Are you ready to write a Masters’ dissertation?

It’s Sunday afternoon, and as I sit on the train taking me to Geneva airport, I run through a mental list of things to do during the week. I am headed to York, and more precisely, to York St John University.
I am not the only one headed there – thirty more individuals, from all corners of the world (South Africa, South Sudan, Nigeria, UK, Australia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ecuador, Chile, Malaysia, Croatia, UAE, the Netherlands, US, to name just a few) are headed the same way. They are all students in the MA Leadership, Innovation and Change, affectionately known as MALIC, that we at Robert Kennedy College have been running with our partners York St John University so successfully over the past 4 years. One of the RKC students arriving in York this time around is the 600th one to do so since 2011!
Monday morning, 9am – hellos and good mornings all around – recognising some faces from the online profiles – being surprised by others, who are bigger, smaller, younger, older, funnier or more serious than their online personas led me to think.
Monday morning hellos

A week of exchanges and meeting new people

They all have one thing in common though: they are here to learn, and to achieve what for many of them is still a dream for now: a British Master while keeping down their full time jobs in their countries. They are here to work on their dream – the team of lecturers from YSJ are going to take them on a learning journey throughout the week, from the very basic to the very complex issues, with a focus on developing their dissertations. One can see, and sense, a certain anxiety in the air – it is the uneasiness of dealing with the unknown, of not knowing what we do not know. By Friday that will be replaced by a different type of feeling, perhaps expectation and perhaps slight apprehension, for by then they will know more about what they do not know, and realise there is much more to learn still!
Thursday afternoon, 4:30pm – a short debriefing session – the team had shared on Monday their hopes and fears – how many of those have been realised or avoided? …and we are almost through.

Hopes and fears

Hopes and fears

There have been four days of learning, discussions, group work, group fun, and group interaction. Interviews, facilitation, data analysis, coding, socialising and after-hours – these guys (and gals) have spent 4 days that have brought them so much closer than any online experience could. Some speak about that – it feels alone studying online – we want more video conferencing, more interaction – we want more real! Yet they also agree that we have to work within the contraints of what our lives allow us to do while keeping an income and taking care of a family. Perhaps as technology evolves, we will be able to make online education even better – but that is for another day.

Friday morning discussions

Friday morning discussions

Friday morning – we have been building up towards this. Around each table a group of students and a tutor discuss their dissertation ideas, looking for that all elusive “perfect research question”. There is no such thing in reality, and each idea is different. “Our role, both as tutors and peers, is to expose any hidden assumptions and risks that you may not have seen,” I tell them. We keep coming back to our mantra “focus, focus, focus” – “be pragmatic, pick something that is doable, even though you may not be able to save the world” – that too is for another day!
As always, the week has passed by in a haze of ideas, questions, emotions and names and faces that have become more familiar now. I’ll be recognising them as they pass across the stage in the York Minster on graduation day, looking all proud and excited in their graduation gowns. Until then, I have graduation 2015 to look forward to, with 120+ students set to come – how exciting!
Graduation in York

Graduation in York

YSJ’s graduation ceremony must be (and I’m trying to be objective here) one of the most memorable experiences ever – I’ve lived a couple of them so far from the tutors’ “bench” – I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like as a graduate! I may just have to do a degree with YSJ myself just to get that side of the story too!

Graduation in the Minster

Graduation in the Minster

It’s Saturday, and I’m back on the plane towards Geneva, finishing writing up my week’s journal – reflection, as they’ve all been told during this week (and told, and told, and told again), is a crucial part of learning – some have promised to take up the habit of reflecting and journaling – we’ll check on that at graduation. They have come here from all over the world, thirty individuals, and they are leaving York as a group, richer in friends and knowledge and motivation. Are they ready to write a Master’s dissertation? Time will tell, but we are confident they are.
See you at graduation guys!

Dr. Radu Negoescu

After finishing his MSc in Computer Science and working as a freelance consultant for several companies, including RKC, Radu went back into research and completed his PhD in Computer Science at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, Switzerland (EPFL) and the Idiap Research Institute in Martigny. His research interests lie at the intersection between traditional computer science and human behaviour, and he has now returned to RKC hoping to pass forward some of the knowledge and skills acquired during his PhD studies to current and future managers, while at the same time help RKC maintain its long-standing focus on quality.

