building community across doctoral students, faculty, and alumni


First, welcome to each of you. You may be aware that there is a new Urban Education Doctoral Program Director, which is me, Alfonzo Thurman. I am currently a Professor in Administrative Leadership specializing in Higher Education Administration. My academic interests are leadership theory and practice, critical race theory and higher education, and the higher education experience of African-American and other under-represented groups along with issues of law, finance and budgeting in higher education.

I’ve been an administrator and faculty member in various institutions for about 40 years – I started young, really! I’ve directed educational opportunity, minority, and first-year experience programs; served as an assistant provost as well as associate dean of education and dean of two colleges/schools of education. I also went through the academic ranks of assistant, associate and full professor. I’ve had the joy and privilege of teaching African American History and Literature early in my academic career before moving on to administrative leadership subjects.

In all of my experiences, the most enjoyable thing about each has been the people that I’ve met and worked with and I’m looking forward to meeting you and future students and colleagues here at UWM. This role, as the UEDP Director, has already proved to be varied and interesting as I interact with faculty and students intent on developing the future of their fields of interest through research.

I thoroughly enjoyed my academic experiences as a student from my undergraduate days as an English (rhetoric and American literature) major and my graduate work in educational policy and administrative leadership despite the long hours of study, exams, and “heavy duty” writing. I hope you too will enjoy your experience and find the rewards are well worth it.

Alfonzo Thurman, PhD

Director, Urban Education Doctoral Program

Professor, Administrative Leadership

Director, Research Center for Urban Education Leadership Development


Having trouble getting into a good academic rhythm? Still struggling with shedding your relaxed summer schedule rather than preparing for the rigors of your academic workload? Check out the following articles for tips on time management and success in grad school:

(1) “Time Management Tips for Graduate Students” by Dr. Amy Kuther Website: (

(2) “12 Tips for Surviving and Thriving in Grad School" by Margarita Tartakovsky

Website: (


Dear New & Continuing UEDP Students,

Congratulations on starting a new term! We hope you all enjoyed a fun, productive, and healthy summer break as you begin the transition into a new academic schedule.

The UEDP is gearing up for another good year as well and we welcome Dr. Alfonzo Thurman to the position of UEDP Director for UWM! We look forward to working with Dr. Thurman and the entire UEDP faculty in the upcoming months.

As your Student Reps, please remember our job is to assist you and voice any concerns and/or questions you might have at monthly UEDP faculty meetings.  Please feel free to contact us any time. Also, to start you off in the right direction this fall, here are some useful UEDP tidbits:

1. Bookmark the UEDP Blog to stay up-to-date on events, resources, and articles useful to your academic success ( For September: Check out the two recently posted links on time management tips for grad students!

2. UEDP faculty meetings will take place on the third Tuesday of every month. Again, please contact us any time with questions/concerns you wish us to bring before the committee (question/concern sources can remain anonymous).

3. Plans for a “UEDP Social Mixer” are currently underway for October! Stay tuned to the Blog as details will be forthcoming.

On a final note, don’t be afraid to get involved on campus – especially new UEDP students.  This doesn’t require a big time commitment, for example, the Women’s Resource Center hosts “UWM Graduate Women Coffee Talk” the first Friday of every month from 12pm-1:30pm (open to all genders). Check out other opportunities on the UWM Events Calendar as well.

Wishing you the best of new beginnings with the new semester and we look forward to seeing and hearing from you soon!


Erica Southworth             Monique Liston              Kari Garon


Please join us for our last UEDP Writing Group of the 2014 Spring Semester:

Friday, May 9th from 9:30-11:30 am in room W164 of the UWM Library 

Hope to see you there!

NOTE: April 25th Writing Group has been cancelled due to extenuating circumstances.


There’s a saying about the three-year-long struggle that is law school:  the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death.  Fortunately, this version of graduate school does not parallel my experience in the UEDP at all.  I never was scared, though I did have several episodes of self-doubt.  Though I never felt worked “to death” while in school, my success in the UEDP did indeed require constant attention and effort.  And I guarantee that I never, ever felt bored.  There was always something to read, something to write, something to plan, and—most importantly—something to learn.  But, in the end, has it all been worth it? Does all of this translate? For me, all of this learning and effort has proven to serve me well in the working world. 

