Picking Up Where She Left Off
21 years after she initially began work on her doctorate degree, Wendy Hansen Baesler (BS ’90, MA ’90) decided it was time for Round Two. Round One started in 1990, at the University of Washington. Baesler loved her program, but after getting married during her third year, she decided to postpone her degree to start a family. She continued to teach on a part-time basis, though that waned as her family grew. “Once I had my third and fourth sons, I was only teaching one class a year during the summer.”
It would have been easy to not return to school, but Baesler was determined to finish. “Getting my PhD had been very important to me at one time,” she explains, “and it seemed like the opportunity just presented itself.” When her oldest son was able to drive, Baesler jumped back into her doctoral program. She discovered, however, that it “was more difficult than I expected.”
Not only was Baesler tackling a dissertation, she also had to catch up on courses for an industry that had changed since she’d last attended school. In addition, her husband was called as a bishop shortly after she began. Finding balance became a family matter. “Nearly every day, our family had to try ‘choosing the better part,’” Baesler says. For her, that meant scaling back on hobbies and scheduling school work for times that worked best for the family.
“Fortunately,” Baesler adds, “I have a great husband and four great boys who really stepped up to the plate and helped.” She also received help from within her ward - a friend would cook for the family, visiting teachers gave her children rides, and their Stake President offered encouragement. Baesler persevered. Her hard work paid off in December 2016 and Baesler graduated with a PhD in Business Administration.
Now, Baesler continues to work as a part-time lecturer at the University of Washington. Her advice to those wanting to pursue a PhD later in life? Don’t set strict time frames. “Completing a dissertation is difficult under any circumstances, but even more difficult with a lot of other obligations demanding time and attention.” While some of these additional responsibilities can be handled with careful time management, the reality is that starting or finishing a PhD with a family poses unique challenges. Rather than focusing on the setbacks, Baesler recommends celebrating “any forward momentum.”