Category Archives: School

Thesis Help – Servant-Leadership

I am in the preparation stages of my graduate thesis at Gonzaga University where I am looking into how servant-leadership can assist in stabilizing organization culture after crisis. Spears (2002) identified 10 characteristics of a servant-leader:

Commitment to the growth of people
Building community

I think that knowledge of conflict resolution principles and mediation are vital to the success of servant-leadership in this endeavor. From what I have learned about conflict resolution,* the core competencies for CR and mediation are very similar to those listed here. However, I’m having difficulty finding literature to back up that claim.

I can feel it and I cannot yet academically link the two.

Can anyone point me in the direction of literature that discuss this connection?

*I am completing an MA in Communication and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University. I hold a Graduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution and a BA in Speech Communication (Interpersonal Communication, Conflict Resolution) from the University of Utah.


Choosing the Right Concealed Carry Handgun

Seen on The Firearm Blog.

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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Guns, School


Construction of Online Identity

The question of identity, what it is and how it is constructed, is difficult to answer in everyday life. How does the process of identity construction change when the complexity of online social structures are added? This paper will address the idea of identity construction and how, if at all, the online world changes our perception of identity and its construction.

Thoughts on Identity

The Enlightenment gave the Western world the idea that human identity is a simple, straightforward matter and that an individual’s identity is “unitary, fixed and stable” (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004, p. 97). This idea is prevalent in modern society and can lead to conflict and misunderstanding. People often try to concretely say this is who I am as though a person is just one thing.

Actually, identity is much more flexible than previously thought. Often the thought of playing multiple roles is presented as a way of explaining this flexibility. I have my identity, but I have different roles: husband, father, student, brother, son, teacher, employee; and I simply modify my identity to fill the role that I am playing at the time. This method of thought follows George Herbert Mead’s theory of Symbolic Interactionism (Griffin, 2009). A second way of describing the flexibility of identity is that people have multiple identities, in a non-schizophrenic sense. One proponent of this theory is Amartya Sen, the Indian economist and philosopher. In his book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, Sen (2006) explains that people have many identities but choose to “present,” or handle a situation through, one or several identities. This means that person has a family identity (or several), political identity, religious identity, spiritual identity, and various social identities as they relate to friends and work.

Sen’s explanation is closer to the mark, I feel. While the difference between playing a role and presenting an identity may appear to be verbal semantics, the difference lies in the accountability of the person. Playing a role is victim language for doing what others think should be done. Presenting an identity places the person in control of their actions and also holds them accountable for their choices. Presenting an identity also allows people to accept or reject identities that are given to them by others.

Identity Construction Online

How does the online world affect the construction of identity? Early computer mediated communication scholars appeared enthusiastic at how this new tool called the internet would liberate people. “You can be whoever you want to be. You can completely redefine yourself if you want to. You don’t have to worry about the slots other people put you in as much” (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004, p. 99). The internet would be the great equalizer in our biased and prejudiced world. Yet, “the trouble with much of the early excitement about identity play in cyberspace is that it tended to exaggerate the realities of online communication in terms of what people actually do and what they actually want to do” (Thurlow, Lengel, & Tomic, 2004, p. 101). The internet originally offered a certain level of perceived anonymity to users. But with the advent of social networks like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and the ease of creating personal blogs via sites like Blogger and WordPress, the perceived desire for online anonymity has appeared to diminish.

Just as identity is affected by the groups with which we associate in the offline world, I feel it is much the same in the online world. Internet culture has evolved so that online identities mirror offline identities. Any group, idea or fetish can be found online. Traditional time and space constraints become moot and any person can find a group online with which to associate, thus allowing an individual to explore and create an identity associated with that group. The internet does not change the way that identity is created, it simply provides another avenue through which identity creation can occur.

Griffin, E. (2009). A First Look at Communication Theory (Seventh ed.). New York, New York, United States: McGraw-Hill.
Sen, A. (2006). Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2004). Computer Mediated Communication: Social Interaction and the Internet. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.


