Friday, October 5, 2007


Yes, I am certain that no matter what I say, or how I address myself there will be some who say I'm being prudent and others who say I am not. Not that I am actually fond of calling myself "Dr. Stringfellow", I actually only do it in cases where the person I am addressing needs to realize that this particular bumpkin from Oklahoma is among the academics of the world - we actually do have full fledged edumacated people in our state! (She laughs because she can see her students correcting her for that one!)

When I wrote my book "With a Little Faith" and it was going to print, I was about to defend my Ph.D. at Capella University (not an Oklahoma institute, but from Minnesota). Before I knew it the university had made a change in my plans, and I was unable to complete the last research course to actually defend, and here I am in Ph.D. limbo - awaiting the funds to pay for the course, awaiting the taking of said course, and of course THEN being able to defend and be conferred. However, one of the fine officers of the university assured me that calling myself "Dr. Stringfellow" was perfectly legitimate as I have completed all 90 (actually more) hours of the required degree program - only having the research and cap course for the defending of the dissertation which was written about three years ago. Oh, by the way, the dissertation is so long and boring that it will certainly win awards on the academic front, but put anyone else to sleep without pills or warm tea to assist.

The title of the dissertation is "Multiculturalism and the Need for Diversity in Higher Education". I couldn't think of a more less interesting title, so I choose this one. I wanted to say "Hey, Wouldn't it be Great if EVERYONE Could go to College?" I was actually the victim if you will, of multiculturalism and/or diversity on the campus when I was first starting out as a teacher. The forms you fill out were adamant about not caring what race or sex you were, but they still asked. I was told I would not be hired if I didn't answer the questions, but I wasn't to be bothered by said questions, they weren't going to use them to determine whether or not to hire me - so why answer them? I'm white, I'm a girl.

When I write out "Dr. Stringfellow" I always feel a flare of guilt - I feel like writing out in tiny little letters beside my name the letters ABD, which stand for All But Dissertation. It's an academic thing. No one really goes around sighing under their breath whether or not they've successfully defended that last piece of paper - it makes you sound like you're diseased or have a major disorder if you . "Hi, I'm Dr. Stringfellow - I'm ABD." Extending your hand is almost useless at that point - but just for giggles I sneeze sometimes to see the reaction I get! Then I laugh - because I know that it would actually take more than 250 academic credit hours to catch ABD. The gestation time on that one could vary depending on your financial status too! In other words, you could be perfectly well and then go to collage, pass every course, making your way all the way through your necessary 124 hours of your Bachelors, then 36 more hours of your Masters, enroll in, complete and pass 90 more hours of the PhD (even worse Ed.D. which really sounds like you're dripping with germs)and still not be eligible for the the disorder at all. You may not be able to get ABD right away - so relax, it's likely you'll survive if I shake your hand.

I was speaking at a college last week, telling the Freshmen how to survive their first semester without taking drugs to stay up, and without missing out on too many parties - when it occurred to me that I hadn't told the audience I was ABD. I had off-handedly accepted the introduction of "Dr. Stringfellow", which in some cases made me automatically untouchable in the eyes of the young ones before me. I use the simple and often laughable ABD story to break the ice, to become a little less intimidating or at least a little human in the world of words and figures that the kids will have to be subjected to for years to come. I began asking the audience how many of them intended on actually passing their Freshmen year. I asked next if they intended on graduating with at least an Associates degree, then a Bachelors. I continued asking if they were ambitious enough to go for a Masters, in Business or Education perhaps. Next, and this was fun. I asked them to stand up if they thought they would be going on to be attempting their Doctorate. You'd be surprised how many Freshmen in our colleges think that term means to become a physician.

After explaining the role of the Doctorate degree to 2,400 faces I began the tale of the ABD. Before they left the auditorium too many of them were bending over laughing so hard they had to be escorted out - maybe, just maybe I've enlightened one or two of them to the point that they too wish to be ridiculed in the future. I hope so, we need a few more procrastinating professionals in this world!

I think I have four more years to milk this ABD thing before they boot me from the university for delay of game!

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