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My Interdisciplinary Studies Senior Seminar in review.

Ahh…. it’s almost done.  Finals week is right around the corner, and classes are wrapping up.  It’s the last push to get things complete, study like a mad woman, and take a deep breath to enjoy the spring air.  Summer break is coming….  I wish I could say I was graduating next week, but I have one more semester in the fall, and then I too will graduate with my Interdisciplinary Studies major.

Interdisciplinary Studies class- taken from their Facebook page.

I’m so grateful I was introduced to Dr. Robin DeRosa, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies last year.  She leads an excellent program and path to an untraditional major that makes use of my past military experience and allows me to pursue a degree that makes sense for me.  My degree in Organizational Administration, is what my multi disciplined military career, experience and interests are all about.

This semester, as we enjoyed the leadership of Teaching Lecturer Bonnie Toomey, we put together our Research Article and Applied Project.  At first, I struggled to narrow down my topics.  I brainstormed, picked a few ideas a part, and finally made some good solid decisions on the two.

My Research Article: Non-Profit Organizations, it’s a big business came together well, I thought.  I enjoyed diving in to the depths of non-profits, exploring the complexity and history of such a diverse way of touching society through charitable work.  I was impressed to read about the MILLIONS of dollars that flow through non-profits, the impact on the nations GDP and employment, and other aspects of society such as religion, environment, science, government, and education.

So here’s a funny thing…  Once I choose my Research Article, and decided to interview Cathy Crooker, the dots were connected to my Applied Project: Organizer and “Den Mother” for the Over the Hill Hikers.  Cathy’s mom, Lib Crooker-Bates was one of the founding members and the original “Den Mother” of the Over the Hill Hikers group, established in 1979.

Both of these projects tied together nicely with my course work here at Plymouth State.  This semester I was taking Macroeconomics, Business Statistics and Exploring Social Life through Film.  As I worked on these projects, I found the connections and overlay at multiple layers, not only in my course work, but within my personal life as well.  The multi-disciplines really became apparent, especially with the Non-Profit Research Article.  It really made everything feel it had a purpose. 

I’m excited for summer break, and even more so that I’m getting so close to finishing a life long goal of mine.  One more semester!     I look forward to using the knowledge I’ve gained from this research and applied project as I continue my work in volunteerism and community service.   Retirement is wonderful, and it certainly is allowing me to do so many things that bring purpose to my life, and the feeling of giving back to society.  After a career in service, it’s hard to stop now.

 

My Personal Learning Network, AKA… PLN

TWITTER… It’s a love / hate relationship.  And, it’s been my Personal Learning Network for Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) class work I’ve been taking at Plymouth State University.

 

 

I find Twitter, and other social networking platforms a wonderful way to briefly explore people, subjects, news topics, and even entertainment.  But, and this is a big BUT, (no pun intended) in the daily demands and sensory overload of media, electronic devices, politics, school, household chores, social obligations, and time to disconnect from it all, it never seems I balance it appropriately.

I think I am one of those people who is actually addicted to my cell phone or lap top.  I spend way to much time checking email, facebook, and so forth, and never enough time outside and disconnected from it all.  I need to work on that.  Really, I do.

So, Twitter has been something I’ve tried to keep at arms length for my own protection.  I’ve embraced it, but not used it to it’s absolute full potential.  I’ve made good use of networking with my fellow IDS classmates (#IDSsem, #IDSintro, #PlymouthIDS), I’ve explored Business Week, Forbes, Human Resource related organizations and groups (such as SHRM and Non-Profit Quarterly).   I’ve also followed the NY Times, NHPR, and even political figures I respect (and some I don’t), as well as organizations like the ACLU.  It’s been good.  I can definitely see the quick networking use of Twitter.  And I have to say, if I were still in the working world I would embrace it even further.  I’m glad I had an “Introductory to Twitter” so to speak.  I feel better informed of what is out there, I’m not quite as intimidated by it, AND I see the pros and cons.  I’m glad IDS has exposed me to yet another learning opportunity.

So, to give you a bit of a recap of my tweets from the last semester, I share with you these clips:

Applied Project: Organizer and “Den Mother” for the Over the Hill Hikers

The Over the Hill Hikers is a group of people that gather together to enjoy camaraderie and the joy of the mountains, big or small.  I fell into the group (OTHH) by buying a house in Sandwich in 2013, which coincidentally was the home of the previous “Den Mother”, Lib Crooker-Bates; and I also have a passion for hiking.

