Anita Cory, director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, will receive her
Ph.D. in higher education administration Saturday. (Photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU
Photo Services)
 
 
PULLMAN, Wash. – She is looking forward to life getting back to normal – “whatever normal is.”
 
Anita Cory, director of the Center for Fraternity and Sorority Life, will receive her Ph.D. in higher education administration at WSU Pullman’s Saturday commencement. Her dissertation is about how leaders develop in fraternities and sororities, and she is hoping to get it published as an article in a trade publication.
 
Since May 2006 when Cory decided to pursue her doctorate, she has worked full time, raised three kids with the help of her husband John, and taken two classes every fall and spring semester and one class every summer. She admits that it was an ambitious timeline, especially starting last summer when she decided she wanted to complete her degree by this May.
 
This required that she spend summer 2010 studying for prelims. Her kids enjoyed time at the river with friends while she stayed home pursuing her goal.
 
A motivated learner
 
Why would someone with a full time job, a husband and three kids aged 3, 7 and 10 embark on this quest? About five years ago Cory started thinking about returning to the Midwest where she and her husband grew up, but her husband wasn’t interested in leaving Pullman. She admits that her reasons for getting into a Ph.D. program were perhaps not the strongest – “I’m here, I can and I’d like to.”
 
But she says that, part way through the process, she began to enjoy the learning and the dialogue in classes. Instead of merely going through the motions to get her degree, as she did for her bachelors and masters, Cory became a motivated learner, intent on absorbing all she could from her classes.
 
Because she already was working in her field, she found ways to tie the theory she was learning to the practice in her job. She “learned things to incorporate” into the job she loves and plans on keeping.
 
Help with the heavy load
 
For 18 years, Cory has worked at WSU with fraternity and sorority leaders, thoroughly enjoying her interaction with the students. During her time working full time and going to school, there were days when she would work for eight hours, attend student meetings and then teach a class until 10 p.m.
 
She admits that she was sometimes distracted at work thinking about what she would have to do that night for school. Many times she would go home after working a full day, throw something in the oven for the family to eat, gather her books and head to the Daily Grind. Her children learned that the word “dissertation” meant that mom was studying and was not to be disturbed.
 
She credits her husband John with going from being a 50/50 partner with household and kid chores before her schooling began, to an 80/20 partner for the past five years. Luckily, his job as associate director of the CUB has more “normal” hours, although he has been known to shovel snow on New Year’s Eve for a wedding at the CUB.
 
When asked what effect this schedule had on her kids, Cory pauses for a moment to think. She says that they are more independent, she is a list-maker and they have chores they help out with, but she isn’t sure that they grasp the importance of her degree.
 
Applying what she has learned
 
Recently, as she was driving her 15-year-old son and his friend around town, she overheard them talking about a job this Saturday taking shingles off a roof. For this, they would earn $50. When she reminded her son that she was graduating this Saturday and she really wanted him to be there, his response was, “But mom, it’s $50!”
 
Cory doesn’t plan on making any big changes once Saturday is over. She is already working in higher education administration. She has learned ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs she works with, which is a plus.
 
Her five-year plan is to work on strengthening her curriculum vita so that possibilities can open up to her. But mostly, she is looking forward to doing some outdoor activities with her family.
 
When her neighbor asked that same 15-year-old son the other day what is was like having his mom back again, he responded, “It’s great; she’s a lot of fun.”