Shoot for the Moon

Written during my late night flight on Friday from Azusa to Portland…

They’re done and I’m almost started. These were the hopeful and terrified thoughts that ran through my mind during five dissertation presentations this afternoon.  Today marks the end of my first set of intensives at Azusa Pacific University.  The doctoral program is in the area of higher education and will include coursework for the next three years plus dissertation work.

Two weeks and about 12 hours ago, I sat on a plane to California, wondering about my cohort members, my syllabi and how much blood would cover the first writing assignment. Now I’m on a plane again, with 18 new friends (in the real world and on Facebook), two syllabi in my bag, and a first paper shredded and out back together. Several times over these two weeks, my cohort, self-named the Bakers Dozen, has been cheered by faculty or other students as we start a journey they have all begun as well. We’re the freshman…sorry, first-year students…and these upper classmen believe in us. Again, hopeful and terrifying.

2013 Dissertation Defences

About halfway through the presentations, I needed a few minutes of air.  Nothing was wrong or bad; there just needed to be a bit more space around me and my thoughts. I thought about the five strangers on the stage who were accomplishing a life long goal.  Two had taken eight years to reach this point while another had made it in just four.  Their joy in celebrating their family and sharing their new wisdom was evident in every word and PowerPoint slide. I stood outside of the crowd of witnesses and thought of a quote that currently hangs on my bedroom wall; “Shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” I’ve wanted to pursue a doctorate for at least nine years, though I’ve only known the content area and institution for about six months. I wanted those letters behind my name, the challenge of the experience, the doors and tables the knowledge meant, and to finish the journey God gifted me for. But today I added a new desire to that dream. I want the moment I witnessed five times today: I want to celebrate my community and sing a topic that matters to me.  Now if you’re reading carefully, you may have noticed an odd verb in that last sentence. In his book on the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis wrote about a classmate who would preach with such passion and flow that the words came out like a song.  I want to finish this process and still be singing on my topic, just like one day I want to cross and ultra marathon finish line with a smile on my face. No regrets.

Now back to the quote. Our cohort has been talking a lot about the length of this journey, how it includes three years of coursework and then a dissertation that can be completed in a year or up to 10 years. I want to be done with this degree in four years. I want to shoot for that moon and claim 2017 as my graduation year. Now it’s possible there will be life changes or stumbles along the way that change this goal, just as a rocket sometimes has to deal with an asteroid, but I’m aiming for the moon to I can keep the stars in view along the way. This means I’m also changing my degree plans, if the faculty approves the request in spring; instead of the EdD, I’m going to change to the PhD program. It means more travel, four exams, and more research, but if I want doors to open so I can advocate for my students and what they truly need (vs. just want), I need to admit to what the marketplace demands.

So here’s my flight plan so far:

  • Join Research Team focused on marginalized voices (which I’m realizing includes adult students despite their growing majority in higher education)
  • Dissertation focused on faculty motivation for and experience with service-learning modalities in adult student curricula at faith-based institutions
  • Graduate from APU in July 2017 with PhD and Certificate in Student Success
  • And along the way, learn as much as I possibly can to do as much good and be ready for as many opportunities as I possibly can.

To paraphrase Brene Brown, I am choosing to live daringly.

I hope to see you all on the moon.

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