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It's the Hard That Makes it Great
April 21, 2011 - 8:15pm

My job didn’t exist three years ago. My institution is relatively new to offering free-standing master’s programs. Until recently we merely offered them jointly with another institution, and offered a few more out of the Faculty of Theology. In 2008 we launched 3 new master’s programs, followed by a fourth in 2009 and we’ve been steadily growing ever since, offering new streams as well as another one or two new programs to come within the next couple years. Doctoral programs will no doubt soon follow.

It’s an exciting time to be there, and I’m happy to have arrived at the “ground level” of a growing foundation. However it hasn’t been without its growing pains. There are so many details to be considered when launching graduate programs that it’s impossible to anticipate them all, and of course as soon as one issue is resolved, several more crop up. But through the hard work of so many talented people on campus, we’re getting our heads above water and are finally beginning to offer the level of service that our students deserve.

However those initial growing pains had jaded me a bit. Whenever a student would come to my door I would cringe. Since we were so early in our development I felt that I was constantly sending them away with half answers and a vague “we’re still working on that” leaving both of us frustrated and unsatisfied. These experiences, unfortunately, made me resent the very students that I was working so hard for.

And then the other day, as I was preparing for our “Third Annual Graduate Student’s Research Colloquium” I realized again that it was truly the highlight of my job. The best parts of what I do are those tasks that actually offer opportunities for students and make their campus and degree experiences easier and richer. I love organizing and running Orientation, same for the Colloquium, and reviewing scholarship applications – heavenly! I love ordering merchandise and refurbishing the student lounge and creating opportunities like travel grants and assistantships. I see now that it’s not the students that I resent, it’s the administrative challenges, the bureaucracy and the inability to help them when they need it.

This was a much-needed revelation for me. It reminded me again just how much I love what I do, and why I wanted to work in this institution to begin with. I wanted so much to be a part of something bigger than myself – something that offered eager minds the opportunity to contribute to the world in a better way than simply making money. The pursuit of knowledge can be selfish and glory-seeking, but I don’t think most people enter into it that way. I truly believe that most students want to add something to the ever-expanding pool of scholarship, further enriching the lives of other interested academics. That’s why I do it anyways, and I don’t think I am unique in this.

During Orientation I give impassioned speeches to students about getting involved – about joining the Student’s Association and participating in the Colloquium and enjoying their time on campus. I genuinely mean it – I am so excited about this time in our lives, graduate school is a rare opportunity to be cherished. Being immersed in Academia makes many of us forget just how few people have the chance to be involved in such an exciting and stimulating experience. I know as well as anyone how exhausting and crazy-making it can be (both job-wise and degree-wise), but I have to confess, at times like this, I think about Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own saying “if it wasn’t hard, then everyone would do it, it’s the hard that makes it great” and I absolutely agree.

Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada

Deanna England can be reached by email at Deanna.England@insidehighered.com. She is a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.

 

 

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