Over the Hill Hikers enjoying the day.

 

Lib was one of the founders of the OTHH in 1979.  Yes, this group has been around a long time, it’s evolved, but yet stayed the same for quite some time.  I absolutely love it, and consider myself lucky to have fallen in to such a wonderful group, and an important role.

I am what they call the “Den Mother”.  I organize the group, maintain an email distribution list of over 100 hikers from Sandwich and the surrounding lakes region.  Some are part timers that live away and join the group in the summer, others are full timers that take advantage of both the hiking season, and the winter activities.

I offer the group leadership, I help plan the seasons hikes, gatherings, potlucks, and more; and I offer just a little bit of enthusiasm.  Okay, maybe a lot of enthusiasm, as I’m also one of the younger members of the group.  The hardest part of my role as “Den Mother” is getting others to volunteer to lead hikes.  Everyone enjoys the care free role of showing up to hike; but actually planning the hike, picking the trail, tracking the weather, coordinating carpools, and being the POC for the day’s hike is a little harder to recruit for.

Me, sneaking a selfie… a bad one, at that.

Because the group has been around since the 1970’s, some of the original members are well into their 80’s and still hiking!  IMPRESSIVE.   Over the years we’ve divided ourselves into three abilities: A group, B group, and the Turtles.  These are better described as Difficult, Moderate and easy hikes. There’s a lot of moving parts with organizing a hiking group of varying abilities, ages, and inspiration.  The decision of which mountains to hike ranges from 4,000 footers, to the 52 With a View (a list actually created by the OTHH), to more local and shorter hikes.  There’s even a Friday walkers group, and in the winter the snowshoe and cross country ski group gather.

To help with the organization, I put together an excel sheet via Google Docs and solicit others to volunteer.  It’s a slow thing to develop, but it usually always comes together in the end.   We also have a website / blog, and I serve as administrator and am learning the ropes to maintain it.  Check it out at:  Over the Hill Hikers . It’s a work in progress, always.  The website is full of information, including  past years hiking schedules, history of the group, the information on the 52 WAV patch, what to include in your pack, and an EMERGENCY CONTACT SHEET that we ask each hiker to carry in their pack.

Oh, and I’m not really a “member” of the Over the Hill Hikers either, as there are no members.  There’s no official positions, no dues, no official roles… but we do have t-shirts with an official logo.  Which, I sell those too, … and manage the OTHH bank account.  (We are not a non-profit, just to clear that up…. just a bunch of hikers).

A great book about the history of this hiking club that’s been going since 1979.

Our group has received a lot of attention over the years.  There is a book titled, “Over the Hill Hikers”, written by Shirley Elder Lyons.   We’ve also been interviewed by NHPR’s Virginia Prescott, which you can either listen to or read her interview at: http://nhpr.org/post/nh-hiking-club-has-been-over-hill-decades#stream/0

 

It’s a fun organizational role, that really brings together so many people from our community and surrounding areas.  And for someone pursuing an Interdisciplinary Studies degree in Organizational Administration, it’s right up my alley!  Not to mention, I’m also pursuing my 4,000 footers and 52 With a View summits!

I can’t remember for sure, but I think this is the infamous ladder along the Morgan – Percival hike.

Research Article: Non-Profit Organizations, it’s a big business.

As a 26 year veteran, I don’t have much experience working in the “for profit” business world.  I have plenty of consumer experience, but the pressures of bottom line dollars, stock holders influence, competitive market edge, etc., didn’t apply much in the military.  Although, we did compete for government budget dollars and trust from our nations citizens, our mission is to “defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  We also fought to keep bases open, recruit top applicants to our service, and retain them after they received quality leadership training and specialty skills that made their marketability to future employers very appealing.  So in a sense, even the military, which is not considered a “non-profit organizations”, but isn’t a “for profit” either, are fighting for your attention…. your money, and dedication.

Through the years I have accumulated volunteer hours through many non-profit organizations.  Some were true organized 501(c)(3), such as the Sandwich Fairgrounds, others were just social groups raising funds to do good within the community.  Like the River City Cycling Club in Elizabeth City, NC, who raised funds through organized bike rides, and then passed the donations to a specific family within the community that were in need.  Obviously they were doing good work of a social cause, but they were not a non-profit by definition.

