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    A Blog from GradHacker and MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters and Social Sciences Online


Dissertation of a Mad Black Woman

An essay on being wooed into grad school.

April 16, 2015

Regina Sierra Carter is doctoral candidate in the Department of Education Policy Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Read more about Regina here.


I am married to someone I no longer love.    

My spouse pursued me while I was a senior in college. I was young. Naïve. You could say that I was easy … easily impressed that is.  

My swanky suitor was an older, established gentleman. He dressed impeccably and strolled around campus with a confident gait. His sense of himself and superior command of the English language was endearing. He was a walking, talking dictionary-thesaurus … only better. Whenever he walked by, I got a whiff of his masculine, musty smell, which was tinged with a hint of cinnamon … Old Spice. In retrospect, he smelt bittersweet, which is exactly how I feel now.

Phillip Harris Dunbar said he wanted to take things slow, which was a relief because I wasn’t ready for anything too serious. I had my whole life ahead of me. I was going to get my B.A., travel the world, and then maybe pursue graduate school. I wasn’t sold on the advanced degree thing and I definitely wasn’t down with school debt. Let’s be real, in order for me to serve another life sentence in school, somebody needed to show me the money.

Mr. Dunbar heard me. He promised to give me recognition, riches, and relief. He confided that if I got involved with him, people would know my name. If I gave him the time of day, I would have riches … well, at least a reliable source of income. Then he promised relief. I am a Black, female, first-generation graduate student from the rural South. Poverty is no stranger. Neither is hard work. Mr. Dunbar gave me his word that if I gave him my hand, he would ensure I had shelter, a steady income, and health insurance plus perks. I was puzzled as to how a man of his pedigree would even consider someonelikeme.

So I asked, “What is it? Why do you like me?” Was it my silky smooth voice? My infectious light-hearted laughter? If not, then surely it must be my physique? “All of the above,” he whispered, “and then some.” Then he put it plainly. “I want to make love to your mind.” I was floored. Here was a man who was captivated by my cognitive capabilities instead of bedchamber acrobatics.


Mr. Dunbar and I courted for three years prior to eloping on August 18, 2010. The ceremony was very unceremonious. I signed on the dotted line and the rest is history. I have been married to Mr. Dunbar, ahem, my graduate institution for quite a while.

Now I am about to give birth to our first child. It’s about time. I have been carrying this baby for five years! I am going to have this baby this upcoming year, no exceptions. If the physician (who happens to be my dissertation advisor) says that it still needs more time to develop, I am going to file a petition for permission to go into induced labor.

Mr. Dunbar does not want to see a mad black woman.

No one does.

After I have my child, I will leave Phillip. Then I will live happily ever after with our son, (P)hillip (H)arris (D)unbar, Jr., whom I will affectionately refer to as my little PhD!


Ms. Future PhD

How were you wooed to pursue an advanced degree? Please share in the comments section!

[Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sabine Mondestin and used under the Creative Commons License.]



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