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Big Bend Community College William C. Bonaudi Library

William C. Bonaudi Library's Down the Research Rabbit Hole | Issue 18 | Melinda Owens, Executive Assistant to the President | Courage & Curiosity

by Rhonda Kitchens on 2022-10-20T08:44:00-07:00 | 0 Comments


Melinda Owens Down the Research Rabbit Hole


You recently graduated with a Master of Social Work.  Congratulations!  You returned to get your graduate degree later in life. What was that decision like for you? Were there any differences from your first higher education experience?

This is a great question and I wish we could all share our educational journeys more publicly, it’s empowering to learners when they understand we’ve all stumbled a bit in our travels. I attended a lone semester at Washington State University (WSU) Fall of 1982 following high school graduation, that’s not a typo! Encouragement from Dr. Leas and considering the statement “you will turn 60 with or without a degree, what’s it going to be?” caused me to take action.

Fall of 2013 my wobbly legs and racing heart led me into Matt Sullivan’s English 101 class. The community and my success in that class fueled me to continue. I had the great pleasure of being a student of our Big Bend and it provided me the foundation for more education and the student perspective that grew my empathy for students. I earned my Bachelor in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences from Central Washington University (CWU ) June of 2019. One of my professors shared that she could see the scientist in me through my research and writing/presenting style. Her comment affirmed and empowered me and helped me see myself with a new perspective of potential. I started my Master in Social Work July of 2019 and graduated June of 2022 from the part-time, hybrid program at Eastern Washington University (EWU). 

One assignment in my undergrad required me to talk with individuals in my chosen career field and that’s where I learned that many professionals had a stop-and-go educational path. I think if more of our students new this it would take away some of the baggage they carry when comparing themselves to others. We’re all doing what we can to survive and thrive and our progress is more often non-linear.

Our words have tremendous power and can be used lifting or kicking, our choices impact our lives and others’ lives.

Melinda Owens Quote

In your more recent graduate studies, did you develop a research style? What journals or resources worked best for you? Are there any you keep in your reading rotation?

Early on I took a Library class from CWU and it helped me understand a technique called citation “pearling.”  Citation pearling is finding a good peer-reviewed article from a credible source and then following the pearls or sources of that article into other articles. This same approach works when talking with individuals, reading books, and listening to podcasts. The Psych/Soc databases are interesting and joined the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which provides research and articles.

I learned to maximize my self-care time by learning from podcasts while walking my dog and cleaning my house, mowing my lawn, etc. The Huberman Lab (holistic body/mind evidence-based protocols/studies) and “We Can Do Hard Things” which is focused on curiosity and social advocacy are just a couple of my newfound COVID friends. My new weakness is also a strength, my growing home library of authors like Dr. Brene Brown, Dr. John Ratey, Lisa See, Sylvia Plath,  Mary Oliver, Max Lugavere, Ibram X. Kendi, Patrick Rothfuss, Malcolm Gladwell, and Dr. Gina Garcia.

Do you have any tips for returning students or people considering a return or start in higher education? 

Courage and curiosity are essential and often we can become intentionally curious in the face of fear when we take a few deep breaths. I have been surprised at my ability to grow and flex when I let go of my judgment and open my mind, often with breath.  

Courage is only present when we are scared, do it scared. Find a mentor or community of people who are pursuing something similar to what you envision or practicing lifelong learning in multiple areas.  We have all been scared, small successes of pushing through can build a wave of strength within us.  The good life for me is continually unlocking new learning modules about myself and others.

Big Bend has provided a transformative ecosystem swirling around me and as Dr. David Holliway teaches in Sociology "our social locations continually wind around and are pools of empathy from which we can relate to others."


What book, poem, or study have you read that engaged you so deeply you were changed?​

Mary Oliver’s The Journey is a constant stream in my thoughts. I strive to write a Haiku a day to detangle my thoughts and align my energy away from rumination and anxiety and into the present, it’s like yoga for my emotions as I name and express them.

Dr. John Ratey’s Spark inspired me to move my body to empower my brain.

Dr. Brene Brown’s books showed me the power of hard data to affect positive change in (perceived) soft places.

Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements taught me that I choose which agreements to carry and which to smash and burn.

Mostly, my colleagues and students offer me chances to be curious about other perspectives and refine my truths regularly.

And finally, my grandchildren inspire me to be the change we need in the world. ❤️

Melinda Owens with grandchildre

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The William C. Bonaudi
Library provides 
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multiple online resources,
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Teresa Sweeney