Those First Steps Toward Earning My Master’s Degree

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

It was on a late August day in 2016 when I strolled — somewhat intrepidly, but perhaps incredulously — down the walkway shown in the image below.

My destination was Stevenson Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago. My purpose was to participate in the first class required to earn my Master of Arts degree in English.

On that August day in 2016, this walkway on the UIC campus was filled with people just like me — people wanted to learn and grow.

Since that class, the ENGL500 Masters Proseminar, I’ve successfully completed three writing workshops and four seminars, or courses based on literary genres or eras; plus I submitted a thesis (60 pages of a novel still-in-the works).

The outcome: I’ve earned my Master’s degree through the Department’s Program for Writers.

Today would have been the official commencement for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but the condition of the world in this place in history meant the in-person ceremony would have to be postponed. A virtual Commencement is scheduled for May 16.

In this space, I first announced in a “creative” July 2016 post my intention to earn an advanced degree.  Since then, I’ve chronicled my experience in the classroom over the semesters in several posts, including a May 2017 report on what I learned in a class focused on the works of author Vladimir Nobokov and “candid” perspectives on some classmates.

So, what did I learn?

Well, along with the subject of the required readings, I learned how to interpret literature, authors and theories and present a (somewhat) cogent thesis that later evolved into a scholarly paper. And, I learned that there are few, if any, absolute or definitive perspectives in the analysis or interpretation of literature: Your thoughts are valid, providing you can support them.

So, what’s next?

I certainly plan to continue reading fiction and non-fiction works, but now I want to explore works from other authors. For example, I’m now reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, which at 695 pages requires a commitment. Also on the agenda: Completing my novel and revising short stories from my recent Fiction Writing Workshop.

So, who do I thank?

Of course the professors who prepared and led class and provided direction when I was at a crossroads, my classmates who challenged me and shared my commitment to learning, the administrators in the English Department who provided much-needed guidance, and my UIC colleagues, family and friends who offered encouragement when I felt overwhelmed. But most of all, I must thank my dear Susan, for her steadfast belief that I could, indeed, earn a Master’s degree in English.

So, what am I most proud of?

From an academic standpoint, I maintain a paper exploring modern poetry completed in 2018 for a course on modern and contemporary literature represents a high-level of achievement. Also, there’s a soft spot for this short essay on a street I called “a bastard thoroughfare,” still my favorite street in the world.

And, there’s one more thing: I only missed one class over the entire eight semesters, and that was on September 28, 2016, when I learned that afternoon that our dear mother, Sophie V. Bury had passed away.

On this Mother’s Day 2020, I’m confident our mother also is proud of what I accomplished.

 

 

 

What’s On My Calendar in 2019

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

This handy calendar offers motivation, prompts, wisdom and more. Who knows: Maybe one of my quotes will be on the 2020 edition.

Looking back at the holiday season passed, I was fortunate to receive some outstanding gifts, from the intangible (moments shared with family and friends) to the tangible (a couple of six packs of some really good beer).

But assuredly, the most poignant — and hopefully most useful — gift found under the proverbial tree was a desk calendar.

As noted in the accompanying image, my calendar will offer “Inspiration, writing prompts & advice for every day of the year.”

By reading this post, it’s readily apparent that I write stuff, from commentary on public relations, politics and popular culture to travelogues and people profiles. With a career in public relations, marketing and journalism spanning (yes, hard to believe) four decades, there are a lot of other genres I could include within print digital and broadcast.

Back to the present, the most challenging writing projects completed recently were required assignments in my pursuit of a master’s degree in English. For the Theory, Rhetoric and Aesthetics course completed in December, I submitted a paper, “The Growth of a Post-Truth World in Modern Society.

To summarize the essay: Exceptionally challenging and equally rewarding, as I had to analyze early twenty first century perceptions of truth and falsehood while balancing beliefs presented by Plato and a twentieth century thinker. Heady stuff, indeed.

For the spring 2019 semester, I pivot resoundingly in another direction: Novel workshop.

Yes, I will begin — and hopefully finish — a novel by May. What’s the plot? Who are the characters? What do I hope to accomplish?  We’ll find out in a few months.

Should I need inspiration, I will read, savor and gain from the messages displayed on the little calendar on my desk. Then, I’ll get back to work.

 

With September on the Horizon, A Time to Savor What’s Left of Summer

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka the PRDude)

It’s true.

The three months of summer — purported to be a reflective time to relax, regroup and recharge — does go by fast.

As of this writing, September is three weeks away, prompting the question: Did you get the most out of the summer of 2017?

After all, the fall back-to-school messages will soon become as prominent and prevalent as those get-out-and-enjoy summer messages communicated in May.

Yes, that’s me, second from left, during the PRSA Chicago YPN panel discussion on continuing education.

Now that the topic of schooling is on the table, let me share a recent event on the subject. Earlier this week, I had the honor of participating as a panelist during a PRSA Chicago Young Professionals Network after-work gathering on “Exploring Continuing Education in PR.”

My fellow panelists addressed the challenges faced by working professionals who make the decision to pursue master’s degrees in business administration and communications, along with the long-term professional career benefits of an advanced degree.

As you would expect from the PRDude,  I promoted the value behind earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential and how it made a measurable impact by elevating me to a strategist.

And, I subtly noted that I also was in pursuit of my master’s degree in English, although reaching that goal is a good three years away.

What ensued was an often lively and informative exchange between the panelists and the YPN members in attendance. I learned how my fellow panelists balanced work, school, play and other aspects of life in their quest for a master’s degree, and realized:

  • I’m on my 13th year as an Accredited professional; regardless, the continued evolution of public relations will require that I continue to evolve, too. That means continuing to learn.
  • Earning an advanced degree means more these days than in generations past. The era of the publicist driven by placements has been eclipsed by a professional who can comprehend and strategically employ the PESO model.
  • And, yikes! Summer was waning and I would have to start school again soon. Actually, my next class — “Non-Fiction Writing Workshop” — starts August 28.

With that note, I’ll conclude this post and step outside with a glass of wine to enjoy the balance of this early August evening.

After all, the two ladies on the panel with me both stressed that it’s imperative to maximize time spent outside the classroom and away from the books.

I wholeheartedly concur.