Posted by on September 10, 2011 in School


Hope and Change

To learn what President Obama’s Safe School Czar wants to teach your children, click here.  Warning, it WILL make you sick to your stomach but you should know what The One could be putting in the hands of your children.  By the way, you’re not getting any of this from the MSM.


Unpacking Things

This semester, the final semester for my undergraduate degree, has been very interesting.  I’ve never taken this many credits in one semester – 16.5.  I think that I’ve been handling it pretty well.  I was able to take a Pistol Marksmanship class, and get credit for it, so who doesn’t love that?

One of my classes, Dialogue and Cultural Studies, has probably been the favorite of undergraduate studies.  Professor Leonard Hawes is teaching the course and I’ve learned a lot about myself, how I deal with conflict, and how dialogue can work.  The semester began with the book The Identity of Violence: The Illusion of Destiny by Amartya Sen and the introduction of two ideas, Immanence and Transcendence.

Sen’s presentation of identity is that it is not singular.  I do not have “an” identity, I have many.  Identities stem from affiliations.  I am: male, white, an American, a Utahn, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an ex-boyfriend, a fiscal conservative, a social moderate, a gun owner, and much, much more.  The idea is to avoid the all-encompassing “other.”   Immanence is the idea of remaining within a conflict.  Transcendence is the idea of stepping outside of the conflict, creating boundaries of right/wrong, better/worse, etc.  Now, before you get all bothered, “well here’s a bunch of hippie, leftist relativism,” stay immanent with me.

Real Life Situation: 

The other night Tammy and I were lying in bed and a sensitive subject was brought up.  As we talked about it, we came to see that we both had completely differing views of the subject, but hadn’t realized that the other person saw it differently.  Our natural reaction was to say, “well, my way is correct,” but we rejected that notion and let our opinions stand independently.  We didn’t “resolve” anything, meaning we didn’t come to a common agreement on how we would treat that subject in the future, or who was “right” and who was “wrong.”  But now we have a better understanding of how each other views that topic and this will allow us to navigate it in the future.

That is immanence, rather than transcendence. Immanence does not say that you cannot have an opinion, or that everyone is right, it says simply that remaining within a conflict rather than attempting to step outside of it helps resolve conflict.  It would have been very easy for me to try and force my position on Tammy, telling her that she was wrong and needed to change her views.  But I didn’t and we both grew through the process.  A tool that assists in immanence is witnessing.  When I witness someone’s truth, their reality which is socially constructed, I get to understand them better.  By witnessing what my wife was saying that night I was better able to see not only how she feels about the topic but also why she feels the way that she does.  This gives me the knowledge that I need for when this comes up in the future.

The second book that we read this semester was A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts by Harold Saunders.  The books main focus is creating understanding through sustained dialogue.  The course syllabus describes our dialogue method:

The purpose of self-indexical, self-reflexive and self-implicative dialogue is for you to affirm identifications by actually practicing what you’re learning.  You will be paying close attention to fluid changes and subtle processes rather than to more static positions and stationary relations.  The process of this method of inquiry is dia-logical – a logic that is different from and one that goes beyond both formal logics and dialectics.  The processes and practices of dialogue are driven by the movements of desire and reason, which show up in the perpetual turning and reversing of conversation.  The Latin root terms for “conversation” – con and vetere – mean to turn together in a continual process of reversal.  The reading, writing, speaking and listening of dialogue are grounded in your lived experience – i.e., in the problems, contradictions and paradoxes of your everyday life.

So, you’re probably asking yourself, “well, what do you do twice a week? Get together, hold hands and talk about your feelings?”  No, we sit and have dialogue based on what we’re reading and what is going on in the world.  We are putting into practice what Saunders is suggesting – sustained dialogue, over the course of a semester, so that we can better understand each other and the common conflicts that we face!

The book that we’re currently reading is Sitting in the Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity by Arnold Mindell.  And though, at times, Mindell can seem a little “out there” (think campfire and Kumbaya), the book challenges the reader to at least consider some of the propositions being made.  Which cycles back to immanence (being present in the conflict) and taking the conflict for what it is.

