Business

Business Course Descriptions

ANC 101 Introduction to Transformative Learning

The necessity and importance of Transformative Learning grows in times of crisis and complexity. We live in such a time, and as such Transformative Learning is being practiced within multiple domains, multiple levels, and utilizing varied approaches. This course introduces students to Imaginal Process, a distinct approach to transformative learning practiced at Meridian. In this approach, human capacities are cultivated through diversifying, deepening, embodying, and personalizing experience. Imagination amplifies and integrates the sensory, emotional, and cognitive dimensions of our experience. Through the labor of imagination, it is possible to craft our experience towards truth, joy, and effectiveness. This approach reflects an emerging multidisciplinary and multicultural synthesis which can be applied to education, therapy, organizations, and the arts. Listening deeply to each other’s stories is at the heart of this process. The living presence that constitutes good listening requires that we inhabit vulnerability, mystery, and complexity. This gathered listening engages the empathic imagination in ways that catalyze mutual individuation.

ANC 105 Emotional Development

Emotions are an essential dimension of both individual and collective human development. In addition,   emotions have a critical role in human well-being. Emotional development also significantly impacts our development physically, cognitively and spiritually.  Research in neuroscience over the last thirty years has contributed significantly to our current understanding of emotions. This research has now been extensively applied to the functioning of families, schools and workplaces.  Topics explored in this course in relation to emotion include: Attachment, empathy, conflict imagination, gender, sexuality, leadership, self-regulation, power, and destructive emotions such as hate and envy. The course also explores the link between emotion and capacities like courage, clarity, compassion, conscience, dignity and resilience.

ANC 110 Relational Development

"As a uniquely social species, human development at all systemic levels - individual, couple, family, team, organization, community, and society - is anchored in relational experience. This relational experience is culturally, societally, and historically specific. Along with this vast and diverse specificity there are also general patterns of relational development that span time, place, and culture. In exploring general patterns of relational development, this course addresses dimensions and dynamics entailed in relational experience including: identity, mutuality, authenticity, vulnerability, reciprocity, power, loyalty, collaboration and leadership."

ANC 115 Complexity Capability Practicum

The complexity capability practicum is designed to be a self-organized course that can be taken multiple times. Its purpose is to enable students to develop complexity capability in relation to domains and levels of practice that are aligned with their aspirations for their professional future.  The problems humanity faces amidst a civilizational crisis, are so complex that our historical epoch is sometimes described as a crisis of complexity . Such a degree of system complexity – at a level in which humans have never before had to cope, can be viewed as a root of the current ecological, economic, and political turmoil. Even our own inventions—technologies, cultural memes, and organizations—have been evolving into increasingly complex forms, which have increased the demands of everyday life. In each case, what is required of humanity is more complex than what our current mindsets allow. We are often in over our heads , overwhelmed by the demands of our everyday lives. Professionals across all domains are looking for tools and practices responsive to this new world of unprecedented and accelerating complexity. Promoting “vertical development” is not enough, nor are systems thinking or the principle of evolving cultures. Rather, a comprehensive approach to living, coping, and even thriving on complexity is trans-disciplinary and practitioner-focused. The goal of this course is to engage with a comprehensive set of practices and frameworks for thriving on complexity. The course addresses the relationship between inner and outer complexity in service of aligning individual capabilities with what Oliver Wendell Holmes termed, “the simplicity on the far side of complexity.” We can learn to transform the complexity both within and outside of ourselves in ways that can enrich our lives and enhance our professional contributions within diverse professional domains. 

ANC 120 Developmental Lab

ANC 125 Developmental Practicum

ANC 130 Transformative Learning Praxis

The necessity and importance of Transformative Learning grows in times of crisis and complexity. We live in such a time, and as such Transformative Learning is being practiced within multiple domains and at multiple levels. The term praxis refers to the integration of theory and practice. Domains of praxis include psychotherapy, spiritual practice, coaching and personal development, business, education, civil society, and the arts. Levels of praxis include individuals, teams, communities, organizations, and societies. This course is an overview of diverse approaches to Transformative Learning Praxis.