39 Comments

  1. Miguel Camalando

    Very true, writing master dissertation is an exciting moment. I am currently in the process of finding the Central research question…
    At the same I am enjoying the journey of an MBA degree.

  2. Eyal Policar -ep

    Radu

    Malic was one of the more powerfull transformational thing I did. The whole process although very intensive and the dissertation timeline very tough was worth it. I have gone on to do a DBA and hopefully one day will join the online professionals that teach for perfection.
    I wish you and the RKC team tenfold success. The more educated people are the better a chance for this world tobecome a better place.

    ep

  3. Else Marit H Gravas

    Thank you Radu for sharing your thoughts, your reflections! And thank you for a wonderful week!! All faces, all smiles, discussions, fun and serious chats. It all clarified a lot for preparation for the dissertation, and made me more ready for the work ahead!

  4. Thank you Doctor for this short litterature!
    Indeed, we left York after a week of intensive learning, richer in friends and knowledge and motivation, mainly motivation. As far as I am concerned, I left with that big question: Am I ready to write a Master Dissertation? At least I know something, I am full of hopes to make it!!!
    With my warmest regards.
    amel

  5. Magda Prinsloo

    Radu, I must say the week by far exceeded any expectations I had on learning and providing clarity on the way forward. It was absolutely a great experience!! Thank you for your guidance it is very much appreciated. Looking forward to have the graduation experience 🙂

  6. Hi Radu,

    Thank you again for a wonderful residential. The week was exactly what I needed to reinvigorate my passion for the program. The joy of meeting my fellow classmates has stayed with me. That and the the life-changing ceremony you’ve been promising in the Minster will be my fuel through the next challenge of the proposal. Thanks for all your guidance and support and I look forward to the process ahead.

    Oran

  7. Priscilla Nurul

    Hi Radu,
    Thank you for the wonderful week I have had at York St John University. Its an honour to be in this programme.
    Good to know that I am not the only one who feel the shortcomings of ideas and knowledge is a big comfort to me. 😄 Last week was the best week I have ever felt after starting a journey with MALIC. Yeah, it was a surprise to me for all the things I experienced in and out the class. Working on reflection all the time now, that’s a good thing to start right? Thank you for the advises I got throughout the week, will work hard and definitely trying to be smart on my dissertation! 😄

  8. Manar

    Dear Dr. Radu,
    The whole MALIC programme is a challenge, having intense work like most of us and family concerns have made it more difficult and always a fear of not able to complete the programme…but thanks to this wonderful week for making things more clearer…It gave me the hope & the confidence to step a head and finish the programme.
    Many thanks to you and tutors for your advises

  9. M Patel

    What an inspiring blog! Even though I am studying with RKC for another University’s postgraduate degree, Dr Negoescu’s words have inspired me to work even harder!

  10. Carolyne Opinde

    I attended my residency in May 2015 at another University and I must say it was really great to interact with the academic staff and meet my fellow students face-to-face.

    I am currently in the dissertation stage and I get motivated each time I read posts about graduation and how happy folks are to successfully complete their studies. It makes me say, “That will be me in the few months”

  11. Adeola Fadairo

    Dr. Radu,

    You are a fantastic blog writer and the way you captured the week long residency programme was really inspiring and self reassuring. It is hope that we shall soon experience the sweetness of this same question: “Are you ready to write a Masters’ dissertation? And we shall all choruses like “a group of people who appear, sing, and sometimes dance together as a unit in a performance, usually providing backing for the principal performers” and say yes!

    Well done…

    Deola, MAIBM RKC.

  12. Tunde Balogun

    Dr Radu,

    Reading your blog brought me nostalgic feelings. I had my residency programme last December, and despite the ‘inclement’ weather for a Nigerian, I enjoyed every bit of my stay. I am through with my dissertation and I use this occasion to encourage everyone that they can also get through in gallant fashion.
    Regards,

    • Dr. Radu Negoescu

      Well done ‘tunde, now you can relax and figure out what to do with yourself with all this time that’s been freed from studies 🙂 A regularly recurring problem for our graduates – many ponder further studies, and I have quite a few of them currently doing PhDs!

