Chris just defended his dissertation and I couldn't be more proud. My own dissertation defense was in August and this sequence of events has made me reminisce a great deal about what led me to graduate study and ultimately into the classroom to learn and eventually teach.
During my final semester of undergrad, I was a little lost. I didn't know what I wanted to do or be or become. I had applied and was accepted to a graduate program in a professional field but didn't feel completely sure about that path. Because of the way I selected my schedule of classes for my final term, I had many upper division writing courses with professors I thought were pretty fantastic. And one day, while chatting with one about one of my papers, they asked me, "Have you thought about graduate school?" A week or so later, another one posed the same question. And then not long after that, I heard it from a third professor who taught me during the previous term. Prior to then, I never seriously considered getting a PhD. But I did tell the truth: that I aspired to one day teach in the college classroom. I always assumed it would be in a temporary capacity. I didn't think I could get a PhD. Or to put it more accurately, I didn't think that I was smart enough.
But I learned during my time as a graduate student that being smart is just one piece of the puzzle. And I was in fact kind of smart. I loved learning. I valued school. And I was eager to keep studying. Upon graduating with my bachelors degree, I deferred acceptance to the professional program, worked for a year in nonprofit administrative support, studied, took the GRE, applied to grad school in my current field, and surprisingly, amazingly, and serendipitously was accepted into my top (and only) choice. I knew so little about graduate school in the humanities that I actually only applied to one place. I figured that if it was meant to be, then one would be enough.
As a teacher's daughter one of my favorite games was to play school. I loved the stationery and pencils and desks and grade books. I'd carefully select my favorite framed family photo from the dining room to sit on my classroom desk (which was just the seat of the big cushy chair in the playroom). I'd gather writing utensils to go into a cup as my makeshift pencil holder. I'd scribble into the lesson plan book my mom brought home for me from an overstock of old supplies her school was about to toss. And I'd play teacher. I continue to have a deep reverence for teachers and an abiding love for school. So it is no surprise that I wound up on a path that involved as much schooling as one can possibly undertake with an endpoint that keeps me in school indefinitely, albeit on the other side of things. I am so grateful for the educators who led me away from where I was headed and onto this path.
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