Thursday, May 31, 2012

Everyone needs to have a PHD

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
Don’t for a single minute think I am undercutting, overselling, or even suggesting that a Ph.D. is so easy to obtain that anyone (everyone) can or should get it.  First, it is only available to those who qualify and are accepted into such a program.  Second, it requires extensive, complete, positive references from former professors who know the candidate well.  Third, it requires a commitment of three or four years (usually at a minimum) beyond the master’s degree.  (Sometimes a master’s degree or equivalent credits are subsumed within the requirements for a Ph.D.)  Fourth, it requires successfully completing a great deal of graduate-level course work.  In most programs that means 15 courses including a number of required ones.  Fifth, it requires securing a graduate advisor, writing an extensive, original, well-researched dissertation, and successfully defending it before a panel of professors.  These are by no means lightweight expectations, and even many who begin such a pursuit do not finish.
I loved Elim Chew’s essay, “Getting a PhD” (June 25, 2010), at the web site The Straits Times: SME Spotlight.  She begins her essay with the comment, “Many People write to me and ask me a question ‘How do I become an Entrepreneur?’ My answer is simple. You need Passion, Hunger, Drive or what I call PHD.”
Chew writes that passion “is about wanting something so badly that you will do whatever it takes to attain it.”  I’m sure all readers of this essay not only know what passion is but have experienced it themselves.  I have found it in getting my education and in the classes I took; I have found it in finding my wife and experiencing the love I had for her; I have found it in my love for my family, writing, reading, and traveling.  And, I often find it in my everyday life.  There are so many things to get passionate about.  I have even found that the more stimuli you have in your life and the broader experiences you have, the more opportunities you have to demonstrate and experience passion.
How do you discover your passion?  The first thing you must do is find your calling.  What is it in life that you feel strongly about, that you value highly, and that you are willing to support with all your heart, mind, and body?  When you find your calling you will start to experience the ecstasy, pleasure, and satisfaction of an inspired life.
Once you have discovered your passion, dedicate your energy to it.  Those people who love what they do are the ones who get the best results no matter what area of life it involves.

When you make your calling your work, you will never work a day in your life. It is truly what I have done with my writing.
Passion and hunger are likely to compliment each other for when you have passion, hunger often becomes an outlet for that passion.  I don’t know exactly when or where my hunger for knowledge began.  It is likely to be something that evolved as a direct result of being in school and liking it.  I had great teachers, received positive rewards (e.g., good test scores, excellent course grades, teacher praise); thus, it is likely that there was no single point when it happened, and no single teacher who was likely to be responsible — although some of my teachers stood out more than others.
When I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in speech (with a minor in science because of the required courses I took for my pre-medicine orientation when I entered college), I decided to go on for a master’s degree with an English minor.  My love of school had blossomed, I didn’t know what to do with an undergraduate degree in speech, and I wanted more time to think about my future direction.  I had three choices (with respect to my interests at the time), I was still considering becoming a Unitarian minister, going to law school, or pursuing a Ph.D. somewhere.  All involved more higher education — an idea that pleased me simply because of my hunger for knowledge that was now deeply embedded.
Getting a  Ph.D. was the choice I made.  I figured that with a Ph.D. I could still pursue my other two options if I chose to do so later.  I also thought that if no graduate school wanted me, I had two other viable alternatives.  I applied, was accepted at all of the graduate schools to which I applied, and chose Indiana University simply because of a graduate, dissertation advisor who had a great reputation for being tough.  I chose toughness, and Dr. Robert Gunderson lived up to every iota of his reputation.  He was the most uncompromising, unsympathetic, rigorous teacher I ever encountered, but he taught me to write. 
With newly acquired writing skills, I could pursue a new passion (not totally new).  My passion for writing began slowly; however, with the success of passing my Ph.D. oral examinations, writing and defending my dissertation, and having a university teaching position, I could now not just satisfy my hunger, but I could indulge something new in my life — a drive.
Now all the credentials I needed were in place.  A drive is something that pushes or propels you onward with force.  I was in the driver’s seat; I was in charge of my life; and now I could make things happen.  Also, I was an Assistant Professor — a low point on the professional step ladder.
I had a goal.  I wanted to become an Associate and then a full professor.  I wanted my fair share of any merit pool (money that is divided up and divvied out among those most deserving).   I wanted to establish my professional, academic credentials.
That all happened within six years.  Twenty-two years (at Bowling Green State University) after my first six at the University of Massachusetts, having taught over 80,000 undergraduate students and directed several hundred graduate teaching assistants, I gave up teaching for the sole purpose of writing.  The drive that pushed and propelled me onward with force was successful.
Passion, hunger, and drive are important influences in anyone’s life.  To find your passion, satisfy your hunger, and drive yourself toward practical, positive, and meaningful goals can result in a fully satisfying, highly rewarding, successful life.  If “Ph.D.” meant “piled higher and deeper” (I’ve heard many a “clever” person remind of it.), I wouldn’t mind if it were passion, hunger, and drive that were heaped in the mound.
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At the web site Dumb Little Man, the essay there, “39 Ways to Live, and not Merely Exist,” offers wonderful, motivating, practical suggestions for turning your life around.

Read Elim Chew’s great article at The Straits Times, “Getting a Ph.D.” (June 25, 2010)/ Chew ends her essay saying: “In conclusion, we know that challenges will come along the way, but our Passion, Hunger and Drive will cause us to rise above our situations. What I achieve is after 22 years of pursuit as well as sacrifices made. It is not an overnight success.
“Therefore one of my mottos is, "Love what you do and it's never work anymore." After 22 years into my business, I have encountered setbacks and challenges, but I am still as passionate, hungry and driven. So instead of sitting on your problems or challenges, go get your PHD today!”
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Copyright May, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing L.L.C.


1 comment:

  1. Having a phd degree on your name can really make a difference in your life. And I agree with you that people would be better if they have one. But, I think it would be a good idea to prepare yourself before letting yourself get admitted for a program. You might end up failing because you can’t overcome phd dissertation hurdle at grad school.


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