Friday, April 04, 2008

Going to Baylor

Yesterday I received an email from Baylor announcing that they will be accepting me into their Ph.D. in English program with funding. At this point they are not sure what kind of funding package they can offer me. They said it could range from a $17,000 stipend and tuition remission to only tuition remission. If I only receive tuition remission, however, I can reapply for full funding next year and I was told that it would be "highly likely" that I would receive a teaching assistantship. Since they Math department is giving Brittany a $23,000 stipend, we could survive in Waco for one year even if they don't give me a stipend at first--I'll just have to get a part-time job. We'll probably be leaving the AV sometime in late July or early August.

Part of what has been so remarkable about this entire process is the way God has shaped the events. While we were waiting to see what He had in store for us we couldn't understand why he would allow me to get so many rejection letters, or why He would let me send in transcripts late, but in retrospect it all makes sense. God allowed things to unfold in such a way that every single need was met, every concern was soothed, and every weakness was tried.

For example, when Brittany and I first began to discuss her seeking her Ph.D. at the same time as I was going to school I was seriously opposed. From my understanding of doctoral programs I could not imagine any way that both of us could go to school and maintain a healthy relationship. Although I was seriously concerned about this issue, we decided that Brittany should apply to five of the programs I was applying to in order to see what they could offer and how reasonable the workload would be.

When we visited Baylor, Brittany was informed that the first year or so of classes that she would take would be classes she had already taken at CSUN--she's overqualified. In other words, the workload (at least at first) would be completely reasonable. In addition, her Teaching Assistantship will only require her to teach one class per semester, while it provides $23,000 per year! This means that she'll hardly be working at all. Between her head start on the program, her more-than-reasonable teaching load, and the lack of a commute to school (unlike when she went to CSUN), it seems like we'll have more time together than when we were pursuing our Master degrees. God solved my concerns in a way I would never have imagined.

Second example, I applied to twelve programs and was outright rejected from nearly all of them. After I kept getting rejection letter after rejection letter I began to seriously wonder if I had been working towards the wrong goal, if maybe all my aspirations were misplaced and misguided, if maybe I didn't have what it took to get a Ph.D. after all. I got the the point where I could read a letter of rejection without even opening the envelope:
"Dear Mr. Noble, we are very thankful that you considered our program for your degree. Unfortunately, the graduate committee decided that they are unable to accept your application for admission at this time. We have received many applications this year and the committee was forced to reject many qualified applicants....."

Finally, my choices for grad school came down to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, who could neither offer me funding nor hope for it in the future; UC Riverside, who hadn't accepted Brittany; UC Davis, who might have accepted me if some other applicant declined an offer; and Baylor still hadn't responded. I went to UC Riverside's open house on Wednesday and was overwhelmed with the fact that every single professor I encountered was exclusively studying some form of Theory (race, gender, post-colonial, deconstructionist, etc). In fact, one professor even bragged that he was a "Sophist." While the professors were all very kind, knowledgeable, and helpful, the reality was that I was (and am) not in any way interested in studying these approaches to literature. This was just not the program for me. I left Riverside thinking to myself that if this was the only school I could attend, I might not make it through the program at all; if I wasn't interested in what I was learning, how could I study intensely for five years? And considering that UC Davis is even more noted for their theoretical approaches to literature, I was forced to conclude that two of the schools I could attend would make me miserable. This left only Nebraska (and the thought of upwards of $15,000 in tuition debt--per year) and possibly Baylor. The very next day Baylor wrote me informing me of my acceptance.

At the time I saw all these rejection letters as defeats, as signs that I was making the wrong decision to pursue a Ph.D. and as signs that I was not a qualified student. And my experience at Riverside suggested to me that even if I did get accepted I wouldn't enjoy studying. But looking back I can see how God was closing doors so that I wouldn't ever be able to regret my decision to attend Baylor. You see, if I had been accepted to Iowa or Irvine with full funding, and then I turned them down to attend Baylor, I would always have wondered if I had "settled" or if I had picked the wrong school. Now I have nothing to regret and nothing to miss, and I know that most of the schools would have made me miserable anyway!

