Entering grad school, I always assumed this term was an epithet thrown around unfairly at those who, at 22 or 23, opted to eschew Cubicleville to spend their 20s pursuing something more akin to the life of the mind. Sure, I met a fellow Ph.D student who had been on campus for almost 10 years. He made time for every union meeting and many campus causes, but never mustered the same verve for his languishing thesis.
Years ago, I read about a guy at a branch campus of the University of Wisconsin who took 13 years to finally earn a bachelor's degree (my Googling turned up nothing, so I'm trusting my memory here).
The urge to put off the big finish, to delay the plunge into a life less familiar--I suspect we can all relate to this, even if we lament the failure of youth to Suck It Up And Finish. Yet there is another breed of professional student whose "professionalism" smacks not of procrastination, but addiction.
Rumor has it that my department will soon be graced with a doozy of an applicant for the M.A. program. Zhe is approaching early middle age in a higher ed culture where non-trads are vanishingly rare. Zhe has a singular sartorial style (suffice it to say that zhe dresses far better than I do), and zhe appears to be something of an institution unto hirself. For years, I have seen hir around campus and assumed zhe was a fellow lecturer until, very recently, someone explained hir deal to me. Zhe will earn her B.A. this year from a related program at AtSU -- it is not at all unusual to have our own alumni applying for graduate study -- but the real kicker is that zhe already holds a doctorate in a completely unrelated field.
Zhe's too young to have accumulated much work experience between these degrees, so this isn't exactly a change-of-career narrative. Just a cycle of getting one degree done, then on to the next one. And the next, and the next. To borrow Hiram's phrase, I am baffled, yet also strangely fascinated. And so I put to you this Thirsty:
Q: Have you encountered anyone you could call a "professional student"? What was their story? What do you see as your role in their endless educational saga?