Random Musings

Return to Academia

Hello, lovelies!

I hope you’re all doing well, the weather is being kind to you wherever you are, you ate something good today, everyone was wearing their mask whenever you went out (or better yet, you got to stay home to protect yourself) and you got to pet puppies in your dreams or in real life. Today, I’m sharing some personal news and talking about it that I’m actually a bit conflicted about, so here we go!

But, this year, I got accepted into graduate school to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing!

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This should be great news, right? I should be overjoyed to be able to pursue my craft at a higher level. And there are a few reasons that I’m quite excited, including:

  • My university is paying for most of it, through a tuition assistance program at my job (at the same university), which is the only way I could afford to do such a thing
  • Ever since I dropped out of grad school in December of 2015, I’ve always wondered if that was the right decision. This will allow me to scratch that itch and finish what I started!
  • I really love the English department at my university and I’m quite excited to work with a few of them.
  • Perhaps I’ll make some new friends?
  • I’m taking a Gothic literature course where I get to write my own Gothic story (and I’m leaning toward a f/f vampire romance/tragedy) as my final essay
    • This actually changed in-between the time I wrote this piece, as I’m now actually taking a fiction writing class! Huzzah!

So, there are a lot of positives, which is great! And I don’t want to scoff at all of them, either, by listed the negatives down below. I recognize that I have a lot of privilege to be where I am at right now and I am very thankful for that privilege.

However, I do want to recognize that, while in some ways, I’m very excited for this return and the hopeful opportunities it will open up, I am still frustrated by it. For reasons like:

  • The main reason I’m doing this is because, at a review with my boss, they mentioned I was doing really well at my job (yay!!) but that I would never be considered for a promotion to any higher role (like a senior advisor or any sort of director role) without a Master’s degree. Thanks to my experience working at my job and my years working at a university, it didn’t have to be in higher education, but I wouldn’t be eligible without a Master’s degree.

This upsets me on a lot of levels, because the Master’s degree I’m pursuing will literally not make me a better academic advisor in any way (while I do hope it’ll make me a better writer). However, the own work that I do and what I’ve proven so far shows I’m on the right path for promotion. So why do I need to jump through all of these hoops in order to even be considered for something I’ve proven I should already be considered for?

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That’s the biggest thing that upsets me, honestly. The fact that the system is set up against logic and instead, creates more barriers and hurdles for individuals (but especially those from marginalized and underprivileged backgrounds) to conquer, in order to better themselves financially.

There are more minor things, too, like:

  • Less time to work on other things. Trying to balance working full-time, alongside still managing and booking for my freelance editing business, on top of writing, editing and pitching my own novels, running this blog and trying to have as much of a life (aka gaming) as one can in the midst of a pandemic, is…a lot.
  • I don’t miss academic research or writing at all and am not looking forward to that again. I’ve never been truly interested in that aspect of my degree. What I am interested in is the workshops I’ll do with other writers, challenging my craft with short stories and then writing a novel for my thesis.
  • Despite my tuition being paid for, still spending almost $500 on campus fees and textbooks
  • Some…differences of opinion between my professor and myself that might continue to prove challenging. Ahem, yeah, switched classes, so don’t have to worry about this anymore!
  • Trying to enter back into academia during a pandemic and the challenges of trying to get a university (who runs like a business, instead of a place of learning) to work with me to stay safe remotely
  • The necessity of staying here for two-three more years, since that’s how long it’ll prolly take to complete my degree, with only being able to manage (and afford) one class per semester, including summer semesters). My partner and I do want to move out of Kansas at some point (preferably before we start a family), but completing this degree keeps us here.
  • Impostor syndrome that I don’t deserve to be there, since I’m a non-traditional student, and that I don’t have the ability to handle it

So, it’s going to be interesting, to say the least. I’m about to start week two out of sixteen and I’m interested to see where it leads, especially since I’m going to be playing a bit of catch-up, since I switched classes after the first week. I’m trying to stick to more of the positives than the negatives, so we’ll see how it goes!