MBA 501 Foundations of Creative Enterprise

A spirit of enterprise is emerging locally and globally in response to complex crises and new, technologically-enabled opportunities. This course offers an Integral vision of, and approach to, creative and generative enterprise. Regenerating the Commons, Transformative Innovation, and Generative Entrepreneurship are the foundations of creative enterprise. During this course, students will apply the principles and practices associated with these foundational pillars to designing the business models that are at the core of any creative enterprise. Such business models integrate technological, social, and cultural innovations requiring integrated competencies of those who would manage and lead creative enterprise. 

MBA 511 Operations Management

A clear understanding of operations management is essential to building and maintaining a sustainable business. There are a wide range of opportunities to improve a company’s operations, from worksite safety and employee training to product development. It is particularly critical as the emerging creative economy seeks to harness increased cultural diversity and creative talent among our workforce, both locally and globally. This course covers topics such as process analysis, supply chain management, quality, and facilities management. Additional topics reviewed include concepts of probability, statistics and optimization applied in operations management tools, process mapping and production technologies, as well as materials use and reuse introduced through industrial ecology.

MBA 521 Creative Marketing

The marketing management process is critical to positioning an organization as a key contributor to a sustainable market in an emerging creative economy. It requires the ability to thoroughly analyze market strategies in order to make decisions that positively impact the organization and society as a whole. This course approaches marketing strategy and frameworks, trends, concepts, and marketing techniques in relation to today’s individual, organizational, and societal needs. Some of the topics to be covered include research, target market and segmentation, societal and cause-related marketing, green marketing, and branding. 

MBA 530 Strategic Management

The evolution taking place in market strategy is creating a business consciousness that is socially and environmentally sensitive as part of an organization’s fundamental makeup. Trends are continually emerging, providing opportunities to develop new strategies and revise organizational processes and structures that are more sustainable. This course will give an overview of different market strategy techniques, providing a framework for the internal processes and structures needed to support sustainable organizations in times of economic volatility and change. In this context, sustainability becomes, by definition, good business strategy.

MBA 532 Human Resources and Organizational Culture

Human Resources is uniquely positioned to support the underpinnings of organizational transformation when considered an essential player on the executive leadership team. Without critical input and support from Human Resources, organizations are prone to marginalizing key implementation strategies and minimizing success due to obstacles such as change resistance and employee/managerial sabotage. This course looks at areas of sustainable organizations in which Human Resources can play a significant role. These areas include leadership development, training and development, change management, conflict facilitation, ethics and governance, diversity, and teamwork.

MBA 564 Managerial Finance

The key to managing organizations more sustainably is to communicate the principles and concepts of business finance to a larger audience. In turn, this provides the foundation for a persuasive business case supporting socially responsible investing. This course covers financial analysis and management in relation to areas such as financial ratios, assets and liabilities, financial planning and forecasting, assessing, and managing risk. Additional topics such as time-value of money, financial markets and instruments, and socially responsible investment (SRI) will be explored.

MBA 565 Managerial Accounting

Effective managers in any industry need to be equipped with the knowledge and understanding of accounting in order to make business decisions that sustain a company through prosperous as well as lean times. Understanding accounting within the U.S. business environment will set the foundation for incorporating social and environmental practices into the accounting system. This course approaches accounting from both the financial and managerial perspective. Examples of topics covered include the accounting process financial statements budgeting and cost-volume-profit analysis. Environmental social and ethical accounting issues are introduced.

MBA 706 Transformative Business Innovation

The recent Great Recession and other underlying economic trends have reduced the amount of capital available for non-profit funding of social enterprise. In this context, market-based models assume a larger role in leading social transformation. One of the most influential business thinkers in the world, C.K. Prahalad, suggests that innovative business models can effectively address the world’s poverty. He asserts that transformative missions like this can be undertaken not by adopting an industry’s “best practices” but by identifying “next practices” that have the potential to shift a market or society’s equilibrium. Building on the earlier course, ‘Foundations of Creative Enterprise,’ the process of identifying “next practices” is examined in greater depth. How do organizations consistently innovate in ways that transform our society? Specific examples will be examined and the limitations of market-based models will also be addressed.

MBA 709 Research and Innovation in Business

Maintaining a healthy edge in the marketplace requires an understanding of, and ability to measure, sustainable business practices throughout the entire value chain. It includes analyzing internal progress as well as external markets to determine opportunities for creating new products and services and the ability to communicate ideas to a diverse stakeholder group. This course covers the preliminary steps needed to successfully launch a sustainable venture as either a new enterprise or within an established business. It includes the principles and practices of action and participation in sustainability research, true cost accounting, evaluation, and reporting. Existing research tools and sustainability metrics and reports will be reviewed.

