The title of my honours thesis was “Religiosity and Neuroticism’s Effects on Death Anxiety.” Really? I suppose there isn’t any uncertainty surrounding the topic of my examination, but still…it lacks…poetry. My final paper for my course this past Winter? ““You're totally lesbi-gay” and Other Sexual Dynamics in Teen Horror Films.” Now that’s a line that will grab some attention.
People often ask me why I’m doing this degree. Will I make more money? Will I carry on to a PhD? Am I hoping to teach? The answer isn’t quite as straight-forward as that – the program looked interesting, I like being a student, and I want to be able to relate to the students that I’m working with. It seemed silly to work in graduate studies, yet not have a graduate degree. But sometimes I have to admit, I feel a little twinge when I listen to the girls talking about heading off to MacMaster and McGill next year for their doctoral programs. I envy the fact that they will have the freedom to fully immerse themselves in their research passions in a way that I don’t feel I ever could.
I wrote two final papers in April, one for my “Children, Desire and Fear” course (see title above) and one for my Erotica Directed Studies course. And while I was (and still am) on the verge of collapse from exhaustion, I am still fascinated with the writing and researching process. Until recently, Graduate Studies was housed in the Research office at my institution – so I would constantly hear faculty consulting with my colleagues on their grant applications, publications and ethics approvals. It was an enriching and diverse environment, and truly a blessing to be in such close proximity to that pool of knowledge.
Now as I was writing my papers, I would occasionally be lucid enough to step back and analyze my process – as I engaged in completely different methods for each project. For one, I had a question and I carefully reviewed the literature and materials to reach a careful conclusion. For the other, I had some concrete experiences that I wanted to share and I worked backwards from those conclusions to review the literature and attempt to find some scholastic understanding of why they may have occurred. Is there a right way or a wrong way to do research? I don’t know – it seems to me that as long as you’re not being manipulative or dishonest, then one’s process should be entirely a personal choice.
But when I look at the faculty around me, those who have carried on to PhDs because of their interests in a particular subject area, it’s difficult to overcome my frustration and disappointment with the Academy and its limitations. I see so many talented researchers bogged down with administrative duties, and committees and teaching overloads. And yet the pressure is on them to publish and produce and bring in money to the institution. Budgetary constraints forbid so many of these individuals from devoting little more than a fraction of their time to the very task that led them to Academia to begin with.
And this is part of the reason why I despair of the idea of Doctoral work - it simply looks too constraining. While I have endless amounts of respect and admiration for those instructors who teach us, I don’t know that it would be something I could fully engage in. Is there such a thing as a full-time researcher? One who somehow finds a way to collaborate with the Academy, yet not become restricted by all the other tasks which weigh you down? Is this simply a fact of life in any job – there are parts you love and parts that are so much more mundane? If it was truly a balance, that would be bearable, but so often it seems that the minutia completely takes over all else.
So I suppose my question is: am I simply too close to the faculty and only hearing the complaints? How do researchers find a way to fit in their true research passions while still maintaining their teaching duties, administrative tasks and committee work? So often we write about finding a balance with our work and personal life but what about the balance within the various facets of our work life?
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.