Friday, March 17, 2017

I'm a Doctor

"Do you feel different?"

One of my colleagues stopped by my office, and after a quick word of congratulations, this was his question. It was interesting to think about this. I successfully defended my dissertation earlier in the week. I am now "Dr. Mulder." Do I feel different now that I have the title?

A photo of me with my committee immediately after my dissertation defense.
We were in three different cities for the defense meeting...ah, online learning!

I guess my honest answer is...a hesitant yes.

The reason I hesitate is that it wasn't just a light switch moment, where I wasn't a doctor, and then suddenly--CLICK--now I am. I mean, officially, I suppose that is true; until the defense, I was not Dr. Mulder, but I suddenly was when I came back into the room and my advisor said, "Congratulations, Dr. Mulder!"

The thing is, I've been growing into this over the past four years of doctoral study. I've taken all the courses, written many research proposals, conducted various literature reviews, presented my findings in papers and at conferences, written a 200+ page document capturing my dissertation research, and--of course--successfully defended that research project.

And now, I'm a doctor.

But it was a process of becoming that made me Dr. Mulder.

Was the defense anticlimactic? Not really...but it was the culmination of the past four years. Should my self-perception change immediately as a result of that 2-hour meeting? I think it has, somewhat. There is something about changing my email signature to "Dave Mulder, Ed.D." that gives me a different sense of...credibility...I suppose.

How do we judge our own worth? I think this has always been a struggle for me. I only know the world through the skin I live in. Doesn't everyone else think like me? Doesn't everyone else believe the way I believe? Doesn't everyone else view me the way I view myself?

I've joked before that I'm definitely the dumbest guy in the room when I'm in a meeting with fellow faculty members. I mean, I'm just a middle school science teacher on the inside, right? It's a little weird to admit that having letters after my name makes me feel more legitimate as a professor somehow, even though I've been serving at the college for five years now. My content area (Education) is the thing we are all supposed to be good at: teaching. But now, having studied deeply in the field of education, and in the sub-field of educational technology, and in the sub-subfields of online learning and technology integration, I know that I'm not just a middle school science teacher anymore.

Does having a new set of letters after my name change how I feel about myself? I guess it does.

Trust me. I'm a Doctor.

My wife, who knows me so well, got me this shirt to celebrate.


  1. And your blog is so much better now ... :) Just kidding. Your doctorate is just another step in your journey of leading well in Education. Continued blessings in your work ... as a Doctor!

    1. Thanks so much, my friend! It feels great to be at this point, and to have the credentials to match my confidence. :-)

  2. Congratulations! I know how it feels :-). My kids called me Dr. Dad for a while after (but made sure to tell their friends that even though I was a doctor, I was not the kind that did anyone any good). Again, congratulations. You've earned it.

    1. Thanks, Christian! My kids have made the same joke: "My dad is a doctor, but not the kind that helps people." (Thanks, kids...) :-)

  3. Congratulations, Dave! I can't imagine all the work you put in - your kids and students should be very proud. So should YOU! Great shirt from your wife, by the way. I'd want it, too! ;)

    1. Thanks so much, Joy! I am--I think--appropriately proud of myself for this accomplishment. :-)