Monday, December 17, 2012

ThinkKit D17: To Ph.D Or Not To Ph.D, That Was the Question

Think Kit: THINK"Share a time that you got lost this year, whether you didn't know where you were or you were working on a project or activity so fiercely that you lost all sense of time and place. Did you learn anything?"

About half way through my graduate degree at IUPUI, I began seriously considering doctoral programs.  I was in the thick of my studies of Communication theory.  Being a business school kid as an undergrad, these liberal arts classes were eye opening.  I was finding Communication Studies to be a great fit for me because of its diverse subject matter.  I was presenting research papers at conferences, teaching public speaking, and traveling overseas to Poland.  It was great.  I was hooked on critical theory and rhetoric.  I was disenfranchised with my day job and was really eating up the encouragement from my professors that were encouraging me to pursue a Ph.D.  I was publicly self-identifying as a grad student that was eventually going to pursue an additional six plus years of school. My wife was down.  I was going to quit my job and we were going to live like paupers while I transitioned to full time academia.

Then, earlier this year when my Masters degree was within reach I began researching my post-graduate options.  Soon after, I became lost.  I was heads down finishing this degree and had not considered the reality of my Ph.D options.  While I was certainly up for the academic challenge, I just couldn't really fathom dedicating over half a decade studying one single aspect of this field.  It was the antithesis of what appealed to me about the discipline.  That is, the diversity in subject matter.  And when I really considered the fact that I would likely be teaching the same two or three classes for the rest of my life, I got an even more sinking feeling.  Worse yet, I would likely be teaching public speaking during my entire time as a doctoral student and possibly in my first teaching gig.  Do you want to know what's worse than taking a public speaking class?  Teaching it.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching and being in the classroom.  I've also taught a computer class in the business school at IUPUI and rather enjoyed it.  But teaching a class like public speaking just wasn't my thing.  

Probably the biggest drawback to pursuing a Ph.D. meant I had to leave the city I love and become some transient hobo for years to come.  It didn't help that every single school and program I evaluated did not inspire me in the least bit.  I wasn't excited about any of my options.  Also, it would be such a disruption to my family to end up in some other small, moderately exciting pocket of America.  I love Indiana, warts and all.  I love this city.  So, for all these reasons I became lost.  I was torn.  This was my plan to start a new career and it didn't meet my expectations.

But being lost has its advantages.  It forces contemplation of new avenues and opportunities that have probably always been present yet hidden.  Your priorities eventually sort themselves out though.  You eventually figure out a few things you like as well as a few newly discovered options that have some promise. I can't say that I've completely figured out what I want to be when I grow up.  However I do know that I don't want to pursue a doctoral degree in some random no name town and a transient life of researching and teaching a single subject.  

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