This is my first entry for this year! OMG! I used to be an avid blog writer. Hahaha but I guess as age is catching up (though the heart still feels young!), the drive to document everything fades. LOL! But, I am still the same person – with more enriched life experiences and colours (that is the way I see myself, at least). Anyway, it has already been a month now that I am a legit 37 years old! Gosh, time flies, innit? Since Malaysia is having its lockdown and especially Selangor with its PKPD, everything is just “Seindah Biasa”, I guess. Anyway, just a quick dash on a side-dish. By the end of December 2020 until earlier May this year, I’ve developed a certain “affinity” towards a person in a way very unlikely me. Let’s be honest, my style usually initiated with promiscuity and naughty flirtations. But I was drawn to this person for the intellectual magnet and bibliophilia. Through this person, I was introduced to wise philosophers I used to pay no heed prior to this such as Rumi. I felt there was some sort of spiritual connectivity (as opposed to the usual physical ‘thang’ I am used to) and I felt at peace. However, I noticed that things started to turn cold after Ramadhan and of course being me, I wrote what I felt. I still don’t know what went wrong but I could only guess that it has something to do with the red tapes of taboos and Status Quo. The reply was diplomatic (I am good in reading between the lines!) but I sensed that ‘the time has come to put a stop’. It was bewildering as it was not even a physicality-connection but I was devastated because this person somehow inspired me to make it good and achieve things in the scholarly world & I was drawn by the humility of that ‘Kampung” origin despite being one of the honchos of the industry. For the first time, I was initially drawn to a person not because of the physical attraction; so it was kinda pure for me. But then it was what it was. I can’t deny that I still basking for some sort of recognition or presence every time I announce any of my little victorious moments, hoping to get signs that this person is seeing me from afar like it was used to be – but I guess everyone has his/her own reason to bail out. Like who am I to say “No”, right? Life goes on though it is kinda hard because for me it was pure. But alas, heartbreaks inspired Rumi to be a great poet, no? Sigh.
Secured the 2nd place in Faculty level (FBMK, UPM). Can you see the Teacher’s Room as the background? I had to ask permission from my GPK1 and the help of my colleagues to look after the Pendidikan Moral class. Tried to focus while my colleagues audibly chatting! Haha!
Anyway, this blog is to focus on my experience in participating the “3 Minutes Thesis” Competition. Last year, my supervisor suggested to me to participate as he could see the potential with my communication skill but unfortunately the competition was pun on halt due to the COVID-19 lockdown 1.0. So this year when the advertisement was issued, I told my SV that I wanted to participate the competition although I was a bit skeptical on how to construct the narration on my rhetorical analysis of speech so that it would sound interesting. I then recalled in either a communication book or journal that past Greek scholars often compared persuasion strategies (since rhetorical communication / persuasive communication derived from ancient Greek) to monstrous creatures. I remember Plato described :-
- in “Phaedrus” that speech was like a living creature with head, body and feet;
- in “Republic”, human’s appetitive parts (desire) was likened to Hydra, the many-headed Greek mythical creature
So initially I thought of incorporating Hydra as the metaphor to the three Canons of Rhetoric (Inventio, Dispositio and Elocutio) but then I was also aware that not everyone was into Greek mythology, right? Then I remember “Godzilla” and coincidentally, the newer version was released earlier this year so Godzilla should be the more recognizable “monster” in comparison to Hydra! Since the competition was about explaining your research to the laypeople, I decided to use the contemporary Godzilla as opposed to the mythical, classic Hydra – as the analogical monster mirroring to the three Canons of Rhetoric related to my research.
Haha! My amateurish ala cut-and-paste slide for my faculty level competition! Well, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to persuade the audience, no? Haha!
So circa March 2021, I entered the faculty level (Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, FBMK) and managed to get the second place! I remembered that on Monday, FBMK called me around 10.30 a.m. that they wanted me to participate the Zoom session at 11.00 a.m. I told them that it would not be possible because I was at school and about to have my Pendidikan Moral class with the ever-active Year 4 pupils at 10.50 a.m.! The FMBK officer was adamant as she said I needed to be in the presence for the briefing if I were to win the competition. Thankfully, my PK Pentadbiran, Cikgu Shamsul and my colleagues were willing to tolerate and helped me out with the class (talk about the struggle of pursuing PhD while working full time! The schedule always collides!). Initially, I thought that only the first winner was to represent the faculty but it turned out that all the three winners would represent the faculty for the university level.
The new polished slide by Kakak! Impressive, right? I am such a noob! Haha! So after comments from the faculty level, I’ve roped the help of Kakak to upgrade my slide. She is such a gem! Love you, Kakak! The victory is not just mine – for both of us the Ramli Siblings, actually!
The UPM “3 Minutes Thesis” Competition – university level was held circa April 2021. This time around, I enlisted the help of my sister, the IT maestro (hahaha!) to help me with the solo slide to be shown throughout my presentation! Hahaha! Kakak was simply a Guru in this – my previous slide was really a “noob” (cut-and-paste amateur! Haha!). Her slide exuded that ambiance of professionalism. Thanks Kakak! There were 25 participants from all over UPM and the session was divided into two rounds. I make it to the second round with 12 participants competing against each other. During the Question-and-Answer session, the Head Panelist enquired:-
- How am I going to gauge that the audience were really swayed / persuaded by Tun Mahathir’s usage of Elocutio (Style) of rhyming?