So let’s start there… what exactly is a non-profit? According to Wikipedia, “A non-profit organization (NPO), also known as a non-business entity[1] or non-profit institution,[2] is dedicated to furthering a particular social cause or advocating for a shared point of view.”

“In economic terms, it is an organization that uses its surplus of the revenues to further achieve its ultimate objective, rather than distributing its income to the organization’s shareholders, leaders, or members.”

“Non-profits are tax exempt or charitable, meaning they do not pay income tax on the money that they receive for their organization. They can operate in religious, scientific, research, or educational settings.”

“The key aspects of non-profits is accountability, trustworthiness, honesty, and openness to every person who has invested time, money, and faith into the organization.  Non-profit organizations are accountable to the donors, funders, volunteers, program recipients, and the public community. Public confidence is a factor in the amount of money that a non-profit organization is able to raise. The more non-profits focus on their mission, the more public confidence they will have, and as a result, more money for the organization.[1] The activities a non-profit is partaking in can help build the public’s confidence in non-profits, as well as how ethical the standards and practices are.”

I deliberately included such a long definition because non-profits have become big business in America and throughout the world.  In fact, according to Drucker, in Managing the Non Profit Organization,  “with every second American adult serving as a volunteer in the non-profit sector and spending at least three hours a week in non-profit work, the non-profits are America’s largest employer”   Drucker states that, “We now realize that it is central to the quality of life in America, central to citizenship, and indeed carries the values of American society and of the American tradition.”

Volunteerism can be found before biblical times.  According to Ott, The Nature of the Non Profit Sector,  it is a foundation in which giving and helping others is a part of community.  That “non-profit organization management is derived quite centrally from the historical ethos of  charity and philanthropy.”  “In these early societies, the welfare and preservation of individuals and families required the community to share in the tasks of food gathering, hunting, and providing shelter.”   “The Western tradition of voluntarism has its roots in two diverse ideological streams: the Greco Roman heritage of emphasis on community, citizenry and social responsibility … and the Judeo-Christian belief that relationships with higher power affect our choices and thus our decision-making.” 

So from the beginning of society, until today, non-profits exceed over 1.5 MILLION registered organizations.  Here are some quick facts, taken from the National Center for Charitable Statistics website:

Non-profit Organizations

  • 1,571,056 tax-exempt organizations, including:
    • 1,097,689 public charities
    • 105,030 private foundations
    • 368,337 other types of non-profit organizations, including chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.

(Source: NCCS Business Master File 4/2016)

  • In 2010, non-profits accounted for 9.2% of all wages and salaries paid in the United States.
    (Source: The Non-profit Almanac, 2012)
  • Non-profit Share of GDP was 5.3% in 2014. (Source: US Bureau of Economic Analysis)
  • There are an estimated 312,373 congregations in the United States in May 2016.
    (Source: American Church Lists)

Public Charity Finances

  • In 2013, public charities reported over $1.74 trillion in total revenues and $1.63 trillion in total expenses.  Of the revenue:
    • 21% came from contributions, gifts and government grants.
    • 72% came from program service revenues, which include government fees and contracts.
    • 7% came from “other” sources including dues, rental income, special event income, and gains or losses from goods sold.

(Source: NCCS Core Files 2013)

  • Public charities reported over $3 trillion in total assets in 2013.
    (Source: NCCS Core Files 2013)

Volunteering and Charitable Giving

Charitable Giving in America: Some Facts and Figures

  • Approximately 25.3% of Americans over the age of 16 volunteered through or for an organization between September 2010 and September 2014.  This proportion has remained relatively constant since 2003 after a slight increase from 27.4% to 28.8% in 2003.
    (Source: Current Population Survey, September 2014)
  • Charitable contributions by individuals, foundations, bequests, and corporations reached $358.38 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1% from the revised 2013 estimates and after adjusting for inflation. Of these charitable contributions:
    • Religious organizations received the largest share, with 32% of total estimated contributions.
    • Educational institutions received the second largest percentage, with 15% of total estimated contributions.
    • Human service organizations accounted for 12% of total estimated contributions in 2014, the third largest share.

