Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In for a penny, in for $14,000?

Next spring, in April, I will graduate, with my second bachelor's degree, from the University of North Florida with a double major in history and Spanish.  I am contemplating, with the enthusiastic support of my family, friends, and professors, applying to the graduate school at the University of North Florida, for a Master of Arts in history.  I am just about decided I am going to do it, but I am also wanting to make very sure that I am doing it for reasons that are mine, and not to live up to the expectations of others.

With that in mind, I will soon be taking a little bit of a "retreat" at the home of friends who have eminent good sense, and cats to pet.  The cats will offer their own wisdom, which I shall take into consideration as well. 

Reasons to do it:
  • I am already doing original research into the family structure of St. Augustine, having begun that under a grant from the university for independent undergraduate research.  Why not get another degree out of it, one which can open more doors?
  • As my major professor pointed out, the structure of a master's program can only help strengthen my work on that research.
  • The master's program may also open doors to sources I would otherwise not have access to, and provide contact with historians I might not otherwise have an opportunity to meet.
  • The credential of a master's degree may help me in getting published.
Reasons not to do it:
  • Money.  But my husband has said we will find it.
  • My health.  That is a bit of a sticking point, and I intend to talk to my doctor.
  • Three dreaded letters:  GRE (the Graduate Record Examination).  However, according to an e-mail from the Graduate School at UNF, since I already have a master's degree (Library science, Florida State University, 1970) and took the GRE for that, I do not have to take it again.
So that last negative comes off the list, leaving a puny two in contrast to the four very solid points on the plus side.

Another reason to do it is that my research into the family structure of St. Augustine is based not in history, strictly speaking, but in genealogy.  Genealogy is slowly making its way into the academy.  Of course, Brigham Young University has had a degree-granting program in the field -- the only one in the country -- for a long time.  Now Boston University and other institutions are offering courses in genealogy.  I hope that my project, and the future work I do with that master's degree in history, will make a contribution, however small, to genealogy's acceptance as an academic discipline.

That alone would be worth it to me to do the work and take the time that getting the master's degree will involve.

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