Even though my Master of Arts diploma has been on my wall for the better part of two months, I took full advantage of the opportunity today to parade around in my gown, hood (not to be confused with “hoodie”), mortar board and tassel. This is my second graduation in 34 years.

This day meant the culmination of another of life’s journeys, but it is not the end, not even close…just another beginning.  In other ways, I have been very fortunate. In many ways, I have been very unfortunate. I will not whine. I will not complain. I will keep plugging on, and on, and on.

Two days ago, I indulged in upscale, sustainable, organic, free trade, shade grown coffee with a colleague of mine. He is 10 years younger and was noting that he is getting old as evidenced by his aches and pains. I didn’t want to hear it.

Am I in denial about age? Some can easily come to that conclusion, but frankly I don’t care.

Instead, I think back to the fall of 2010 taking Pro Seminar at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.  The class was a deep dive into the philosophical writings of Descartes, Foucault, Marx, Locke, Mill, Kant, Hegel, Socrates, Plato and even more dudes who have been pushing up the daisies for many, many moons.

descartes

The nightly readings (about 50-100 pages) were dense, turgid, laborious and relentless. Miss one day, even a Saturday or a Sunday, and you were hopelessly behind. I had to learn to keep reading, regardless of whether I understood a paragraph or not. The goal was to be a sponge and absorb, and eventually a little light went on. One was starting to comprehend and understand.

Before taking the plunge into after-50 academia (not exactly the traditional response to a “mid-life crisis”), one of my best friends said I would do well because I am, “So good at bulls…” Alas, this particular “talent” doesn’t work in Pro Seminar: Either you know the readings or you don’t. BS is not an option as it will be exposed after the second sentence has left your mouth.

About mid-way through the 10-week quarter, our professor with an über-Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Illinois said that he was concentrating on each student’s “intellectual growth.”

“Intellectual growth?”

Me?

As I dived deeper into Pro Seminar I was coming to the realization that in my days as an agency PR team supervisor and as a corporate public relations director, I was only using a fraction of my brain. In carrying out my responsibilities, I was running so fast in delivering deliverables to clients there was absolutely no time to reflect, no time to contemplate and no time to smell the flowers.

Academia was demanding that I slow down, even though there were still deadlines for papers, abstracts and presentations. There had to be wood behind the proverbial arrow in the form of thought, application of theory and references for all cited work. Post-graduate work naturally teaches you how to write an academic paper as opposed to a business memo. There is a world of difference. The first is inflexible with rigidly prescribed rules. The second actually affords more flexibility as long as return on investment (ROI) is observed.

Another facet of academic work is the need for humility and to check one’s ego at the door. My master’s project, creating an upper division course, Strategic Business/Financial Communication, required about 12 iterations for a 61-page paper with about 140 citations and more than 15,000 words. At one point, my academic advisor cut-up my paper and taped it back together again to help me with my organization.

scissors

Today, it all became worth it as that very same academic advisor placed my master’s hood over my mortar board in front of 450 other students and all their parents, friends and significant others.

What made it the most rewarding is when one of my students and her parents came up to me after the ceremony. Her parents told me that I was her daughter’s favorite teacher, and they even invited me to dinner. My mumsy, sis and daughter were there to hear the accolade.  Have to report: I was beaming from ear-to-ear.

Guess that makes all the nights reading about Hegelian dielectrics worth the effort.

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