Finally, this experience made it clear to me that the glory belongs to God. About a month or so ago I realized that I forgot to send Baylor a transcript from a college. I had taken a few online classes on teaching classes online (confusing, I know) at a community college. Since these classes were not degree-related, I figured there was no point in my sending Baylor a transcript from the college. For some, foolish, reason, I put this community college on my application to Baylor, even though I wasn't planning on sending a transcript. It turns out that even though I sent my application in to Baylor weeks before the deadline, they were holding it until I sent them my transcript--and I had no idea. One day, after wondering why the English department was taking so long to get back to me, I stumbled across a page on Baylor's website which allowed me to check the status of my application--it told me that my application was on hold while they waited to receive the community college's transcript. Naturally, I freaked out, furious at myself for making such a silly mistake. I was convinced that my then late application would be turned down or at least that I would not be able to receive any funding. Looking back, I believe that God was allowing me to receive so many rejection letters and to mess-up my application to Baylor so that He could show that I had nothing to brag about. He brought me to a point where I was convinced that there was no way I could get accepted, and then He chose to bless me. What an awesome lesson in faith and humility!

Anyway, I'm sorry this was so long, but there's simply so much to share! We'll let you all know more as news becomes available.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Latest on Graduate School

After a few weeks of fairly discouraging rejection letters, this week God blessed me with some good news.

First, Nebraska accepted me, although they couldn't offer me funding. They did say, however, that if another applicant declines a Teaching Assistantship I would receive a T.A. offer. I can also apply next year for the funding. My application to UNL was late due to some transcript fiasco, so it seems that they already send out their funding offers. The way they worded the letter suggested that if I had actually got the application in on time I would have received funding--which is frustrating to hear, but encouraging! Brittany has already been accepted by them into the Ph.D. in Math program--with full funding. So we are prayerfully considering going there even if they don't give me funding the first year. I could work and reapply for a TAship my second year. We'd probably have to get about 10-15k in debt, but since it's a good school and they'll likely give me funding my second year, it would would worth the investment.

UC Davis also sent me a letter, which I received today. They liked my application, but were unable to accept me yet. They placed me on their waiting list. If an applicant declines their offer, I'll receive full funding for five years to go there. From what I'm hearing, this is a great school, so it was an honor even to be placed on their waiting list! Unfortunately, Brittany didn't apply there (she only applied to the places I would likely get into and want to go to), so if we went to UC Davis she would have to wait a year to start her Ph.D. program.

Next week, Brittany and I are flying out to Baylor to check out the campus. I still have not received word from them either way, but I'm hoping that by visiting I'll win them over and they give me a fat funding offer.

Thanks for your prayers everyone. Here's the official tally so far:

Ohio: Rejected
Washington: Rejected
Illinois: Rejected
Iowa: Rejected
Indiana: Rejected
Emory: Rejected
Baylor: Application delayed over transcripts
Nebraska: Accepted without funding. Funding may become available
UC Davis: Placed on waiting list. Will be accepted with full funding if a space opens up.
Riverside: Accepted with "full" funding

Rejections: 6
Offers: 2
Delays: 1
Waiting list: 1
Unknown: 3

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Grad School Tally

Ohio: Rejected
Washington: Rejected
Illinois: Rejected
Nebraska: Application delayed over transcripts
Baylor: Application delayed over transcripts
Riverside: Accepted with "Full" funding

Rejections: 3
Offers: 1
Delays: 2
Unknown: 8

Saturday, February 23, 2008

What I did to anger folks a MOVIEGUIDE

Alright, first off, I have the next entry in my series on top issues all Christian artists should consider sitting in my notebook, ready to be typed up, edited, and posted to this blog. I fully intended for that to be the next thing I posted here, but then I posted this article and some people read it.