(Source: Giving USA 2015)

  • Individuals gave $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 5.7 percent from 2013.
    (Source: Giving USA 2015)

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/eiqdmZ . Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure”

I sat down with Catharine Crooker, owner of Crooker Consulting to ask her some questions about non-profits.  She explains that the basis of non-profits being tax exempt is a benefit they receive for their contribution to society.  That the organization of a non-profit is ran through volunteer boards, verses paid positions, and that the Board of Directors holds the legal responsibility to oversee the mission and strategy of a non-profit organization.  The board then hires people to make the daily operations and mission achievable.  This is much different from private corporations, where the owner is often the President and has a vested interest in profits, and mission.  This difference in structure often makes a non-profit operate at a slower pace than that of a profit business, but the oversight is geared to stay true to the mission and objectives of the non-profit.

So I asked Cathy, is there a good operating expense in which non-profits should operate within to make it a “good non-profit”?  She replied, that’s a good question, and one which is causing a good amount of debate right now.  That being a non-profit still requires a lot of overhead costs.  For example, a non-profit hospital still requires a Human Resources Department, doctors, lawyers, facility managers, and  people to continue to fundraise on behalf of the non-profit.  These expenses can add up quickly, but in general a good guideline would be around the 20% area.  However, Cathy explained, This can become a very arbitrary number.  For instance, in a profit business, you may have growth years, where you’re re-investing in capital, technology advances, or labor.  Often share holders do not take fear, and recognize this as an investment period which will yield results later down the road.  In the non-profit sector, this is a delicate balance, and is often scrutinized with much pressure to keep operating expenses low.  Which is often a disservice to the growth and improvement of a non-profit organization.

I asked Cathy about the controversies of non-profits, and while she thinks that the mismanagement is rare, she thinks that problems arise when the Board of Directors manage a non-profit like a profit business.  Remember, one person can not approve mission and strategy changes within a non-profit.  Oversight and group decisions are critical to the success of a healthy non-profit.

This leads me to my next question for Cathy, “do you think a non-profit can be too big?”  She said yes, that she has seen this happen, especially within the health care fields, such as a non-profit hospital.  She explained that sometimes, when a non-profit becomes so big, with a large budget, and a competitive market, that failing to keep true to a non-profit mission can spiral into the for profit business mindset.   The charitable work needs to take priority, and oversight is the most important part of keeping non-profits on track and within the guidelines and expectations of being tax exempt.

We then talked about the salaries of the Executives.  Cathy explained that years ago, there was kind of an ethos that working for a non-profit was out of the goodness of your heart.  That many people did volunteer work to keep engaged in public activities, use skills they had developed in college, and that it was a supplement to household income and not a primary household salary.  That has changed over the years.  Now, it is important to hire qualified executives with experience to run a non-profit.  After all, with 1.5 MILLION non-profits, it’s a competitive market for your donations.  So hiring these qualified, and experienced professionals comes at a cost.  Although, the other side of the coin is the scrutiny from donors and the public of paying executives high salaries verses contributing dollars to the charity work in which they serve, and keeping overhead (operating) expenses low.  It’s a complicated business, oh, but wait, it’s NOT a business.

And to add complications to the Non-Profit Organization, Cathy explains that a huge problem that plagues them is employee “turn-over”.   Fundraising professionals only stay with a non-profit for an average of 18 months.  Without proper pay and incentives that for profit businesses offer (like stock options, 401k’s, expense accounts, etc.), the typical employee grows tired of operating on a shoe string budget and doing multiple tasking.  The successful non-profits are realizing the importance of proper wages for talented and dedicated people.

I wrapped up my conversation with Cathy talking about her joy of being involved in the non-profit world.  That this passion of helping people, the ability to truly have an impact and stay true to her own beliefs and values has been her life’s work.  It is her ethos, and one she stresses to the donors she helps connect to non-profit organizations to make a difference.  Thank you Cathy for taking the time to sit down with me, I really enjoyed our conversation.  You inspire me!

Distrust in the government, such as Watergate, the energy crisis, the banking, loan and mortgage corruption, and significant recessions has led to a lack of confidence and trust in both business, and government. (aka Wall Street, political contributions exceeding millions of dollars, lobbyist influence, etc.). Who has people’s interest in mind vs. profits?  Silk and Vogel discuss in Ethics and profits, the crisis of confidence in American business, that “Americans still believe in the free enterprise system. They have no quarrel with profit-making. But they do have a quarrel with unethical and questionable business practices conducted at the public expense.” 

