Giblet Gravy, Graduate School and Aunt Mary’s Cranberry Sauce

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it, the sometimes-awkward conversations with family members we often have only during the holiday season. For me, one of these conversations used to be about graduate school.

My family is a diverse one. It includes in-laws, step-relatives, half-relatives, Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Despite my love of politics, I’ve learned it is best not to bring this up as casual dinner conversation.

But we can only chat about Aunt Mary’s cranberry sauce recipe for so long. So, inevitably, once we’ve exhausted the debate over giblet gravy or the kind that comes with a lid, the conversation turns toward the future. Not the Ghost of Christmas Future, but your future.

It starts with a simple question: “So, Jack, what’s new?”

I know I can’t reference the Blue Wave that was the 2018 Midterms. Fortunately, I can talk about all the great things that have happened with my return to Capture Higher Ed, or my recent trip to Nashville, or meeting William Shatner in person (this one is met with eye rolls). But I’m fortunate. One, I have things going on. Two, and most importantly, I love my family in all of its diverse glory, so this idle dinner conversation was never something I forced myself to get through. I love the holidays, and all of the “catching up” conversations that come with them.

Did You Get Your Grad Degree?

When I was younger, things were a bit different. In my late-twenties, I went to a local pub the night before Thanksgiving. It was like stepping through a tear in the space-time continuum. I was greeted by high school classmate after high school classmate.

These catch-up conversations often joined stories of the drama of high school past. Eventually, just like with family, the conversation turned toward the future. I remember this one question clearly, “Jack, where did you get your grad degree?”

My response, “Still working on that.”

It wasn’t a new question. I had been working in graduate education for years, so folks assumed it came with the territory, and not just former classmates. My colleagues also assumed I had a graduate education.

The next day, my family gathered for Thanksgiving. Again, I was asked the question: “Jack, did you get your graduate degree at Drexel?”

I hadn’t worked for Drexel University for years by that point, but such is the nature of these fragments remembered from family “catching up” conversations from holidays past.

Maybe I remembered this particular question more than others because it had been weighing on my own mind for years. My first attempt at graduate school was lackluster at best. It was like a checkmark on a task that needed completion, not a labor of love where the knowledge gained is more valuable than the degree itself. My grade evidenced my lack of discipline. If I were to pursue graduate school again, I would need to be ready. It would need to be a discipline I enjoyed, something to look forward to rather than something to get through.

Christmas that year brought with it the same chit chat as every other holiday. Then the New Year, and with it, the resolutions for a better future. My resolution that year? Find the program, apply and enroll. Two years later, I stood with my fellow Political Science graduate students as we had our degrees conferred. Now you know why I love politics so much.

Resolution Season

The years that followed brought more holidays and more questions. But now I could happily answer the one that for years had bothered me. The checkmark was appropriately placed in its box. The work that came with it was indeed a labor of love, and the knowledge gained made me more informed if not a better predictor of election outcomes. (I had Hillary in a landslide.)

This time of year, countless families are gathering at dining room tables across the country. Countless future graduate school students are having pints with old friends. The questions about the future are asked and answered. Resolutions for the year ahead are being shaped and formed by these sometimes-awkward chit chats.

For graduate enrollment management professionals, the holiday season is ripe with possibilities. When I was director of my own graduate enrollment teams, this was the season when I would push hard. This was the time to plant the seed of promise that comes with a graduate education. Plant the seed. Let the message of the benefits that come with going to graduate school take root. And when a future graduate student this holiday season is asked about the future, the fruits of a graduate degree are there for the plucking.

My work at Capture allows me to assist my graduate enrollment colleagues with strategies, products and services designed to make their jobs easier. The great thing is that Capture’s work helps identify these future graduate students and understand their behavior in making a college choice. All of that can come from a simple message encouraging people to consider graduate education as part of the promise of the New Year.

Not everyone can meet William Shatner in person, but everyone can make the decision to advance his or her education. Use this time to convey the value that comes with graduate study. And by all means, feel free to contact me to chat about the ways Capture can be a partner in that effort … or if you absolutely must have Aunt Mary’s cranberry sauce recipe.

By Jack Klett, Director of Graduate & Online Initiatives, Capture Higher Ed