Reflections on an M.A.

Apparently I fooled enough people, because I successfully completed a master’s in humanities! It’s been an adventurous couple years, and I thought I’d do a little free write exercise to reflect on them.

God’s providence was definitely the theme of these years of schooling. I started with the goal of earning a master’s in communication, but I had limited options in Hampton Roads. Only two of the many schools in the region have an M.A. in Communication: Regent University (a private, Pat Robertson-run university) and Norfolk State University (an historically black, state university). Regent’s program is entirely too expensive, so I enrolled at NSU. After a year of part-time classes, I knew I was limited in the remaining course options because NSU’s program emphasizes practical course like television editing and radio operating.

To go along with this feeling of unrest, I started to think about other options, including seminary. After a few months of deliberation (and deciding against seminary), I decided on a whim to look into Old Dominion University’s graduate programs. Providentially, I found their Humanities Institute, which has a Culture, Technology, and Social Change emphasis area within the M.A. in Humanities program. This emphasis intrigued me enough to look into the course offerings, and lo and behold, I discovered graduate-level communication courses!

I was accepted after a brief phone interview with the Humanities Institute Director, Dr. Dana Heller. I was worried about the transfer of my classes from NSU, but she assured me that they would carefully look at the credits. After a couple semesters at ODU, all 12 of my credits from NSU – which is the maximum transfer credits allowed at ODU – were accepted. No classes wasted!

ODU coursework was completely different than NSU’s. I had Dr. Heller’s “Humanities on Trial: Postmodernity” right off the bat, which was heavy on theory and difficult readings and light on practicality – just the way I like it. Dr. Heller is one of the most brilliant professors I’ve ever had, lecturing a mile a minute and possessing knowledge in what seemed like an unlimited number of fields. She also happened to be my advisor.

My Christian worldview was challenged like never before at ODU in reading Nietzche, Freud, Habermas, and Taylor and interacting with professors and students of many backgrounds. This challenge continued throughout my time in Dr. Heller’s and others’ classes. Studying at a state university is definitely quite a change from studying at small, conservative, homogenous Grove City College.

Some highlights of my time at ODU were all three of Dr. Heller’s classes, an American Film History course, and an American Utopias course. The Utopias course was especially itneresting, as I learned about things like city planning and architecture that I had never previously studied. My time was not without negatives, like having an independent study course with a disgruntled professor in his final semester. But the positives far outweighed the negatives.

As a requirement for my degree, I needed to complete either a thesis or take the capstone course, which is like a mini thesis scrunched into one semester. I opted for the latter, capitalizing on several semesters’ worth of research with my capstone titled “Meaning Merchants: Megachurches in the (Post)Modern World.” I loved it and learned a lot, though I am ready to permanently wash my hands of anything megachurch.

Another great providential occurrence at ODU was the opportunity to work (volunteer) in the library. I had been thinking about entering the academic librarian field and wanted to get some experience before I made any decision. I loved the work, and am now enrolled in Clarion University’s online M.S. in Library Science program starting in January 2010. Yeah, I guess you could say that I’m addicted to school.

In closing, a song charged with meaning the last couple years is the hymn “Thy Mercy, My God“, redone by Sandra McCracken and Indelible Grace:

Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song,
The joy of my heart. and the boast of my tongue;
Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Hath won my affections, and bound my soul fast.

Without Thy sweet mercy I could not live here;
Sin would reduce me to utter despair;
But, through Thy free goodness, my spirits revive,
And He that first made me still keeps me alive.

Thy mercy is more than a match for my heart,
Which wonders to feel its own hardness depart;
Dissolved by Thy goodness, I fall to the ground,
And weep to the praise of the mercy I’ve found.

Great Father of mercies, Thy goodness I own,
And the covenant love of Thy crucified Son;
All praise to the Spirit, Whose whisper divine
Seals mercy, and pardon, and righteousness mine.

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