This class has helped me unpack some things.  For years I’ve felt that I’m supposed to be ashamed of being a middle-class, white male because, zomg!!!!11!!1eleven!, I’m the devil incarnate and the oppressor of the world.  After moving back to Utah I had one more thing to be ashamed of – I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the dominant religious group in the state.  These presumed feelings of shame made me angry at the world and “those liberals who say that I should feel this way.”  My anger began to consume my identities and was forcing me to shut down when ever I heard one of “them” talking. 

In Sitting in the Fire, Mindell discusses what he calls rank: skin color, gender, sexual orientation, education, religion, age, expertise, profession, health, psychology and spirituality are just a few that he mentions and how each person has a higher or lower rank that someone else in any given field.  The difference in rank is all socially created and is tied to identity.  For example, in western cultures lighter skin gives a person a higher rank than dark skin; males have a higher rank thank females; more education gives you higher rank over then uneducated, etc.  Mindell says that it’s not the differences that cause conflict but what we do with the differences.  Do we abuse others, either consciously or unconsciously, with our rank?

When we remain immanent in a conflict we have the opportunity to see our rank and how we may be abusing others.  This then gives us insight into how we can potentially resolve the conflict or transform it into something else all together (taking an either/or and making it a both/and).  I had not, until recently, been able to see how this, as a system, can be applied in large groups (between ethnic groups or political parties, for example).  But I think I’m getting closer.  In order for large groups to change, the individuals in that group must change.  In order for individuals to change there must be dialogue where participants are willing to remain immanent and witness the experience and social reality of the other participants.  This does not lead to a “right” and a “wrong,” but it does lead to a better understanding of what ranks I have and how I’m using them to either assist or abuse others.  Regardless of the size of the group it still comes back to the individual.

So, as a workable model:  When a conflict presents itself and I begin to react I first need to know which identities are being threatened and why are they feeling threatened, remembering that the person(s) on the “other side” also have identities feeling threatened for various reasons.  Re
maining immanent allows me to understand that person and either resolve the conflict or transform it into something else.  This works in large groups because I am part of the process, which never ends.  It is always fluid and moving.

Okay – bring on the world!


Posted by on November 17, 2009 in Education, Life, People, Really Excited, School


Lack of Postage

So, if you’re wondering what has been consuming my time and why I haven’t been posting much, the reason is very simple.  A 16.5 credit hour semester and we’re post-mid-terms!  That means term papers are coming due (my first is next Thursday) and I’m spending all of my available time working/trying to get motivated to work on them.  In my last semester I’m getting trunky and have developed a severe case of senioritis. 

Okay, break over.  I’d better get back to it…

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Posted by on October 27, 2009 in Blogging, Life, School


Pistol Marksmanship

This semester I’m taking a Pistol Marksmanship class at the U. Last night we had our first shooting session. I did not do very well. I was concentrating so hard on my breathing, sight alignment and trigger control, that I let some other very important things slip.

You see, before last night I’d never shot a pistol from a bench rest. Here are a list of problems that I discovered and will correct next time I’m on the powder range (we have a small range here at the U with only 5 stations. Does anybody have $7 Million that they’d like to give to the University of Utah so that they can build a new Naval Science building with a 15 station range?), since we shoot air pistol and .22LR.

  • I need to raise the table. I’m 6’3″ and the table was set for someone who is 5’8″
  • I shouldn’t rest my elbows on the table. This leads to my next point
  • Lock my wrists. Resting my elbows on the table put my wrists in a bent, unlocked position and it was difficult to control recoil.

I made two of three corrections on my last 5 shots of the night – picked up my elbows and locked my wrists but the table was still low so my shoulders were at a funky angle. In the end my corrections came too little too late, my grouping was huge and I’ll have to use the rest next time. My arc of movement isn’t very large – it’s very, very small in fact. I think what I need to go is go practice outside of class.


Posted by on September 2, 2009 in School

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