PhD-Day Diary

On December 1, 2008 I declared December 1, 2009 as my “PhD-Day to track my progress towards earning a PhD. I created this page to track various updates along the way; this is a work in progress.

Delivery Truck with Graffiti Reading "PhD" on the Roll Top Door #2


  • November 24th: Launched a thread on the Chronicle of Higher Education forum in which I posted a thread with the question “I need “Discipline” — Where to Study “Social Media?” to help me refine my research interests and better understand my academic options. I periodically post updates to this thread.


  • January 7th: Had a great phone conversation with Bill Sodeman, PhD (who I met on Twitter) about doctoral program applications and our shared interests. What a great guy — which he had been a professor of mine!
  • January 16th: Connected with recent USC Communication PhD graduate, Rebecca Herr-Stephenson, PhD, by a friend from the EdD program in which I was enrolled at Pepperdine University. Coordinating a time when we can meet to discuss her experience in the program and my options as an applicant.
  • January 24th: Met with S. Courtney Walton, a first year PhD student in Organizational Communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara,  after my UCSB Extension class. Explored bios of faculty members in possible schools to determine which have shared interests. Continued to refine my research statement in an attempt to standardize it.
  • February 1st: Met with former Pepperdine colleague Melinda Valente andher friend Becky Herr Stephenson, PhD (who recently received her doctorate in Communication from the Annenberg School for Communication at USC).
  • February 22nd: Turned 35 and took a Practice GRE test through Kaplan at Cal State Northridge.
  • February 24th: Sent a message to Geneva Overholser — director of the School of Journalism at the Annenberg School for Communication at USCon Twitter after seeing her interviewed in a piece on CBS News about the demise of newspapers and the challenges “only online” news poses to those who can’t afford Internet access. This initiated a positive online relationship that has yielded some compelling and engaging discussions relevant to my research interests
  • February 25th: Attended Gravity Summit at UCLA to expand my knowledge of social media and make connections.
  • February 27th: Visit faculty member Jim Merod, PhD at Soka University of America to discuss doctoral ideas and options. Narrowed possible programs, began to identify faculty with similar interests.
  • March 1st: Following a series of additional discussions on Twitter following my inaugural message on February 24, Genevah Overholser graciously invited me to contact her directly to further my interest in the PhD program in Communication at USC. This felt like an especially auspicious development considering it occurred exactly three months after I declared December 1, 2009 as my “PhD-Day.”
  • March 2nd: I e-mailed my vita, teaching philosophy and a short bio to Geneva Overholserwho then connected me with Larry Gross, PhD, the Director of the Annenberg School for Communication.
  • March 3rd: Clarified my research interests and identified potential faculty members with whom I would like to conduct research to Larry Gross, PhD. Dr. Gross  recommended I consider Dr. Janet Fulk, an inspired choice considering Becky Herr Stephenson, PhD also indicated Dr. Fulk might be a good fit. I have since downloaded several of her papers and begun reviewing them with the intent of reaching out to her within a few months .
  • March 9th: Recognized as one of 29 educators by Online Degree World in its “Top 100 Edu Tweeters” list (#84 overall). Other educators on the list include Bill Sodeman, PhD, Dean Terry, Kent Gustavson, PhD, Barbara Nixon, Alec Couros, Jay Rosen, Patrick Strother,  Bill Genereux, Rebecca MacKinnon, Paul Bradshaw, Alfred Hermida, and Jim MacMillan.
  • March 31st: Met with A. Todd Jones, Department Chair and Professor of Communication, at Bakersfield College, regarding Communication as a discipline and possible adjunct opportunities at the school. Also developed a clearer understanding of the two main sides of Communication as a discipline: personal and mediated.
  • April 1st: Inspired by my meeting with A. Todd Jones, I sought out and engaged Dr. Dawn Gilpin, Assistant Professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University, on Twitter to better understand the division within the Communication discipline. 
  • April 1st: Realized that my interest in online communication and social media more specifically falls within the “mediated” area of Communication — which is most often studied in a Mass Communication or Journalism PhD program.
  • April 1st: Referred by Dr. Gilpin to an intriguing article in the October 2008 (Volume 10, No. 5)  issue of “New Media & Society” by Marika Lüders titled “Conceptualizing personal media.” Per Dr. Gilpin, Luders argues we can no longer classify communication by medium (personal v. mediated), but that we have to see how the medium is used and make the call based on that.
  • April 2nd: Referred to another journal article relevant to my interests and explain the use of the term “newer media” instead of “new media” by Dr. Serena Carpenter, then a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University, via Twitter:  “New Communication Technologies, Old Questions” by Marco C. Yzer and Brian G. Southwell, as published in Vol. 52, No. 1, of American Behavioral Scientist.
  • April 12th: After reconsidering how to define my PhD interests, I explained to Frankie De Soto (@franklogic) on Twitter that “For my PhD I want to research how people & orgs generate knowledge by using social media to create & distribute information.”
  • April 15th: While using Twitter, asked the question “Could ‘citizen journalism’ exist as it does now w/o the infrastructure & technology developed by large media companies?” and quickly realized it could very well evolve into the subject of my eventual PhD dissertation. The idea was that, without the existing broadband and mobile phone infrastructure, individuals would be unable to access and share content available online — and that access is the key to “citizen” journalism. This invokes concerns over digital divide and information ownership issues. Additionally, a great deal of what constitutes “citizen journalism” involves re-purposing content produced by the large media outlets (e.g. blog responses to articles and embedded media from YouTube — which is, of course, owned by Google). What’s more, user created content is a plus for publishers as they can generate material for which there is no compensation beyond giving the “citizen journalist” exposure and perceived credibility.
  • May 17th: PhD-Day indefinitely (and unfortunately) put on hold due to a significant personal matter. This is a dream deferred, not a dream defeated. Look for updates once I resume my pursuit of a PhD!


  • May 30th: 6 years and 13 days after my last “PhD-Day Diary” update I published my first book: edX E-Learning Course Development.  This book walks you through the eight essential steps you will take to create your first edX course while teaching you tools and techniques you need to know as an edX instructor. Organized sequentially, each chapter represents a stage in your curriculum development and implementation process. If you are an educator creating a course for edX or a corporate trainer using Open edX for large-scale learning and development initiatives, then edX E-Learning Course Development is the ideal book for you.  I am investigating the option to leverage this book into a PhD by Publication.


  • September 4th: Enrolled in the online course “Discovering your PhD Potential” by the University of Leicester. This five-week course helps prospective PhD students learn how to write a research proposal for a postgraduate application by covering how to set a realistic and impactful research question, how to write a literature review, and how to pull together your first draft of a research proposal.