May 15, 2012
Today, is a big day. Today, my honorific changes from Mrs. to Dr. Today, I successfully passed my defense and I earned my Doctorate in Learning and Leadership at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Throughout my experience people asked me questions about earning a doctorate. Just in case you're interested, today, I'll answer some of those questions.
I was bored. I don't do bored well. To avoid feeling restless, I set a new challenge for myself. I also thought that earning a doctorate would be (at least in some ways) fun. I wanted to learn new things in new ways. I wanted to explore. I wanted to be a good role-model for my quasi-kid (who just graduated college) and for my college students.
I double majored in Graphic Design and Video & Film in undergrad. I earned my masters in Integrated Design. It was time for me to push myself beyond my comfort zone. It was time for me to delve into a new areas of focus. Earning a degree in Learning and Leadership provided new contexts for design. Investigating these new disciplines helped me to see unfamiliar patterns within familiar areas. Learning and leadership are prevalent in every sector. These topics live within everything we do. I explored how they lived within the fields of design, development, and education. I explored their relationships when connecting industry, academia, and community.
UTC had the best program for what I needed—flexibility mixed with innovation. For the past two years, I was a doctoral candidate in a competitive pilot program that focused on life embedded, work related studies. Because of this, I was able to view learning and leadership through the lens of design. I was able to study topics like collaboration and connection.
Although, I read a lot and I was exposed to an intense amount of theory, I was also able to learn by actually doing. Most of my assignments were grounded in experiential learning. They were project-based. Theory was interweaved within written critical reflections of my actions. Finding solutions to real problems is the way that I learn best and I was fortunate to be accepted into such a forward-thinking program. I was also fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a variety of knowledgable and passionate professors.
My dissertation title is long and I had to set it in all caps in Times New Roman (that about killed me): Can connecting and collaborating with industry professionals and community partners through a project-based initiative create a meaningful learning and leadership experience for college students?
The short answer is "yes."
I relearned that the value in education, like any experience, depends on you—the participant. With the help of talented educators, I created the educational experience that I needed and that I wanted. It wasn't easy. Being one of the first people to do something, rarely is easy. However, being one of the first people to explore this program was exciting and enjoyable.
Yes, I would totally do it again. During the past two years I was never bored. I might have been tired. I might have postponed most of my social life. I might have been burnt out. I might have been frustrated. However, through it all, I was stretched. I learned an incredible amount of information in what seems like a condensed amount of time. There were days that I read so many pages that my head felt like it was going to burst out of pure excitement from all the goodness I was absorbing and synthesizing. I really enjoyed those days.
This is the question I get from my mom and from Shaun. "Now, that you have earned your doctorate, you don't feel the need to earn a second doctorate, do you?" No, probably not. Well, at least not anytime soon. For my sanity and for the sanity of all of my close family and friends there is going to be a moratorium on further traditional education. Working full-time while earning a doctorate has been exhausting. I'm looking forward to more balance within my life.
Make awesomeness and do good, of course.