#MyYearUp happened not that long ago. In 2011 it had been almost six years to the day since I had left graduate school without writing my thesis paper and, thus, not obtaining my degrees. For various reasons I completed all of my required coursework, gave a half-hearted attempt to start my thesis research, then decided to move halfway across the country and start a career. The paper fell by the wayside for years but was never far from my mind. Although I had a growing career, a good life, and lots of volunteer activities to keep me busy, that thesis paper was like a dark cloud hanging over my head.
In 2011 I finally worked up the courage to email Dr. Burlingame, my former boss in the academic department where I worked as a grad student. I told him I wanted to finish my thesis and graduate and asked him to be my thesis chair. To my relief and delight he agreed. For the next year – as I worked to “revalidate” nearly all of the coursework from my first year in grad school, put together a thesis committee, submit my proposal and commence the research – I was helped along by a tremendous group of professors and administrators who became my cheerleaders and supporters. They confirmed that I had made the right decision to go back and finish and were absolutely indispensable in keeping me focused and motivated, even when I felt overwhelmed by the amount of work involved.
As I continued to work full-time, I slowly chipped away at the pieces one by one, with help every step of the way. Just a little over 18 months after that first email, I successfully defended my thesis to my committee and received Master’s Degrees in Philanthropic Studies and US History.
To this day I tear up thinking about the generosity and unfailing support of Dr. Burlingame, and the tremendous contributions of Dr. McKivigan, Dr. Little, and Dr. Grim in making my dream of finishing my degrees a reality. They believed in me when I sometimes didn’t even believe in myself and made it possible for me to achieve a goal over a decade in the making. I want to say thank you to them and everybody who saw in me the capacity to write that thesis paper. I could never have done it on my own.