Saturday, August 21, 2010

Becoming A Closet Lacrosse Player

College students often look at us professors with doctorate degrees as brainiacs who sailed through school. Well that might have been true for many of my colleagues, but that was not my academic story. During the 1991-92 academic year at Gettysburg College I was teaching an undergrad seminar, managing a center on campus as an interim dean, and working as the defensive coordinator for the lacrosse team. I also applied to Ph.D. programs in history. The year before I also applied to PhD program in history at the University of Indiana, Michigan State, and Brown University. It was like my senior year in high school relived in which every school rejected my admissions candidacy. On paper I was a weak candidate with an undergraduate degree in physical education and about a 2.3 GPA. In addition my GRE like my SAT scores in high school were very low. Folk like me with learning disabilities typically do horrible on standardized test because we have no time to cope. I am not a test taker and in fact I failed the written part of driver’s learning permit once before passing it. I had a documented learning disability that I neither knew about or understood how to advocate for myself or what my rights were. I also had no clue how to express my case in an applicaiton to graduate admission committees reading my materials. I was however very passionate about earning a PhD and I was going to walk through a wall to accomplish my goal. I probably would not have taken a chance on me either on paper; but if you had looked deeper into my application and interviewed me you would had seen the fire in passion I carried for historhy. The rejection experience made me rethink the image I wanted to put forward. I did an intellectual makeover and put my athletic career, which like most successful athletes I leaned on too much, in the closet. On my applications to the following year I hid any sign of my athletic back ground including saying simply I was an education major instead of a physical education major. Similarly I played up my affiliation with Gettysburg College including my interim dean position and teaching experience. I became ashamed of the athletic part of my life seeing it as something that was impeding my career goals in academia; more tomorrow.

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