Open Masters Fall 2012 Reflection

As a part of my participation in the Open Masters Program community, I am required to write a reflection on my progress each semester and to set goals for the coming semester.

Community dinner and presentation night

The inaugural semester of the Open Masters Program kicked off in early October with a series of studio groups for participants to meet and give/receive feedback on each other’s plans. The feedback from Alison, Axle, Ted, Arturo, Melissa, and Meli were immensely beneficial as I conceptualized and developed my masters purpose and plan. My plan is still a work-in-progress and will be finalized after receiving feedback from the January peer-review sessions, in-depth studio group, and winter retreat.

In an effort to determine how much coursework I could realistically complete, I loaded my fall semester with multiple online courses and projects.  Overall, I feel like my trajectory is positive and I am looking forward to a productive spring.

General Reflections:

  • Flexibility is a BlessingA wise woman once told me “You are in charge of your own happiness.” Because I have do not have to pay for the program and can develop my own curriculum, I have full control over my education; if I start moving down a path that doesn’t seem in line with my learning objectives, I am able to pivot quickly and not lose momentum. For example, after two weeks of classwork I decided to drop an online course in finance that didn’t match my core needs and interests.  Instead, I shifted my energy to another area of my program.  I plan to take an online course with a different instructor and focus via Coursera in the Spring.
  • Flexibility Can be a CurseWithout a strong structure and external accountability, it is easy to constantly push items back and lose focus. As I learned in the various start-ups I have worked with, it is easy to lose track of where you are headed if you are constantly shifting or changing goals.  Support from the community with program development and goal setting/tracking are crucial.  Once I started engaging in the weekly community updates, I felt a bit more pressure to reflect, stay focused and achieve the goals I laid out at the beginning of the semester. The peer review and studio sessions in January should help me to set my full two-year Open Masters plan in stone.
  • Time Management is Key – During a work trip to Cambodia, I fell nearly two weeks behind in my Organizational Analysis class, a backlog that would prove insurmountable.  Though I watched all the lectures and did a bit of extra reflection on topics I was particularly interested in, I did not complete the course on-time to earn an official certificate.  Because I am a freelance consultant, my workload can vary significantly from month to month. Time management will be an imperative skills to master as I seek to balance  personal, professional and open masters activities.  I plan to redo a time management activity in mid-January to help me improve.
  • Curriculum Balancing is an Art – My program is composed of four units focused on business-related topics and one unit on spirituality and personal development.  It has been easy to tick off items in the first four units since there are clear courses, milestones, and outcomes. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I have found it challenging to incorporate the final unit into my daily studies, since my tendency is to pick the low-hanging fruit from other units.  I see this section as a foundation or framework for the rest of my program, but I am still unsure how to weave it into my studies.  Since early December, I’ve experimented with setting aside a fixed amount of time each day for the spirituality unit to balance out my plan.  Alternatively, I might take a weeklong solo retreat up to Shenandoah or another nearby park in the spring to delve into some of my readings and exercises.
  • Start Asset Mapping Early – Asset mapping is the process of identifying resources (mentors, study-buddies, advisors, projects, books, courses, etc.) and should be done as early as possible in the program design process.  As the semester evolved, I made a number of excellent contacts within the Open Masters community that added value to my program. I should have taken advantage of this network and others (e.g. University of Notre Dame alumni) earlier in the program design phase, as it would have led to a more structured semester.
  • Online Courses Deserve a Spot in My Program – I was initially skeptical about online education, but consider me a convert.  While nothing replaces a university environment and direct human interaction, the online courses I have enrolled in via Coursera and Venture Lab have done a great job conveying complex material, testing my retention (via quizzes, peer-reviewed papers, final exams), and most importantly, keeping me engaged.   I am not yet at a point where I can create a quality curriculum and identify and obtain high quality academic literature for every sub-unit.  The structure and rigor of an online course provides, if nothing else, a great basic package from which to delve into material.  Thinking ahead, I’d like to try to join or arrange opportunities for online course students (Open Masters participants or otherwise) to meet consistently in person throughout the duration of the course.  The open study halls at Knowledge Commons DC will be a forum to test this out in the spring.
  • Personalize and Apply Whenever Possible – Similar to my experience in college, I learn best when I apply what I’ve learned to projects/contexts in which I have an interest.  For example, I made a concerted effort to use the frameworks and theories I learned about in my Organizational Analysis class to my experience leading Joma Vietnam.  I presented this work as a mini-case study at an Open Masters community dinner on December 4th (video coming soon).