After I finished my doctoral research and just prior to graduating, I re-entered the working world outside of academia. It was a career change for me of sorts, as I had gone from a straight Human Resources role to join a Learning and Development organization.  Though I obviously value theory and research, I also see Adult Education very much as an applied science, so I wanted to apply what I had spent the last four years learning in an organizational setting. In the interest of shared learning, the following are some of the main things that I learned while in the UEDP that translate well and apply to my role as a practitioner:

(1)   Theory is useful.  Yes, theory.  It’s not just so that people can get published.  In my job, I develop quite a bit of coursework.  I always have Knowles and his theory of andragogy top of mind when I’m thinking of the purposeful and experienced adult learners with whom I work.  I also draw directly from my doctoral research on the intersection of technology and work-life balance in a course I teach about prioritization and time management.  And I am currently developing leadership curriculum for leaders at my organization and managing various leadership programs, so my coursework in both course development and program management has been invaluable.  

(2)   Research and analysis skills.  Whether we realize it or not, as we go through graduate school, we develop a remarkable capacity to absorb, digest, and distill huge quantities of information and then present and apply that information in new and different ways.  This skill is hugely invaluable in any setting.  Recently, I was asked to create and manage an Executive Coaching practice at work.  I knew in a peripheral sense what executive coaching was all about and how people were using coaches, but I was no expert.  However, a couple of days and a stack of academic and mainstream articles later, I knew the theory behind coaching, was up to speed on the latest coaching trends, and could refer to several examples of successful coaching practices.  This skill is extraordinarily useful in any setting. 

(3)   D2L is good.  Well, I don’t necessarily apply my knowledge of D2L directly.  But, I do rely heavily on the knowledge I gained while at UWM regarding online learning.  While a graduate assistant for the Department of Administrative Leadership, I helped faculty with their D2L sites each semester.  Now, I’m designing and moderating virtual courses for the senior leadership at work.  Without my experience as both an online student and a develop of online courses, I would have no frame of reference from which to operate when it comes to designing and teaching online courses.  The point is that you never know in what ways the experiences that you gain in grad school will be applicable.

(4)   The value of conferences.  To the degree that you can, get to conferences.  Present, participate, and meet people.  What you learn and whom you meet at conferences is as valuable—if not more valuable—than what you learn in school.  Of course, I learned much about research methodology in my courses at UWM.  But, it was in the Emerging Scholars pre-conference courses at the annual Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD) conference that I learned practical aspects of research and first understood “the big picture” concerning how my coursework and my research would all fit together.  Seeing other researchers present their work and being able to bounce your ideas off them is invaluable.  I also would not have my current job if it weren’t for that same conference.  A woman that I’ve gotten to know from North Carolina State happens to know my current manager.  We were discussing my future plans over a dinner last spring, she referred my to her friend/my manager, and things fell into place.  Networking in academia is no different than anywhere else—and conferences offer the perfect opportunities to meet people. 

Of course, everyone’s experience in the UEDP will be different; make it your own.  I discovered that things that I learned or experiences that I had have paid dividends in ways that I had never considered.  Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”  The UEDP certainly is not hell, but it can be a frustrating struggle at times.   So, just keep going.  It will end at some point—and it will pay off.

 Kristopher Thomas successfully defended his dissertation, “Compelled to be Connected:  An Ethnographic Exploration of Organizational Culture, Work-life Balance, and the Use of Mobile Workplace Technology” in the Fall of 2013 and graduated from UWM in December 2013.  He currently works as a Leadership Development Manager at MillerCoors in Milwaukee.  



Hello All,

This afternoon, I attended the SOE Doctoral Programs Spring Forum: The Job Application Process 101.  This event was co-sponsored by Ed Psych and the Urban Ed Doctoral Program, with assistance from students from both programs.  The forum covered topics relevant to doctoral students in all academic fields, including: the cover letter, the CV, the teaching/ research statement, and various interview formats (phone, Skype, and campus visits).  The panel was comprised of current U.W.M professors and industry professionals, who discussed the documents, requirements, and overall process of a post-doctoral academic and non-academic job application.  The panelshared insightful and valuable anecdotes, strategies, and pointers aimed at helping us stand out in the job application process.  The post-doctoral job application process could be intimidating, but this forum answered many of our questions and helped to relieve our anxieties.  Moreover, it allowed us to network with other doctoral students and professors.  Overall, the forum was rewarding and I am very glad I attended!! We look forward to future professional development events.

 Sonia Rivas

EPSA Officer


The Job Application Process 101:  Preparing for Post-doctoral Positions.

Mark your calendars!  A wonderful professional development opportunity is just two weeks away.  Join faculty and graduate students from the School of Education Friday, March 28th from 3:00pm - 5:00pm at the Zelazo Center Room 250. 

Presentations from the School of Education faculty members will include: 

CVs, cover letters, research & teaching statements, interviewing, and differences between tenure-track and other positions.   