Where I get disturbed most is with politics.  That non-profits are used to funnel money during elections and influence voters with advertisement ads pushing their agendas.  The Washington Post wrote Jan 5, 2014, an article by Matea Gold,  Koch-backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012 elections, “Much of the money that flowed through the network in the last election cycle originated with two non-profit groups that served as de facto banks, feeding money to groups downstream, according to an analysis by Center for Responsive Politics researcher Robert Ma­guire, who investigates politically active non-profits.”

photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/gUMZwB

Getting money out of politics is an agenda item that even politicians support.  In  The Atlantic, March 16, 2016, article, Russell Berman writes:

“The problem of money in politics is so universally recognized that even Donald Trump, the ultimate capitalist, and Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist, agree on it. Sanders has spent his career railing against the corrupting influence of wealthy and corporate donors, while Trump has unmasked the game by admitting that he gave money to politicians to curry favor with them. The success of both of these politicians suggests the degree to which Americans are fed up with the influence of money on politics. If we don’t reduce that influence, our system risks losing its legitimacy.”

Berman continues his story with a further point, “One of the big fears among good-government groups after Citizens United was that wealthy donors, corporations, and unions would not only be able to spend unlimited sums of money, but that they would try to do so secretly because of the loose disclosure requirements that allow donors to funnel money to super PACs through committees that don’t have to disclose the source of their contributions.”

My second disgust is when people misuse the trust that citizens have placed in Veterans, and misuse the premise of helping Veterans to further their own personal cause, whether it’s politically, or through the mismanagement of non-profits such as the Wounded Warrior Project.  Following the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) scandal of 2016, the WWP fired their top executives and focused on transparency and recovering from losing the confidence of many.  Now, non-profit review organizations such as  Charity Navigator has given them three of four stars in their rating process and the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance has cleared them of mismanagement.  

But, has the non-profit image been tainted in the shadows of stories like these?  Stories like political donor contributions exceeding millions, or scandals of non-profits such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation,  Red Cross, and Goodwill ; where CEO’s are paid massive salaries, and employees are not; or  how much exactly is going to hurricane Harvey relief, or Breast Cancer research?   Yes, I think non-profits are having image problems.  Yes, I think politics are dirty, and so is the for profit businesses at times  (remember the housing crisis; how much of that is linked to for profit businesses putting their profits ahead of people).  In summary, my thoughts are that money does sometimes equal corruption, but money still does good.     I still give my money to charity, to various non-profit organizations, but I’m careful.  I do my research.  Yes, I also give my time, and continue to volunteer through my church, and my community;  After all, it’s the American way.

So what have I concluded from all of this?  Are Non-Profits better than For-Profit businesses?  It seems both have problems:  Management issues, corruption, etc.  But the heart of what a non-profit does is what keeps us human, inspired, and very generous.  With 1.5 MILLION Non-Profit Organizations generating over 350 BILLION in contributions, it’s a big business.  Non-profits impact not only our Economics, but us in every dimension of Sociology, Business, Religion, and Government, making it very relevant to my Interdisciplinary Studies.

photo by: https://flic.kr/p/atKFZt

For ways to help you choose a non-profit or check the record of a non-profit, visit sites like Charity Navigator, Guide Star,  Charity Watch, Give Well, and Great Non-Profits.  All of the above offer reviews and ratings of many non profits.  There’s even a Ted Talk on how to pick a non-profit, and countless internet sites willing to give you advice.  In today’s times, non-profits are a crucial part of natural disaster recovery, research into fighting disease, and providing a better way for under privileged.   So do give….  as the old saying goes, give as much as you can, as often as you can.

For a list of sources please use the hot links provided within, or view a summarized list here: Google Drive link.

 

Sources for Research Article: Key Differences between Profit and Non Profit

I have a lot of reading to do!

