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Heartwarming Small-Town Romances and Thrilling Mysteries

My daughter left her job of 10 years as Director of Extended Studies at West Texas A&M University to pursue her PhD in Interdisciplinary Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU).

Going from a university department head to a PhD student and graduate assistant, meant a lot less stress and not being tied to my phone. It was such a breath of fresh air, and I relaxed into the chill college lifestyle again. Our hard work in saving enough to make earning a PhD while not working possible was paying off in spades. But the downgrade from my stressful job to a lax college student caught up to me at the end of the semester in a class where we invented and printed a 3D object that helped people ergonomically. It was a simple, end-of-semester project that we were to present to the class and the department head who would be attending. Mine was a dinky little gadget for my laptop. The presentation required just talking about the object. No budget numbers needed. No five-year projections. No ROI. No sweat.

When I arrived to class on presentation day, a whole new group of classmates arrived, too.  Everyone was wearing a suit or a nice dress and carrying portfolios. I wasn’t sure whether I was in the right room or in a backroom for congressional aides. I looked down at my tee shirt, cropped jeans, and tennis shoes, and wondered what the big deal was?

As they started presenting, students spoke about the significance of their project to people’s health and global resources as well as the viability in the marketplace. Who were these people, I wondered? All semester long, they were talking about parties, the good money they made restaurants, and delayed adulting.  Where had this come from?

Then I realized it. Oops, this wasn’t pointless. I was so accustomed to real strategic plans, real marketing plans, real projected budgets with real numbers, and real stakeholders that I had discounted the most important piece of the class to the bottom of the bargain barrel because it wasn’t real. But no – it was real in its own right!

When it was my turn, I got up with my project, which was just a dinky piece of 3D printed plastic like everyone else’s, but somehow, mine had no hype and really was dinky. I gave a simple 2-minute spiel on how my project helped relieve the pressure on my thighs from the laptop and opened it for questions.

The department head asked me if I’d researched how many other people had this problem. 

“No,” I said, “it was just something that would help me.”

“Do you think it would sell in the market,” he asked. 

“Most likely not,” I replied.

Neither the department head nor any others had questions, so I sat down. Later, I heard the department head disparaged that I had shown up to end-of-course presentations dressed like it was Saturday at the mall. The person who had all the business experience had just shown them how NOT to do it.

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