RSVP to either or

Refreshments will be provided.

Kristina Kaljo and Erica Southworth 


When asked to write a blog post about my experience writing my dissertation, my initial thought was that I’d give a blow-by-blow account of my process.  But, as I first sat to write, it occurred to me that our classes at UWM do a great job of preparing us for the writing experience.  By the time we’re done with our doctoral level research classes, we know clearly that the key to successful writing is planning.  Put simply, you have to create a schedule and stick to it.  Reading “How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing” by Paul J. Silvia (2007) will tell you all you need to know about planning your writing and, most importantly, completing your writing. 

That said, I figured that it would be a better use of this space to fire off some quick general learnings.  That is, if I were just starting to write a dissertation now, what would I want to know?  What could I learn from someone that has recently finished writing a dissertation?  I make no claim that my approach and process is in any way correct or the best.  However, it is indeed how I wrote and represents what I learned.  You may have heard some of these already.  Hopefully, you’ll find some helpful wisdom in some of these:

-        Know what you’re going to research and write about well before you have to write a dissertation.  I saved a ton of time writing my dissertation by writing about my topic from the time I entered the UEDP.  When I started the program in 2009, I didn’t have an exact dissertation title, but I knew that I was interested in (1) how people use workplace technology, and (2) work-life balance issues.  So, virtually everything I wrote for every class had something to do—even if tangentially—with one or both of these topics.  Once it came time to write, I had a wealth of my own writing and ideas from which to draw. 

-        Like your topic.  This sounds trite, but it’s important.  To the degree that you can, find something that you’re really, genuinely interested in.  In my case, I spent a decade of my career in the tech environment, so tech interested me.  As a husband and father, work-life balance issues are real to me and impact me.  So, during the course of my research, I drew from and learned about both topics.  You’re going to spend a lot of time with your dissertation topic.  A lot.  You have to at least find it interesting.   

-        Set expectations, for yourself and for those with whom you live.  On Sept. 6 of last year, I finalized my defense date of Nov. 19.  Given the two-week lead time required for my committee to read my final draft, that means that I had 58 days to finish Chapters 4 and 5.  At the time, I had revised Chapters 1-3, Chapter 4 was a series of sketches, and I had just started a new full-time job.  So, I made a bargain with my wife and kids:  you give me a few nights a week and 6-8 hours a day each Saturday and Sunday for the next 8 weeks and I promise I’ll knock this thing out and be done with it.  I was clear that I would not be available as a husband or father for a significant amount of time during this period.  My end of the bargain was that I promised to stay focused and finish the project.  For me, getting my life back was the motivation I needed.   It worked.  My family gave me space and I wrote. 

-        Pick a process and schedule that works for you.  As great as the advice is in books like the one I mention above, the reality is that not every approach works for every person.  For example, Silva (2007) advocates creating a very detailed spreadsheet listing every single thing you’re going to do every day.  I don’t work that way.  I figured, if you have to write a dissertation about writing you dissertation, what’s the point?  I simply kept a journal (or whatever you’d want to call it) as a Word Document.  After each writing session, I wrote a couple of sentences about what I had just written and a couple of notes to myself as to where I needed to start off.  The next session, I just picked up where I left off.  It was a written dialogue with myself.  It worked for me.  It’s your dissertation – figure out what works for you.   

-        Join a writing group.  I was fortunate enough to belong to a cohort of students that were all advised by Dr. Barb Daley.  We got together just once a month over Skype, but these meetings were incredibly helpful.  First, they produced a healthy amount of peer pressure that motivated me to write.  At the end of each meeting, we all had to state our writing goals and what we’d accomplish prior to the next meeting.  Second, my anxiety about the UEDP paperwork process was greatly reduced because we all learned from each other and kept each other in check.   I was much more nervous about forgetting to turn in some random form than I was about completing my writing.  My peers in the writing group provided the guidance I needed.  In both of these ways, the writing group helped me to focus on my writing. 

-        Reward yourself; don’t kill yourself.  Keep a schedule that is not entirely insane.  I wrote quite a bit in those 58 days, but I wasn’t a hermit.  I still made time for my family and other things.  I still drank a beer every now and then.  Think about whatever makes you happy and promise yourself that you’ll do that once you’re done writing for the day.  It could be yoga, it could be watching stupid TV, it could be a beer.  Whatever it is, find time for it.     

