Still Resolute

Jim Wasserman

AT THE BEGINNING of 2022, I wrote about our resolution to go back to grad school. The short update: Jiab and I are indeed doing it. We’re enrolled in the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program at the University of Texas at Dallas.

We scrambled to get the application paperwork done before classes started Jan. 18. Neither of us had applied to school for ourselves since the introduction of online registration, but we found it fairly easy. The only holdup was getting our prior transcripts submitted. My undergrad university and law school both said they didn’t have electronic transcripts “that far back,” so I had to have hard copies mailed.

A full load is three classes. We opted for two our first semester, so we could get acclimated to school again. Good thing we did. We have a regular weekly assignment load of about 100 pages to read and then writing reflection essays of at least 500 words each. We now complain to our kids that we want to do something but can’t “because we have homework.”

The age of the students ranges from just out of college to 60—that would be me—with people from all over the world. The exchange of ideas from so many perspectives is magical, though I sometimes listen to the theoretical descriptions of life and think, “Sorry, it doesn’t work like that in the real world, but you’ll find out in your own time.”

One of the most intriguing assignments so far was writing an intellectual autobiography. Basically, it’s a review of the events of your life—both academic and personal—that have shaped how you think today. It was daunting at first, especially as I had almost three times as much life to cover as the fresh-out-of-college kids. But connecting the dots of events and influences was fascinating and extremely helpful for my understanding of my understanding (“metacognition” in grad jargon). I recommend it as a great exercise. The professor kept saying that the intellectual autobiography would be helpful in future stages of our life, such as looking for a job. I agreed, though I said it’s best use for my future was probably as a first draft for my eulogy.

Jiab and I are determined to keep going. At first, we thought the main motivation to continue would be justifying the tuition we’d paid ($5,462 per person for two courses), plus $250 to $300 in application fees, a parking sticker and books (thank goodness for cheaper or even free online versions of texts). There’s a number of discounted—and even free—tuition programs for seniors, but we didn’t qualify.

We’ve come to love the possibilities that grad school is opening up. Jiab is delving deep into gender discrimination, a topic she can look at critically and with greater distance, now that she doesn’t have to worry about the repercussions from speaking out at her job. Similarly, I’m taking a broad view of media literacy, deciding if I want to focus on education reform or advocating for industry change.

It’s like when you first start exercising to lose weight but, at some point, realize the exercise itself—and the great feeling that you’re doing it—is the reward. We plan to sign up for summer classes and then take the fall off. As Jiab correctly observed, travel will be cheaper then and less crowded.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on spring break. I gotta show these youngins how to do it “old school.”

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