Michael Bradley Hood



Dean Stronach, faculty, honored guests, classmates, friends and family. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am truly honored.

I finished my degree late last year, so when a large thin envelope marked “do not bend” arrived in February, I knew what it was. I opened it carefully. I allowed my eyes to linger for a long time over the raised letters on the fine paper. Looks good. Feels nice. I enjoyed the moment. But I soon encountered a question: Now what? I had worked on my dissertation for so long that it seemed to me more like a career than an academic exercise. People would ask me, "What do you do?" "Oh, I write a dissertation." "When do you finish?" ... But it is done now, time to move on. Now what?

I was still grappling with this question when (Program Director) Min Lu asked me to make this speech. My first thought was, “Who, me?” I did not think of myself as particularly worthy of such an honor. I’m not special. My story is not unique. Why me?

Two two-word questions and no answers. To complicate matters, I’ve added the third discussed over beer one night with a classmate: what is the significance of the degrees we’d just earned. Our identities had been appended, Ph.D., Ed.D., or M.S.Ed. stapled to the backside of our names for the rest of our lives. Did they mean anything? Did they change us? The more we talked, the more I saw these questions as interwoven and embedded in our shared experience and future selves. We have to subsume the ego to get to the heart of the matter.

I was asked to speak today, not to tell my story but rather to give voice to this graduating class. Not me, all of us, how to tell that story. When we talk of graduate school experience, we tend toward lofty generalities such as dedication, hard work, struggle, sacrifice, and achievement. Those words are appropriate but inadequate or insufficient. The path to this stage was unique for each of us, a reflection of the complex and highly situated realities that comprise our lives. But I can offer glimpses of experience, and maybe they will resonate.

Have you ever walked into a new class and felt overwhelmed by the collective intelligence in the room, only to feel relieved to find that everyone else felt exactly the same way, and that you were all in the same boat? Have you ever missed your train stop because you were so deeply enthralled in an article you were reading for that night’s class? Have you ever lost sleep, not because the paper was due the next day, but because the ideas you were wrestling with simply would not let you go? Have you ever felt like you were drowning in work, only to be lifted up by a classmate, instructor, or advisor and placed on a solid ground? Then you know what it is like to be a part of the TUJ community.

We’ve made it. Today we celebrate, and rightly so. We’ve earned it, and we are going to enjoy it thoroughly.

But then what? Well, tomorrow at 9 am, I, like many of us, will walk into a classroom and pick up where we left off on Friday. Our students and colleagues won’t see the letters appended to our names. We won’t be wearing a cap and gown. Probably. My students will continue to struggle with paragraph structure, and I will continue to struggle to help them. I may not be any better at it than I was last week, but I will certainly be better than I was when I began this journey some years ago. After class I’ll get back to work on that research paper. A student or two will stop by my office for my advice. I’ll chop wood. I’ll carry water. We are defined not by the letters at the end of our name, or the nice paper with the raised lettering, or even by this brief moment of acknowledgement today. No, we are defined by the impulse that set us out on our journey in the first place—the desire to know more, to be better teachers and scholars, to make a difference. We are defined by the journey itself, which began long before we entered that first classroom and will continue long after this speech is forgotten.

Now what? It’s time to get back to work, to do better work than we could have done without our experience at TUJ, and let the quality of our work, not the letters that follow our names, speak. And there is so much work to do. Best not waste any time.

I'll end with one bit of advice: Get some sleep. Seriously. Sleep deprivation is a part of the graduate student’s lifestyle that we now need to put behind us. Lack of sleep is not a sign of hard work or strength. Just means we are sleepy, and as such less capable of doing great work. Celebrate today. Sleep well tonight, and get back to work tomorrow. Thank you.




昨年暮れ、私は学位取得に必須な課程をすべて修了しました。ですから、大きな薄手の「折曲厳禁」と書かれた郵便物が2月に届いた時、中身は何であるかわかりました。慎重に開封しました。立派な紙に浮き出た文字の上でしばらく目を泳がせました。なかなかいい。気持ちがいい。この瞬間を満喫しました。しかし、ある質問がすぐに目の前に立ちはだかりました。さて、どうしよう?私は論文作成にとても長い時間を費やしてきて、それは学術的な実践というより、もはやキャリア、職業のようでした。誰かに「どんな仕事をしているんですか?」と聞かれると、私の答えは、「博士論文を書いています」。「いつ終わる予定ですか?」… でも、それももう終わり、前に進む時が来ました。さあ、どうしよう。

プログラム・ディレクターのMin Luさんから今回のスピーチを依頼された時、私はまだこの質問と格闘していたのです。最初に思ったことは、「誰?私に?」でした。私自身、そのような栄誉にあずかるだけの価値は自分にはないと思っていました。私はそんなに特別じゃない。私の話は特段ユニークでもない。なぜ私に?