‘Yes’ to PhD, But ‘No’ to Life Upheaval This SLP wants to earn a doctorate. Finances, life circumstances and a job she loves, however, restrict her choice of programs. Student's Say
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Student's Say  |   November 01, 2014
‘Yes’ to PhD, But ‘No’ to Life Upheaval
Author Notes
  • Erin Stauder, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinical faculty member in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Loyola University Maryland. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 10, Issues in Higher Education. estauder@loyola.edu
    Erin Stauder, MS, CCC-SLP, is a clinical faculty member in the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology at Loyola University Maryland. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 10, Issues in Higher Education. estauder@loyola.edu×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / Student's Say
Student's Say   |   November 01, 2014
‘Yes’ to PhD, But ‘No’ to Life Upheaval
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.19112014.30
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.SSAY.19112014.30
Every time I see my mother (no joke, every time), she asks me, “Are you still thinking of a PhD?” Each time she asks, my initial instinct is to get annoyed (because she’s my mom and that’s how mother/daughter relationships roll). Then I remember I’m the one who’s attended the ASHA annual convention “Are you thinking of a PhD?” session every year—for five years. Each time, I waited for a lightning bolt to strike me that would help me answer my mom’s question, which, if I’m being honest, is my question, too.
Here’s the problem: I am a 35-year-old mother of two with a full-time clinical faculty position that I adore. I’ve been thinking (in a very hypothetical sense) of a PhD for a while, but wanting a PhD and it being possible are two different things. For the past year or so, I’ve been slowly doing my own feasibility study (to borrow a term from my engineer husband). And that feasibility study made me realize that there was only one program that fit the bill.
Applying to only one program was horrifying (as was taking the GREs, because I couldn’t convince anyone that my scores from 1999 were still valid, but that’s a story for another time). But it made sense, because after much soul-searching, I realized I need:
  • A program that is close to home or online to help with work/life balance, as commuting or moving is not an option for my family.

  • A degree in a field related to speech-language pathology. A PhD or an EdD in a related field will complement my master’s in speech-language pathology and my 12 years of experience in the field. A degree in a related field will keep me engaged as I constantly attempt to relate coursework and writing to my educational and work experiences.

  • A part-time program. I love my job and leaving it is not an option for me or my family right now.

  • A public university. I want to keep my job, so it makes more sense to take on the additional out-of-pocket tuition expense rather than to work as a research or teaching assistant in return for tuition. Those can be wonderful opportunities for other people, just not for me. Because I’m paying for this out-of-pocket, a public university is more financially appealing.

So—I was looking for an affordable, part-time program at a public university close to home in a field related to speech-language pathology: a tall order to fill. I honestly thought that these restrictions would mean the end of the journey—and that the next time my mom asked, my answer would be, “Nope. I looked into it and it is not an option.”
But after some Internet searching, I found a program that fit the bill—a public policy doctoral program with an education track. Then the soul-searching started again, focusing on two major questions.
  • Why do I want this? I love teaching. I love higher education. As a clinical faculty member, I have taught in the classroom and the clinic. I want an advanced degree to keep that door open. The plan is to focus on preschool, kindergarten readiness and other early childhood programs, specifically for children with special needs. Having a master’s in speech-language pathology and an advanced degree in policy will allow me to advocate and teach from an objective and thoughtful perspective.

  • Can I do it? Honestly, who knows? I hope so. I took a test-run this fall, and it was a success. I took a course in the department of the program I was considering. I juggled family, work and a class with only a handful of teary moments. It was a safe way to get my feet wet and made me excited about the program.

So there you go. I applied to one PhD program. And when I was asked to write this piece, I immediately said “yes,” then had the horrifying realization that if I were rejected, this article could get awkward. Luckily, I get to leave you with a statistic that highlights a recurring theme in the research class I took this past fall (“If you torture the data enough, it will say anything”). I was accepted by 100 percent of the PhD programs to which I applied.
2 Comments
November 3, 2014
Randi Mauser
Thank you for this!
Thank you for highlighting the struggle that is having a career that you love, a family that you also love, a life that you love, but also an often seemingly "unquenchable" love that is the desire for further/higher education. I am not exactly in the same place (just a husband at home) but have been searching for the last 8 months for a degree program that would afford me the opportunity to maintain my career/life while also returning to the classroom. It is exciting to read that you not only found a program that fits your life, but also your budget (and it has caused minimal tears...yay!) ! Also great to see a familiar name in the "Leader" ! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us!
November 5, 2014
Mia Kimmons
A Great Article
This is the article that I have been wanting to write for years. I, too had this very struggle. I was accepted into a distance learning PhD program. Being a part of this PhD program, I can continue my faculty position and family responsibilities. I am also a mother, a wife and 35 years old. Thanks for sharing the story of returning to school with a family and a career.
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November 2014
Volume 19, Issue 11