-        Done is good.  This is not necessarily my gem of wisdom – I have to credit Dr. Daley for enlightening me.  In short, just finish the thing.  There’s an old adage about medical school graduates: Question, “What do they call the person that graduates last in their medical school class?”  Answer, “Doctor.”  It’s no different for us as doctoral students.  Our dissertations are not graded; they’re either successfully defended or not.  But, by virtue of our roles as doctoral students, we’re naturally ambitious people.  We generally enter the dissertation process thinking that the ultimate product of our labors will be the profound acme of our writing careers.  It won’t be.  It’ll be pretty good. You’ll read drafts and doubt yourself.  But keep writing until it’s done.  That’s good enough to graduate. If you ask me how I feel about my dissertation, I will tell you, “It’s done.” To this point, I’ve successfully repressed the urge to edit it… for the six hundredth time.  As Dr. Daley also astutely points out, the dissertation is the beginning of your research agenda, not the end.  More and better work will come.  Just finish the thing.       

Kristopher Thomas successfully defended his dissertation, “Compelled to be Connected:  An Ethnographic Exploration of Organizational Culture, Work-life Balance, and the Use of Mobile Workplace Technology” in the Fall of 2013 and graduated from UWM in December 2013.  He currently works as a Leadership Development Manager at MillerCoors in Milwaukee.  



Writing Group will meet from 9:30-11:30 am in room W164 of the UWM Library on the following dates:

February 28th

March 14th & 28th

April 11th & 25th 

May 9th

Hope to see you there!

Source: uedp


I’ve wanted to share my story so that all of you currently working on a dissertation take the time to write it. In addition, it is okay if you fail the first time around when defending your dissertation. I know because I did, and while the experience was disheartening it helped me realize that patience is a virtue, and to reflect and clarify on what was not accomplished and what needs to be accomplished. It also brought me to terms in facing my faults and weaknesses as well as strengths, so that I could persevere and achieve this important milestone.

 My situation was special because I was a long distance PhD student and dissertator teaching at higher education institutions throughout most of my time all the way to my second defense and passing. This in itself made things much more difficult in terms of clear, constant communication, not only with the course work but more so with my main advisor and the PhD committee during the writing process all the way up to the defense.  More importantly, have clear communication with your main advisor and key committee members by informing them where you are within the writing process, as well as seeking feedback from them — terminology, methodology, or reading over the chapter to gain their support/approval of what you’re writing. Always cc your main adviser with all e-mail communication so that there is accountability throughout the dissertation process.

 My mistake (to be blunt and honest) was that I was selfish to think that they (my main advisor and committee members) were working on my timeline. No, your advisor and committee members are all working professionals and cannot bow to your last-minute requests and deadlines. I must admit that I rushed into the writing of my research study and was anxious for my committee to respond quickly — and, more importantly, to respond with positive feedback and encouragement. When there was no feedback, I continued to write and insisted that what I was writing was satisfactory. And when it came to crucial deadlines like the first defense, my committee members were at a loss as to why I had rushed into defending without their feedback.

 With that said, I did not pass my first defense. Waiting a year was a great learning experience because it allowed me to reflect on the whole situation, not only the failing aspect but also reflect on me and myself — my work habits — on me as a human being and my weaknesses, such as the impatience of wanting to finish quickly — ego and letting go of that — I wanted things to go my way and get things done on my time. Forgetting an important aspect that there is a collaborative process when writing one’s dissertation.

 Within that year I was also able to come to terms with what was there (which was quite good work), critically looking at what needed to be done, and to take the time in making sure that everything was written with clarity in response to what was missing in the (defense with the committee members and their feedback) dissertation. Before the second defense, the year also allowed me to look at the results (with a fresh eye) and read how the data transformed in becoming more authentic and rich to what the whole research study was about. This was a huge part that was missing the first time around in the dissertation.

 My advice would be to really take your time in writing the dissertation.

To be mindful that your advisor and committee members are working professionals and that they are there to support you, but more importantly to make sure that you do get informed feedback, not always on your time but finding a balance between your time and their time (to GET that feedback).

 What also was helpful for me was contacting the Dean of the School and letting him/her know about the failing of the first defense and what my/our plans were in preparation for the second defense, so that I was not the only one being held accountable but my committee and main advisor were as well.


 1. If you did not pass the first time around, write a letter of reflection of what did not work and a plan of what will be worked on to the Dean of the School so that you’re held accountable just as much as the main advisor and committee members.

 2. Try not to defend your dissertation during the summertime, because it’s  not a full semester and is more condensed and faculty members are usually on vacation. If you have feedback/revisions to do, you have a lot less time to incorporate those revisions in the summer semester. I suggest to defend your dissertation during the Fall or Spring semester.

