Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Grad School?

In undergrad I never really knew what I was going to do once graduation came. With the bachelor degree I earned, there really wasn't a lot I could do with it (that I wanted to do) so grad school was the obvious choice. I took some career aptitude tests to help guide me in that decision and their answer was always clear- PROFESSOR. I would always reject that answer and instead insist on other things. Those other paths shifted from month-to-month it seems, but one thing I knew- I would be anything but being a professor. 

Even when I started my program I was set against going into academia. This avoidance is due to a lot of things, such as desiring a more 'helping' oriented profession, the ability to have a family, and the lack of desire for the stress of a tenure-track position. An important obstacle was the anti-Christian message I received from several professors and I think the public perceives from academics in general. The list could go on. However, this semester things started to change. I still want a family of course and I don't want my job to be insanely stressful-- who does? But I learned I had a lot of misconceptions about being a professor, I learned a lot about myself, and I learned a lot about God's heart. 

I realized that it is possible to have a family and be a professor, too. Oftentimes professors have a lot of freedom in their schedules, so that can be made to fit with having kids, especially with the cooperation of my husband. 

I know how to handle stress for the most part by avoiding it. My first year in grad school wasn't that stressful. I realize I'm just starting and things will progress more that way, but I learned that I do work ahead of deadlines and I do enjoy research, two factors that will really benefit me in the field. I am so not one to put off doing work until the last minute-- putting off work stresses me out so why do that to myself? I have been known to make weekly/monthly schedules of I'm going to accomplish all I have to do by setting deadlines for myself and saying OK, on this day you will do X, Y, and Z. I do know that If I chose the tenure track, it will be a lot of hours, more than 40/week, but if that's where God wants me to be, then that's where He'll put me. 

Most importantly, though, I learned to accept where God has put me and the gifts He has given me. As I previously mentioned, I wanted a more helping oriented position, one that is clearly and directly helping people. Academia and associated fields seem less so. However, what I learned is that God did not give me a huge amount of patience, thus I really shouldn't be a teacher for anyone younger than 18. God did give me an analytical mind, He gave me an interest in reading, in learning, in why people do the crazy things they do. I could go on with this, but the point is that despite my kicking and screaming along the way, God has given me so many pokes and prods along the way I would have to blind not to see the fact that this is where I am supposed to be. 

My program has offered me amazing opportunities already and it is only my first year. I'm happy. I'm enjoying what I'm learning, being able to see the 'real' side of what being a professor is all about and what doing research really means. 

Does this mean I will without a doubt be a professor when I graduate in 3-4 years? I don't know that. It just means I'm way more open to it then I was 6 months ago. I probably will, but a lot of it comes down to finding a job where Matt can get a job, that I feel the position is a good fit for my personality and my family's needs, and all of that fun stuff.

Basically, the answer to what I want to do with my Ph.D. comes down to whatever will allow me to use my gifts to the best of my ability in order to fully glorify God. I should not try to be something I'm not by trying to do something I'm not called to. I very much fit into the world of academia, and that is not a bad thing. It doesn't have to be a profession full of atheists/agnostics who believe Christians don't think or are judgmental. I can be a part of changing that perception. My field will allow me to help uncover the reasons why people commit crimes, hopefully to inform policy efforts along the way. Of course this latter benefit pales in comparison to the former.

Regardless, I'm excited. If I've learned this much about grad school, myself, and God in the first year, I can't imagine where I'll be in 3-4 years from now. It may be some place different, but right now I'm very thankful.

PS: If you read this far, you're a champ. Here's your reward

PPS: Sorry, couldn't resist. If you don't get it, go here

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