So how long WERE you in grad school?

Good question.  As some of you (my Facebook contacts, certainly) know, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation yesterday afternoon, bringing a LONG grad student career to an end.  (To be fair, I have been employed as Assistant Professor of English for the last two and a half years of that, and in the 2004-2005 school year, I was not a grad student.)  But when I got to thinking about it last night, I realized that, when I started seminary (my first graduate school experience), the world was a different place.  So if you don’t mind a bit of self-indulgence (if you do, stop reading now), this is what I remember about the beginning of my grad school career:

  • Nobody I knew had a DVD player
  • Very few people I knew had mobile phones
  • Nobody had ever heard of an iPod
  • .mp3 was a format used by the dreaded Napster, and one could only listen to those .mp3 files on the computer or by burning them to a CD
  • “text” was usually a noun and sometimes an adjective but never a verb
  • Bill Clinton was the president of the USA
  • Evan Bayh was a United States Senator from Indiana, and I hoped that he would run for president some day
  • I had never heard of George W. Bush or Barack Obama (these are likely my own fault)
  • The Indianapolis Colts were on a decade-long streak (with the exception of a couple happy Jim Harbaugh seasons) of pathetic football and had just finished Peyton Manning’s rookie season 3 and 13
  • The New England Patriots were a second-rate AFC East team with Drew Bledsoe as their quarterback
  • The Chicago Cubs had just made the playoffs for the third time in my lifetime and were finishing the subsequent season at the bottom of their division (okay, that hasn’t changed much)
  • The big story in baseball was still the Sammy Sosa-Mark McGwire home run race (nobody was all that concerned about steroids yet)
  • The Indiana Pacers were one of the powerhouse teams in the NBA (they’re not doing badly this season, actually)
  • “WWJD” had just barely jumped the shark
  • I was one of the few people I knew who actually wrote things for the Internet (those sites, mercifully, have disappeared into the ether)
  • Google was one of the new search-engines on the scene
  • “Alternative” rock had just recently given way to a crop of “boy bands” and to Ricky Martin on the radio
  • The general consensus was that movies were smarter, on the whole, than TV series
  • People were still holding out hope that the second and third Star Wars prequels wouldn’t be as wretched as the first
  • People were convinced that the second and third Matrix movies would solidify that franchise as the new American mythos
  • Cable TV news was in a perpetual state of panic about white boys with guns in high schools, not about foreign nationals with box cuttters
  • MTV was still a significant cultural force
  • Apple was still that company that made candy-colored computers for teachers
  • The college freshmen whom I’m teaching right now were in first grade
  • The easily panicked thought all the computers were going to shut down at midnight on New Year’s Eve, but nobody predicted the technical glitches that would change the course of U.S. history on November 7 of the following year
  • I had high hopes of becoming a Ph.D some day–in Biblical studies
  • I thought I had seen the last of the English department

7 thoughts on “So how long WERE you in grad school?

  1. Now you are just one of the few people that you know that writes things for this blog. (Small jab at my good friend David)

  2. I was still a sophomore in college, weighed 120 pounds soaking wet (I’m now about 176), and wished I was married and in grad school.

    I bet it is a real relief to finally be done. Has it hit you yet?

  3. YAY! Congratulations, Nathan!

    I started grad school in 1998, so I can relate to a lot of your list (I got my first DVD in grad school… The Nightmare Before Christmas). I didn’t try to get a job until I had finished, so it only took me five years from start to finish.

    Let’s see if I can add anything from my experience. When I started grad school…

    It was a good time for sci fi TV:
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still in high school.
    Babylon Five had just ended, Crusade was in the works, and fans anticipated a massive B5-related franchise to rival Star Trek.
    The crew of Deep Space nine were still battling the Dominion. We were suffering through Voyager, but had not yet had Enterprise inflicted upon us.

    The “neo-swing” revival was in full force, marking the one and only time that I’ve been a fan of music at the same time that the music has been popular. Actually, in honor of that, I think I’ll play some Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on my laptop while I type this… oh yeah, there we go…

    People were asking “What the heck is a ‘Euro’? What’s that in real money?”

    Hotmail was the hip new thing.

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