As I put together my sources and start to prepare to write my research article on the on Key Differences between Profit and Non Profit Organizations, I’m feeling more like I’m eating an elephant.  A very large, and tough elephant that towers over me like a mouse, type of elephant.  But, to start with one bite at a time, I’ve assembled a list of sources to help get me through this project.  They are available for viewing at: Research Article Sources.  I look forward to the paper coming together and sharing it with you.  Until then….   🙂

Research Article & Applied Project Prospectus

I’ve narrowed down my Research Project to focus on the Key Differences between Profit and Non Profit Organizations.  I look forward to interviewing  Catherine Crooker,  Cathy is a part-time Sandwich resident, with a lifetime connection.  Her mom was one of the founders of the Over the Hill Hikers, which is where my Applied Project will come in to play.  Cathy lives full-time in Oregon, and is the founder of Crooker Consulting  a company which helps connect donors to Non Profits.  In addition to talking to Cathy, I will make use of library resources, the internet, and talking with people who work (or have worked) within the Non Profit fields.

The Research Project and Applied Project tie together my 26 year career in the military to my post retirement life of volunteerism.  My activities in the community currently include the Sandwich Conservation Commission, the Sandwich Fair, our Community Church, and of course, the Over the Hill Hikers, where I now fill the shoes of Cathy’s late mother, Lib Bates, the original Den Mother and organizer.  Both the Research Project and Applied Project show the practical application of my major, Organizational Administration, and bring together multiple disciplines including Business, Sociology, Administration, and Communication.

A great book about the history of this hiking club that’s been going since 1979.

For my Applied Project, I plan to serve as a key organizer for the Over the Hill Hikers.  I will do this by maintaining a 100+ distribution list for all levels of hikers.  I will communicate planning meetings to organize weekly hikes for the season, and establish a leader for each hike.  I will send out weekly updates for these hikes to include information on the difficulty of the hike, the estimated duration (both time and mileage), the established carpool and meeting times, and assist the leader in tracking RSVP’s which are used to coordinate further updates such as weather, etc.  I will also serve as the website manager, updating the Over the Hill Hikers blog (check out their site at: http://overthehillhikers.blogspot.com/)  with photos, schedules and other key information.

A few of the Over the Hill Hikers taking in the view at the top. Photo taken by fellow hiker, Susan Allen.

This role as key organizer, aka “Den Mother” is a role I have naturally fell into since moving to Sandwich.  Be it fate, coincidence, or my leadership that  makes it so, I’m happy to fill the shoes of Lib Bates the best that I can while bringing together so many people in Sandwich and the surrounding areas.  It may be fate, as my husband and I bought the home in which Lib lived, but what ever the circumstances that made it so, I am so happy to offer my Organizational skills, along with my passion for hiking and a joy of volunteering to the Over the Hill Hikers.

Brainstorming my Research Project & Applied Project

We’ve been in class for a few weeks now, and there’s a lot of discussion on our upcoming Research Project, and our Applied Project.  These two projects, which are the Capstone for Interdisciplinary Studies, are to be connected to our field of study, mine being “Organizational Administration”.

In class we’ve had an opportunity to brainstorm with our peers and individually.  I’ve collected a few thoughts that I think I could bite in too, that are relevant in today’s world,  and are connected to my program.   I’m also thinking multiple disciplines are represented in each idea from Humanities, Sociology, Psychology, Ethics, Business, and Economics, which collectively highlights the benefits of thinking and working in a multiple discipline and Interdisciplinary world.    The ideas that I am considering for my Research Project include:

photo taken at the Women’s Rally in Concord, NH on January 20, 2018
  • Key Differences between Profit and Non-Profit Organizations,
  • Sexual Harassment, has it increased, or has just the coverage and awareness?
  • Racial Equality Is the movement “Black lives Matter” making a difference?
  • DACA policies & Immigration policies.  Has the current Administration’s policies and travel bans impacted the workforce?
  • Unemployment rates is it an accurate representation of our economy?

As you can imagine my head is going a million miles a minute thinking of where the above topics could take me.  Can I gather enough information using good sources and present my topic thoroughly.   Who will I interview?  I think I’m leaning towards one choice in-particular, but I do think each topic is one that is impacting many lives, our workforce and our society as a whole.  Each topic has great merit and would be a worthy research article.  What do you think?  Does one grab you more than the others?