MBA 712 Business and Social Entrepreneurship

The Transformative Learning process creates an environment supporting the development of collaborative leadership capacities that successful entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs require in an emerging creative economy. These capacities help sustain creative thinking and sound decision-making in order to manage risk during all stages of a new business venture. This course correlates the qualities found in today’s successful entrepreneurs/intrapreneurs and how they drive innovation in sustainable business. Building upon the introduction to research tools and sustainability metrics in previous courses, a more comprehensive picture will be presented that shows how innovation in sustainable ventures impact the development of social capital and large scale influence on social change.

MBA 714 Conversational Leadership

This course is a part of the Leadership & Creative Inquiry Series in the Integral ##MBA program. The course draws upon the leading edges of the faculty’s current research in we-space practice and the body of work from MIT’s Sloan School of Management’s Global Dialogue Project with 150 thought leaders worldwide and various consulting initiatives associated with the Society for Organizational Learning over the past fifteen years. The course focuses more in depth on cultivating key conversational leadership capacities and creative inquiry skills through a range of transformative processes applied across communication contexts, with a particular focus on the we-space in coaching and self-managed teams. Our exploration will look more closely at emerging individual and collective processes for perceiving, thinking, learning, communicating, and leading together through deep presencing. Deep Presencing is a transformative we-space practice and process of conversation leadership that addresses a central leadership challenge of our time, learning to lead from our inner source of creativity and deepest wisdom.

MBA 732 Community Economics

This course examines the causes of the current recession along with community-based economic strategies for survival and recovery. Most economics courses begin with the theory of markets—how money is used, but not what it is. The course, however, begins with the theory of money, as developed by Thomas H. Greco, Jr. and Bernard Lietaer (including a review of both the medium of exchange and store of value functions of money) along with an examination of the impact of the information management revolution on the systems properties of money. This course focuses both on regional crisis responses and on strategies for long-range investment in sustainable economic development. Applications will be explored for both the regional market economy and the regional commons.

MBA 744 Innovation, Culture and Sustainability

Sustainable enterprises respond to wider social, technological, and cultural change with organizational capabilities for cultural innovation, institutional integrity, and wise entrepreneurial initiative. This course sequence provides a practical understanding of the structures, processes, and practices utilized by organizations that sustain a triple-bottom line within the transforming consciousness of generative globalization.

MBA 746 Leading a Creative Enterprise

Many interrelated factors underlie the ongoing success of a new or ongoing enterprise. This perspective looks at building success by weaving together essential strands of organizational and strategic leadership including: identifying a need for your product or service, creating a compelling mission statement, defining core competencies and key success factors, analyzing competition, team building, forming strategic alliances, establishing brand recognition, pricing and cost strategies, social media and promotion, acquiring customers and forging relationships, understanding financial projections, and building a comprehensive business plan. This course also provides a larger perspective by incorporating a brief survey of the history of entrepreneurship in the United States. The course utilizes key competencies and skills acquired in previous coursework to frame an integrated view of organizational leadership.

MBA 752 Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation

Entrepreneurship has been expanding from the self-empowering concept of ‘be your own boss’ to ‘do well by doing good,’ to beyond. When combined with social innovation, entrepreneurship has the potential to seed and build the commons, producing systemic cultural shifts, facilitating individual learning, and influencing the evolution of social institutions. This course explores the overlap between leadership and entrepreneurship for social innovation. Examples of national and global enterprises engaged in creative social innovation as evolutionary experiments for solving problems and creating future possibilities are also discussed.

MBA 755 Emergent Thinking In The Creative Economy

Leading thinkers are collectively and individually re-imagining a future in which we conduct business in ways that restore the environment, build community and healthy relationships, create right livelihood, and promote social justice. In this course, students will read current relevant articles and selections from books like Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins, Biomimicry by Janine Benyus, and The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad, hear from guest business leaders and visionaries about their own lives, innovative ideas and accomplishments. In the process, students will nurture a framework for viewing the future of creative enterprise and create a context for building their own career path.

