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This isn’t about running*. This is about my education and career path.
I’m leaving my doctorate program.
I won’t complete the proposal process and the rest of the dissertation. I won’t walk another stage at graduation and get hooded. I won’t earn a doctorate in education. And no one will be calling me Dr. Mosqueda for the novelty of it before I tell them to stop because it sounds ridiculous.
This wasn’t an easy decision. I’ve been thinking it over for the past five months. I cried a few times and stayed up too late considering the pros and cons. I’ve done both simultaneously.
- Pro: I can go out and find a full-time job and get started on that career thing.
- Con: The job market sucks right now and higher education is definitely not recession proof.
- Pro: I already have a good chunk of the proposal written. I just need to write an introduction and flush out chapters 2 and 3, literature review and methodology/theoretical framework, respectively.
- Con: Once I propose and advance to candidacy, I still have to recruit students, interview participants, transcribe interviews, analyze the data, and write up my findings. I like interviews and analysis, but I hate transcribing. Paying someone to do it is not cheap.
And so on.
My decision didn’t come down to a rational and orderly list. I went with my gut (funny how that makes itself known when running too) and decided that leaving was my best option.
The PhD will be a DNF.
I cried as I composed the email to my advisor, La Jefa, letting her know my decision. Email was my only option as I couldn’t schedule a meeting with her at the time. La Jefa is a busy woman. Maybe it’s best, because I would’ve come out of her office with puffy eyes and a red nose.
La Jefa has been supportive and encouraging as I floundered in the past few years. Although she knew I wasn’t interested in a research career, she offered me a job on her research team. That was a huge plus as the position included fee remission and grad student health insurance.
She saw some potential in me when she took me on as a student eight years ago. I didn’t live up to that potential. I hate that.
I don’t regret sticking around for so long. If I would have left when I first considered it in 2006, I would have never had the chance to make some great friends, serve in student leadership positions on campus, travel across the state advocating for better access and affordability with the UC Student Association, and do some important research with talented scholars. I also would have had a much a shorter stint at [Program]. Since I’ve been there six years, it’s been enough time to see a few cohorts go through the program, excel in their science courses, try research, and become young scientists. Basically, I wouldn’t have seen firsthand that [Program] really works.
If I would have left in 2009, the second time I considered it due to financial issues, I would have never had the chance to be part of a great research team. I got to present at conferences in Chicago and Toronto, went to Michigan a few times to hold focus groups, and learned a lot more about conducting a qualitative research study. I even got a publication in a top journal out of it (co-authored, of course). If I ever do want to finish my dissertation, I know my experience on this research team will be quite useful.
It’s commencement weekend. I saw photos on FB of friends getting hooded, waiting in line for the procession to begin, and celebrating their accomplishments with friends, family and their kids (in some cases). While I’m very happy for them, I felt a bit sad and envious. I should have been there. June 2012 was my degree expected term.
Even in the tough times, I thought I’d finish de panzazo (just barely, or doing the minimum to pass). I imagined myself writing that phrase in my dissertation acknowledgements or dedication. I’d get the degree, but I wouldn’t be a budding rockstar in the education research world like some of my friends. That wouldn’t matter to my family. They would still come out in full force like they did for my BA graduation. They’d be proud, even though I finished dead last.
There will be other opportunities to make them proud. I hope.
*I considering drawing out the obvious parallels between distance running and pursuing a doctorate, but I’m not up for metaphors and similes. While I’ve faltered in graduate school, I’ve managed to go from zero exercise to eking out a sub-4 marathon. Personally, the metaphor won’t work. I’m proud of my running accomplishments. Academics? Not so much.