I continue my brainstorming to the Applied Project.  I don’t know why, but this seems a bit easier to me.  Maybe it’s the hands on part of it, the “doing” versus the writing about it that I found appealing.  In any case, my ideas for an Applied Project, relevant to my Organizational Administration field are:

  • My work with the Over the Hill Hikers.  I organize a season worth of hikes in all abilities ranging from easy to difficult.  I coordinate leaders for the weekly hikes, establish carpool times and locations, follow the weather, lead the hike / or others, and share the experience (and photos) via the Over the Hill Hikers Blogspot.  I also am the coordinator for two annual gatherings, and organize participation in the Sandwich Fair Parade.  In addition, I maintain the checkbook of funds that have been collected for sweatshirts and prize money.  I recently coordinated a meeting with NHPR’s Virginia Prescott to interview the group which has been established since 1977!

    Over the Hill Hikers gathering to march in the Sandwich Fair Parade
  • Trail Stewardship and maintenance along the Bearcamp River Trail, a 17 mile trail that passes through both White Mountain National Forest and private land owners property from the Summit of Mt. Israel to the border of Tamworth.   Trail stewardship includes organizing a trail clean up day, of pruning, dealing with trees that have blown down or fallen, and re-blazing the trail marks.  Public outreach is coordinated with permission of the landowners.
  • Increasing participation in the Sandwich Fair Flower Exhibit.  I would contact past participants to generate interest early, and possibly arrange a flower demonstration by one of the local gardeners to share tips on arrangements and displays during the summer months.

Again, I could see myself doing each of these for my Applied Project.  I’m passionate about each already.   Volunteerism is my second career, and what I will be doing in this chapter of my life.  I may have taken the long route to completing my degree, but it’s a rewarding path none the less.   I’m so grateful I’ve had the opportunity to go back to school to apply a long military career’s worth of experience and a collection of college along the way to round out my Interdisciplinary Studies major.  It’s a collection of disciplines, and a indirect route, but I’m almost there.

Flower exhibit at the Sandwich Fair

How my childhood curiosity lead me to this moment… on this crazy road of life.

So, it must have been around 1977, give or take … I grew up in a small town in Florida, Palm Harbor to be exact.  I remember my mom helping me to give up the training wheels on my bicycle…  and, “be free”, she would say.  She was quite the cheerleader for me.  I remember we took them off, her doing all the mechanical aspects of removing them, my mom was quite the “do it yourself’er”, and telling me all along that she believed in me; that she was going to be right there to make sure I was going to be okay.

The joy of learning to ride a bicycle. Photo by John Wisniewski. https://flic.kr/p/ou1rUG

I was excited and scared all at the same time to take off these training wheels.  They represented security, stability, and safety.  Being free sounded exciting… it had adventure written all over it.  But was I ready?  My mom thought so, and  I reluctantly agreed.  I remember her giving me that little push as I peddled down our dirt road, and she was holding the back of my bike seat, running right along with me, and then, she finally let go.  I didn’t realize it at first, but the moment I did, I think I scared myself.  I kept going, and I did it.  Success!  My mom has always been there for me, especially during childhood, but even now as a married adult, venturing to finish my education, enjoying life after the military, and in my new home and life in New Hampshire, she’s there.  I guess adventure and freedom has always called me, from bike riding to this crazy journey of life.  It’s been a heck of a ride at times.  But mom, she’s a constant, she is dependable and safe as training wheels on a bicycle, and I’m so grateful for her support.

My Semester in Intro to Interdisciplinary Studies

When I enrolled at Plymouth State, my first thought of a major was Business Administration.  I thought that related to my prior career in the military, and would be a sure fit for my experience and the best way to utilize my transfer credits effectively.  It was during a meeting with Admissions, that I first heard of Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS).  After that meeting, I scheduled an appointment with Program Director, Dr. Robin DeRosa to learn more about IDS.

I have to admit, that first meeting with Dr. DeRosa left me so excited my head was spinning.  Mostly because I had no idea (or a very vague one at best) what she was talking about.  She looked over my transfer credits, gave me a very positive endorsement, “YES, this is a good path for you”;  she even gave me an override to allow me to enroll in her upcoming Fall semester.   I was on my way to an IDS major… woo hoo!

I did not know what to expect in Interdisciplinary Studies, as this was my first time in a classroom in YEARS.   I thought perhaps it would be more independent learning, but I really wasn’t sure.  I did know that my heart was in it 100%, and this was something I really wanted to do, I was fully committed and I was ready!

