Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm Not Really a Student...

... except to the people who hold my Federal Staford Loans.

What I mean is this: what I am doing now, being a Ph.D. student in the humanities is not being in school in the sense most people think. I mean, I go to classes and get academic credit for them, I write papers (lots of papers, lots of long tricky papers). But I haven't been to a kegger in over a decade and I no longer wear pyjamas or work out clothes to class.

I am in an apprenticeship phase of my career: I am expected to begin participating in my profession, but with guidance from those more experienced at it than I am, to keep me from making any serious mistakes/ faux pas. My coursework, which at the Ph.D. level really is minimal, is to, for the first few years, give my research a direction, but beyond that, my activities are the same as any other musicologist working in an academic setting: I research, I write up my research, I submit my research to conferences and journals, and I teach. I mark papers and have laughs with colleuges.

I am not a student: I am a musicologist. I'm not even a musicology student: I know this culture now, probably about as well as I ever will. The Master's degree is about inculturation. The Ph.D. is about getting down to work and joining the discourse in the field, a discourse I am starting to shape in some small way. In other fields, entry level jobs involve a lot of supervision, limited authority, and (in good jobs) mentoring. In this university professor gig, the difference is that one ends this entry-level stage with an extra set of initials after one's name.

I have had this realization because I am at the end of the semester. Three small tasks stand between me being entirely free of formal responsibilities until September. Itty bitty tasks. I should feel relieved. I should want to throw a kegger. Nope. Not this gal. I mean I'm glad to have my papers done, but there is still a whole lot of stuff to do. I'm going to have a bit of a lie-in tomorrow morning, maybe crack open a bottle of wine tonight, then back to work. After all, the Society for American Music is having its annual conference next March, and they are looking for papers for it. The deadline is 15 June. I have to get on that.

Unless I happen to owe you money from my undergraduate degree. Then I'm totally a student. Completely.

(Next time, the knitting report)

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