Tuesday, December 29, 2009

One degree and 25 years of separation

Heather of Simple-Green-Frugal, the impresaria of the Brazos County Farmers' Market and locavore extraordinaire, visited her blogosphere compadre Chile Chews in Tucson, Arizona, en route from Texas to Aptos, California, for holiday break. Heather also visited another kindred spirit, Beany, in San Diego.

Talk about coincidences! Via Heather's blog, Chile told me that we were southeastern Arizona hiking companions 25 or so years ago. After exchanging e-mail addresses, we are now enjoying the process of getting reacquainted. Chile and I walked the trails in the Huachuca Mountains and at least once enjoyed a wonderful backpacking trip in the Chiricahua Mountains, birders' paradises both. Good times. When did we get to be women of a certain age? She's now living an enviable low-impact, vegan, frugal lifestyle in Tucson. There is much to emulate and learn from Chile's blog. On the issue of self-propelled transportation, we are exactly in sync. And as for diet, well, I intend to strive for a healthier one.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Out of the hallowed halls and into the world

Nine of the graduate students for whom I am administratively responsible graduated with doctorates this month. These are intelligent, analytical, persistent, no-nonsense types: they need to be so to earn a doctorate in engineering.

I am so proud of them. For all, their graduate career was characterized by challenges overcome, unfairness absorbed, frustrations dealt with. There were difficult, and sometimes unreasonable, advisors. The culture shock. The oppressive volume of paperwork. The red tape. The seemingly conflicting rules. The late nights. The papers published.

But when they walked across that stage and allowed themselves to be hooded, I was bursting with pride. I could sense what it must be like to be a proud mother. And they should have been also.

The majority were international students, excelling in very difficult courses taught in a language other than their native tongue, but also overcoming the cultural differences, the homesickness, the multiple demands on their time, financial constraints. Imagine being dropped in Beijing, Istanbul, Seoul, Hyderabad, or Taipei and negotiating the demands of graduate school, as well as dealing with cultural differences.

There were a few nontraditional students, sometimes battered by life, but finally taking control, committing, then pushing them through graduate schools.

Variously, I was in loco parentis, sometimes a coach, sometimes a dispenser of tough love, sometimes an advocate, sometimes a shoulder to cry on, and always a bulwark against the juggernaut and bureaucracy that is this enormous state university.

Last Saturday, I volunteered to serve as a graduation marshal, lining up masters students in alphabetical order. They seemed to leave a vacuum in their wake as they silently and quickly filed out of the gym-cum-staging area en route to the arena floor in their regalia.

Go forth!