Master’s – Yes or No
The application for and the acceptance of my Master’s program at University of Idaho was convoluted and many years in the making. Upon completion of my undergraduate degree at University of Saskatchewan, I applied and was accepted. However, my wife wanted to complete her nursing diploma which she had stopped so I could follow my dream. So I turned down the acceptance offer. My wife went to Selkirk College in BC.
I chose to stay in Saskatoon as I was employed by Agriculture Canada as a term biological technician. The position was slated to become permanent but a change of government resulted in a hiring freeze. I was put on casual and supplemented income by hauling hay, collecting and selling scrap batteries and other cash jobs. The long distance made our love grow fonder and on one of my visits to BC, we were blessed with a pregnancy. While I tried to stay in Saskatoon, as the hiring freeze was “temporary”, finances and family commitments required a decision. I moved to Trail, BC and got a job with Cominco, the large lead-zinc smelter. I started as an assayer’s trainee and passed my Assayer’s exam within 1 year. The irony was that several months after moving to Trail, I was offered my old job in Saskatoon.
We had our daughter a week after my wife completed her nursing diploma. After a year and a half of assaying, boredom had set in and I took a cut in pay to take a Systems Analyst trainee position. About this time we took a trip to Deary, ID to visit my wife’s relatives. Being only 24 miles from Moscow, I decided to stop in at U of I to see the professor I had corresponded several years before.
I knocked on his office door, went in and explained who I was. He said, “Ah, yes, the Canuck. I have your file right here.”
He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out my application. He perused the application quickly and then queried if I was still interested in pursuing a Master’s program. I replied, “Well, yes, I have given it some thought. But finances currently are a bit of an issue.”
“I just happen to have a potential project in SE Alaska that I was thinking of turning down. I need a mature student capable of working on their own in remote environments. You would be provided a research assistantship and a tuition waiver. Would you be interested?” he asked.
“Yes, very interested but I need to discuss it with my wife. Can I get back to you?”
“Ok, but don’t take too long as the funding may disappear. Safe travels.”
Driving home to Trail with my wife and two girls – a toddler and an infant, we decided now was the time to get the Master’s while the girls were still young. When I got back to Trail, I informed my professor of our decision. Immediately, I began work on the research proposal with an expected fall start date.
While the proposal was accepted, due to our financial situation, I could not start in the fall and revoked my resignation from Cominco. This was after they had given me a congratulation’s cake. The next start date was planned for January, and another cake was provided. I then revoked my resignation again. The third time was the charm, I quit Cominco (no cake this time) and started directly into my field research in SE Alaska. Our financial situation had not really improved but the research program needed to start given funding constraints. The family stayed with my wife’s parents for the summer. We moved to Moscow for the fall semester.
Finances were indeed tight. We ate a lot of lentils and utilized food stamps. Near the end my wife managed to get some work as a nurse. Most of the students we knew were poor and many single students came to our student housing for lentil soup. As I was ending my program I had the opportunity to make it a PhD but our third child was on its way. We needed to get back to universal Medicare and family support structures. So no PhD at this time. I promised my wife that if or when I did a PhD it would not cost the family in terms of time or finances. I finally got my PhD at 53 years old after all our four daughters had left home.
The Master’s program and research were very successful. I ponder sometimes how fate works, doors shut, doors open. Sometimes the hardest part is just going through the door.