I have an unofficial PhD in Human Relations from the Communication Studies Department at Kansas University. The "unofficial" part requires explaining.

I got a Bachelors in English & Education (1973) and a Masters in Communication Studies (1975) from Wichita State University, then taught human relations and coached debate/forensics at Luther College in northeast Iowa and at Atchison High School. In 1979 I was accepted into the PhD program in KU's Communication Studies Department and moved to Lawrence.

By 1982 I had completed the course work and was ready to start on my dissertation. However, as I looked at the university teaching positions that were available throughout the nation, I was quite unimpressed. Courses like what I had been teaching at KU, Luther College and WSU (encounter groups, interpersonal communication, small group communication, etc.) were getting slashed from university budgets. The "human potential" movement of the 1970s had given way to to "corporate communication" movement of the 1980s, so the courses I would most likely be teaching were intended to groom students to become what we later called "Yuppies." No thanks!

As sometimes happens, I was offered a position at a United Way agency doing EXACTLY what I wanted to be doing - directing the extensive training program for volunteer counselors at the local suicide hotline. The very foundation of Headquarters Counseling Center was the values of the human potential movement, including an "old hippie" flavor that I greatly relished. Plus, unlike the pressure of competing in a publish-or-perish tenure track position at some university, this position allowed me to have enough energy left over to focus on my true passion - making music.

Officially, then, I don't have a PhD because I didn't write a dissertation. Unofficially, however, during my 15 years there the Director (Marcia Epstein) and I re-wrote the entire training program, including the 400-page handbook that serves as the foundation for training. Therefore, the "Headquarters Handbook" is my unofficial dissertation in that it contains everything I know about teaching the use of active listening in crisis situations. It would never officially qualify as a dissertation, however, both because it was co-written and because it was intended as a training tool rather than as research.

I have no intentions of misrepresenting myself where having an official degree is important. However, since I try to avoid such situations in the first place, having an unofficial PhD suits me just fine. So - there you have it.

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since October, 2005