I had just finished a class via teleconferencing and had an exchange of ideas and files with group mates, one in China and another in the United States) via Microsoft Teams. I was winding down by checking E-mails and peeking at my class discussion boards on our University’s learning management system. As I was closing the lid of my laptop, I found myself muttering: “Thank you, ATRIEV!” I realized I wouldn’t be able to do all of those if not for ATRIEV and what I have learned from them. Heck, I realized I wouldn’t even be where I am, doing the things I am doing, if it hadn’t been for ATRIEV and the vision they have created for the organization and for blind Filipinos like me.
Extremely moved, I booted up my computer again and decided to send ATRIEV an E-mail. I know it is only an E-mail but I know there is no better way to say thank you than to actually say it. Below is my E-mail to ATRIEV with the E-mail addresses removed.
***Start of Message***
Erick Marco Ramos<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wed, Sep 2, 2020 at 2:20 PM
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Dear ATRIEV Family,
Good news! I am now officially a student in the PhD in English: Literature and Criticism Program at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania under the 2020 Fulbright Foreign Student Program. The prescribed course duration is six years. However, I only have support from Fulbright for two years and will have to depend on University grants and graduate assistantships for year three onwards. To be honest, this worries me but the University and my adviser assured me that PhD students go on graduate assistantships as Teaching or research assistants and that it is a rite of passage of sorts. However, I will try to finish coursework, comprehensive exams, and my dissertation in four years. For my dissertation trajectory, I am looking at developing a framework to study diverse disability representations in contemporary literature and the media. It’s a bit rough at this point but this idea will improve as I go through coursework. At least in my head, I am thinking it will. Hehe.
I already started coursework last week virtually from Manila which means I have to wake up at 2:00 AM to attend my 3:00 AM classes. I was not able to leave for the US this fall because of an IUP decision to move classes on-line which is in conflict with a US immigration policy preventing international students from entering and staying in the US if all their classes are virtual. If all goes to plan, I will be leaving for Pennsylvania by Late December or early January in time for the spring term. Hopefully, the world would have a handle on the pandemic by then. We have been stuck indoors for too long and everything is just hitting too close to home for comfort at the moment.
I would like to thank ATRIEV and everything I have learned from you as my teachers, and eventually my colleagues. I don’t know how I would survive in a fully virtual program without the knowledge and skills I have learned from ATRIEV. For instance, synchronous classes are held via teleconferencing applications and asynchronous sessions are conducted through the university LMS and other third party productivity tools (mainly Microsoft products) which are thankfully accessible for the most part. (Hurray for Microsoft!) Also, I am enrolled in a course titled Podcasting: Narratives, Poetics, and Sound and I am required to write and produce an episode for the class podcast project using an audio editing program. I am also enrolled in a literary ethnography course which means going through digital archives to study newspapers, magazines, and periodicals from as early as 1900. In Addition, the reading load is insane! For this week’s classes, I think I read nearly 1000 pages of required material and probably around another thousand in supplementary and additional reading. I am a little intimidated but I have gotten good feedback from professors thus far so I guess I am doing something right. I would have no idea how to accomplish all of these without assistive technology skills which I learned from ATRIEV. I simply cannot imagine my life otherwise.
I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities that have come my way since I first became affiliated with ATRIEV in 2007. (Yes, it has been 13 wonderful years.) One bachelor’s degree, one master’s degree, Two study-abroad stints, and here I am, on my third one, still enjoying so many amazing opportunities, far more than I could have imagined. I would like to think ATRIEV had a hand in these, one way or another. I am acknowledging my privilege because very few people, even fewer disabled individuals, get the opportunity to earn a doctorate from a US institution with financial support from one of the world’s most prestigious scholarship programs. Please do share my E-mail with the ATRIEV Board of Trustees and partners. I would like them to know that their contributions to ATRIEV make extraordinary experiences like mine possible and for that I am in perpetual gratitude.
I am looking forward to the next few years ahead at IUP but I am even more excited for when I am back in the academe, doing what I love and do best as Dr. Erick Marco G. Ramos. (I think I like the sound of that.)
I am both challenged and humbled with everything going on in my life. I know more than me, there is a bigger picture in which I have an important but small role to play, and to discover that role and having the chance to play it is beyond what I can ask for.
Thank you and more power, ATRIEV!
Erick Marco G. Ramos (he, him, his)
Student, PhD in English: Literature and Criticism
Department of English
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
School of Graduate Studies and Research
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana PA 15705
***End of Message ***
ATRIEV has done so much for me throughout the years from my days as a student, trainer, and consultant. I am truly grateful for them and the work they do. I came to ATRIEV as a clueless 21-year-old with no life prospects whatsoever. If in 2007, someone would have told me I would be where I am now, doing the things I am doing, I would have thought they were crazy. Oh, wait, ATRIEV did tell me that. Sir Tony and Ma’am Carol told me the skills I will learn are those I will use for life and those skills will take me places. Maybe it isn’t too crazy after all.
ATRIEV has indeed created vision beyond sight and for that, I will have gratitude beyond measure.
About the author
Marco is an alumni of ATRIEV’s PC Operations with Access Technology Program. He was also ATRIEV’s Training Assistant for the Digital Early Intervention Training for Kids from 2008 to 2009. In 2010, he became the Lead Trainer for ATRIEV’s English Language Communications course until 2014. He also helped develop ATRIEV’s Web Content Writing Program (now Writing for the Web) and the Android Accessibility Training Program. Now, He still works for ATRIEV as a freelance consultant for its various projects.
Marco graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Philippine Normal University in 2013 with support from the Reines Family Scholarship and Liliane Fonds Philippines which he got through ATRIEV. As an undergraduate, he studied for one semester at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville under the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program administered by Fulbright. In 2016, he earned his Master’s Degree with honors from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur with support from the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the AUNDPPNet Fellowships, formerly ASEAN IDPP.
Prior to beginning his PhD Studies, Marco worked as an Instructor of English Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Languages, Philippine Normal University Manila. He taught courses in Literary Theory and Criticism, American Literature, Contemporary Literature, World Literature, Discourse Analysis, and the Teaching of Writing for the Bachelor in English Education Program.
The Fulbright Foreign Student Program (FFSP) is the U.S. Government’s flagship academic exchange program. It is administered in the Philippines by the Philippine American Educational Foundation in partnership with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy. For more information about Fulbright and its various programs in the Philippines, visit www.fulbright.org.ph
Note: The comments of the author do not represent those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State, the Philippine American Educational Foundation, or any of its affiliates.