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Mid-semester musings

March 23, 2015

A blog post from SOLES Ambassador and PhD in Leadership Studies, Jeff Bourgeois:

On March 7, 2014, at exactly 12:00 Noon, I received my email of invitation to the Leadership Studies PhD program at USD. And, to be completely transparent about it, I cried. No shame, no pride; I was brought to tears with the excitement, relief, and all the other emotions that filled my inbox with that one message. It was also one of the few times I’ve ever seen my father cry, too. It was just that powerful.

Of course, almost instantaneously, scenes of what the PhD experience might look like played out in my head. Mini documentaries of my new academic life dominated most of my hopes, daydreams, and anxieties. I silently promised I wouldn’t allow myself to let these visions become expectations, and move forward with an open mind.

Fast-forward to today… I am halfway through my second semester in the program. That euphoric moment of a little more than a year ago seems so very distant. If I stop to think about the ways the PhD program has filled my schedule and my life, it might be a little overwhelming. It has been a full semester-and-a-half. I have found myself elated, scared, frustrated, and humbled so many times. More than anything, I am grateful for the chance to be here, surrounded by so many wonderful people, doing something so very important. In reflecting on my mid-semester experience, I can’t help but find myself brought back to the beginning– before it all started to take shape. It has been quite a year.

In a moment, I will tell you a bit about my experience. But, it’s important to know that it is only that—my experience. If you were to poll my 17 fellow cohort members, each would tell you their experience has been different than mine. And, most certainly, yours will be different too. Without meeting any of you, I know your pre-graduate degree lives won’t remotely resemble anything like what has brought me to this place. My advice to you is this—don’t take anyone’s advice. Let this experience be your adventure. Let your journey through whichever degree program you’re pursuing feed you the abundance you seek—remember what matters to you, and not what anyone else might wish or hope for you. Embrace it, and make it yours.

To be fair, it hasn’t been all about the great sunsets and weekend trips to the beach. While I have made it a point to stop and enjoy the sunsets, I have only felt the sand in my toes a handful of times since September first. Taking three classes each semester, and teaching a section of the undergraduate course, Emerging Leaders, most of my days (and nights) have been dedicated to the many class readings, papers, projects, or research that accompany such a full schedule. It has been a lot of work. And I am grateful for every bit of it.

Looking back on my SOLES experience so far, I can say with certainty that it is the people that have truly shaped the experience. My classmates, the faculty and staff, and the countless others have challenged me, championed me, intrigued me, and entertained me. Community is one of the largest to appear in the blog word cloud, and it is truly not an accident. Be assured that you have been invited to become a part of a unique group of people who share your passions and perspectives. You will find yourself in many situations at SOLES, but I dare say you’ll nearly never find yourself lonely.

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