Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dr. James L. Cartee, III – A Journey of Pursued Endurance and Resilience


I recently graduated from a Ph.D. program in Communication at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UTK). In athletics, UTK is the home of the Volunteers. Go Vols!

This video shows the graduation ceremony when my advisor hooded me, thus representing the official title of being called, “Dr. James L. Cartee, III.” The tradition of the hooding ceremony originated at European universities during the 11th or 12th century. These customs were designed to recognize and celebrate students as they embarked on their scholarly journeys. Initially, hooded robes were worn for warmth in the cold, unheated medieval libraries and served as a practical uniform for scholars engaged in study and writing.

During my four years at Tennessee, I had a wonderful experience with the dedicated support of many involved faculty and staff. During this graduate journey, I learned multiple lessons about endurance and the vitality of balancing many life responsibilities, including employment and family priorities.

Managing a demanding academic schedule while raising two young children required me to master effective time management, prioritize tasks, and lean on a strong support system. These experiences taught me that endurance develops through finding harmony amidst chaos and ensuring that mental health self-care receives the attention it deserves. Balancing my many life responsibilities involved thriving through a strategic allocation of my time, resources, and energy to excel in all the necessary commitments of a Ph.D. program. Research, teaching, colleague relationships, publications, and active service were just a few of those core commitments. Concerning learned endurance, I maintained focus on persistence through challenges, growth through hardship, the power of support networks, long-term goals, and the benefits of self-care. I elaborate on these valuable self-observations with the following explanations.

Persistence Through Challenges

Endurance, for me, meant pushing through obstacles and setbacks. There were moments when the challenges seemed insurmountable, whether it was a tough academic hurdle, personal struggles, or moments of doubt. Yet, persistence and determination became my guiding objectives. Every setback was a lesson in resilience, and every challenge overcome was a testament to my commitment. This relentless pursuit of my goals, despite the difficulties, highlighted that persistence is key to achieving long-term success and personal growth in higher education and future careers.

Growth Through Hardship

Every challenge I faced during my Ph.D. program contributed significantly to my personal and professional growth. Endurance isn't just about reaching the end goal; it's about the transformation that occurs along the way. The hardships I encountered—whether academic, financial, or personal—forced me to develop new skills, adapt my strategies, and become more resilient. These experiences shaped me into a stronger, more capable individual, prepared to tackle future challenges with confidence in myself and my abilities.

The Power of Support Networks

Enduring a rigorous academic program while juggling other responsibilities underscored the importance of a strong support network. Family, friends, colleagues, and mentors played a crucial role in my success, providing encouragement and relevant honed perspectives when needed. Their support reminded me that endurance is not a solitary journey but one that thrives on the collective strength and wisdom of those around us. Leaning on my support network helped me persevere and enriched my journey with meaningful connections and shared achievements.

Maintaining Focus on Long-Term Goals

Endurance requires keeping sight of the bigger picture, even when immediate challenges seem overwhelming. Throughout my Ph.D. journey, maintaining focus on my long-term goals was essential. This focus kept me motivated and driven, reminding me why I started this journey in the first place. It was about more than just the degree program; it was about advancing my career, contributing to my field, and setting an example for my children. Keeping my long-term vision clear helped me navigate the ups and downs with a sense of purpose and direction.

The Value of Self-Care

Sustaining endurance over an extended period necessitates taking care of my physical and mental well-being. Throughout my Ph.D. journey, I learned the magnitude of self-care practices, such as exercise, adequate rest, and stress management. These practices were crucial in maintaining my stamina and effectiveness. My habitual self-care tendencies concentrated on ensuring I had the energy and mental clarity to meet my commitments and achieve my goals. This lesson reinforced that taking care of oneself is a vital part of enduring any long-term challenge.

While these lessons can apply to almost any adversities in life encountered, they are especially pivotal in the graduate program experience. I learned a lot about myself in my journey to graduation. While I absorbed new knowledge, I became stronger by staying the course to accomplish each defined objective centered around a dissertation committee. I self-examined my own character and legacy in hopes of changing lives through quality instruction, effective teaching, and sound research exploring the mental health help-seeking behaviors of young adults.

(One of my closest friends, Mathew Calhoun, traveled from Birmingham, Alabama to attend graduation. He is an amazing friend!)

(This is one of the family portraits taken during the graduation photo session.)

(Annabelle rewarded Dad with a kiss in his “funny costume.”)

(Jace wondered why he must stop playing with his ball in the grass.)

(Lisa was my champion in the Ph.D. journey! Her support helped me balance work, family, classes, and research.)

(The Torch Bearer is a classic landmark on the University of Tennessee campus.)

(In many capacities, my immediate family supported me through the four-year degree path to earn my Ph.D.)

(Graduation occurred in the Thompson-Bowling Arena on campus, which is where the men's and women's basketball teams play home games.)

(This is my advisor. I could not have completed my dissertation without her help! I really enjoyed working with her, especially in the last years of the program.)

(My family and friends sat remarkably close to where I was located on the arena floor. My advisor and I waved to the home crowd.)

(This is the graduation program with the title of my dissertation listed.)

*Please note that the outdoor portrait pictures were taken by a talented photographer named Jack Horsley from Knoxville, Tennessee.

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