Monday, May 22, 2006

Beginning a journey

In late August I will begin Ph.D. work at Georgia State University. My degree, when earned, will be in public communication, which is a morphing of the old speech communication degree. Starting doctoral work at 50 has its pros and cons. Pros: I'm a lot more worldly-wise than I was in my 20s, a lot more tech savvy than in my 30s, and a lot less pretentious than I was in my 40s. Earning a Ph.D., I know at this age, won't make me smarter or better or "eliter" than anybody else; it will just open professional doors that have been closed up to now. Other pros: More financial stable, my son is almost grown (he'll be almost 18 when I get started, which was the reason I waited until now--I wasn't going to put his upbringing behind my professional goals), a husband that stays home anyway and will take care of the house; more well read in general. I also have an excellent job that will be there when I finish and a boss that will work with me, I think one reason being that no one here has a doctorate in communication. The cons: not as much energy as I had twenty years ago, and sometimes my brain doesn't work as fast. It takes longer for words and names to get to the top where speech comes out. Other con: son is going to college, so we'll be living frugally for the next five years. After that, perhaps some travel. Major con: commuting to Atlanta, with a fluid (volatile) price of gas, offset by our ownership of a Civic (best investment my husband ever made!)

I am going to use this blog as a journal of Ph.D. work. Perhaps it will be publishable in later years, as a guide for someone in my position. Maybe not. Perhaps it will just be cathartic.

In fall 2006 I will be taking three classes. One is a one-hour seminar that really involves no outside work, or so I have been told. One is called "Theories of the Public," and since I had met the professor on my exploration visit to GSU in fall 2004, I emailed him about what would be good to read, and he told me the names of the texts. I am reading them before class starts. They are not exactly potboilers; I would call them sociological views of rhetoric. Learning (again) to read this highly abstract kind of material will be good for me, as long as it doesn't affect my writing style--I didn't get an M.A. in writing to learn to write that stiff, verbose academic style that seems to take far more space than it needs to to say something relatively simple . The other class I may take (haven't registered yet) is Communication Pedagogy, which I have been told is not too difficult. Since I have taught for 28 years, I will probably have to bite my tongue on a weekly basis.

Any class is only 16 weeks. I can do anything for 16 weeks. Whether I can spend four to six years (I hope that's all) of my life in this endeavor is still negotiable.

I sincerely hope that at my age I will not allow myself to become a victim of doctoral studies. I certainly trust (God) that I will stay centered and normal but will become a legitimate scholar because of this experience. Not that scholarship per se is my goal; the real goal is administration and more money and perhaps a move to the private sector or mission field. That is yet to be seen. Since I do not believe in retirement (until well into my 70s when work becomes impractical), I plan to use the Ph.D. for all it's worth.

This morning in NPR there was a story of Miss Hazel, who at 89 is still teaching English at a high school in Lakeland, FL. What wisdom. She is retiring but has had three job offers. You go, girl.

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