Acade(me)

The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Thursday, June 22, 2006
Old Home Week
The first week of graduate school, back in August 2000, my new classmates and I went for lunch at a small, smoky restaurant that was famous as a graduate student hangout. The food wasn't very good and I was choking on the cigarette smoke, but it was fun to get to know my new colleagues and to try to find my place within the large group of 13 new first-year graduate students. I remember chatting about our courses and the impossible statistics courses we had to endure, and remember Bart telling us all that he already knew what he was going to write his dissertation about and that he was going to finish graduate school in three years. We all scoffed at Bart, but secretly I felt inadequate because I had no idea what I would write a dissertation about, or if I'd ever really write one.

After that first year, several of the students in my cohort either left the program to go elsewhere or dropped out of graduate school entirely. We were left with a group of eight students, and I became good friends with three or four of them. My other close friends were in the cohort above me.

Last year, most of my best friends left for their first jobs as Assistant Professors. Ms. Superstar, the Golden Boy, SuperTA, and Loudmouth were my dearest friends in graduate school: Ms. Superstar (cohort above mine) was silly but motivated, and ended up publishing three articles in our top disciplinary journal before she graduated. Golden Boy turned out to be one of my best friends ever, and could literally do no wrong -- he graduated in five years, took a great job, published like a maniac, and has a book coming out already. SuperTA was one of the finest instructors I've ever seen, but never finished his Ph.D., and Loudmouth took a fantastic job at an R1 school and his book manuscript is now being courted by two major academic presses.

Aside from these four, I have other friends who were at Doctoral University this year. There was Bart, who I was never too close to but whose career I cared about, and then All Heart, who is one of the sweetest people I know but who had a rough time in graduate school. There's also The Don, whose work I don't understand (too many equations!) but whose friendship I really have come to value. These people are my friends.

Today I was on campus collecting signatures for various things, and I ran into All Heart. We ended up having a fabulous lunch together at the very same restaurant we'd visited as first-year graduate students. All Heart defended his dissertation in April, and so it was fun to talk to him now that we were BOTH "doctors."

We came back to campus after lunch and All Heart helped me with a few dissertation formatting concerns I had. As we sat in the office, The Don walked in. I hadn't seen him in about six months! I thought about how lucky I was to run into old friends. The Don told me that, as we spoke, Bart was finally defending his prospectus after six years in graduate school (which was nothing like what he thought he'd write about when he started graduate school).

But then my day got even better when there was a knock on All Heart's office door and when I answered it, Golden Boy was standing outside! I was so happy I nearly cried -- Golden Boy is an Assistant Professor at West Coast University, and I hadn't seen him since September. I swear I squeezed him so hard he almost passed out. Seeing him in the week I defended made the experience complete for me. (I was the first one to see him when he defended his dissertation -- now a book -- last April.)

I stayed on campus all day, reminiscing with my old friends, clutching Golden Boy's arm as we all walked through the downtown area to visit old graduate school haunts. How wonderful it was to be there with people I knew back when none of us had any idea what the future would hold, walking into futures that looked incredibly, gleefully bright.
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 6/22/2006 10:51:00 PM  
3 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 11:39 PM, Blogger ArticulateDad said…

    A very sweet reminiscence. I wish for you all the joy and satisfaction of accomplishment, well achieved, and well deserved.

     
  • At 1:02 PM, Blogger phd me said…

    Can I just say how jealous I am? I wish I'd formed such great friendships while I was a grad student but, somehow, I didn't. There are people I really like, and I certainly enjoy spending time with them, but I doubt any of us will stay in touch beyond the random conference.

    Glad you have such good friends!!

     
  • At 9:56 AM, Blogger Dr. Mon said…

    I agree with Doc. Those types of friendships are definitely what I missed out in graduate school. How wonderful that you were able to enjoy ur recent accomplishments with GOOD friends!

     
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