MBA 757 Innovation and Information

Just as the measures imposed by the larger economy govern human behavior, businesses evolve internal measures of performance that impact the behavior of the people who work within them. As such, internal business performance can be measured in many ways. Business leaders use a wide set of measures to gauge an enterprise’s success that in turn create a company’s culture. This course looks at information systems, policies, and management in a sustainable enterprise, how those systems are designed and implemented, what information is captured, how the use of these systems impact human behavior, and how internal reporting should be carried out in order for decision makers to assess the success or shortcomings of an enterprise. The notions of “key success factors” and developing and tracking “core competencies” for an organization are examined in this context.

MBA 762 Ecologically Restorative Business

Ecologically restorative enterprise will be a central theme in the transformative ventures of the future. Van Jones, former member of the Obama administration and founder of Green for All, points out that there are already 80,000 people working in the wind power generation business in the United States, and 46,000 more working on solar power. This total already surpasses the total of 80,000 coal miners in the country working in the “old economy.” This course examines trends and the outlook for ecologically restorative enterprise including: solar and wind power generation, biomimicry, organic agriculture, permaculture, local foods, ecological building construction, green investment, venture capital, waste management, relevant regulation, and government subsidy programs.

MBA 772 Global Business and Creative Enterprise

Typically the most transformative innovations originate at the edge of a society, with actions taken by bold pioneers and visionaries, so that much of the talk of social innovation in business tends to focus on entrepreneurship. Yet much of today’s global economic activity is dominated by non-entrepreneurial, vastly global enterprise, that often fails to meet many criteria of social responsibility or sustainability. The information technology sector, global media, large oil and energy companies, the automotive industry, and large-scale agribusiness are a few examples of very powerful industries that continue to dominate global society. What level of creative enterprise is possible within these industries? How is change happening from within? What are the regulatory frameworks that inhibit possibilities for transformative change? This course focuses on the intersection of global enterprise and social responsibility, identifies hurdles and current trends, and examines opportunities where the two meet to form an axis of possibility for change.

MBA 798 Topics in Creative Enterprise

MER 510 Sacred Purpose and Professional Practice

Human beings thrive on meaning and purpose. Bringing meaning and purpose together into a coherent professional life is a challenge. In part this is so because the professions paradoxically and often tragically undermine their purposeful intentions to meet human needs in support of the flourishing of individuals communities and societies. Understanding the underlying economic structures and practices that shape the unintended consequences of professions is critical to transforming the professions. This course weaves together developing leadership competencies for professionals necessary for transforming the professions in ways that realign the professions to their deeper and sacred purpose.

MER 524 Transformative Communities of Practice

With the modern emergence of professions, and with the additional layer of the digital revolution, practitioner-communities have an even more vital and evolutionary role creating contexts for capability development. Leaps in practice are catapulted by communities of practitioners underscoring the social and dialogical nature of human learning and knowledge. Practitioners drive both domain-specific learning associated with technical complexity and vertical development associated with dynamic complexity. Transformative Communities of Practice (TCoP) are any group of people who share their passion, experience, and learning related to the vertical development of self, organizations, and social systems. TCoP is an upgrade of the traditional concept of “communities of practice” i.e., they support the development of their members and stakeholders to the next stage of consciousness, competence, and social creativity. Three characteristics of TCoP make it a prefigurative harbinger of the organization of the future: They are a commitment to an evolutionary purpose, an emphasis on wholeness, and a preference for self-management. They also make TCoP represent an evolutionary force contributing to the present movements for civilizational renewal. In this course, students will not only learn about TCoP but gain an enacted experience of it. Formative assessment will be embedded within the learning activity.

MER 526 Leadership and Embodiment Practices

MER 590 Research Methods

Understanding research studies and their conclusions can be a vital aspect of a psychological practitioner’s continuing education. This course prepares the student to understand and engage with psychological research literature by conducting a literature search and gathering sources on a focused topic area within the field of psychology. The course examines aspects of research; which emphasize critical thinking skills, enabling the student to begin to discriminate valid, relevant data from faulty, inconclusive data. Additionally, we will ask specific questions about the culture of psychological research by examining such areas as the relationship between soul and research, the construction of psychological theory, the competing claims of quantitative versus qualitative research, and the primary research paradigms.

