Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I'm not very good at talking about myself in terms of accomplishments. I'm quite happy to let my actions speak for themselves and leave it at that. However, this time, it's all about me and the last three years.

From the moment I started at RMU, my life became papers, papers, and more papers. I wasn't allowed to have an opinion because, as we first-year students were told, we didn't know enough to have that right. I was to read and to write.

As you can see by the picture, by year three, papers ruled my life. I was even allowed to have an opinion. In fact, as of last Tuesday, I'm also allowed to be an expert.

You see, as of April 26, 2011, after 90 very long minutes of defense and deliberation, I earned the title of "Doctor of Science."

So what do I know? I know a lot. For the last two years, I've been studying the personas of typefaces used in e-mail and their influence on us, which is a fancy way of saying that I studied the fonts we use in our e-mails and how we emotionally react to them. I found out, in fact, that I was right -- we do react to typefaces in e-mails AND we use the typeface to determine the personality of the person sending the e-mail.

If I try, I can count the number of papers and presentations that I somehow managed to pull off over the last three years... but I'm really not up to it. Let's just say that I did enough to make an assignment of "8-10 pages, double-spaced" sound like a really good deal. And should I ever hear "PowerPoint presentation, no more than 20 minutes," I'll jump for joy at getting off so easy.

You see, despite my cavalier approach to education up until... oh... now, I am an over-achiever, academic Type-A personality. And so were my classmates. By year two, several professors had learned to give us maximum page counts, not minimum.

The hardest part of graduation (Friday!!!) will be leaving my friends. All of the sentimentality I never had before has been threatening to drown me since August. For three years now, Matt and Janusz and I spent just about all of our residency nights in the Iron City Grille.

With the free drink coupons, why go anywhere else?

We would drink just enough to have fun and not enough to have a headache the next morning.

What do doctoral students talk about? Everything. From Appalachian ways of life to rhetoric, from data warehousing to the brilliance of Phineas and Ferb. When were weren't being academic, we were catching up on slang in the Urban Dictionary and trying to figure out how to maximize our drink coupons. We never topped the day that Matt used our excess of 24 tickets to "buy" as case and bring it to class the next day. It apparently helped strengthen our class's reputation of being "difficult."

We didn't actually drink in class. We just gave a bottle to everyone to take home. In class we were too busy to drink. More than likely we were playing Tetris or Risk, instant messaging, posting Facebook editorials, or taking copious notes. I don't think we were difficult in the least. We were talkative and opinionated, that's all. Really, the only difficult thing about us was our (in)ability to count.

Why drink coupons, you ask? Why would a university give its students license to indulge? Take a look at the board to your left and imagine that for eight days straight for roughly eight hours a day.

If memory serves me correctly, that's from Dr. Grant's rhetoric class year one. I like the question he wrote on the board: "What's in your world?"

How does one even begin to answer that question? What's in my world? My world now is a new title, one earned with more effort than I knew possible. My world has been shaped by professors like Dr. Skovira, the mountain man who will threaten you with a two-by-four (though we don't have a picture of that) and who tells you to "write the sh*t down" because you never know what will be important later.

For Skovira, I wrote a paper on a math class at Seton Hill and -- because I wrote it all down -- discovered that the students in that class, in response to the 1970s paddle desks their classroom had, developed their own set of social behaviors to negotiate the limited personal space. Now I spend too much time watching others' behaviors. What's in my world? Where you put your coffee cup, believe it or not.

Our profs generally didn't put up with much, believe it or not. One or two were not against closing our laptops for us during class if we were unable to do so ourselves. But, when they weren't making us write and rewrite and defend out opinions, just about all of them knew how to have fun.

What's in my world? Dr. Stork. A prof who can not only shred chapters 3 through 5 in a single night, but will also send you corrections at 1 a.m. and sit with you for hours until you almost understand statistics. And who will karaoke with you.

When I tried to write my dissertation so that it was interesting, my committee showed me how to write it academically (trust me, interesting and academic are rarely the same). But without their taking their electronic red pens to my dissertation over and over (and over and over) again, and without Jay, my advisor, talking me down from the proverbial ledge during the last few weeks prior to my defense, I never would have finished and would have run off to live as an ABD (or so I threatened). When I sent my committee umpteen versions and twice as many questions, they answered. Patiently. Quickly.

What's in my world? At this point? Given the connections I've made, the knowledge I've gained, and the articles I've already published... well, everything is in my world. Everything.


John Trombetta said...

Congratulations Michelle, a loooong journey, and a difficult one, but truly it's a beginning, not an ending....enjoy the "in between" moment. Alas, they don't last long! xxoo John T.

fcpbakerjr said...

Persistence.. Or as I saw on a West Pointer's T shirt who had just won the boxing championship, "Never Quit". Congratulations on something that very few have.

And in a few days we can call you Dr. Louch, or was the graduation on 6 May? and we can call you Dr. Louch now?

How in the world does one ever pursue a second doctorate? Someone that loves pain? A true masochist maybe..

Best wishes that this work and a new piece of paper will get you into the positions in life that you want.