Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Working Mama Wednesday - The Ph.D.

An anonymous friend asked about the Ph.D. so I figured I'd share more about it with you.  These are a few questions I get asked frequently.

What will your Ph.D. in?
My Ph.D. will be in human performance improvement, which, in a nutshell is the study of human behavior, organizational psychology, human resources, adult education, training and development, and a few more all wrapped into one.  I have a Masters degree in the same program.  When I started that program it was called "Training and Development".  Most of the time when I tell people about "performance improvement" they have no idea what I'm talking about, unless they're in the field, and many assume its a sports-related field.

What do you plan to do with that?  Do you want to teach?
This is an understandable and reasonable question but is one I have a really hard time answering.  The truth of the matter is that a lot of people who obtain a doctorate do so because they want to teach and most degree programs and universities are aimed at preparing graduates to become professors at research universities.  That's kind of the goal even though more and more people are pursuing degrees even though they don't want to teach.  As a Ph.D. student, most people think you are wanting to be a professor.

Though I believe I would enjoy being a professor and may do that at some point, that really has nothing to do with why I decided to get a Ph.D.  I'm also not from one of those families where everyone is highly educated at Ivy league universities and therefore its expected for you to get a professional degree (M.D., J.D., etc.) or a Ph.D.  As far as I know, there are only 5-10 people in my large family with bachelors degrees, maybe 4 with Masters degrees, and I will be the first with a Ph.D.  But that's not why I'm doing it either.

It probably won't help mie directly in my career, at least not how my career is headed today.  It will not directly tie to a pay increase.

In reality - I don't plan on doing anything with it.  I didn't pursue it "to do something with it".

So why did you go through all that then?
I want to say I don't know.  The reality is that I don't.  From a practical perspective I have no idea why I decided to go through all of this, and it has been a lot.  I would have told you at the end of my Masters program that it wasn't that big of a deal - and it wasn't.  The Ph.D. process has been more difficult but not because of the intellectual rigor, more because I've been doing all this on top of raising a young family and working full-time.  It has been a lot of work, a long commitment, a bit of a financial investment, and ultimately  a test of endurance, from my perspective.

And that is just it - from my perspective.

I have done it because I can.  That is my most honest answer that has stuck with mie since the idea became apparent and I couldn't tell you when that was.  Maybe middle school.  I wouldn't call it a life-long dream.  It is an expectation.  Not my parents expectation.  Not my husband's expectation.  Not a particular teacher or friend's expectation.

I believe it is God's expectation.  Of Mie.  Between Mie and Him.  Maybe that's why it's so hard to explain.   It is a deeply personal thing that I believe He has placed in Mie for some reason that not even I am going to be privy to until it is time.  I was born with a particular ability to learn very quickly.  I was raised in an environment that let Mie flourish intellectually - not through pressure but through freedom to grow into who I'm created to be.  I've grown to believe over time that God has given me these abilities for a reason.  Over time some people have treated Mie like I'm special or "better than" because of this intellectual ability and it makes mie really uncomfortable.  In the end, I'm trying to do the best with what I've been given.  I'm fortunate that I've been blessed with the ability to learn quickly and that has translated into educational "success", but I am deeply aware that the only role I've had in all that is to try to be faithful with what I've been given.

I think that's been the greatest challenge in it all too.   There have been times where things have become rough - when I've been up all night trying to get something done or when I've focused on schoolwork and subsequently watched my house get filthy - and I get discouraged and I've questioned whether or not this is what I'm supposed to do.  Am I doing this for the right reason?  Am I just doing this for mie?  Is God trying to tell mie not to pursue this?  What on Earth is this all for...?  I've wrestled a bit with God about it all.  Because I don't know - and may never know - the purpose behind this whole Ph.D. thing, sometimes I'm left wondering if it will be worth it, what God has up His sleeve, and, in a very personal way whether the sacrifices I've made in the process are going to be worth it in the end.  Or did I miss something along the way  that I was supposed to catch from God - did I head down the wrong path?

That's not to say that everyone who is "smart" is supposed go to college or get a Ph.D., that I'm somehow better than others because I've done this.  It's not to say that if someone struggles academically that they aren't supposed to continue on in higher education.  It's not to say that pursuing a career in the professorate is good or bad.  I'm afraid that every time I answer this question, because I don't have an easy "to teach" kind of answer, that I'm going to send the wrong message about why this has all happened the way it has.

I don't know.  In the end my answer remains that same - I'm doing it because I can.  God gave mie this gift and I believe I'm supposed to continue on, one step in front of the other, until my feet are pointed in another direction.  I guess that will have to do for now.


NoMatterWhatMom said...

That makes a lot of sense to me. I didn't know why I was going to law school at 39. It was just time. I felt that way until I was nearly through and realized an interest in child-welfare that I'd always had, but never connected in my mind with being a lawyer. Now, years later, after several years of practicing in child-welfare and now, being a SAHM of our children, adopted from foster care, I see so much more of where God was taking me and how that JD fit into His plan. I still don't know where all of this will end up, but I'm convinced that even if I get off on a tangent, God will use it and straighten my path once again. Thank you for sharing your life.

In This Life said...

That is the way I look at wanting to foster, because I can. I realize that it's not for everyone but something I knew from an early age that I wanted to do, it is hard to explain to others. Good luck with everything!

Mie said...

NoMatterWhatMom - I'll tell you I have the itch to go back to school to get a law degree so I can do part time work as a AAL or something. I don't actually see that happening for mie but I love to hear how your story has unfolded.

In This Life - I think you've got a great perspective and its the one I've heard used most often with my friends who've chosen to go down this road. So many people say they can't do it and they don't even look into it - those of us who have traveled this road realize many more people COULD do it if they tried. Thanks for trying :)