MER 591 Writing Literature Reviews

Doctoral Project courses provide doctoral students a hands-on opportunity to develop elements of the dissertation or clinical case study. This course focuses on developing a preliminary Literature Review chapter for the dissertation proposal or clinical case study. Emphasis is also placed on the continuing refinement of the topic, research questions, and gaps in the literature that emerge from the student’s deepening familiarity with their topic’s literature. Students will also develop a building block of the Literature Review, that of the Sources component of the Context Paper/ Clinical Case Paper. As a result of the information, practice, and feedback offered through the course, students will gain significant familiarity with the process and elements needed in the development of an effective review of the literature.

MER 592 Research Design

This course provides the opportunity for students to have a hands-on experience developing the third chapter of the doctoral project: The dissertation’s Methodology or the clinical case study’s Progression of the Treatment . Particular emphasis is placed on the development of the research design or a thorough gathering of essential aspects of the treatment story. A secondary focus is for students to integrate feedback from previous assignments, complete any outstanding assignments, and continue to build the project’s emerging second chapter, the Literature Review.

MER 593 Dissertation Development

This course sequence provides the opportunity for students to have a hands-on experience developing elements of the dissertation/clinical case study. This fourth course in the sequence provides a structure for each student to individually utilize towards their progress in completing the dissertation proposal/first three chapters of the the clinical case study. While the primary focus is for students to integrate feedback from previous assignments and complete outstanding assignments through a cycle of writing and reflection, peer-to-peer collaboration, and frequent faculty feedback, its secondary focus is to identify and break through obstacles to students’ doctoral progress.

MER 709 Conflict and Cultural Transformation

This course explores issues in the field of peace psychology: peace, conflict, and violence. Topics include direct violence, structural violence, non-violence, peace-making, peace-building, and social justice. Students will develop skills in facilitating the recognition and engagement of differences necessary for creative collaboration and cultural transformation.

MER 710 Liminal Processes and Initiatory Practices

This course offers a multifaceted exploration of the structure and process of initiatory and transformational experiences through the perspective of the rites of passages framework. The course especially focuses on the liminal phase, the betwixt and between in the process of change, where one is no longer the old and not yet the new. Topics range from rites of passage in indigenous cultures, to applying a reconceptualization of the rites of passages framework, to experiences of complex change in contemporary cultural settings. This course shines light on the epistemological challenges of translating observations, knowledge, and insights from indigenous traditions to western academic contexts, and examines the competencies that are needed for stewards of liminal process to cultivate and harvest the vital forces of change, and to be better able to discern between and apply traditional understanding and practices to contemporary settings. As well, students will consider the competencies and authority they need in moving toward becoming facilitators of liminal processes.

MER 715 Revisioning Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is now a major driver of social and economic transformation. Social Entrepreneurship entails social innovation in the service of positive social impact. Generative Entrepreneurship goes beyond positive social impact to include regenerating the commons and furthering collective transformative learning that impacts future generations. Instead of exploiting the commons by externalizing costs, Generative Entrepreneurship seeds and grows the commons. In doing so Generative Entrepreneurs combine technological and social innovation with cultural innovation. In cultural innovation emphasis can be placed on partnership, interdependence, synergy and empowerment. When combined with social innovation, entrepreneurship has the potential to seed and build the commons, producing systemic cultural shifts and going beyond positive social impact by facilitating individual learning and influencing the evolution of social institutions. This course will review examples of Generative Entrepreneurship around the globe as a way to imagine further possibilities in local contexts. In addition, the course explores the overlap between leadership and entrepreneurship for social innovation. We will also survey examples of national and global enterprises that are engaged in creative social innovation as evolutionary experiments that potentially create pathways for solving problems and creating future possibilities.

MER 728 Organizational Development and Transformation

Sustainable organizations in an emerging creative economy are dynamic in their response to managing change. Leading organizational change involves collaborative leadership, creativity, motivation, effective team dynamics, process stabilization, and improvement. This course covers the characteristics of a leadership team and their relation to successful organizational transformation in a creative economy. Topics include: stages of commitment, organizational behavior for effective ecological and human sustainability, and support systems needed to sustain long term change.