Cheers.post signature

16 thoughts on “Return to Academia”

  1. The fact that you need to pursue a higher degree in an institution you already work for and have demonstrated excellent work is fucking insane. I completely agree with you on that. It makes no sense, gives unnecessary burden to marginalized people and it’s a fucking crock.

    I get so mad when I see I can’t apply for things because my degree isn’t right or high enough but I have all the experience and hit all the other requirements. It’s infuriating. Like if I want to move over to a media specialist, if have to go back and get a librarian Masters, which doesn’t give any information I couldn’t learn through Google and some summer in school working.
    Fuck that.

    Glad you can at least pressure something outside of education.

    1. YES, 100%. Remind me to rant about it on our next phone call (which, I’m sure we will).

      Exactly! Especially when you already have the experience, like, c’mon now. Let’s stop being so elitist here. Damn, I didn’t realize you needed an MLS in order to become a Media Specialist (which you would ROCK at, btw). That *is* infuriating.

      I know! I don’t think I would have gone back if they required me to do an MA in Education, tbh.

  2. Very best of luck Nicole. It’s a tough thing, but you’re an amazing person and I hope you can get plenty out of the experience!

  3. Good luck! I understand your frustration with being told you can’t advance without a Masters, even though it’s unrelated to your work. At the same time, being able to purse a graduate degree without having to worry about tuition costs is huge, and I hope once you’re further into the program you’ll feel inspired and uplifted! It sounds like a wonderful opportunity, despite the downsides you mention.

    1. Thank you so much, Lisa! Yes, I am very grateful that I won’t have to pay tuition (well, most of it; I recently found out it’s not 100% funded, but still, it’s allowing me to pursue this degree, which I wouldn’t have been able to do before). I am hoping so, as well!

  4. I finished my undergrad using tuition assistance at the university i worked for so I can relate. I so agree 100% that the degree requirement for jobs like that is just unnecessary. Unless the degree gives you the specific knowledge amd qualifications for the job it shouldn’t be required. And that’s coming from an HR guy. But I do hope you enjoy the program. At least its something you’re already interested in right? Hopefully it’ll help with the whole writing thing and not just turn you off of it. Good luck with it Nicole!

    1. Yes, I can definitely see how you relate (though, I’m glad you were able to use the tuition assistance program, too!). But I agree, 100%. I *am* very thankful I get to study writing more, however, and am excited about those opportunities, at least! Thank you!!

  5. Congrats on the opportunity 😀
    It’s terrible you wouldn’t be promoted without a Master’s degree though. I hate that employers often put so much weight on a paper qualification when someone’s clearly capable for the job 😦 At least the university will pay for most of it!

    Tips from someone coming to the end of her MA (I had to beg for an extension on my final project until December as Covid got me down too much to focus):

    Part time study is totally worth it in the long run. The amount of effort that goes into researching, writing, and editing assignments is phenomenal and I have no idea how the full time students are still alive!

    The writerly stuff (workshops, tutor feedback etc) makes up for the essays tenfold. In my case essays were always shorter than creative submissions, and they’re worth less marks for the final project. Also, for the final project I got to choose something I’m interested in (LGBT+ Fairytale retellings), which helped my motivation tons 🙂

    I found an awesome website (Z-lib.org) for course eBooks during my degree. Physical copies were so expensive for a book I’d only use once or twice!

    You totally deserve to be there 🙂 On my course we had everything from very experienced writers to complete beginners, and we all grew together during the course.

    Most of all, my current project supervisor told me it’s important to have fun and not worry too much about grades 😀

    1. Thank you so much, Louise! I know, I will never NOT be frustrated by that fact. It’s just hoops to jump through and I hate that I’m playing to that system, but I’d also like a raise one day, so I feel kinda stuck, you know?

      I am glad to hear part-time study is worth it, because I’ve been nervous that I’m not “doing enough,” but I am definitely busy enough! I agree, I am much more interested in the workshops than the lit courses and having the chance to take those workshops is totally worth it!

      Thank you so much for all of that advice, Louise! It was helpful and I really appreciate you taking the time to share it! ❤ ❤

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