On Being a Non-Traditional Student

I took five and a half years to complete my undergraduate degrees. Then I worked for a few years while Porkchop earned her MFA and MA. When I felt it was a good time, I applied for Feminist Studies PhD programs and was accepted to one (out of four to which I applied). I went for it, and it ended up being the worst 9 months of my life. So I quit, and we moved to St. Louis, where I started working as an office person again.

After a few years of working, feeling like I wasn’t doing anything to improve myself, I found an online Master’s degree program via Mizzou that sounded interesting. It has real-world applications, won’t take too long to complete even as I work full-time, and won’t put me too much in debt.

I never would have thought that this online program would be so much more difficult than the PhD program that I was in, but it is!

As a PhD student, I could read some books and articles and then piece shit together and call it a paper. And I generally received As. For, um, theorizing and making arguments that had no impact on the real world.

In my first class in my online program, I’ve done more real world work than I did in all my other classes combined. I’ve designed and conducted interviews, observations, and surveys. And since I built most of my assignments around my neighborhood association, I’ve talked to many area residents about what they want out of the association and their concerns about our neighborhood. I feel like I’m actually doing something!

With my final project done and graded, I just need to package my report in a more user-friendly format and present it to our association members. (The final project I submitted for class had to be in a very specific format, and I think I can improve upon it for public distribution.) I think my findings can help the association board (which includes me) to improve our membership numbers, as well as participation and volunteer rates.

Yes, I’m much prouder of my final grade of a 98 in my online class than I am of any of the As I received in my PhD seminar classes.

I see myself completing the degree in a few years. And then maybe when I’m 50 I’ll start working on a PhD again. At the rate I work, I might be able to finish it before I’m 70.

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