O'Connor Phd Project, Refugee Literacy

In the midst of an existential meltdown about how I could possibly work full-time teaching and part-time tutoring, raise 2 kids, and complete my dissertation, I stumbled on this web site while reading the NYTimes. This week when my Amazon cart became full of books for my research that I cannot possibly afford, I had to figure out how in the hell I was ever going to finish my research.

So here is my pitch to ask you to help me complete my dissertation research. I am studying the literacy practices of refugee women in the United States. Most of you know about my connection with the Somali community through my work, my church, and my personal friends. I am not interested in telling another dramatic story of torture, escape, trauma, and alienation. I am interested in understanding what makes this community so triumphant, dignified, resilient.

Using literacy as my methodological/thematic lens, I will collect video interviews to contribute to the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (http://daln.osu.edu). My goal is to visit Somali communities in Georgia, Ohio, Minnesota, Maine, and Toronto and video interview women about their experiences navigating the acquisition of literacy in a new culture. My hope as a teacher is to understand how women from a society that is primarily an oral tradition valuing the education of boys and men navigate a new culture that values education for all and a wide range of literacy practices (written, spoken, digital). My research can help us understand how we can be better teachers of refugees and women. I want to provide a new focus in the work of getting to know the stories of these remarkable women "“ not trauma, victimization, and struggle "“ but resilience, accomplishment, respect, and pride.

Unlike the majority of dissertations (a massive document archived away in the stacks of a university), I will share my work with my friends, colleagues, and students. You will be able to watch your investment in my dissertation at www.maryhelenoconnor.com with blog postings about my work, interviews of my research subjects, and updates on my progress. This is a new way to research - allow the community to support research they believe is valuable.

So, the dirty details "“ a budget.

Video Camera: $200.00 (GoPro White $199.99)
External Microphone: $159.00 (Azden wireless lavalier and handheld)
Transcription software, pedal, headphones: $250 (Dragon Premium, AltoEdge Bundle)
Air Travel: $1500
Somali translation services: $1,000
Books and misc. supplies: $500 (see Amazon wish list)
5% transaction fees for this website

If you would like to contribute something from this list and send it to me "“ wonderful. If you would like to offer a free place to stay near Columbus, Toronto, Portland, or Minneapolis, perfect! Let me know. Creative financing is ideal.

My friends and family contributed $20,000 to my 3 breast cancer walks. It seemed logical that my friends could help me achieve this goal - to wrap this all up and become Dr. O'Connor in 2014.


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Mary Helen O'Connor 
Decatur, GA
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