Wrapping Up A Graduate Program

by admin | April 26, 2024 9:30 am

My days as a graduate student are numbered.

I began this journey in January 2023, enrolling in six hours in the College of Information Science at UNT. My quest was to earn a certificate in archival management, which requires passing 15 credit hours, or five courses. The R.G. LeTourneau Archives, which I work in as part of my job at the Estes Library, received a hefty (for us) grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, which is funding both my tuition, a stipend and other costs to help organize and make available the digital content of the archives to anyone with internet access.

When I began my studies, I had not taken a college class in 38 years and had never taken a class online. I was familiar with Canvas, the online management tool for uploading course content as well as finding the required readings, making discussion posts, and finding one’s grades, since I taught photography at LeTourneau University each fall for the past five years. (I have since retired from that gig.) But it was a bit different being on the receiving end of Canvas.

I was rather lost and panicked when classes began a year ago last January. The required readings were hefty and abstruse to someone utterly unfamiliar with the terminology, the history, or the theories of archives management. I kept having to ask what seemed like dumb questions of the professor, such as “Where do I upload my discussion post?” Fortunately, my long career in journalism cured me of ever hesitating to ask what might seem like a dumb question of someone. Playing dumb served me well in many interviews, though in this case I was not playing.

I was perpetually lost in the course last spring in digital arrangement and description. One assignment required using a heretofore unknown utility on my app to create what is called a checksum. That is a string of alphanumeric characters assigned to a digital file. It allows someone receiving a digital file to ensure that nothing has changed in the digital transmission. The checksum on the receiving end must match the original one.

Who knew? It turns out my little brother Gregg did. He was over at Three Geese Farm working on the tractor. He is a database engineer by trade, having figured out that being a diesel mechanic is physically difficult work usually conducted in unpleasant climate conditions. (Now he does it for me for free.)

“Hey, do you know what a checksum is?” I asked while he was sprawled beneath the tractor, trying to yank out the PTO seal.

“Sure, use them all the time,” he grunted. Again, who knew?

The professors varied in quality of teaching, responsiveness, and actual effort put into the course, which for most is a side gig to their full-time teaching responsibilities or other non-teaching jobs. One professor did no actual teaching, simply gave reading and course assignments, and took forever to grade them. By contrast, my professor this semester was incredibly responsive, writing replies to every single student’s discussion post, quickly grading everything, and doing a great job communicating – and teaching – remotely. The others fell in the middle, sort of like the real world.

Each course had at least one, and usually three, major projects in addition to the weekly posts on the required readings. My pattern was always the same:[1]

Going into this final semester, I had a 4.0 GPA. I hope to hang on to that until the end, not that it matters that much. Still, it is a point of pride. I now understand why daughter Abbie, who achieved her master’s from UNT in library science last December with a 4.0 and starts its doctoral program in the fall, would wail when she got a 98 on a paper, instead of 100. I just got the grade from my next-to-last project and was given 33 out of 35 possible points. That is a 94, a solid “A.” Still, my first thought was, “Why did I get two points knocked off?”

I do not know what the next step will be after getting my certificate, other than buying a frame and hanging it in my study below my graduate diploma from UT-Austin, earned 37 years ago. Maybe another door will open, maybe not. I am reluctant to say that this is my final foray as a graduate student. That may or may not be the case. You just never know.

  1. [Image]: http://garyborders.com/pages/wrapping-up-a-graduate-program/unt-pic-for-column/

Source URL: https://garyborders.com/pages/wrapping-up-a-graduate-program/