At age 43, a little more than 20 years after I finished my undergraduate degree, I decided to pursue a master’s degree. Earning an advanced degree was something I had always wanted to do, but life got in the way — I was busy working and was quickly advancing throughout my career. Then I got married and had young kids.
But in 2017, I decided to take the plunge. I left my job and decided to go back to school full-time. It was during my first quarter where I first hear the term “scholar-practitioner.” While it sounded a bit strange and exotic, I immediately identified with it. As I think about my narrative identity moving forward, scholar-practitioner is something that resonates with me greatly.
Given that I’m going to grad school at approximately the mid-point of my career, I’m able to think about my career in a meta-way, reflecting on the first half (pre-grad school) and the next half (post-grad school). My pre-grad school identity is marked by ambition. I worked hard, vying for promotion and measuring my self-worth by my title and salary. I was always in a hurry, stressed-out, and often over-committed, with a “to do” list that kept me up at night. When it came to making decisions, I relied on my experience and intuition.
The next half looks a little different to me. While I’m still very focused on my career, I now think of my identity in three ways. First, I’m still a graduate student (at least for a few more quarters), studying and conducting research. I’m also an organizational effectiveness consultant who does interesting work for a variety of clients. Lastly, and equally importantly, I’m a wife and mom who’s actively involved in her kids’ school and activities. Ironically, I feel completely fulfilled and balanced for the first time I can remember. And when it comes to making decisions, I still rely on my experience and intuition but they’re more grounded in data and research.
When I think about how to describe my post-grad school self, “scholar-practitioner” feels right. I appreciate the academic grounding I’m gaining that supports the years of experience I bring to the table. And I’m actually slightly dreading graduation because the scholarly part of me has been awakened is now part of my identity and I fear a void when I’m done with MSLOC. Does that mean I should keep going and get a PhD? Not necessarily. But writing, speaking and teaching are all things I envision when I think about my future. This, coupled with great client work and a great family, is the future I envision as a scholar-practitioner.