Why Do You Want a PhD?

This has been a lot in my mind lately. Why, after all these years, have you decided to go for a PhD and teach in a 4-year school?

It has a lot to do with family and the pursuit of education. Both my parents had Master’s degrees (in the case of my mom make that 2 master’s) and they both always encouraged me and pushed me to pursue academics.  Yet I have hesitated to pursue a doctorate because of the time commitment and the work it would involve or so I have told myself.

I had to send a statement of academic research interest for my application at UGA and it started me thinking about the real reasons why I want a PhD.

I want to teach and I want to do research… that much I’ve known ever since I did my Master’s at SJSU. 

One of my biggest frustrations has been that either in school or at work research has been little to non-existent.  I want to be able to do research and work hard at doing that and be able to write, present and share my experiences with others.

Teaching has always been a passion; that’s why I became a trainer and involved myself in Instructional Design and Technology.  Transferring knowledge and enjoying seeing the faces of people when they get it, when they realize that they can do something that they didn’t think they could do.

One of the earliest professional memories is Michelle Lamberson talking about the impact that one trainer (or teacher or facilitator) can have by touching one person who turns into helping 25 others (assuming a standard sized classes). You get the picture… teachers have this huge capability of affecting others in ways…

But I’ve been one very lucky SOB in other ways too. I’ve been blessed with people around me who have been teachers, mentors and friends well beyond what I deserve. Two of those people come to mind: Steve Ybarrola and Cris Guenter.

Steve and I go back to my freshman year at Central. I still remember I got a C in his Intro to Anthropology class :). But ever since then he has been an awesome teacher, someone who has encouraged and facilitated my intellectual curiosity and who has allowed me to do most of my research without questioning it, always with a kind word and a smile to make me move forward.

I even made it as a field researcher when I went to the Basque Country. How many people have the academic and growth opportunities I’ve had with Steve?

Cris and I met in Chico while I was working there.

Initially it was a working relationship that was very intellectually stimulating and gratifying intellectually.  It was nice to work with someone who had patience and enough experience working with technology to understand that things don’t always work as intended.

The most important part of these two interactions is to see the impact they had in my life. Steve in particular has deeply influenced my life both in the academic and personal sides.  If I can impact one person in the way they impacted me, I’ll consider my professional career successful.

That’s why I want a PhD. I see it as the only (or one of the few) way to teach and, maybe, have the impact that Steve and Cris have had in me.

Remembering Randy Pausch

I picked the video of Randy Pausch’s memorial at Carnegie Mellon as a show. He had such an impact over a wide variety of people that it’s hard not to want to emulate him.  Learning how to impact people is where the professional and human challenge really lies.