      • Tunde Balogun

        Thank you, Dr Radu. It’s as if you are aware what I am pondering about. The programme has really stimulated my interest in more research. Do not be surprised when I tell you that I am starting PhD after my results are released.
        Regards,

  13. Yomi Layinka

    Hi Dr Negeoscu,
    Stumbling over your blog was such a great filip and inspiration as I am only just preparing for my own residency which starts on 12th October in Zurich. (I am about finishing from the Salford University MSc Marketing programme.)

    Apart from the very interesting and engaging description of the Milac week in York, two of my major takeaways from your blog and for which I will be pondering are 1, ‘Am I ready for a Masters Dissertation?’ And 2, Can I simply keep my eye on the ball by listening to your repeated mantra: Focus!Focus!Focus!’ As I have a myriad of competing research topic ideas am interested in, I need to FOCUS because now, I’ve just been reminded that I cannot solve the world’s problems with one dissertation!😀

    Thank you for the kind help in clarification, even if it wasn’t directly intended for me. You have rekindled my excitement for this stage of the programme. Thanks.

  14. Saeed Shariatmadari

    DEAR DR. RADU NEGOESCU

    I am a student at University of Salford attending an online MSc. course and will be present in the residency next October in Zurich. Your post has focused my excitement on the week’s context instead of my fears and hopes. It enlightened me more about what we are supposed to do … Thank you very much.
    Your post also has encouraged me to write whatever I experience in the week and post it for my classmates and other students. That may be useful to them.

    Regards and best wishes
    Saeed

    • Dr. Radu Negoescu

      Excellent idea Saeed, will be happy to read about your reflections from the week. I will see you in Zurich!

  15. Saidat Adeniran

    It has been an exciting one learning from your experiences since the beginning of this Module (Project Risk and Procurement Management). Your posts have been reflecting your focusing and courageous characteristics that rekindle my heart.

    I will be in Zurich in November 22 for the residency. In fact, this your post has made me to change my flight plan of arriving Zurich on that same morning of Monday due to my tight schedule.

    Yes! With this your blog on residency and dissertation, I have nothing to fear and believe I can make it to the promise land and consequently proceed to my PhD Program.
    Thank you and see you soon in Zurich.

  16. Francine Davis

    I am still enjoying the ‘journey’ and will be thinking of my classmates graduating this month as I too would have been graduating but due to personal circumstances have had to delay and I am presently focusing on completing my dissertation in December 2015. This is one of the wonderful aspects of the MALIC Programme, that we have this flexibility. So, as I reflect on the last three years I can confirm that Dr Radu, your guidance has been invaluable. Many thanks and I look forward to attending graduation next year!!

    PS I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all my classmates, you will know who you are, that will graduating this year! XOXO

  17. Alhaji Alpha Kamara

    Dear Radu Negoescu,

    The post of colleagues combine with yours has motivated my interest on the RKC residential week Programme in December 7th to 11th 2015 in Salford perspective instead of the worries and expectations in me. However, my dream is to complete my MScFS with all the challenges in the masters journey . Thanks for all your guidance and directions and progress is my motto.

    Alhaji Alpha Kamara

    • Dr. Radu Negoescu

      Hi Alhaji, glad to hear this was of help – dress warmly for Salford, and be ready for a week of hard work, but also fun … safe travels!

  18. Emmanuel Ocen

    Thanks Dr. Radu, this is a good inspiring post. I just did my last module and looking forward to getting the dissertation done as well as doing the Salford residency. So far so good and am hoping this last bit won’t be painful.

    BR

    • Dr. Radu Negoescu

      The residency will be a good preparation for the dissertation – and making sure it’s a painless 3 months 😉

    • eyal policar

      One of the most Ah-ha moments at that time was my residency. This was in 2012
      Good luck, enjoy every minute
      Warm regards to George

      ep

  19. Abel Jaratina

    Dr Radu

    Quite an inspiration. I am writing my dissertation for MBALS and feel really eager to proceed further after succeeding seeing how other are doing in other programmer.

    br

    Abel Jaratina

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