I emailed my adviser, Dr. Swiontkowski, today to let her know that I will no longer be pursuing my Ph.D. at Fordham, but that I will instead take the M.Phil. in Literature, having met all the requirements for the doctorate save the dissertation. I no longer have the time, or, really, the need, to pursue that goal. So I have some slight bit of paperwork to complete and I will have a Master of Philosophy degree to go alongside my Master of Arts degree, and I will cease being a Ph.D. candidate who is A.B.D. (all but dissertation, all but done).
I’m done. It’s done.
I’m somewhat bitter about the entire thing. I’ve wasted a good deal of my life and a very large amount of money pursuing this Ph.D., and while people like Dr. Swiontkowski have been nothing but supportive of my academic endeavors, there have been a fair share of people at Fordham who have not only impeded those endeavors through their inaction and lack of concern over what I was doing, but who have actually been actively discouraging those endeavors. Many moments before now, I was told to stop and for a while my stubborn rebelliousness against anyone telling me what to do kept me at it. Maybe these people saw that I was heading to this path, but here’s a little friendly advice from a former student: You may be a Professor. You may have a distinguished Ph.D. You may have a good deal of perspective and wisdom from the years spent in your profession. However, the moment you lose site of the student over your research, the minute you stop advising the way a mentor would advise someone eager to learn and decide instead to advise for the simplest path that will make your life easier, that’s the moment where you’ve failed as an educator. Several people at Fordham failed me. I won’t name names, I’m sure if they ever bother to read this post they will know who they are.
At the same time, I must point out two things. I firmly believe that if I had found my way to Dr. Swiontkowski much earlier in this process and to my current, never to be written dissertation topic, I would already be Dr. Sample, Ph.D. There are people at Fordham who are great professors and who are great researchers and fervently interested in education and all the good things about the American University system. Unfortunately, there is a large heap of things that are wrong with English Departments in the American University system. The focus seems much more on Undergraduates and research, the necessary evils that make these institutions their money, while little love is spared for English Graduate students, who are offered laughable teaching stipends to teach the most grading-intensive writing classes that most full professor are uninterested in teaching.
If you ever think about getting an advanced degree in English, I have two pieces of advice for you:
1. Only pursue it if you are passionate about it. Don’t chase after it because it seems like a safe thing or just because it’s something that you’re talented in. Don’t mistake your passion for books and literature for a passion for English as a subject matter. The pursuit of the latter is very capable of destroying the former.
2. Only pursue it if you can afford it. The dirty little not-so-secret secret built into all advanced education is that you spend a lot of money for that education, and at the end of the day you’re not making that much until much further down the road.
What’s really annoying is that I’m smart enough. That’s what bugs me. I know I could be Dr. Sample… ah, well. I’d rather be happy, not in debt, and love to read books.