As I mentioned last time; the idea of seminary was basically gone from my mind. I had always figured I would go back to school at some point. After finishing my masters, I was probably at my job three months before I started looking at programs to attend. I was trying hard to move into economic development, so I mostly focused on masters programs in Economics. The other major idea was to go for a PhD. There are two top Policy programs here in metro Atlanta. That idea would come and go, but mostly stay in the back of mind for quite awhile. Even when I was considering seminary, I looked into going the Masters in Theological Studies route then heading to a school of Religion for a PhD in History of Christianity, I especially liked Emory’s.
So a few months ago, I decided I had to do something. I couldn’t take work anymore. I knew I had to try something. I started poking around at Policy PhD programs again. I noticed that Georgia State’s program offered a stipend of between $18-24K. As far as grad school goes, that is a huge payment. The sad/interesting thing was, I make so little, that I could get the stipend and work a coffee shop job and probably being in about the same amount of money.
I started really digging deep, looking at entrance requirements, possibilities of part-time, the commute from my home/office. I started throwing out the idea to close friends, asking for prayers. One day I met my pastor(PhD from Princeton) for lunch and mentioned this was something I was considering. He had the mindset of, if you don’t have to pay for it and it won’t negatively affect your job prospects, then why not? If it led to a new job, great, if it didn’t, I hadn’t really lost anything and at least I had accomplished a personal goal or bid my time until my boss retired and I took his position.
This put me in overdrive, I couldn’t sleep at night, it was all I could think about. I did my best to pray and really ask God for guidance. It was really a different world than when I considered going a few years before; mostly because of the pills. This opened up everything for me, I could teach, I could give presentation/seminars at conferences and it meant I could seek a professoriate and a think tank/policy organization at the same time.
As I researched more, doubt started to chip in. I read of the horrible job opportunities for professors (just google it, there is too much out there to link). I read that in many think tanks, you really don’t need a PhD, just a master’s or maybe two. I also saw that salaries were really not greater with a PhD. Another problem was that I had assumed wrong about the applicability of my masters (city planning) to a policy degree. My thinking was I would go into economic development as my specialty field. However, both GSU and Tech required the ‘core’ of an MPP, which was 24-33 hours of course work. I was pretty deflated, until I was looking at the background of the ED people at Tech and saw most had PhDs in city planning; so I headed on over to the City Planning Department website.
I was pretty encouraged because I saw their grads ended up in many different places and positions. Some even went on to consulting; which would be great money, almost double what I make now. I started to think about what would set me apart, what my research field would be. As I said, my main focus would be ED, but I kind of needed a hook, a way of looking at it differently. I liked the idea of doing research on affordable housing or ED from a Christian prospective; especially after reading Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll. Of course, this led me to look at seminaries again.
On top of all that, I was starting to doubt that I would even be accepted into school. Mostly due to my lack of academic research for the past few years and, even more so, my lack of academic references. Meanwhile, I was praying in earnest in hopes that God would lead me to a decision. I was really just not hearing a response. I felt no reassurance that this was the Will of God for my life. Then magically/providentially/mockingly a job came open at one of the research centers associate with Tech and their City Planning School. I applied with high hopes that this was God leading me, opening a door for me.
To be continued…