MER 731 Introduction to Social Artistry

Worldwide, societies are crying out for assistance in the transformation of their citizenry, organizations, businesses, and institutions. To bring a new vision of the Possible Earth into reality, we need to begin with ourselves so that we are operating with the fullness of our being. The global need is to achieve a new humanity and a new way to nurture the human species while we work to heal our home, the planet Earth. The need is to develop the possible human, in the possible society, in a more possible world. This is the art of world-making, spirit-catching, mind-growing, soul-quaking leadership! The complexity of our time requires both greater and wiser use of our capacities - a rich playing of the mental and emotional instrument we have been given. The world needs Social Artists - skilled facilitators, change agents, and leaders - to guide and lead the shift to a set of new global values and local practices. Social Artistry provides strategies that are effective in an interdependent world, developing effective leaders who can productively address interconnected world problems. This course in Social Artistry guides human development in its most primary form: The development of capacities, skills, and potentials that activate both individuals and groups in ways that enhance their societal choices and commitments, liberate their inventiveness, and raise levels of esteem and cooperation essential to carrying out individual and collective social goals. 

MER 735 Integral Development

This highly interactive course exposes students to key concepts and practices of Integral Development – an approach to human development that focuses on actualizing the interconnected potential of self, organization and society. The course is designed as a “development journey,” taking participants step by step, through all levels of integral development. An “engagement map” with guiding questions, will help participants to navigate through the course, and the multiple layers of development that are discussed.  The course focuses simultaneously on the acquisition of relevant knowledge, deep insights, as well as innovative new practice. The course assignment is designed to enable transfers to the personal development journey each participant is on (and, of course, her particular organization and society), thereby strengthening the personal capacity to become an “integral” agent of transformation. Throughout the course, students are exposed to real-life case stories from diverse cultures from around the world, to purposefully draw on cultural and societal particularities. Cases range from private enterprise, to civic society initiatives, to transformative educational institutions, including a cutting-edge leadership laboratory in Brazil. The course is infused with arts, performance, and poetry, to help create a stimulating and expansive learning and innovation environment within the classroom. The course culminates in the visualization and co-creation of an ‘Integral University Perspective’: an educational context that can authentically “care” for the interconnected development of self, organization and society.

MER 736

Models of Self-Identity One’s self-identity is a fundamental part of being alive, and much research shows that our self- identity grows up. This course is a dive into six self-identity developmental models, the theory that underlies them and practical application of each one. Two of the models are from the Loevinger lineage: Torbert’s Developmental Action Inquiry and Susanne Cook-Greuter’s MAP. Three other models will be featured: Hall’s Values Mode, the Lectica which is based on Fisher and Dawson’s research and STAGES, O’Fallon’s Integral model combining the Integral Frame and the Loevinger lineage. Each model will be featured including guest speakers from several of these traditions. Embodiment of these approaches will include group discussions and learning activities.

MER 737 Ecology, Culture, and Pluralism

Psychologists can make significant contributions towards healing modernity’s cultural trauma. Revitalizing our culture towards community, beauty, conviviality, and sustainability requires that we embrace a pluralist vision which recognizes the necessity of difference and interdependence. Pluralizing of our own identity is an essential element in reimagining and revitalizing our culture. We will consider how a culture of conviviality and pluralized identity can reconstitute personal responsibility. Topics explored may include home, money, food, violence, gender, and sexuality.

MER 760 Modern Consciousness and Indigenous Wisdom

The stories of indigenous peoples provide inspiration for a mythic imagination that attempts to address the crises of modern consciousness. This course explores how indigenous wisdom can appear differently depending on the particular self-construction in which we happen to be engaged. Understanding the history of the self gives us access to a relationship with native knowing that does not appropriate but instead engages in a moral discourse which seeks healing through integrative states of consciousness including the painful awareness of collective shadow material. Healing our contemporary pathologies and suffering in ways that transcend individualistic paradigms without romanticizing native people will be considered. The intent is to narrate ourselves freely in the face of historical dissociations and denied aspects of ourselves and our communities.

MER 776 Research Writing

This course provides a structure for each student to individually utilize towards their progress in completing the dissertation proposal/first three chapters of the clinical case study. While the primary focus is for students to integrate feedback from previous assignments and complete outstanding assignments through a cycle of writing and reflection as well as peer and faculty faculty feedback, its secondary focus is to identify and break through any personal obstacles to the student’s doctoral progress.