There were many steps throughout the semester, but one thing I can say is I got constant support and feedback from Dr. DeRosa.  Her guidance included recommendations for advisors, feedback on my writing (mostly good, with some additional suggestions), and an excellent course that challenged me outside my comfort zone.  I gained a wealth of knowledge, and my technology skills grew tenfold.

photo by Zack Lee https://flic.kr/p/65iZ3p Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The class is a learning and networking experience, utilizing our fellow peers, establishing a Personal Learning Network, and best of all it’s all Open-Ed.  There are no printed textbooks, everything is online, which we take part in writing, editing and giving feedback on.   This is Interdisciplinary Studies at its finest.

The class dynamics is a great mix of students pursuing studies in a myriad of different fields.  In our class, we had students with health and wellness, sports, social services, graphic design, science, and administration backgrounds.  When peer to peer review was at work, that brought interdisciplinary skills instantly to the equation.  Using the analogy from “The Big Terms” we were a fruit bowl of skills (multidisciplinary) and experience which came together to offer a fruit smoothie (interdisciplinary) in group dynamics.  The opportunity for each of us to pursue an education that was relevant to our interests, our experiences, and put the control of our education on us, is powerful.

We must also help students gain knowledge of multiple disciplines and their interconnectedness. Team teaching is one obvious way to do that. “……”Within disciplines, of course, teaching should encourage students to draw knowledge together from many sources.”    Vartan Gregorian, Colleges Should Reconstruct the Unity of Knowledge.

While the semester progressed, and more of my own friends and family asked me about school and my major, I was surprised to hear how many of them have an Interdisciplinary Studies major themselves.  I guess when a program has been around since 1974, you should realize that it’s had a broad reach on people.  I’m happy to hear that IDS is growing and gaining popularity here on campus too.  Enrollments have increased the past few years, specifically noting a change from an average of 10.1 enrolled majors from 1974-2014, to currently having 123 enrollments in IDS majors.  Clearly, Interdisciplinary Studies is a valuable route to education that invests in people and their future; and is beneficial for PSU and universities as a whole.

My goal of completing my undergrad is getting close.  I have approximately 9 classes remaining until graduation, which I anticipate Fall 2018.  I plan to use my skills through volunteerism and community support.  I’m enjoying school so much, I’m actually considering going for grad school; but I will cross that bridge when I get over this one….(smile)…  my very own “Charlie’s Bridge”.   (Charlie’s Bridge is the name of my eport, and a very special place within my community / home).

Reflecting on my Personal Learning Network

At the beginning of the semester, Dr. DeRosa tells us that we should establish a Personal Learning Network (PLN) via Twitter.  I was like, NOOOOOO!!!!  I was reluctant to add another social media form to my life;    but after considering the options, Twitter sign up page, here I come!

Following that introduction, I now had to become familiar with what is a tweet, a retweet, a quoted tweet, a hashtag, etc.  There was a serious learning curve.  But after a few rookie tweets, I started to navigate my way.

Now comes establishing my PLN and connecting my major, Organizational Administration.  I was a little puzzled at where to start looking.  Who would contribute to my PLN, who should I be “following” via Twitter, what is my focus, and where do I want to take this PLN?

In the past, my PLN was very clear for me.  When I served in the Coast Guard my fellow peers, mentors, and network had been established over 26 years of transfers, advancements, supervisors, leadership, and trends.  I was starting over, and on the ground floor now.  What I had known for so long, doesn’t apply.  I’m retired from the Coast Guard after all; who is going to be my PLN now?

Sandwich Fair Flower Exhibit 2017
The Over the Hill Hikers. Read or listen to their story at http://www.tinyurl.com/y8q3nwhz

I chose to follow the NY Times Education & Business sections, Forbes, Business Week, National Public Radio, and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management).   I did find these sources helpful.  They keep current on the news and trends of today.  My future will not be in the mainstream workforce, but contributing to my community through volunteerism.  I currently serve on the Sandwich Conservation Commission, am Chairman for the Sandwich Fair Flower Exhibit, am active in my church, and am the group organizer for the Over the Hill Hikers.   I also am a member of the tri-town Democrats.  Following graduation from PSU, I will expand my network of Twitter to include people from these groups.  I can see how the format of Twitter is beneficial for professionals, students and community service.

To see a story of my Twitter use this past semester, please check out my Twitter story using Storify.