My last article at Christ and Pop Culture was on Movieguide's Faith and Value awards, otherwise known as "the Christian Oscars." Well, today, it appears that the people over at MOVIEGUIDE found my article and were not too happy (I have a feeling there's an internal memo floating around about me right now...). Several people from the organization have commented on the article. They have some interesting points to make, and I'm very happy to have them join in on the conversation! It looks to be a lively discussion if nothing else. Come see what all the hullabaloo is about yourself:
"Whatever is Pure: MOVIEGUIDE's Faith and Value Awards"

I promise, I will get the next real post up ASAP. Thanks for bearing with me as I get myself into trouble.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wearing Our Faith: Christian Clothes and Bumper Stickers

In my most recent post over at Christ and Pop Culture, I explore how bumper stickers and tee-shirts are used to promote Christianity. I engage questions like: What does it mean to wear a Christian tee-shirt? And what effect does it have on people? The article is entitled, Wearing Our Faith: the Purpose and Effectiveness of Bumper Stickers and Christian Clothes. Here's an excerpt:
One of the remarkable aspects of our culture is that although we are inundated with advertisements all day long, we are often willing to pay for a tee-shirt or bumper sticker which advertises for someone. As Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) once said, “A good shirt turns the wearer into a walking corporate billboard.” When we aren’t wearing an advertisement or sticking one to our bumper, we are often promoting an idea or belief which serves to identify us with a group: “I learned these 10 things from playing video games,” “war is wrong,” “gun control is unjust,” or even “Jesus saves!”

It is this last use of slogans, labels, and branding that I would like to explore. Specifically, I would like to ask what is the purpose and effect of using clothing and bumper stickers to promote the Christian worldview, and should we support this form of promotion? To answer this question we should look at how labels and slogans usually function and their effect.
Continue reading...

I think you'll enjoy reading the article and I hope you find that it encourages you to think critically about the way our faith should be displayed. As always, I look forward to your comments, critiques, and questions.


p.s. I hope to have a new, "real" post on here soon. It will be the next post on the series I'm doing on the essential issues facing Christian artists in different mediums. I apologize that all I've been posting are plugs for other blogs, but since I've basically moved all my social commentary posts from here to Christ and Pop Culture, I'm trying to keep this blog for issues that are specific to art and artists--which means I have a bit less to write about. Thanks for being patient.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mass Effect, Jack Thompson, Kevin McCullough, Cooper Lawrence, Fox News, and the SeXbox 360

With all the recent hub and bub about Mass Effect, I thought I would remind everyone of the article I wrote before this controversy erupted concerning the moral implications of the game.

It's called "Mommy, what is that alien doing?" and you can read it over at Christ and Pop Culture. Here's a section of the article:

On November 20th, one of the most anticipated games of the year will be released for the Xbox 360, Bioware’s Mass Effect; when it arrives on my doorstep, I will have the choice to encourage alien, unnatural, sexual immorality. PC gamers have known Bioware for their Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series, but console gamers were first introduced to the game designer with the 2003 hit Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. Capturing the spirit of the epic Star Wars story KOTOR (as the kids would soon call it) became one of the most popular games for the original Xbox and arguably the systems best RPG. Aside from the Star Wars branding, KOTOR succeeded because of its compelling storytelling. Much of the game could be spent getting to know your characters; the more they liked you and approved of your actions, the more they would share about their history. In addition to back story, talking to the other characters in the game opened up new plot threads. Ultimately, however, these conversations didn’t affect the plot of the game much, they just opened little side missions. In Bioware’s new role playing game set in space, how the player treats the other characters will determine if they are able to visit entire worlds and whether or not they will witness an alien, lesbian, love scene.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Steven Pinker and the Moral Instinct

In an article written for the New York Times on January 13th, Steven Pinker makes his case for the biological and evolutionary source of our morality.

Pinker concludes that since certain moral ideals (murder, incest, etc...) are held universally and can be made to fit in the story of evolution, morals are all a product of evolution. At the articles conclusion, he argues that while morals are not absolute (since they are merely biological) we should strive to improve our morals--thus making the oddly elementary mistake of suggesting that we should adjust our (non-transcendent) "moral instinct" to the transcendent moral law exists outside of our biology while denying that transcendent moral laws exist.

What moral law is it that he appeals to?

Read it and see for yourself: Moral Instinct