAS) program to complete my doctoral degree. This was like a dream come true! I was able to get back on board and complete my doctoral work in two additional years with the unprecedented support from my esteemed professors, remarkable scholarship advisors at Laspau, my ardent academic advisor at Nova Southeastern University and my family.

Work, Family and Online Study

Pursuing full time job, full time studies and full time family is not a piece of cake! In relentless pursuit of my doctoral degree, I demonstrated grit, determination, very high level of self- discipline and met all deadlines. This was fundamentally how I was able to succeed. I had to carry a full teaching load as a lecturer throughout the duration of my studies due to the fact that there was no leave of absence possible since my doctoral program was conducted online.

The demands of the children were great. I managed with strong support from my spouse, family and a child care provider. The commitment of these persons held my  family together until I completed my program. To them, I am still indebted.

Throughout my program, I shared in information-rich online learning communities with international students and professors from diverse backgrounds. This international space was ideal for the development of connections, tolerance and respect for divergent views that were useful for my cognitive and affective development. I remembered that the discussions and debates were intriguing.

With my husband at the graduation ceremony

The Challenges

One of greatest challenge studying online was slow internet connectivity in my home country at the time. My computer froze many times during online chat sessions, frequent power outages, and slow connections were like lingering nightmares. I had to listen to the recorded classes to catch up. Through it all I developed persistence and learned to tackle the challenges at hand.

I remembered breastfeeding my daughter while browsing through the online libraries to find scholarly articles to complete assignments. The most challenging aspects however, were the times when my children were ill with very high fever and having deadlines to meet. I had many sleepless nights and missed opportunities to see my daughter go through her early developmental milestones, like taking her first steps and saying her first words.

Transformational Experience

Currently, I lecture in Education, Philosophy and Research Methods at Bethlehem Moravian College in Jamaica. One of the greatest impacts of my education was the role I played in conceptualising and nurturing a research culture at this College. This role involved my contributions in reviewing the College vision statement to include a focus on research, the training of faculty to adequately supervise students’ action research papers, taking students to multiple research conferences, hosting research conference at my College and allowing students to present their papers at this conference. I created and used a Research Blog to further stimulate discussions on issues/topics in educational research which was also novel and effective in building this culture.

This experience impacted my career interest and teacher education in Jamaica as my dissertation focused on improving students’ collegiate experience by creating greater opportunities for co-curricular involvement. My dissertation paper was presented in multiple research conferences in Jamaica.

The doctoral program has bolstered my cognitive development including my reasoning abilities, critical thinking skills, emotional intelligence, information literacy and collaborative skills and spirit. I benefitted immensely from my involvement in extensive research work which has helped to shape my worldview of education and my approaches to students’ learning, their collegiate experience and development.  I became the youngest faculty member with a doctoral degree.

In all of these aspects, the experience of earning a Doctor of Education degree was extremely transformational for me and has allowed me to give back to the field of Education in Jamaica.

With my husband and children

 

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Organization of American States Scholar Desmond Campbell is Advancing Education in Jamaica

Desmond Campbell is a former OAS scholar, and a graduate of Hamline University where he earned a master’s degree in environmental studies. Currently, Campbell works as a professor at Moneague College in Moneague, Jamaica, and has implemented many educational projects there.

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National Science Fair in Jamaica; Moneague College placed second in tertiary category

Desmond Campbell, a former Organization of American Studies (OAS) scholar, has always been the type of person to seek out leadership roles, never settling to idle in the background. While pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in Natural Science and Environmental Educations from Hamline University, Campbell played an active role in his campus community.

“I was the first secretary of the newly formed Hamline International Graduate Student Association (HIGSA) and pulled off success after seventeen years of failed attempts by other students,” Campbell shares.

In addition, Campbell participated as the only student in a Faculty Diversity Reading Circle to assist in the electing the first female president in Hamline University’s history, an accomplishment he is very proud of.

