My Professional Identity

I spent the better part of today searching online for PhD fellowships. I had in mind that it would be nice to be a part of community of scholars in training while having an organization fund part, if not all, of my education. The more I looked, the more it became clear that I don’t fit in anywhere. Perhaps, I am wrong about this. I hope I am. My brief, two-hour survey showed me that many PhD granting entities want graduate students that fit certain criteria, i.e., studying traditional, research-oriented fields (history, economics, biology, literature, etc.) at brick and mortar institutions. So, where does that leave me? I work full time, study online, and have taken up a field of education that may be considered “practice-oriented.” Other than PhD residencies, will I not have a chance to be surrounded by other scholars-in-training? Do I even need a PhD fellowship to achieve this goal? Is it possible to build a PhD network without being associated with a well-known, prestigious foundation? Will it be enough to join professional associations and attend their conferences?

Meanwhile, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation offers the MacArthur Fellows program, which does not seem to care about your university affiliation nor your branch of study. They want to help you become something great so that you can impact the society. Sounds great, but there is no application. MacArthur Fellows are nominated by a Selection Committee, who then recommends the prospective fellows to the Foundation. You have to somehow get yourself noticed. If I do manage to get noticed by the MacArthur Fellows, I could probably quit my day job and really work on… something. Imagine that. Not having to trod off to a job somewhere, but to be fully in charge of your everyday life. Imagine what you could come up with. Is this how geniuses are born? Is working, albeit as a teacher, holding me back? I wonder…