The dissertation was only the beginning.

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Doctoral University: where I got my Ph.D.
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Thursday, July 06, 2006
Education's Places
In her incarnation as La Lecturess, Flavia blogged about the effect a classroom and other campus spaces have on learning and our perceptions of what "higher education" is and should be. I was thinking about her post as I wandered through my building at Doctoral University this weekend with ST. (We were at a festival near the campus this weekend, and ST wanted to use the "big boy potty" in my building instead of the disgusting porta-potties at the festival. Can't say I blamed him.) Like Lecturess, I snapped some photos to share.

I don't have photos from the institution where I received my (nearly completely useless to me) first Master's degree and so I can't compare that place with Doctoral University. University of Capital City, where I earned an M.A., is a private school that is just completing a series of major campus improvements, improvements that were already well underway as T and I were leaving Western State. New buildings seemed to be going up every week, and nearly every old building has had some sort of facelift. Indeed, I used to work in two buildings on that campus and they no longer exist -- they have been replaced with fancy, state-of-the-art classroom buildings and dormitories that should grace the pages of Architectural Digest. Like Lecturess' description of her INRU, University of Capital City has redesigned its campus to look as though the new buildings are in fact decades old, with lovely hardwood mouldings, stained glass, reclaimed brick facades, and carved, heavy wooden doors. When I attended that university (only 7 years ago), however, my program was housed in a very 1970s concrete structure with ugly gray metal doors, small windows, and a white stucco facade. All of that has been replaced.

One of the (innumerable) things I love about Doctoral University is that the place has always felt solid to me. The old buildings of campus are still old and, although they've been renovated to incorporate new technologies, they still look much like they did when they were built. They are huge stone structures with columns and elaborate carvings, and there are marble columns and iron stair-railings inside. The new buildings -- and they are many -- look new. They are covered in glass and metal, and the sunlight glints off of them so that you can't help but notice their newness. They smell sterile and feel unnaturally cool, and you can hear the high-pitched buzz of computers and televisions everywhere you walk. I like that, as you stroll through campus, the buildings tell a story about the time they were built. This is a huge contrast to University of Capital City, where even the new buildings are designed to look like they've existed for hundreds of years.

I never taught at University of Capital City, but I worked there during the time I was a student, first part-time and then full-time to support T through school. I could never feel attached to that place because it always felt like it was temporary. The school always seemed like it was striving to be something better than it was, something with more history than it had. I felt like the campus was always trying to reinvent itself and to make up an illustrious past that it could use to market itself to prospective students. Even now, when I receive my glossy alumni magazine, I catch myself smirking as I read about the "old days" at University of Capital City and look at the photographs of the old-looking new buildings.

By contrast, Doctoral University has always been real for me. I've loved the place since my first year here, even before I grew to love the community it is in and the people in my program. Doctoral University has never been about flashiness (although it certain does have its flashy points) and pomp; rather, it has always been about research, teaching, education. The photos in its brochures are of people, not buildings: people working in a chemistry lab, people sitting in a classroom, people at a community event. Doctoral University has always been about real life for me. And as I prepare to leave it, that's exactly what it has prepared me for.

* If you happen to know where Doctoral University is by these photos, please don't reveal it. I will take these photos down tomorrow, I think. [Photos Removed]
Posted with care by Prof. Me @ 7/06/2006 03:21:00 PM  
2 Words of Wisdom:
  • At 1:24 PM, Blogger Rhonda said…

    The photos (especially the second one) remind me of the university I'm leaving--another big state university. I hated this campus when I first came here from my graduate university (which actually sounds a lot like your description of Capital City U, except that it actually is pretty old). I thought it was terribly ugly here, with all the big square brick buildings, but I find that tucked into the nooks and crannies are all kinds of stunningly beautiful bits of architecture, sometimes even in and on those brick blocks that first seemed so ugly to me.

  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger RageyOne said…

    I love the photo of the staricase.

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