I am currently in the midst of my sixth class of graduate classes at SUNY Polytechnic Institute, where I am studying in the Information Design and Technology program. I expect to be done in Spring 2018 and receive a Master’s of Science degree.

So, why grad school and why now? Good questions.

I originally went to school to become an English teacher, grades 7-12. In New York State, I was required to have a Master’s degree within 5 years of receiving my provisional teaching certification. I started graduate school in the Fall of 1993 at SUNY Geneseo, soon after graduating from SUNY Oswego. While working part-time as a daily substitute teacher, and then a long-term substitute teacher, I plugged away at my Master’s degree at SUNY Geneseo.

I ran into two problems:

  • I wasn’t having any luck landing a permanent teaching job, the long-term position only lasted one school year, and daily subbing wasn’t cutting it in terms of paying the bills
  • SUNY Geneseo’s English program at the graduate level was very limited; they allowed me to take two upper-level undergraduate courses with permission from the instructor and receive graduate credit by doing extra work, but I was stuck with the required classes, which, unfortunately, were offered on an alternating semester basis (I missed one while taking another) or when demand was sufficient

After a lengthy and fruitless phone conversation with the Dean of the school about taking independent studies (as “offered” in the graduate student handbook), I was faced with the following choices:

  • Take unnecessary classes in order to keep my enrollment status active while waiting for the required classes to be offered, or
  • Stop taking classes and take my chances waiting for the classes to be offered

The former option kept my enrollment status active but would require me spending lots of money unnecessarily; the latter option saved money, but my current loans would come due, and the clock started ticking on my provisional certification. Neither was a great option.

Around this time, a technical writing job opened up at a nearby company, and I was lucky enough to FINALLY secure permanent, full-time employment. It meant leaving the field of education, which was a very difficult choice, but it was late 1997 by this point, and I had been subbing in some capacity for nearly 4 years with very little gained. It was time for a change.

I looked into changing schools and degree programs, but either the programs I looked at did not qualify for my employer’s tuition reimbursement plan, or the credit load I had accumulated at SUNY Geneseo would not transfer over. It meant starting over from scratch, which I could not afford at that time. So, I gave up on grad school.

As the years passed, SUNY Geneseo sent me regular reminders that my status and credits would soon expire; I believe I also received regular reminders from the State Education Department about my teaching certification as well. But, I had immersed myself in technical writing and was trying to move forward. That is, until the days came when SUNY Geneseo officially dumped my credits, and my provisional certification expired. It was sad, but I had to move on.

This decision took a hard toll on my psyche. Over the years, I’ve had rather unpleasant dreams about being in school (high school, college, etc.) and either skipping classes, falling behind, or failing in general. It was my sub conscience telling me I made a bad mistake in dropping out of grad school and leaving that degree unfinished.

In 2009, after taking a six-week online course through the Society for Technical Communication (STC), the professional association to which I belong, I looked into the employee scholarship program my employer offered and talked to others who had or were using it. I then started looking for graduate programs geared toward technical communication. I remembered seeing students from SUNY Polytechnic (then SUNYIT) attending Spectrum, the educational conference sponsored by the Rochester STC chapter, so I looked up SUNYIT’s progams, and found the IDT program. Viola! This program sure sounded like it would fit the need I was looking for, and SUNYIT was an accepted school by my employer’s scholarship program. All I needed was approval from HR and the executive manager to whom I reported. Both initially gave me their blessings, but when it came down to committing to it, the executive manager denied my request. What?? Long story short, we were about a month away from a fairly significant Reduction in Force (aka “layoff”), so all unnecessary spending was frozen. Fortunately, I and many of my friends survived the layoff, but my dreams of returning to grad school did not. At least, not at that employer.

Seven years later and two job changes, I have finally resumed my degree work! It’s been challenging to say the least! Trying to balance work, seeing my kids, family and girlfriend, and pursuing other interests (running and guitar), plus any of the other things life has thrown at me, has been difficult. But, so far, resuming grad school has been tremendously satisfying!

I will write more about specific things about returning to grad school in my mid-40’s in other posts (for example, the IDT program is 100% online! Quite an adjustment from my days at MCC, SUNY Oswego, or SUNY Geneseo!). For now, I’m glad to have put those sad dreams of failure behind me, and look forward to the doors a Master’s of Science from SUNY Polytechnic Institute may open for me.

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