Thursday, April 11, 2013

On Our Decision to Leave Everything We Hold Dear...

There is a rumor going around that the Nylands are leaving Washington...It is true.  For those of you who we don't get to talk to that often (and even for those we do talk to) I wanted to give some background and reasoning for us shipping out of town.

Ever since I graduated from BYU, I knew that I wanted to continue my schooling to get a PhD.  A big motivator for that goal was the encouragement that I received from the members of my graduate thesis committee, who were very supportive and encouraging about furthering my education.  They also suggested that I go out in the world for a few years and gain some real world experience and then later apply to a PhD program.

Well, I did that.  After I graduated from BYU, I moved to Washington to be with Stephanie who was then my girlfriend.  I took on a series of jobs which I learned a lot from, but didn't necessarily lead me to where I wanted to be.  Then just after getting married, I got a job as a full-time faculty member at what is now Lake Washington Institute of Technology.  I loved (and still love) that job very much.  I have learned so much at this job about teaching, educational administration, and working with different learning styles than I could have hoped to learn anywhere else.

My job also led me to develop a greater interest in educational technology.  I was doing a lot at work with online and blended learning and constantly trying to find ways to integrate technology into my classroom.  As I delved deeper and deeper into educational technology, I kept coming across work that was coming out of the Instructional Psychology and Technology (IP&T) department at BYU.  After looking into the research a little bit more, I became interested in the work of Dr. David Wiley, who is a big name in and advocate of open education.  I eventually emailed Dr. Wiley to ask a few questions about the program.  He was gracious enough to answer all the questions that I had.

I didn't, however, do anything with the answers to those questions besides annoy Steph.  During our marriage we've had many talks about the question of if and when we should go back to school, but the conversations didn't really lead anywhere.  I was happy at my job (although I knew that I wouldn't stay there forever) and we were happy being in Washington, near almost all of our family.  I knew however, that our family was growing and that I was getting older -- I wouldn't be able to put this decision off forever.  My window of opportunity was closing up.

At the beginning of this past year, I began to feel a stronger prompting that now might be the time to go.   I was hesitant to make a full decision, so I instead took the approach of getting everything in order so that we would be able to make the decision easier.  In November we visited Utah for Jenaca's wedding.  While we were there, I was able to meet with Dr. Wiley (who was kind enough to have me in his home) to talk about my concerns about applying for the program.  After meeting with him and another professor, I got more excited about what was going on in the program.  I did find out, however, that I would need to retake the GRE (wah wah).   My GRE scores were too old because I had taken them over 7 years ago, so that became my next step.

From our top secret mission trip to BYU
When we returned to Washington I signed up to take the GRE and spent the next month studying.  I had crammed for my previous GRE exam in 2004 and it helped me immensely, so my plan was to do the same for this.  I took the GRE right at the beginning of my winter break in December and ended up doing better than my first time around.

After the GRE the next step was to get my application together.  Now many people have asked me if I applied to any other schools -- the short answer is "no".  I think you have to realize that I was making a kind of wussy half-decision.  If I applied to multiple schools and did research, that would imply that I was actually taking control of my life decisions, but I'm all about passive aggressive decisions.  I only applied to BYU because it was a path of least resistance and it is the place that I had looked the most into.  Now, I will say that I was definitely reluctant to get a 3rd degree from BYU.  It makes me feel as if I am only choosing to learn in this little bubble.   But I kept going back to a list of things that I liked about BYU: 1) It would be affordable 2) It would be a good department 3) Some of the top faculty in the world are there 4) Provo is a familiar place for our family 5) We have friends there 6) Creamery chocolate milk.  Looking back, I'm maybe wishing that I looked into a few more places, but the fact is that doesn't matter because this is the choice that we made.

So I gathered my references (which can be tough when you are trying not to tip off your employer that you might be leaving) and I put my application together.  It was all due at the end of January.  On March 4th, I received this in my email box:

"Dear Robert,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to Brigham Young University as a graduate student. We look forward to having you join us for your graduate studies and trust that your graduate experience will be both challenging and rewarding." 

Even though I was admitted to BYU 2 times before, I was definitely still excited about this news. Then came the tough part, we actually had to decide.  Now that we had the "go" from BYU, there were still a few concerns that we needed to overcome  -- however, one by one we overcame them.  There were some concerns about the health of our baby -- then we later found out that she was okay.  We were concerned that we wouldn't have enough money to survive -- but we decided that we would make it work.  It is still a scary decision for me to make.  Even though I don't make a ton of money at my job now, I've had a pretty good lifestyle and a very happy home life. I'm scared to surrender that to nights of studying and writing papers.  But I keep telling myself that it will be worth it in the end.

So here we go!  We are planning on leaving for Provo mid-August, just a little more than a month after our baby girl is scheduled to be born.  We are excited to leave Washington in the summer season.  It will leave a good taste in our mouth. We do need help however.  For our Provo friends, we will need a place to live in (We are wanting to live in Provo so that I can be relatively close to school).

Resigning from a job that you really like sucks!
For everyone else, please come and visit us.  We are so excited to be able to spend more time with our Utah friends that we only get to see about once a year, but we are sad to leave our friends and family in Washington behind.

Also, if you have any tips for surviving grad school with 2 little ones and a rad wife, please send them my way.  I'm all ears at this point.