- Using Godzilla was confusing as it connotates notoriety and to affiliate it with Tun Mahathir is not compatible. What is the relevance to the research?
Being me, I was so ever eager to trump my way out (purely because of the Prize Money! Haha!). So, I adamantly told that my research is using Neo-Aristotelian rhetorical analysis which is a classic methodology and it only concerns with the way the speaker to construct his/her speeches in a most convincing way.The Head Panelist obviously was there to grill me – “So what about the audience?” In my most “ready-for-battle” momentum, I said that the classical approach purely concerns on the speaker him/herself; however, the contemporary rhetorical analyses would be more comprehensive in encompassing the perspective of the audience. I also added that – since past rhetorical analyses research in Malaysia predominantly used Neo-Aristotelian, then it was decided that the methodology suits with my research and the question was actually out of my research spectrum! Well, it was quite a heated discussion – and later Kakak who watched the session live told me that I seemed a bit ‘pompous’ and should ‘toned down the arrogance” and exercised diplomacy. Haha! With the second place, I have secured RM800. Well, we are living in a material world!
I was shocked but thankful because my aim was more on the money. Haha!
Throughout May 2021, the three of us were given 7 times of virtual coaching sessions by the UPM School of Graduate Studies. Associate Prof. Dr. Noritah Omar was appointed as our coach. Initially, it was planned that we were to have our last coaching session face-to-face with Dr. Noritah and then had our recording session by the professionals at SGS but we had to cancel the idea as Malaysian Government abruptly announced the Movement Control Order 3.0. In the end, I had to do my own recording in my own home in Batang Kali, Hulu Selangor and sent it to Encik Hafiz, the SGS Officer via Telegram. Under Dr. Noritah’s coaching, I was asked to “tone down” my naturally-animated style of presentation and also to enunciate each word clearly as this was after all, a professional presentation. Maybe because I was so used to my story-telling persona! It was also tedious as I had to prepare 5 videos to be selected by them – but it was worthwhile experience. Thanks Dr!
The coaching sessions with Assoc. Prof. Dr. Noritah Omar. Well, my favourite is the black Batik. Heck, I even wore it during my National Level Question-and-Answer session. LOL!
So on 9th of June 2021, the National Level of “3 Minutes Thesis” Competition was conducted via Zoom due to the MCO 3.0. Well, in a way it was “luckily” because I didn’t have to apply for a day off from my Headmaster in school. There were approximately 50 PhD candidates and we were then segregated into separate rooms according to our own category; I am with Social Science, Akhlisah with Engineering and Dr. Diana with Science. For my own category, the 16 Social Science participants were divided into 4 clusters and then each winner would make it to the second round. After the lunch break circa 2.30 p.m., the session resumed and the final round participants were announced. The three of us made it to the final!
The contestants and crews. I noticed Professor Dr. Kamila Ghazali is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and International) of Universiti Malaya there as she is an expert in rhetoric and she wrote about Mahathir’s rhetorical devices as well but from the perspective of Critical Discourse (CDA). I however, look from the perspective of Neo-Aristotelian. I was excited to see her as I cited her in my Literature Reviews.
I’ve noticed we were told that the elements of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) are to be taken into account for deliberation of winners. I also noticed that the participant from UM who finally emerged as the winner emphasized during the Question-and-Answer session that her research on the taboos of female circumcision was relevant to SDGs. When I heard that, I was like -“Ohhh, shit! How am I going to sway my Tun Mahathir’s persuasion strategies to fit into that SDGs mould??” And to tell the truth, I didn’t even know what were SDGs all about (I know!! Haha!) up until this UM contestant talked about it AND by the time I’ve finished googling the information, it was too late as my turn was up next and I didn’t have time to concoct the “swaying plan”. Haha! So, I thought – What the heck? Just go with the flow! So, the Question-and-Answer session was conducted by the emcee; and I wasn’t sure whether the answers given would be taken into consideration as part of our marks. Since I remember that Kakak told me to “tone down” my “combative alter ego” as per the one I demonstrated during the UPM level, I opted to be more casual and projected sense of naivety. I was asked by the emcee:-
- Did you incorporated those persuasion strategies implemented by Tun Mahathir into your presentation just now?
My answer wasn’t serious and I giggled like a child (a tactic I used when I tried to feign innocence). I didn’t specifically singled out any rhetorical devices – alliteration, anaphora to support my answers so that they would look “professional”. In my mind, I thought this was just a filler session before the turn for the next contestant. After my session, I noticed that the other contestants were treating the Question-and-Answer session like VIVA! They were adamant to share the technical jargons and philosophy of their research and that somehow unveiled the sophistication of their research! Bummer! But I also could not deny that their research do sound more “sophisticated” as opposed to mine – though, yeah, people keep telling that be proud of your research title, no? Haha!
Third place in Social Science category on National Level of “3 Minutes Thesis”. I think OKlah. Haha.
The UPM poster. I am glad I have contributed something to Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) as a student.
In the end, it was somewhat a joyful thing that the three of us managed to claim a spot in the Top Three for each category. It was also a great contribution as a PhD student who works full time as a primary school teacher to clinch such accolade. At least, this should be a PhD memory of mine for UPM and hopefully will inspire and motivate me to keep walking along this PhD journey with its ups and downs. Amin YRA.
The Star excerpt dated 4th July 2021. A good zenith as finale for this whole 3 months journey of Malaysian “3 Minutes Thesis” competition.