3. Do something good for oneself because of the stress — seek out what makes you happy and whole, whether it be family, loved ones, working out, meditation, yoga, and/or seeking help in terms of therapist.

 4. Get clear communication/feedback from the committee members that were not happy or had problems with certain chapters.  Make sure to revise and then send it back to them so that you gain their approval before your 2nd defense.

 5. Always “cc” your main advisor/major professor when you communicate about the dissertation. This is important because that’s the responsibility of the main advisor, to be INFORMED of what has been happening throughout the writing and revision process so that come defense time this person is advocating for you to pass.

 I wish everyone that is currently writing their PhD dissertation only the best and success when defending it! Please note that this was my experience and I felt it was important to share with you. I am sure others can add more tips to the list!!!!!!!

 Dr. Leonard A. Cruz

Assistant Professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland in Theater, Movement and Dance

Integrative Health Coach

Interdisciplinary Yoga Teacher


Welcome to the UEDP cPAW initiative! As indicated in the prior email from Erica and Kristina, please place your cPAW post in the “comments” part of this section and, once you’ve established contact with a cPAW partner, email Erica or Kristina to have your post removed. Please contact us with any questions or concerns. Good luck and keep writing!


Writing Group will meet from 9:30-11:30 am in room W171 of the UWM Library on the following dates:

February 14th & 28th

March 14th & 28th

April 11th & 25th 

May 9th

Hope to see you there!


For your own piece of mind and for future reference, please take a moment to peruse and bookmark the new UEDP Website (

*Special thanks to  Dr. Raji Swaminathan, Richard Tijerina, and all other instrumental folks who helped establish this student resource!


The two most important things to remember once a search committee invites you to participate in an interview: (1) that you need to be nothing less than your own wonderful self, and (2) that you are interviewing potential colleagues as much as they are interviewing you.  The more you are comfortable in your own skin, the more present and aware you will be to engage potential colleagues and assess whether this is a place you will have opportunities to do the teaching/research/community service work you really want to do —and enjoy the work as well.  At the same time, you will provide your potential colleagues the opportunity to get to know you as you are.  All of you want to know if your fit with the program is likely to produce positive growth for you and for the department.  If so, you are far more likely to be successful as you pursue your next goal:  tenure.

Before you send applications, review your online presence so you know what search committees are likely to see as they check you out beyond your CV and cover letter.  I encourage you to check out your potential program/department and colleagues online as well.  Ascertain the pattern of their specialties and be ready to talk about how your expertise may fill in gaps and/or complement the work of your colleagues. Consider possible collaborations within the department, or across the school/college/university. Note if there is a colleague you would like to meet who is not on the search committee.  If so, ask if a meeting with that person is possible while you are on campus.

If your first interview is by phone or Skype, engage in one or more 20-30 minute practice interviews using that medium with  friends and/or advisors. Stay in interview mode throughout the practice and debrief afterwards.  With a practice or two, you are likely to feel more confident when you engage in conversation with members of the committee.

When on campus, focus less on impressing your potential colleagues and students than on learning about them and from them.  This is a further opportunity to get a sense of the culture and interpersonal dynamics of your potential new work home.  You may be asked to teach a short class with students and/or meet with staff . These meetings may be just as important as your meetings with faculty, department chair, and dean. You will learn more about the unit from these conversations, and they can become a window into your character for the committee.  Years ago, I chaired a search committee when one “star” faculty candidate dazzled the senior professors but was rude to the staff.  The committee decided that this was not the colleague for us.

Below are some of the questions I ask potential faculty members during interviews: 

1. Why UWM?

2. Why now?

3. Describe what you plan to have accomplished by the time you go up for tenure in terms of (a) research; (b) teaching; (c) community engagement.

4. Describe your ideal work situation for accomplishing your goals. 

5. Describe yourself as a work colleague.

6. Your questions?

After your phone, Skype, and/or  campus interview, send brief thank you emails to the search committee chair, department chair, and dean.  Just a few lines, with a comment about something that you perceived as noteworthy is lovely. 

Our warmest regards to Dr. Carol Colbeck (SoE Administrative Leadership faculty member & former SoE Dean at UWM & UMass-Boston) for this insight. 


Bring your laptop or other writing project materials & join us for Writing Group 9:00am-11:00am on the following Fridays: 

11/22 @ UWM Library (Rm. W171)
12/6 @ UWM Library (Rm. W171)
12/20 @ UWM Library (Rm. W171)

No need to RSVP, we will just look forward to seeing you! As always, if you have any questions feel free to contact us any time.

Many thanks,

Erica Southworth  &  Kristina Kaljo
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