I've never really been one for pomp, and few circumstances warrant a love for ninety minutes of "Jon Doe, Master of Science in Science of Science Science and Science..." But I decided to walk the walk yesterday, and here's why.
First, a little backstory.
I successfully defended my dissertation in March 2011 and was told at the time that I was then eligible to participate in the commencement exercises that would take place in early May. I said, "Great!" but quickly learned that a successful dissertation defense doth not a graduate make. So, last year's commencement came and went without my presence and I finished my doctoral requirements two busy weeks later. Why celebrate the completion of tasks when those tasks aren't really complete? My diploma came in the mail four weeks later, and my email signature has read "Darren E. Draper, Ed.D." ever since.
Next, more backstory.
One of the most meaningful aspects of graduate work, for me, has been the opportunity that research and deep, concentrated thinking provides to form strong, lasting relationships.
In August 2011, I noticed that a colleague hadn't yet completed his dissertation. Being the strong friend that I was, I took the opportunity to verbally abuse him first. "Quit your slackin' you slacker slack slack!" I then made him a deal that if he finished his dissertation on time, I would walk by his side at the next USU commencement.
At the time I made that deal, there was no way in a million years that he'd ever finish in time to graduate yesterday, so naturally he finished in time to graduate yesterday.
And so I walked.
We weren't twenty minutes into the ceremony yesterday when I remembered why I'd skipped every other similar opportunity to be miserable since high school (an Associates degree at UVU, Bachelors degree at BYU, Masters degree at USU, and an ESL endorsement in between). I also felt guilty for asking my wife, my kids, my parents, and in-laws to attend this grueling event with me; because two hours of crowded boredom can seem like a steep price to pay just to view dad dress up like Dumbledore for 20 seconds of hooding.
In the end, though, I'm really glad I did.
Because I "walked" and my family was there, they were able to see firsthand that some projects really do have an end; that even though the road might be long - and believe me, this one has been long - there's value to setting goals, working to accomplish them, and carrying through to the end. Because I "walked" and my family was there, I was able to thank them in person for their help and support. Yesterday, the words that I wrote in my dissertation's Acknowledgment were real, heartfelt, and expressed.
I would like to thank my committee chair, Dr. Jim Dorward, for his helpful and pointed advice throughout this entire journey. Few know the pain involved in climbing a mountain, but those that have climbed it before.So, I'm glad that I walked the walk. Even though it was nearly a year later. Even though it was boring and long, and even though it was painful for my kids. That's what families are for, and I love them dearly for their support! Here's to the hope that yesterday's experience might aid in inspiring my kids to succeed in school and understand its benefits.
I also give special thanks to my family and colleagues for their encouragement, support, and patience as I have worked my way up the mountain. I couldn‘t have done it without you, and wonder if my children will ever recognize their father not hunched over his computer while sitting at the kitchen table.
Here's to their eventual, hard-earned, college and career success!