Since graduating, Campbell continues to make an impact in his home country of Jamaica in whatever way he can. Currently, Campbell serves as a professor of environmental science at Moneague College. There, he initiated two different projects: the Environmental Studies Program, a program that, after its establishment, allowed students be certified at both the Associate of Sciences and a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, and heads the Food Security Project.

Despite the tremendous progress Campbell has created at Moneague, the ambitious leader strove to accomplish more beyond the college’s walls.
“Annually I lead explorative, educational, professional development workshops,” Campbell explains. The workshops take teachers from Jamaica to join others in the United States for an annual Rivers Institute interactive workshop designed to increase teachers’ knowledge in water related content, STEM investigational skills, and literacy skills.

Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University
Desmond Campbell on campus at Hamline University

To further his mission of enhancing the quality of education, Campbell has implemented a teachers exchange program and a student exchange program between institutions in the United States, Europe, and Jamaica.

All of this work has led to Campbell’s recognition as Moneague’s 2011 Outstanding Faculty Award, and the 2011 National Award for “Champion Environmental Teacher” by the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET). He is currently the North central Chairman of the Association of Science Teachers of Jamaica (ASTJ); co-chairs the St Ann Hi-Tech farmers Group and now serve Moneague College as Principal Lecturer and Head of Department.
As for the future, Campbell has no plans of slowing down. When asked what hopes to accomplish next in his professional and academic career, Campbell explains he plans to implement more programs especially those with international focus and to pursue post graduate studies applicable to national and international development and sustainability.

If his past perseverance is any indication, he is capable of achieving whatever goals he sets for himself.

Organization of American States Scholar Michelle Wauchope is Making our Water Safer

Michelle Wauchope-Thompson is an Organization of American States Scholar from Jamaica who is pursuing a PhD through the Global Institute for Water Security at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

During her childhood, Michelle Wauchope-Thompson dreamed of making a difference and helping people in the medical profession. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology at the University of West Indies, Mona and then going on to obtain a nursing diploma, anyone would have said she was well on her way. However, it was at this very moment that Michelle had an important realization: she did not want to continue in nursing but was instead interested in environmental sustainability. This understanding would start her on an educational path that would eventually land her almost 3000 miles away from her native Jamaica at the University of Saskatchewan in Western Canada.

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Michelle Wauchope working in a cold room in the laboratory at University of Saskatchewan.

Currently, Michelle is completing her PhD in Environment and Sustainability and is a student member of the Global Institute for Water Security, an interdisciplinary research center that focuses on sustainable use of the world’s water resources and protection against natural hazards such as flood and drought. Water security is a key issue for global efforts towards environmental sustainability and ensuring “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” is among the UN’s sustainable development goals for 2030. Specifically, Michelle’s current research examines water quality, as well the rate of release of certain nutrients (such as phosphorus) in lakes, ponds and river systems to better understand seasonal and climate changes.

Michelle had always been interested in environmental sustainability, and accepted a job offer as a Quality Assurance Technician while studying her Master’s degree in Environmental Sciences at the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, Jamaica that narrowed her focus to issues of water security. For the first time, she was exposed to the areas of water chemistry, soil chemistry, waste water management and potable water management. This experience, combined with her studies, support from her family and mentors and a childhood spent outdoors in an island nation, made her surer than ever that she wanted to purse environmental sustainability with a focus on water security.

Michelle wanted to continue her studies at the PhD level but knew that studying abroad on her own would be financially out of reach. Luckily, Michelle’s advisor at NCU suggested she apply to the Organization of American States Scholarship which was awarded to pursue a PhD at the University of Saskatchewan. Michelle still has several years of study and research ahead of her but she is already planning ways she can positively impact her home country. She hopes to focus on natural resource management when she returns in order to help Jamaica reach its goals as outlined in the Vision 2030 National Development Plan.

For individuals who are considering applying to a scholarship abroad as she did, Michelle offers sage advice and encouragement: “Go for it! Do not think you are not worthy of applying or cannot get a scholarship, you won’t know unless you try.”