“Whew!” is heard a lot around RIT this time of year as we enter the holiday break.
Let’s face it, RIT can be intense—for students, faculty and staff alike. It’s one reason why RIT students are, in my opinion, more disciplined and driven—and, ultimately, better students—than their counterparts at many other colleges. At RIT, it’s “nose to the grindstone” for a fast-paced 11 weeks at a time (and that goes for faculty and staff, too).
Personally, my exhale is stronger than usual as 2008 winds down, as it represents relief and satisfaction from the culmination of two endeavors: one lasting 11 weeks, the other seven years. So, as we welcome 2009 in a few days, following are some reflections from “behind the scenes” the past year in the life of one RIT University News staffer.
For me, 2008 began at home, on my computer, and focused on my master’s thesis. And I mean it literally: I rang in the New Year at midnight working on my thesis. But it was exactly where I wanted to be (and where, apart from sleep, I remained for much of the following week).
A few months later, on May 23, I thoroughly enjoyed participating as a graduating student in RIT’s 123rd Commencement. “Walking” was a thrill, as was shaking the hand of Rudy Pugliese and those of other dignitaries at the College of Liberal Arts ceremony. (I recall saying to Rudy, one of my advisors, professors, friends and mentors, “At long last!”) Though none of my former classmates “walked” with me—most had already graduated—some were on hand to help celebrate the moment. And sharing the day with family (including my mom, who traveled from Florida for the occasion), friends, professors and colleagues was truly very special.
But when the revelry ended (and after enjoying some top-down fun), more work lay ahead: I still needed to finish my thesis (students are allowed to “walk” before completing studies). As I tell my PR Writing students, “Deadlines are our friends”—and my new “best friend” was rapidly approaching. You see, there’s a stipulation in graduate school known as the “seven-year rule”: One must complete studies within seven years or, well, one had better plan on retaking some courses. As much as I enjoyed being a graduate student (or else I wouldn’t have stretched it out over seven years), because my first graduate class was on the evening of Sept. 10, 2001—a date to remember for a couple reasons—I had to finish.
So, in early July I tacked a week’s vacation onto the July 4th holiday. My Independence Day was spent on yard work in order to ensure my freedom—freedom from “outside” distractions, that is—and to devote the next nine days exclusively to my thesis. And did I ever! After more than a week hunkered down, I was nearing the finish line.
Upon returning to work the morning of July 14, I received the usual query from co-workers: “How was your vacation?”
“I didn’t leave the house for nine days, except to go to the mailbox,” I responded (truthfully but feigning mental exhaustion to gain their sympathy). Most expressed their regrets before I added, “And I loved every minute of it!” (As a writer, my dream job is to stay home all day and do nothing but write. For nine days last summer, I lived that dream.)
Finally, after another month of edits, rewrites and dry runs, on the glorious morning of Friday, Aug. 15, in the exact room where I had my first class almost seven years earlier (Rudy’s History of Media Technologies), and with a bound copy of my dad’s 1952 master’s thesis with me for inspiration, I presented my thesis to a group of about 10 people (including thesis advisors). The date must hold special meaning, I told them in closing, for it was exactly 22 years earlier, on the night of Aug. 15, 1986, when, as a “small child,” I made my debut on local radio station WPXY-FM. (I even revealed to them a classic 98 PXY Staff golf shirt that, just for fun and in keeping with the broad theme of my thesis, I donned beneath my sport coat.)
Following last-minute tweaks and final proofreading, I submitted my thesis for printing and binding. My “summer of thesis” was winding down! It would be a few more weeks before the arrival of my bound copies and—joy!—my diploma. Now proudly displayed on a wall in my office, my diploma has as my official graduation date Aug. 16, 2008. For some reason, that date seemed familiar. So I located my bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo. It reads: Aug. 16, 1985.
Exactly 23 years ago I intended to one day earn my master’s degree. But I didn’t know it would be, at the time, nearly another lifetime away. But 2008 and RIT were for me the right time and the perfect place.
Have a great break!