The Final Hoop – It’s not all in the classroom

6 years ago, I accepted a position as an instructor in the Department of Communication at Mississippi State University. It is absolutely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I have been fortunate to have a University who believes in tuition remission and a department head who has been as supportive of my education and research as any one of my family members. In addition, through my master’s program, I was taught the importance of research and publishing, and as I’ve advanced through the doctoral program, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by friends who are currently going through the tenure process. As they have learned, so have I, and I have to give special thanks to my dear friend Dr. Pete Smith, who, whether he knows it or not, has been an incredible mentor. He has echoed the sentiment of my graduate school professors that it’s not all about the classroom.

My goal throughout the doctoral program has been to make myself as marketable as possible so that I could choose location, position, salary, etc. Although it’s been a joke, it’s true that I would love for my husband Will to be able to play golf every day, and then spend the rest of his time just tinkering with cars. After watching me go through this program, he said, “No more degrees” because he really hasn’t seen me much the last five years – between teaching 5 or more classes each semester, coursework, research, service, conferences, etc.

However, I have never felt more overwhelmed than I have the past 8 weeks. It’s seemed that I have been on the verge of a meltdown from stress and exhaustion and at one point, I told Will that doing a ph.d. was the worst decision I had ever made. But, this week, all the hours of going beyond the required assignments of class, once again, paid off. Although I have been excited about every article or chapter or report I’ve published, the one I thought to be impossible for a lowly doctoral student actually became a reality this week, when I became one of the 17% of submissions that are actually accepted. While I don’t mean to jump the gun, I am incredibly excited about the fact that PAR – Public Administration Review – sent my co-authors and me a revise and re-submit, with very minor revisions. Although it was one of my goals to make it into PAR before graduation, I never really thought it would happen. In so many ways, I felt a sense of relief in that, though I have published, this recent news made me feel that I might possibly get a tenure track position or be able to enter the field of emergency management or get the attention of the federal government. Whether any of this is actually true or not, for a moment, I didn’t worry.

And, if that wasn’t enough, I received news from my most supportive department head that I was chosen as a recipient of the StatePride faculty award, which recognizes outstanding faculty members for their achievements over the last two years. Again, the University is supporting my education in that the monetary portion of the award will fund my dissertation (what a relief!). However, while I am totally grateful, it is the recognition from my department head, college, and university that means the most.

Throughout my master’s and doctoral programs, I made it through all of my coursework with a 4.0. However, in my very last class, multivariate analysis, I worked hard for my B. Dr. Doug Goodman had told me years earlier when I received a B on a paper that grades weren’t everything, and that even a couple of B’s on my transcript wouldn’t matter. I knew he was right, but I still wanted the 4.0. I won’t finish with that gpa, but, Dr. Goodman was right. The success of a doctoral student can’t be measured by the gpa. In many ways, it’s the work outside of the classroom that means the most.

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