My 2016 GCU residency experience

This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are 100% my own.

This blog post will not be written in APA formatting.

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For those of you in the GCU doctoral program, you probably have a lot of questions going into residency.  You get a tiny bit of information from a webinar, you sign-up, and then wait for a class to be assigned.  Nothing much else prepares you for this journey other than your pre-assignment, and your self-determination.  Please note that is not to be taken in a negative context.  It is just reality of the doctoral journey.

As your pre-assignment gets going you will feel overwhelmed.  This will probably be the first time that you will have two classes going on at the same time.  Both will require a descent amount of work, and ultimately both will help you achieve your ultimate goal of a published dissertation.

Do your best to decide on a topic.  Think about what is doable.  Literally.  If you are not a medical doctor, and don’t have access to trial studies you aren’t going to be able to find a cure to something with this.  Think about what you do already in your life, or something you are passionate about… and go with that to start.  It should give you some solid foundation to build your topic and ten strategic points off of for when you arrive at residency.

If you can fly, then fly.  I drove almost seven hours to Arizona, to arrive ten minutes before my first class started.  Talk about anxiety.  Be ready to mingle.  I don’t mean date.  I mean if you are an introvert, seriously, be ready to talk.  You are about to sit at a table with at least five other strangers.  They are going to want to know where you came from, what you do for a living, how far into your program you are, and what your broad topic is.  These conversations will happen over and over again throughout the course of a week.

My residency was at the Hilton Squaw Peak hotel in Arizona.  It was huge.  You can read my review of the hotel in another post.

The first day of class is some general overview of the process and a preparation for day two.  The first day/night, they will serve you dinner.  You will hear some inspiring speeches.  You will hear about sacrifices that will need to be made to graduate.  You may wonder what you got yourself into…

Day two we spent almost the whole day in lecture.  It was crucial to take notes.  Depending on your learning style it would be beneficial to work while you listen.  Be open minded.  Be realistic and think about when you want to complete this process.  Start building a plan.  Don’t be scared to change your topic if it is going to help you graduate.  Don’t take advantage of the hotel amenities.  You aren’t there to float around on the lazy river and party at night.  Use this uninterrupted time to focus and get as much done as you can.

Depending on your professors, by day three you should be deep into one on one sessions.  Be prepared.  Have your ten strategic points.  Most importantly your topic.  Your professors are not trying to be mean if they tell you that you won’t be able to do it.  They are trying to make you realistic, and help guide you to choose a topic for a dissertation that you can complete.  Check your ego at the door.  You are the student, not the professor.

Day four you may be up for presentation.  You will share with the class your seven strategic points.  You will have two minutes.  Practice in front of a mirror.  Try not to use your laptop or notecards.  Get comfortable with your topic.  You are going to be the subject matter expert, and will have to defend this topic not once, but twice more before you graduate.

Day five wraps up presentations.  Start planning for the future.  In another year you will go to a second residency.  I met several people in their second residency that were still changing topics, and ten strategic points.  They hadn’t started a prospectus yet.  It made me that much more determined to use the post-residency plan as a guideline to stay on track.

Read, read, read.  Constantly be working on your literature review.  Overall this experience could not have a value amount placed upon it.  What I gained in this week I never would have received in an online-only environment.  My professors (Dr. Nelson and Dr. Markette) were outstanding.  The residency program structure was conducive to my learning style.  I am excited already for my next residency so I can show them how far I go.

Tips of things you need for residency:

Your laptop.  Pens.  Paper.  A flash drive.  Cell phone.  Business cards.  Money for dinner, since breakfast and lunch is provided days 2/3/4 and day five is breakfast only.  …and obviously your personal belongings and five days worth of clothes.  Be sure to bring all of your power cords and chargers.  You’re going to be on your computer almost constantly, even into the late hours of the night.

Lastly, good luck!  Don’t get discouraged.  For some this may be a test to see if this is truly a journey for them to continue pursuing.  For others it will be the exact motivation they needed to clearly see the finish line.

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