Main Pivots:  

Fall 2012 Accomplishments (Checklist Here):

Fall 2012 Challenges:

Spring 2013 Goals (* denotes main areas of focus in spring 2013):

  • Business Development *
    • Complete Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses Part 1, Grow to Greatness: Smart Growth for Private Businesses Part 2, and Introduction to Finance with certificates
    • Complete Project Management Certification written exam by February 2013
    • Receive letters of recommendation for board roles at Cross Border Awareness Events and Hagar Social Enterprise Group
    • Complete an additional two financial models on my milestones list
    • Teach class to Open Masters community on financial modeling and business plan development
    • Write weekly reflections on consulting, project management and business development readings, including “Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, “Impact Equation” by Chris Brogan, excerpts from “Million Dollar Consulting” by Alan Weiss, “A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge”, and “Rwanda, Inc.: How a Devastated Nation Became an Economic Model for the Developing World” by Patricia Crisafulli and Andrea Redmond
  • Human Resources Management & Organizational Development
    • Will be a priority in fall 2013 semester
  • Leadership
    • Present at one conference
    • Present in one TEDx, Pecha Kucha, or similar event
    • Read and write reflection on “Coaching for Performance (Fourth Edition)” by John Whitmore
    • Join Toastmasters DC
    • Complete non-violent communication facilitator course
  • Social Entrepreneurship & Impact Investing *
    • Read and write reflection on “Understanding Social Entrepreneurship: The Relentless Pursuit of Mission in an Ever Changing World” by Jill Kickul and Thomas Lyons
    • In conjunction with organizational development professor(s), complete teaching case studies on Joma Bakery Cafe and Hagar Social Enterprise Group
    • Develop industry-standard social impact measurement and reporting tools for Hagar Social Enterprise Group
  • Presence & Compassion *
    • Meditate daily and join yoga twice a month; practice light mindful walking daily with my dog
    • Join local sangha
    • Handmake and bake a loaf a bread a week and write a reflection
    • Complete reflection on “Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World” by Bill Plotkin
    • Read and write reflections on “Fragrant Palm Leaves: Journals 1962-1966” by Thich Nhat Hanh, “The New Face of Buddhism: A Call to Action” by Ken Jones and Kenneth Kraft, and “Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory” by Joanna Macy
    • Write end-of-semester paper on the intersection of engaged Buddhism and social enterprise
    • Complete 10-day Wilderness First Responder certification course (NOLS)
    • Complete three-day solo wilderness meditation and nature retreat (could be Animas Quest or similar vision quest, if available in spring semester to Open Masters community)

Where I Need Support:

  • Introductions to potential advisors, professional groups/associations & mentors in business development and social entrepreneurship
  • Feedback on my program, including perceived rigor and scope compared to traditional MBA
  • Feedback/comments on public outputs, including blog posts, presentations, and project deliverables
  • Identifying opportunities for pro-bono and paid consultancies in line with the learning goals of my program
  • Study-buddies and peer-reviewers (including individuals in the Open Masters program and those in other masters programs)

Spring 2013 Participation in Open Masters Community:

  • Teach one class in financial modeling to Open Masters community members
  • Consistently engage in Open Masters Core Team
  • Provide space/meals at least twice for Open Masters studio group and community meals
  • Assist in coordinating personal transformation events (i.e. retreats, coaching resources, reflection exercises) for Open Masters community

~ by responsiblenomad on January 4, 2013.

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