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.