At Last, My [Degree] Has Come Along

These lonely days are over, and life is like a song! - Ella Fitzgerald

Minutes after reuniting with my buddy! 

Minutes after reuniting with my buddy! 

August 7, 2017

Tonight, I write for my 50-year-old self and for my child(ren), so that we can remember a mighty good day. At noon, after about 80 minutes of presentation and discussion, my dissertation committee convened and agreed to (unofficially) confer upon me the title of Dr. (Ritter) Kessie. Thus, after five long years, I closed the deal on my quest for a PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology. Hip-hoop, hooray!

The title slide of my PowerPoint.

The title slide of my PowerPoint.

Because the timing of graduation in doctoral programs is highly individual, there were no members of my cohort (incoming class) on campus—many having graduated before, or are set to finish after me. And, half of my committee members had taken other jobs in far away states in the time it took me to complete my degree. In some ways, the drive from Indiana to Ohio and back was lonely and without pomp and circumstance, not unlike the process of completing the degree itself.

The last two years were difficult. Because of my self-imposed flight from Bowling Green, Ohio to Indiana to live a new, married life with my spouse, I was no longer part of the same community. My research lagged and I felt like I was on the outside of my profession looking in. I doubted my skills and abilities and my decision to enter the field. I felt stuck in this weird limbo between the understandably unemployed because I was technically still a student, and the 27-year-old with no real schedule or definite finishing time. I was ready for this stage to be over.

But in this journey, I was never alone. I am amazed that my family, friends, and peers never doubted my ability to succeed. During many existential crises along the way, they have counseled me and affirmed my choices. They have reminded me that I will continue to have options and freedom in my future and that I never should let myself be pigeon-holed to one career path. I am profoundly thankful to have been born in a time, place, and to a network of people that gave me such opportunities and encouragement to strengthen my education.

My husband and I joke that we do a poor job by today’s social media standards of celebrating milestones; we tend to be content with simplicity and small gestures. We made a promise to outwardly celebrate this accomplishment, if not now, then in the coming months. So today when I cleaned out the last items from my office, turned in my keys, and walked my swelling feet to my Subaru, I tried my best to cement the memory. My first attempt at this was stopping in Napoleon, OH for gas and a hamburger and waffle fries at a local bar. Pretty crazy stuff. When I got back into Indiana I stopped for groceries because that situation was in despair after traveling to Michigan for a wedding weekend (pic below). I enjoyed a Starbuck’s (decaf) iced americano with coconut milk, and proceeded home. Waiting for me there was the best reward ever.

My dog Hank, finished his hunting training and came home! The companionship of dogs is truly irreplaceable, and I missed him so dearly during the last eight weeks. Of course, I cried tears of joy and told him that his mom was free from Ohio, forever!! In that moment, I don’t think I could have been happier.

Having the three new letters after my name certainly feels nice – fancy, even. But what has been most meaningful is finally arriving at the goal, despite the longest period of delayed gratification I’ve ever experienced and in the face of waxing and waning passion for the field. It’s arriving at the goal, with my cup overflowing at the life stretching out before me—a baby on the way, a loyal and loving dog, an ambitious and supporting partner, a few truly remarkable friends, and a generous, encouraging, and doting family.

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The abstract of my dissertation manuscript:

Given the psychobiological necessity and work-related benefits associated with achieving recovery, researchers must explore the factors that enable or prohibit employee engagement in recovery enhancing behaviors. Using a resource-based theoretical framework, I considered how dual-earning couples can enhance each other’s work recovery. Specifically, I examined how the adequacy of recovery support received from one’s partner may be particularly important in improving recovery behaviors, and as result, reducing work-related withdrawal. In addition, I used a fully reciprocal design to explore the possibility that mindfulness, as a personal characteristic, has the potential to influence the provision of recovery support, and the extent that such support becomes “silent” or “lost in translation” between partners.  For both men and women, the results support the argument that spousal recovery support is a critical interpersonal resource and that the adequacy of support may be even more important than the offering of support in predicting recovery behaviors. Further, at least for men, mindfulness may be an important factor in improving their provision and detection of recovery support. Interestingly though, spousal recovery support and recovery behaviors were not linked to work withdrawal in the hypothesized manner; higher levels of relaxation in women and higher levels of psychological detachment in men were associated with more psychological work withdrawal. However, trait mindfulness was found to be strongly negatively associated with psychological work withdrawal.