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Seeking Closure

A long overdue letter to the Program Convener of the Department of Communication of the University of Illinois at Springfield.


You may or may not remember me. I finished all my classes toward an M.A. in Communication in 1996. Since then I had been trying to complete my thesis requirement. In 2003, I sought an extension and talked some with Ted Matula about a strategy for completing my thesis on how the Navajos had managed to hold themselves in the stasis of a mythic culture rather than being successfully assimilated into the broader American culture.

What happened from 1996 to 2003 and from 2003 until now was life got in the way. In 96, I found myself out of money and needing to work. So I took jobs with newspapers and tried to continue at UIS with some night classes. In 1997, I found myself the Managing Editor of a weekly newspaper in DeWitt County, working way too many hours to think of anything else. In 1998, I landed, sort of on my feet at Glencoe McGraw-Hill in Peoria as an Image Editor moving eventually to a Senior Image Editor.

In 2003, I decided it was about time to get things finished up at UIS. Then when everything seemed to be in place for that, life got messy again. My fiancée, developed a mysterious seizure disorder that forced her into long term disability. For the next couple of years, nearly all my spare time and hundreds of thousands of dollars of insurance and personal savings went into caring for her and helping to find doctors who could even offer a reasonable diagnoses for her condition. We crisscrossed the Midwest from the Mayo Clinic to the University of Iowa Med School, to private physicians in St. Louis and never really found a solution except that one factor was that she had started menopause at age 33. Then last year, she just started getting better on her own. Getting her strength back. Feeling like her old self. Finally able to start looking for work again. Then McGraw-Hill decided to close our office in Peoria. We were reorganized and downsized out of existence.

I am one of the very few who stayed with the company. I ended up having to move to the Chicago Metro area to do so. I'm now the Media Projects Manager for the Career Education division of McGraw-Hill Higher Education. So now I'm stuck with a quandary. 3/4 of the way done with a Master's Degree and living far enough away from Springfield to make it cost and time prohibitive to get down there to do anything.

My bigger issue though, is I no longer have the belief in my thesis subject that I once did. When I started the project, I convinced myself (and my advisor) that I was breaking new ground. But over the years in continuing my research through reading about and meeting with the Navajos, I have come to realize that what seemed like such a unique idea to me, would be considered common knowledge to anyone who seriously studies these people and most of all to the people themselves.

When I was actively attending classes, I think one of the big things my instructors tried to instill in me was a willingness to look at things from different perspectives, challenge current theories, stir up the sediment and come up with some new ideas on my own. So in looking at my thesis idea from different perspectives, I find I eventually come to the same conclusions that everyone else in the field has.

The anthropologist Clifford Geertz talked about "experience near" vs. "experience distant" concepts in trying to express things from the "Native's point of view". What I had set out to do through reading and interviews was express how the Navajo viewed his place in the landscape from an experience near standpoint. What I found out was the best I could do was remark on my own perceptions of that place from an experience distant standpoint. Given the depth of the literature on the subject, I would be doing little more than an expansive book report. And to me, that's not the proper intent of a Master's Degree candidate at UIS.

So I'm asking if there is another way I might complete my degree. I don't like the idea of having begun something like this and not having finished it. I also realize that my time limit might have run out to complete the requirements for the degree. So if you tell me there is nothing that I can do to complete the degree, I will thank you for all the University has given me and move on. Along my way in life, I have become a practicing Shamanic healer. The ideas I experienced in the Communication Department have become invaluable in learning to listen to people who come to me for help. These ideas help in assessing their problems and working toward the best cure. The "why" of how people communicate has become a guidepost in diagnosing their spiritual dis-ease that manifests in real physical problems.

I owe my success in my career in publishing in no small part to ideas instilled in me by professors like Larry Smith and Hank Nicholson who taught me there was always another way of looking at things.

Please let me know any ideas you have on completing the degree and thank you for your time and consideration.


Mark Allen StoneBear Dierker
Joliet, IL


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 27th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC)
Did you ever hear back from them?
Dec. 27th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)
Not as yet, but in early December, I sent a second letter via registered mail to them and it was received so I know they are at least looking at the situation now.

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Wander aka StoneBear
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