Here I stand at the precipice of a new adventure – one I never would have predicted. My journey has included many twists, turns, peaks, valleys, heartaches and thrill rides. However, this next challenge will require courage of leaving what is secure and familiar, in favor of travel and research for the benefit of sea turtles and STEM interns everywhere!
Growing up on the San Joaquin River Delta, I have always been a water baby. Whether camping at the beach, deep sea fishing with my parents, waterskiing with friends and siblings, or simply relaxing on the boat, being on or near the water has always been my favorite place of peace, comfort and solace. However, my love, respect, and healthy fear of the ocean, and specifically large creatures with big teeth, prevented me from learning to scuba dive and pursuing a career in Marine Biology. Instead, I discovered I had a keen interest in observing human behavior, and specifically understanding how adult human beings learn. Consequently, I went on to study education and instructional design. For the past 20 years, my professional career has been relatively secure, focused on designing corporate learning solutions to address the various challenges and competencies required for successful business leadership development.
Eight years ago, I made the decision to face my greatest fear: I was going to learn to scuba dive or literally die trying! Knowledge Reviews were fairly straightforward. Learning the skills in the pool came quite naturally. After gearing up, walking directly into the ocean, and being slapped in the face with that first icy wave, I realized I had a conscious choice to make. Fortunately, I chose to press on, trust my instructor, and rely on my training to get through this certification. Anyone who dives the Breakwater in Monterey in April knows that there are days when visibility can be spectacular. This was not one of those days. After a 200 yard surface swim out to the buoy, students were instructed to descend in buddy pairs with the instructional staff, kneel on the bottom, grasping the marker line and wait for our turn to demonstrate the skills. Visibility might have been 2 feet that day, due to sand churned up from surf and surge. Remarkably, I was quite relaxed, holding the line and waiting for my instructor’s hand to emerge and signal the skill for me to perform. While this was not my first (nor my last) learning edge, it certainly has been a pivotal one. And I am ever grateful for the whole new world that was opened up to me that day. In fact, I love it so much that I now have the privilege of introducing others to the wonder of our marine environments by teaching scuba.
Today, it is not by accident that I stand at the precipice of a whole new adventure. I have resigned the security of my full time job in corporate learning and leadership development, in pursuit of what appears to be the intersection of my passions: leadership, learning, ocean and environmental stewardship. This week I will embark on a new adventure, no doubt filled with daily lessons, challenges, struggles, discoveries, friendships and opportunities. This new adventure marks a merging of my passions for the benefit of doctoral research, as I have the privilege to participate in an international internship to explore the efficacy of developing leaders in STEM fields through hands-on practical field research. While the work with sea turtles is not the primary research, it will be the work of my internship. However, my real research contributions will be to measure the efficacy of the program, understanding aspects like: How are participants impacted by the experience? How does it shape future choices to become marine ecologists, conservationists, socially and ecologically responsible citizens of this blue marble? Will they continue to pursue careers in STEM fields? To what degree will they be transformed by the experience? What will make the program even more effective? How are leaders in STEM fields developed?
It is my hope and intention that this internship experience will inform my doctoral research, focusing at the intersection of Leadership, Social Responsibility and Ecological Sustainability. Simultaneously, this internship coincides with #100DaysofBlue, during which I will be documenting the effects of being near, on, in, or under water.