For years, I didn’t aspire to this goal. Upon completion of my master’s degree in 1994, I determined, only half jokingly, that my pursuit of a Ph.D. would require God to drag me kicking and screaming (not a pretty picture). And yet here I am, nearly “ABD”—translation: “All But Dissertation” or “All But Dead,” depending on your perspective.
Now I find myself hearing “I don’t know how you do it!” whenever friends or colleagues inquire about my progress. And each time, I’m tempted to respond, “I don’t know how I do it, either!”
After all, despite a high energy level, I’m no spring chicken at 43 (most of my grad school peers are 25–30). I also hold a wide circle of life responsibilities. Besides being adjunct instructor, writer, mentor, worship leader, and neighbor/friend, I am wife to Jon and mother to high-schooler Stephen, middle-schooler Kate, and elementary-schooler Christy. Any small combination of those roles requires juggling. Trying to juggle all of them while adding in a rigorous doctoral program at a highly respected research university two hours away from home equals too many balls in the air and several rolling under the sofa or down the hall. Clearly, most sane people would have long ago given up, no questions asked.
Yet I press on toward this goal, despite the obstacles and stress. Why? Oh, there are several fine reasons: a sense of accomplishment (nice, but not enough to drive me onward), the opportunity to make a difference in students’ lives (one of my favorite pursuits), a chance to speak my faith and research into a field desperately needing it (ethical public relations does not have to be an oxymoron). But, ultimately, the reason I persist—though confirmed through a complex process of incessant prayer, turmoil, and even some grief—is simple. God has called me, and I can’t refuse. And those whom he calls, he promises, through his grace, to equip and sustain.
The journey is difficult. I still have moments of doubt in myself and my juggling abilities. But God called me to “get out of the boat.” Through obedience and reliance on his grace, I will not sink.
—Adjunct instructor of communication Nance McCown ’85 is pursuing a Ph.D. in communication/public relations research from the University of Maryland–College Park.
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